Which are some of the awards associated with Jawaharlal Nehru?

The most prestigious award received by Jawaharlal Nehru was the ‘Bharat Ratna’ in 1955 – India’s highest civilian honour. President Rajendra Prasad conferred this honour on him without consulting him, the prime minister, as was the normal constitutional procedure.

The ‘Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding’ is an international award presented by the Government of India in honour of Nehru.

The award was established in 1965 and was first awarded to U Thant, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Some of the other famous recipients of the award are Martin Luther King Jr., Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela.

The ‘Nehru Trophy’ is awarded to the fastest snake boat in the snake boat race or ‘VaIlam Kali’ held in Kerala’s Alappuzha district in the month of August. The race was inaugurated in 1952 by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

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How was Nehru a prolific communicator?

One of the greatest gifts of Jawaharlal Nehru was his ability to communicate. His ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech, delivered on the eve of India’s Independence is widely regarded as one of the finest speeches of the 20th century. His political and campaign speeches established a deep connection with the masses and garnered votes as well as public sentiment for him.

Apart from his speeches and conversations, Nehru was also a prolific writer. His writings reveal his sensitivity, his deep moral sense and his vision. He wrote historical, autobiographical and political works, some of which have become classics, such as The Discovery of India, Glimpses of World History and Letters from a Father to his Daughter.

In addition, Nehru also made it a point to write fortnightly letters to the chief ministers of all the states of India. His letters covered law and order, national planning, advice regarding governance, corruption and world events. A few of these letters were collected and published as books such as Selected works of Jawaharlal Nehru and Letters for a Nation: From Jawaharlal Nehru to his Chief Ministers 1947-1963.

Nehru was a great promoter of the freedom of the press. He believed that having a free press was vital for the health of democracy and that it was necessary to criticize persons in authority.

He conducted regular interactions with the press and hosted Press Conferences every month at the Parliament House and later at Vigyan Bhavan. This was a unique event that lasted about 90 minutes where Nehru would answer questions pertaining to any issue that the journalists wanted to discuss.

These conferences were a vital communication between journalists and Nehru, and made the prime minister accessible and accountable to the public. These meetings were a testimony to Nehru’s style of governance which was open, accessible and accountable.

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What was Nehru’s Involvement in the world of cinema?

Not many know that Nehru was a cinephile who encouraged Indian cinema, especially films that carried a positive message. Post-Independence, many viewed films as an uncultured and boorish form of entertainment. However, Nehru saw potential in this medium and encouraged films as a tool for communication. He saw an opportunity for the country to shape its identity through films.

He set up the Film Enquiry Committee (FEC) in 1949, which led to the development of the Film Industry in India. Nehru also used this emerging medium to advantage in the field of diplomatic relations. He included film stars such as Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor and Nargis as part of cultural delegations to Russia and Egypt, where the popularity of Indian cinema soared.

Nehru himself was portrayed in a number of short films and documentaries. Nehru’s character has been played multiple times by Roshan Seth - in Richard Attenborough’s 1982 film Gandhi, in Shyam Benegal’s 1988 television series Bharat Ek Khoj (which was based on Nehru’s book, The Discovery of India) and in a 2007 TV film titled The Last Days of the Raj. Benegal also directed the 1984 documentary film Nehru, which covered his political career and used real footage of Nehru instead of a depiction by an actor.

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What made Nehru such an iconic world figure?

Nehru was not only the most popular Prime Minister of India, but a prominent figure even on the global stage. India had based her freedom struggle on the values of peaceful opposition and non-violent protest. This unique strategy garnered considerable attention and respect globally and earned India and her leaders of the time, especially Nehru, iconic status.

Nehru had a finger on the pulse of the nation. He had a special rapport with the humble farmer as well as the intellectual youth of India. The masses that he addressed trusted and loved him. He was deeply connected to ground realities and initiated many agricultural reforms. At the same time, his modern, progressive vision drew talented new blood into the Congress.

He belonged to a prominent family who were well-educated and prosperous. Because of this he was exposed to the cream of society and had a classical Western education. He was thus able to straddle both the humble world of the rural peasant and the hallowed halls of high society with equal ease.

He was widely admired for his idealism and statesmanship. He stood apart from other politicians because of the sincerity of his actions. He was motivated by the desire to only serve and not to gather power or wealth for himself. He was a courageous and powerful leader who ensured that democracy took firm root in India.

He is unique because he held absolute power ever since he took office as the first prime minister of India till his death in 1964, but never let power corrupt him. While he lived, he defended the freedom of the marginalized and the voiceless and worked tirelessly to modernize and strengthen India. He was not just a leader and statesman but a beloved and admired guardian and founder of Indian democracy.

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How was Nehru cremated?

Nehru’s death marked the end of an era. Condolence messages poured in from Commonwealth countries as well as from leaders all across the world. His life was one of long endeavour, unfailing service and exemplary idealism. Dignitaries from 17 countries attended his funeral. Such was his charisma and stature that even his adversaries honoured him, including President Ayub Khan of Pakistan, who called him a “great Indian leader who commanded not only admiration but the devotion of his people”. The West Pakistan Provincial Assembly adjourned without transacting business after observing two minutes silence in memory of the “great freedom fighter”.

In India his body was draped in the National Flag and he was accorded a state funeral with full military honours. Flag officers of the Indian Armed Forces maintained a constant vigil over his body till 28 May when his body was borne on a ceremonial gun carriage to the banks of the Yamuna River.

The masses who revered Nehru in life gathered in full force to pay their last respects. Around 1.5 million people lined the streets of New Delhi to catch a final glimpse of him.

According to Nehru’s wishes, a handful of his ashes were thrown into the Ganga and the rest were carried and scattered over fields. He had said that “I want these to be carried high up into the air in an aeroplane and scattered from that height over the fields where the peasants of India toil, so that they might mingle with the dust and soil of India and become an indistinguishable part of India.”

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