Greatest Indian

 Indians in History


Mahatma Gandhi

A pioneer whose political philosophy of non-violence and satyagraha continue to inspire the world—Mandela to Munnabhai—Mahatma Gandhi was called the Father of the Nation or Bapu. As a British-educated lawyer, Gandhi first discovered the power of civil disobedience in South Africa. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress when he returned to India, Gandhi revolutionised the current political movement, gave it a direction and a moral force, with his do-or-die mantra. His struggle against untouchability and communalism inspired adoration and his Dandi march became the symbol of peaceful political protest. A man both spiritual and shrewd, both political and saintly, Gandhi’s influence is social as much as political. He was shot in 1948 by Hindu fanatic, with Ram’s name on his lips. ”

Subhash Chandra Bose

Subhash Chandra Bose also known as Netaji was one of the most important leaders of the Indian freedom movement. Elected president of the Indian National Congress for two consecutive terms, he had to resign from the post in the face of a motion of no-confidence, stemming from ideological conflicts with Mahatma Gandhi. He was imprisoned by the British authorities 11 times. At the outset of the Second World War, in a daring act of escape from the eyes of the British, he fled from India, and reached Germany by a lengthy and dangerous route. He sought an alliance with the Axis powers with the aim of attacking the British in India from the Northwest. When this plan was foiled by the Nazi invasion of the USSR, he headed for Japan and helped to organise, and later lead, the Indian National Army, put together from Indian prisoners-of-war and plantation workers from Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia, against British forces. Under the auspices of the Axis, he formed the Azad Hind Government in exile, regrouped and led the Indian National Army to battle against the allies in Imphal and Burma during the war. He is believed to have died in a plane crash over Taiwan. However, contradicting evidence exists regarding his death in the accident. ”

Homi J. Bhabha

Homi Jehangir Bhabha was a nuclear physicist who had a major role in the development of the Indian atomic energy programme and is considered to be the father of India’s nuclear weapons programme. With the help of JRD Tata, he established the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research at Mumbai. With the end of the Second World War and India’s independence, he started work on the peaceful development of atomic energy, with Jawaharlal Nehru’s blessings. He established the Atomic Energy Commission of India in 1948 and encouraged research in electronics, space science, radio astronomy and microbiology. The famous radio telescope at Ooty, India, was his initiation, becoming a reality in 1970. In 1954, the President of India gave him the Padma Bhushan award for his outstanding contribution to nuclear science and nine years later, he was elected President of the National Institute of Sciences of India. ”

Rabindranath Tagore

Poet, visual artist, playwright, novelist, and composer, his works reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He became Asia’s first Nobel laureate when he won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature. Tagore’s fame reached unprecedented levels, where he had to travel all around the world giving lectures. He forms a towering figure that influenced Bengali and Indian literature. If to India Tagore was a great writer and a freedom fighter in his own right, to the world he became the mystic that made them buy hundreds of copies of his Gitanjali. Yasunari Kawabata, the first Japanese Nobel Laureate in Literature, once recalled Tagore as “this sage like poet”. Even though Gandhi and Tagore were connected through their mutual ideas on freedom and action, Tagore differed in many ways from Gandhi. He was very active in the anti- colonial protests especially in resisting the 1905 proposal of splitting Bengal. Tagore was knighted in 1915, but after the 1919 massacre of demonstrators, he renounced it to show his disapproval of the act. Tagore remains in the memory of the common man most famously through the national anthem Jana Gana Mana , which was written by him and adopted in his honour. ”

Bhagat Singh

The archetypal fiery revolutionary, Bhagat Singh was born to a family which had been active against the British Raj. Along with his friends Sukhdev Thapar, Jai Gopal and Shivaram Rajguru, he advocated a new brand of militant patriotism in direct contrast to Gandhi’s peaceful philosophy. When he was a teenager, Singh studied European revolutionary movements and got interested in concepts like anarchism and communism. Deeply influenced by the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in Punjab in 1919, he joined the Hindustan Republican Association in 1925 after Singh participated in the Kakori lootings. It was then headed by Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan. In 1928, Bhagat Singh saw the assault on Lala Lajpat Rai during the Simon Commission protests, which enraged him, leading him to conceive of a plot to kill the police chief. But in a case of mistaken identity, J.P. Saunders, a Deputy Superintendent of Police was shot and killed, instead of the chief, J.A.Scott . In 1929, in a deliberate act on their part, Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs onto the corridors of the assembly and shouted “Inquilab Zindabad!” .The bomb neither killed nor injured anyone; but both gave themselves up for arrest after the blast. Singh used the court trial to publicise his views on the British rule and while in jail, went on a 63-day fast unto death to demand better treatment and conditions for Indian political prisoners. In 1931, he was hanged to death in Lahore along with fellow revolutionaries Rajguru and Sukhdev. He remains an icon for anyone who cares for India’s independence. ”

Jawaharlal Nehru

India remembers its Tryst with Destiny well. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, and his famous words still live on. One of the most prominent leaders of the freedom movement, he played an important role in international politics in the post war period and was one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). He is considered the father of India’s socialist planned economy and credited with developing a sound education policy that allowed world-class educational institutions to thrive in India. Despite Nehru’s reign being full of ups and downs, the 1962 Sino- Indian war caused the most injury. Nehru enjoyed an iconic status in India and was widely admired across the world for his idealism and statesmanship. ”

J R D Tata

Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata was a visionary entrepreneur and pioneer aviator. He was one of the few Indians awarded the Bharat Ratna during their lifetime. He took over as Tata’s fourth chairman in 1939 and under his leadership, the Tata assets climbed from Rs 62 crore in 1939 to over Rs 10,000 crore in 1990. In 1993, the year of his death, sales were at Rs 15,000 crore and contributed to by over 50 large manufacturing companies, besides innumerable holdings, investments, subsidiaries and associate concerns, making it India’s biggest business group. JRD was known as much for his professional accolades as much for his own personal life and decisions. JRD’s aviation career spanned 46 years, in which he avidly flew a variety of planes. And for his crowning accomplishments in aviation, JRD was given the title of Honorary Air Commodore of India and also received the Guggenheim Medal for aviation in 1988. It was the human touch that he gave his business that perhaps differentiated him from all the other of his ilk. During the Second World War, when most companies were earning profits, JRD provided and directed his three million tones of steel to the war-effort from his company, TISCO. For many this seemed like the act of a British sympathiser. But that wasn’t true. JRD was offered a knighthood, but he refused to accept it. As he once said, “I always had an angry opposition to their continuing as rulers and was always hoping that we could break away or they would get away. ”

Indira Gandhi

One of India’s most charismatic leaders, she was the first woman Prime Minister of India in 1966. She was loved and hated with equal passion. She held office for three consecutive terms from 1966 to 1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her assassination in 1984. Despite her tenure being blighted by the Emergency of 1975, she enhanced India’s global status by leading it to victory against Pakistan in 1971 and heralded the beginning of populist politics in India with her 20-point Garibi Hatao rogramme. While some revered her for her sterling leadership, others charged her with being too autocratic both within the party and in government. In 1984, she was shot dead at her residence, Teen Murti Bhawan, by her two Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for having ordered Operation Bluestar to flush out Khalistan extremists from the Golden Temple in Amrtisar. Her death was a big blow to the nation, and perhaps the worst repercussion can be said to be the anti- Sikh riots that took place. Even Gandhi’s reign though was extremely controversial, she created deep impact on the country and its politics. It was from her that the monopoly of the Gandhi-Nehru family started in Indian politics. But still she is remembered as the powerful, Iron Lady of India. ”

Sardar Patel

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was singularly responsible for India as it is now. Were it not for him, India would still have had 565 different independent states. His leadership persuaded the princes of the impossibility of independence from the Indian republic, especially in the presence of growing opposition from their subjects. The first Home Minister of India, he was often at odds with his colleague Jawaharlal Nehru but together they worked to consolidate post-independence India, though Patel remained staunchly Hindu and Nehru remained rigidly liberal. In fact, on the eve of independence, Patel was elected by 13 of the 16 state representatives to be the Prime Minister. It was only on Gandhi’s behest and in respect to his wishes that Patel stepped down in favour of Nehru. From 1948 to 1950, Patel, Nehru and C. Rajagopolachari formed the triumvirate which ruled new India. Patel’s role in the independence movement and later, can be regarded as one where he transformed Gandhi’s ideas into political, practical ones and helped solidify the nascent India that was just formed.He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1991. ”

Jayaprakash Narayan

Jayaprakash Narayan, widely known as JP, was an Indian freedom fighter and political leader, remembered especially for leading the opposition to Indira Gandhi in the 1970s. Born in Sitabdiara village in Saran District of Bihar, Narayan studied for his BA and MA degrees in politics and sociology in the United States. JP returned to India a Marxist and joined the Indian National Congress on the invitation of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1929. Mahatma Gandhi would be his mentor in the Congress and JP, along with other leaders was in the forefront of the Quit India movement of 1942. A part of Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan campaign in the 1950s, he returned to the political scene in the late 1960s .Narayan’s most audacious effort was perhaps the opposition he led against Gandhi. Around 1975, when a court ruling declared Gandhi’s election results null and void, the ABVP led Nav Nirman Movement and the Narayan led Sampoorna Kranti agitation in Bihar made the most impact. These movements mobilized large masses when Gandhi declared an emergency and JP and his call for a ‘total revolution’ as a threat to national security. These events led to his arrest in June 1975. He later played a crucial role in the formation of the Janata Party which was voted to power in the General Elections in March 1977. He was a gifted theoretician and a forceful writer, who managed to mobilise large masses. And till today he is followed and remembered by young people as a proponent of Socialism and activism. ”