The system of Indian honors is quite complex, like the rest of the subcontinent. We must also add that this is not a typical Indian feature, as all countries have their own hierarchy of awards and honors, but in India, it seems to be particularly advertised. The Indian government recognizes numerous types of honors, which can be divided into four categories plus one.
The highest ranking are the Padma Awards, divided into four categories, and are awarded for success in various fields like education, arts, social work, civil and sports service.
For sports, there is also a specific category, the National Sports Awards, divided in turn into four like the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna for sporting success internationally, the Arjuna Award, for athletes who have distinguished themselves in their discipline at the national level, the Dronacharya Award, that is given to coaches and finally the Dhyan Chand Award for lifetime achievement.
Three honors are awarded for military honor, the Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra and Vir Chakra. The last of the four groups has three honors that are deployed for the civilian honor in peacetime and they are the Ashok Chakra Award, Kirti Chakra Award, and Shaurya Chakra Award.
These four groups of honors are added the Rashtrapati Awards, awarded by the President and sometimes by the Prime Minister for special achievements in all fields of knowledge and human activities. In detail, we focus on the four main categories of Padma Awards, which are the ones most frequently mentioned in the media. These four honors were established in 1954 by the then President, Rajendra Prasad.
On the lowest step, there is the Padma Shree and is awarded annually to around seventy distinguished personalities. The activities of the winners are very different from arts, such as music, cinema, theater, and also photography and crafts, science and engineering, for many award-winning scientists, doctors and engineers, literature and education, civil and social work services, including environmental activists, industry and trade leaders and sportspersons, where, the protagonists of minor sports are recognized and not only the most celebrated cricketers.
A higher category is the Padma Bhushan and is marked similar to the previous category Padma Shree, albeit fewer in number, about thirty every year. Till 2016, 1225 people received this award including the actor Naseeruddin Shah, physicist Raja Ramanna, French author and philanthropist Dominique Lapierre, Belgian missionary Camille Bulcke, actor Soumitra Chatterjee, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw etc.
The Padma Vibhushan is quite rare and so far only about 300 people in all have received this honor. From 1977 to 1980 and from 1992 to 1998 the award was suspended for various reasons.
Taking a look at the list of winners, we immediately notice that the number of recipients has increased over the years, and if in 1954 only six people were awarded the Padma Vibhushan, in 2011 were thirteen. Also notable is the increase in awards to artists and writers, while in the case of sports, only two athletes have so far received the honor like Viswanathan Anand, the world chess champion, and Sachin Tendulkar, the Indian cricket icon.
The most important honors is the Bharat Ratna, which is awarded by the President on the Prime Minister's recommendation. The importance of this award is such that those who are awarded get the same order of precedence, behind the highest offices at the same rank of former Prime Ministers, Ministers, and Heads of Opposition Leader of individual states.
Despite the premium, it can be assigned to multiple personalities in the same year and so far there are only 45 recipients because for a few years it was not awarded for lack of meritorious candidates. In the list, especially the first few years, there appear numerous freedom fighters and greatest leaders and then increase the distinguished scientists and recently, there is an increasing number of musicians.
Some prizes were awarded posthumously, although the clause that granted such an option was inserted many years later in 1966 and this explains, at least in part, why Mahatma Gandhi, despite being considered the Father of the Nation, has never got this high honor. Among the best known historical figures include Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. Although there is no requirement to possess Indian citizenship for the Bharat Ratna, it has long seemed a natural obligation. However, it has been attributed to Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1987, a Pakistani freedom fighter and Nelson Mandela in 1990.
Of the last seven winners in 1999, 2001 and 2009, four were musicians like the internationally renowned sitar player Ravi Shankar, singer Lata Mangeshkar, the player of shehnai Bismillah Khan and singer Bhimsen Joshi. The three male representatives all died recently.