List of recipients of Bharat Ratna: Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award in the country. The last Bharat Ratna award was given to Bhupen Hazarika, Pranab Mukherjee, and Nanaji Deshmukh in 2019. No Bharat Ratna Award has been given in 2020 and 2021.
Bharat Ratna Award: List of recipients
Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian honour, given for exceptional service towards any field of human endeavour, without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex. The provision of Bharat Ratna was introduced in 1954. The first-ever Indian to receive this award was the famous scientist, Dr Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman. Since then, many dignitaries, each a whiz in varied aspects of their career, have received this coveted award.
Bharat Ratna Award: List of recipients (1954-2021)
Bharat Ratna 1954
An Indian independence activist, statesman, and lawyer, Rajagopalachari was the only Indian and last Governor-General of independent India. He was Chief Minister of Madras Presidency (1937–39) and Madras State (1952–54); and founder of the Indian political party Swatantra Party.
He served as India’s first Vice-President (1952–62) and second President (1962–67). Since 1962, his birthday on 5 September is observed as “Teachers’ Day” in India.
C. V. Raman
Widely known for his work on the scattering of light and the discovery of the effect, better known as “Raman scattering”, Raman mainly worked in the field of atomic physics and electromagnetism and was presented Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930.
Bharat Ratna 1955
Independence activist, philosopher, and educationist, and co-founder of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapithand worked with Madan Mohan Malaviya for the foundation of Banaras Hindu University.
Civil engineer, statesman, and Diwan of Mysore (1912–18), he was a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire. His birthday, 15 September, is observed as “Engineer’s Day” in India.
Independence activist and author, Nehru is the first and the longest-serving Prime Minister of India (1947–64).
Bharat Ratna 1957
Govind Ballabh Pant
Independent activist Pant was premier of United Provinces (1937–39, 1946–50) and first Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (1950–54). He served as Union Home Minister from 1955–61.
Bharat Ratna 1958
Dhondo Keshav Karve
Social reformer and educator, Karve is widely known for his works related to women’s education and remarriage of Hindu widows. He established the Widow Marriage Association (1883), Hindu Widows Home (1896), and started Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University in 1916.
Bharat Ratna 1961
Bidhan Chandra Roy
A physician, political leader, philanthropist, educationist, and social worker, Roy is often considered as “Maker of Modern West Bengal”. He was the second Chief Minister of West Bengal (1948–62) and his birthday on 1 July is observed as National Doctors’ Day in India.
Bharat Ratna 1962
Purushottam Das Tandon
Often titled “Rajarshi”, Tandon was an independence activist and served as speaker of the United Provinces Legislative Assembly (1937–50). He was actively involved in a campaign to get official language status to Hindi.
Independence activist, lawyer, statesman, and scholar, Prasad was closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi in the non-cooperation movement for Indian independence. He was later elected as the first President of India (1950–62).
Bharat Ratna 1963
Independence activist, economist, and education philosopher, Husain served as a Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University (1948–56) and the Governor of Bihar (1957–62). Later, he was elected as second Vice-President of India (1962–67) and went on to become the third President of India (1967–69).
Pandurang Vaman Kane
Indologist and Sanskrit scholar, Kane is best known for his five-volume literary work, History of Dharmasastra: Ancient and Medieval Religious and Civil Law in India; the “monumental” work that extends over nearly 6,500 pages and was published from 1930 to 1962.
Bharat Ratna 1966
Lal Bahadur Shastri
Known for his slogan “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” (“Hail the Soldier, Hail the Farmer”), Independence activist Shastri served as second Prime Minister of India (1964–66) and led the country during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
Bharat Ratna 1971
Known as the “Iron Lady of India”, Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India during 1966–77 and 1980–84. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, her government supported the Bangladesh Liberation War which led to the formation of a new country, Bangladesh.
Bharat Ratna 1975
V. V. Giri
While studying at the University College Dublin, Giri was involved in the Irish Sinn Fein movement. Returning to India, he organized labour unions and brought them to take active participation in the Indian freedom struggle. He was elected as the first President of the All India Trade Union Congress in 1926. Post-independence, Giri held positions of Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Mysore and various other cabinet ministries. He became the first acting President and was eventually elected as the fourth President of India (1969–74).
Bharat Ratna 1976
Independence activist and statesman Kamaraj was a former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for three terms; 1954–57, 1957–62, and 1962–63.
Bharat Ratna 1980
“Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta” was a catholic nun and the founder of the Missionaries of Charity. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work in 1979 and was beatified on 19 October 2003 by Pope John Paul II and canonized on 4 September 2016 by Pope Francis.
Bharat Ratna 1983
Independence activist, social reformer, and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhave is best known for his Bhoodan movement, “Land-Gift Movement”. He was given the honorific title “Acharya” (“teacher”) and was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1958) for his humanitarian work.
Bharat Ratna 1987
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan
Widely known as “Frontier Gandhi”, independence activist and Pashtun leader Khan was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. He joined Khilafat Movement in 1920 and founded Khudai Khidmatgar (“Red Shirt movement”) in 1929.
Bharat Ratna 1988
M. G. Ramachandran
Actor turned politician Ramachandran served as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for three terms; 1977–80, 1980–84, and 1985–87.
Bharat Ratna 1990
B. R. Ambedkar
Social reformer and leader of the Dalits (“Untouchables”), Ambedkar was the Chief architect of the Indian Constitution and also served as the first Law Minister of India. Ambedkar predominantly campaigned against social discrimination with Dalits, the Hindu varna system. He was associated with the Dalit Buddhist movement and accepted Buddhism as a religion along with his close to half a million followers on 14 October 1956.
Leader of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa, Mandela was the President of South Africa (1994–99). Often called the “Gandhi of South Africa”, Mandela’s African National Congress movement was influenced by Gandhian philosophy. In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Bharat Ratna 1991
Gandhi was the ninth Prime Minister of India serving from 1984 to 1989.
Widely known as the “Iron Man of India”, Patel was an independence activist and first Deputy Prime Minister of India (1947–50). Post-independence, “Sardar” (“Leader”) Patel worked with V. P. Menon towards dissolving 555 princely states into the Indian union.
Independence activist Desai was the sixth Prime Minister of India (1977–79). He is the only Indian national to be awarded the Nishan-e-Pakistan, the highest civilian award given by the Government of Pakistan.
Bharat Ratna 1992
Abul Kalam Azad
Independence activist Azad was India’s first Minister of Education and worked towards free primary education. He was widely known as “Maulana Azad” and his birthday on 11 November is observed as National Education Day in India.
J. R. D. Tata
Industrialist, philanthropist, and aviation pioneer, Tata founded India’s first airline Air India. He is the founder of various institutes including Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Tata Memorial Hospital, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Tata Motors, TCS, National Institute of Advanced Studies, and National Centre for the Performing Arts.
Having debuted as a director with Pather Panchali (1955), film-maker Ray is credited with bringing world recognition to Indian cinema. In 1984, Ray was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India’s highest award in cinema.
Bharat Ratna 1997
Independence activist Nanda was two times interim Prime Minister of India (1964, 1966) and two times deputy chairman of the Planning Commission.
Aruna Asaf Ali
Independence activist Ali is better known for hoisting the Indian flag in Bombay during the Quit India Movement in 1942. Post-Independence, Ali was elected as Delhi’s first mayor in 1958.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam
Aerospace and defence scientist, Kalam was involved in the development of India’s first satellite launch vehicle SLV III and was the architect of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program. He worked for Indian National Committee for Space Research, Indian Space Research Organisation, Defence Research and Development Laboratory and was appointed as the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, Secretary to Department of Defence Research and Development and Director General of Defence Research and Development Organisation. Later, he served as the eleventh President of India from 2002 till 2007.
Bharat Ratna 1998
M. S. Subbulakshmi
Carnatic classical vocalist Subbulakshmi also called “Queen of songs”, is the first Indian musician to receive the Ramon Magsaysay award.
Independence activist and former Minister of Agriculture of India (1964–66), Subramaniam is known for his contribution towards Green Revolution in India. During the late 1970s, he worked for International Rice Research Institute, Manila, and the International Maize and Wheat Research Institute, Mexico.
Bharat Ratna 1999
Independence activist, social reformer, and commonly referred to as “Lok Nayak” (“People’s Hero”), Narayan is better known for “Total Revolution Movement” or “JP Movement” initiated during the mid-1970s to “overthrow the corrupt and exploitative Congress government”.
Winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1998), Sen has done research on several topics including social choice theory, ethics and political philosophy, welfare economics, decision theory, development economics, public health, and gender studies.
Independence activist Bordoloi is the first Chief Minister of Assam (1946–50). His efforts and association with the then Minister of Home Affairs Vallabhbhai Patel were widely acknowledged while keeping Assam united with India when parts of it were to merge with East Pakistan.
Winner of four Grammy Awards and often considered “the world’s best-known exponent of Hindustani classical music”, sitar player Shankar is known for his collaborative work with Western musicians including Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison.
Bharat Ratna 2001
Widely credited as the “nightingale of India”, playback singer Mangeshkar started her career in the 1940s and has sung songs in over 36 languages. In 1989, Mangeshkar was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, India’s highest award in cinema.
Hindustani classical shehnai player, Khan played the instrument for more than eight decades and is credited to have brought the instrument to the centre stage of Indian music.
Bharat Ratna 2009
Hindustani classical vocalist, Joshi was a disciple of Kirana Gharana, an Indian musical school. He is widely known for the Khyal genre of singing with a “mastery over rhythm and accurate notes”.
Bharat Ratna 2014
C. N. R. Rao
The recipient of Honorary Doctorates from 63 Universities including Purdue, IIT Bombay, Oxford, chemist and professor Rao has worked prominently in the fields of Solid State and Materials Chemistry, Spectroscopy and Molecular Structure. He has authored around 1600 research papers and 48 books.
He played 664 international cricket matches in a career spanning over two decades. He holds various cricket records including the only player to have scored one hundred international centuries, the first batsman to score a double century in a One Day International and the only player to complete more than 30,000 runs in both ODI and Test cricket.
Bharat Ratna 2015
Madan Mohan Malaviya
Scholar and educational reformer Malaviya is a founder of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha (1906) and Banaras Hindu University and served as the university’s vice-chancellor from 1919 till 1938. He was the President of the Indian National Congress for four terms and was the Chairman of the Hindustan Times from 1924 to 1946.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Parliamentarian for over four decades, Vajpayee was elected nine times to the Lok Sabha, twice to the Rajya Sabha and served as the Prime Minister of India for three terms; 1996, 1998, 1999–2004. He was Minister of External Affairs during 1977–79 and was awarded the “Best Parliamentarian” in 1994.
Bharat Ratna 2019
He is an Indian politician who served as the 13th President of India from 2012 until 2017. He has been a senior leader in the Indian National Congress and has occupied several ministerial portfolios in the Government of India. Prior to his election as President, he was Union Finance Minister from 2009 to 2012.
He was a social activist from India. He worked in the fields of education, health, and rural self-reliance. He was a member of RSS, a leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, and also a member of the Rajya Sabha. He was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan in 1999. India’s first Saraswati Shishu Mandir was established by him at Gorakhpur in 1950.
He was an Indian playback singer, lyricist, musician, singer, poet and film-maker from Assam, widely known as Sudhakantha. Before he got Bharat Ranta (India’s highest civilian award), he received the National Film Award for Best Music Direction in 1975. Recipient of Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1987), Padmashri (1977), and Padmabhushan (2001), and also awarded with Dada Saheb Phalke Award (1992).
How many Bharat Ratna can be given in a year?
A maximum of 3 people can be awarded the Bharat Ratna. In 2019, this award was given to three eminent personalities namely: Nanaji Deshmukh, Pranab Mukherjee, and Bhupen Hazarika.