National Awards can be divided mainly into four groups; (a) Civilian Awards (b) Gallantry Awards (c) Distinguished Service Awards and (d) Arjuna Awards.
There are four civilian awards; (i) Bharat Ratna (ii) Padma Vibhushan (iii) Padma Bhushan and (iv) Padma Shri.
(i) Bharat Ratna: This is the highest award in India and is given for exceptional work for the advancement of Art, Literature and Science and in recognition of public service of the highest order. It was awarded for the first time in 1954 and the recipients in 1954 were C. Rajagopalachari, S. Radhakrishnan and C.V. Raman.
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 one side there is a replica of the sun below which the words Bharat Ratna are inscribed in Hindi. On the other side are the National Emblem and the motto also in Hindi. The emblem, the sun and the rim, are of platinum.
(ii) Padma Vibhushan: This award is given for exceptional and distinguished services in any field, including outstanding services rendered by government officials.
The decoration is a circular design, with a geometrical pattern superimposed on the circle. The diameter of the circular part is 4.4 cm and thickness about 0.6 mm. On one side there is a lotus flower with the ascription Padma Vibhushan in Hindi. On the other side are the National Emblem and motto. It is of toned bronze. All embossing on either side of the decoration is in white gold.
(iii) Padma Bhushan: This award is given for distinguished services of a high order in any field including services rendered by government personnel. It has the same design as the ‘Padma Vibhushan’. On one side the word “Padma” appears above and the word “Bhushan” below the lotus flower. All embossing on either side of the decoration is in standard gold.
(iv) Padma Shri: This award is given for distinguished services in any field including services rendered by government personnel. Above the lotus, the word ‘Padma’ and below, the word ‘Shri’ is embossed in Hindi. On one side there is a geometrical pattern. All embossing on either side is in stainless steel.
All these awards are presented on the Republic Day.
The Gallantry awards are six in number and awarded to the personnel of the armed forces for their acts of bravery and sacrifice for the security and welfare of the nation.
- Param Vir Chakra: It is the highest decoration of valour awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or self-sacrifice in fighting the enemy on land, sea or air. The decoration is made of bronze and is circular in shape. On this four replicas of ‘Indra’s -Vajra’ are embossed round the state emblem in the centre. On the other side the words ‘Param Vir Chakra’ are embossed both in Hindi and English with lotus flowers in the middle.
- Maha Vir Chakra: The medal is made of standard silver and is circular in shape. Embossed on the obverse is a five pointed star and on the reverse the word ‘Maha Vir Chakra’ in Hindi and English with two lotus flowers in the middle. It is the second highest decoration.
- Vir Chakra: This is the third highest award for acts of conspicuous gallantry. The medal is circular in shape and made of standard silver. Embossed on the obverse is a five pointed star with an ‘Ashoka Chakra’ in the middle and on the reverse the word ‘Vir Chakra’ both in Hindi and English with two lotus flowers in the middle.
- Ashoka Chakra: This award is given for conspicuous bravery or self-sacrifice. The Chakra is made of gilt gold and is circular in shape. On the obverse there is an embossed replica of Ashoka Chakra surrounded by a lotus wreath. Along the edge is patterned lotus leaves, flowers and buds. On the reverse, the word ‘Ashoka Chakra’ are embossed with lotus flowers in the intervening space.
- Kirti Chakra: This is given for conspicuous gallantry. Made of standard silver, it is circular in shape. The obverse and reverse are same as the ‘Ashoka Chakra’.
- Shaurya Chakra: This is awarded to the defence personnel for the act of gallantry. Its shape is like the Ashoka Chakra except that it is made of bronze.
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