The award is given for exceptional work is the advancement of art, literature and science, and in recognition of public service of the highest order.
- In December 2011, the Government of India modified the criteria to allow sportspersons to receive the award; since then, the award may be conferred “for performance of highest order in any field of human endeavour.”
- ‘Bharat Ratna’, the highest civilian Award of the country, was instituted in the year 1954.
- Till now 43 people have been honored with The Bharat Ratna.
- Any person without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex is eligible for these awards.
- The recommendations for Bharat Ratna are made by the Prime Minister himself to the President. No formal recommendations for this are necessary.
- The number of annual awards is restricted to a maximum of three in a particular year.
- On conferment of the award, the recipient receives a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medallion. The Award does not carry any monetary grant.
- The decoration is in the form of a peepal leaf, about 5.8 cm long, 4.7 cm wide and 3.1 mm thick. It is of toned bronze. On its obverse is embossed a replica of the sun, 1.6 cm in diameter, below which the words “Bharat Ratna” are embossed in Hindi. On the reverse are State emblem and the motto, also in Hindi.
- The emblem, the sun and the rim are of platinum. The inscriptions are in burnished bronze.
- The order to establish the award was given by Rajendra Prasad, President of India, on 2 January 1955.
- The original statutes of January 1954 did not make allowance for posthumous awards (and this perhaps explains why the decoration was never awarded to Mahatma Gandhi).
- It was amended in January 1966 and included posthumous awards; Lal Bahadur Shastri was the first person to be honoured with Bharat Ratna posthumously.
- The award was awarded to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in 1992, which was later withdrawn due to a legal technicality, the only case of an award being withdrawn.
- The award was briefly suspended from 13 July 1977 to 26 January 1980.
- The holders of the Bharat Ratna rank 7th in the Indian order of precedence.
- The first three recipients of Bharat Ratna were C. Rajagopalchari, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan and Dr. C.V. Raman in 1954 while Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was the first foreigner to be honoured with this award in 1987.
- Indira Gandhi was the first woman recipient of Bharat Ratna.
- Sachin Tendulkar is the youngest person alive at the time of receiving the award (at the age of 40) and the only sports person to receive the award.
- Dhondo Keshav Karve is the eldest person alive at the time of receiving the award (age 100).
- Vallabhbhai Patel is the eldest overall (posthumously at the age of 75).
List of Winners who have received Bharat Ratna
|1954||Chakravarti Rajagopalachari Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Dr. Chandrasekhar Venkat Raman||1983||Acharya Vinoba Bhave (Posthumously)|
|1955||Dr. Bhagwan Das, Dr. Mokshagundam Visvesvaraiya, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.||1987||Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan|
|1957||Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant||1988||Marudu Gopalan (MG) Ramachandran (Posthumously)|
|1958||Dr. Dhondo Keshave Karve||1990||Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar (Posthumously), Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela|
|1961||Rajarshi Purushottam Das Tandon, Dr. Bidhan Chandra (B.C.) Roy||1991||Rajiv Gandhi (Posthumously), Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel (Posthumously), Morarji Ranchhodji Desai|
|1962||Dr. Rajendra Prasad||1992||Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhai 0.R.D.) Tata, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (Posthumously), Satyajit Ray|
|1963||Dr. Zakir Hussain, Dr. Pandurang Vaman (P. V.) Karne||1997||Aruna Asaf AH (Posthumously), Gulzarilal Nanda (Posthumously), Guljarilal Nanda (Posthumously), A.P.J. Abdul Kalam|
|1966||Lal Bahadur Shastri (Posthumously)||1998||M: E SubBalakshmi C. Subramaniam|
|1972||Mrs. Indira Gandhi||1999||Prof. Amartya Sen, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Jay Prakash Narayan (Posthumously) and Gopinath Bordoloi (Posthumously)|
|1975||Varahagiri Venkat (V.V.) Giri||2001||Lata Mangeshkar, Ustad Bismillah Khan|
|1976||Kumaraswami (K.) Kamaraj (Posthumously)||2008||Pt. Bhimsen Gururaj Joshi|
|1980||Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu (Mother Teresa)||2013||Dr C.N.R. Rao (Scientist), Sachin Tendulkar (Sports)|
Note – Following are the 5 people who are alive and recipients of Bharat Ratna.
A.P.J Abdul Kalam in 1997, Amartya Sen in 1999, Lata Mangeshkar in 2001, C.N.R. Rao (Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao) and Sachin Tendulkar in 2014.