Param Vir Chakra- The Highest Gallantry Award

Vinod Agarwal

Carries the Replica of Vajra made of Maharashi Dadhichi’s Bones

This highest military honour Param Vir Chakra is awarded for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, in the presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea, or in the air. In Sanskrit, Param means Ultimate, Vir (pronounced veer) means Brave and Chakra means Wheel.

Dadhichi - a name with proud legacy

Dadhichi, also known as Dadhyancha or Dadhyanga, is a central character in Hinduism. Dadhichi is primarily known for sacrificing his life so the Devas, or benevolent celestial beings, could make the weapon called "vajra" from his bones. After being driven out from Svarga, or heaven, by the serpent king Vritra, the Devas needed a powerful weapon to aid their fight. By making use of the vajra, made from the sage Dadhichi's bones, the Devas defeated the Asura and reclaimed heaven.

Param Vir Chakra is a rare honour (only 21 people have ever been awarded, till date). It can only be compared with the courage and sacrifice of Dadhichi who symbolizes the notion that no sacrifice is too great in order to help defend the defenceless from evil.

Design and Construction of the Medal:

Param Vir Chakra is a circular bronze medal 1.375 inches (34.9 mm) in diameter. On the obverse, or front, the National Emblem of India appears in the centre on a raised circle surrounded by four replicas of the vajra, the mythical weapon of Indra, the ancient Vedic king of the gods. The motif symbolizes the sacrifice of Mahrishi Dadhichi, who gave his bones to the gods to make the vajra to kill the demon Vritra. The medal is suspended from a straight-swiveling suspension bar. On the reverse, around a plain centre, are two legends separated by lotus flowers. The words "Param Vir Chakra" are written in Hindi and English. A purple ribbon, 32 millimetres (1.3 in) long, holds the Param Vir Chakra.

The Param Vir Chakra was designed by a female 'Savitri Khanolkar alias Savitri Bai' of foreign origin and wife of Major Vikarm Khanolkar, an officer in the Indian Army, on the request of Major General Hira Lal Atal, the first Indian Adjutant General. Since 1950, this award is the same. None of the changes have been made in it. She was a Swiss lady and her earlier name was Eve Yvonne Maday de Maros. Mrs Savitri Khanolkar was chosen to design the medals owing to her in-depth understanding of Indian culture and her artistic skills.

In 1976, Indian Postal department issued a stamp depicting the Param Vir Chakra medal. In 2000, 4 more stamps were released depicting various recipients. On the stamps, these brave soldiers were: Lance Naik Karam Singh, Lance Naik Albert Ekka, Company Quarter Master Havaldar Abdul Hameed and Flying officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon. Not only this, in 1988, a serial on Indian Television was made which depicts various stories of the winners of Param Vir Chakra.

On 3rd November 1947, the first Param Vir Chakra was awarded to Maj. Somnath Sharma posthumously for his exemplary courage. Incidentally, Major Sharma was the brother in law of the daughter of Mrs Savitri Bai, who made the design of PVC.

History and Establishment

The history of modern-day Indian gallantry awards can be traced back to the rule of the East India Company. Gold medals were awarded to Indian officers for the first time in 1795, with the first recipient being Subedar Abdul Kader of the 5th Madras Native Infantry. The chain of the gold medal awarded to Kader was inscribed with the words "For Conduct and Courage on All Occasions". In 1834 the Order of Merit was established by the then-Governor-General of India, Lord William Bentinck. The decoration was renamed the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) in 1902, and Indians considered it to be "the most coveted gallantry award" until the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for gallantry in the British Empire—was extended to Indians in 1911. The VC was awarded to 153 Indian and British soldiers of the British Indian Army, and civilians under its command, from 1857 until Indian independence in 1947.

Post-independence, the British honours and awards system in India informally came to an end. Later, Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru decided to give gallantry awards for the ongoing conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. Although India and Pakistan still had the option to award British honours, the leaders felt that it would not make sense to give the same honour to personnel from opposing forces. Accordingly, in June 1948 it was decided to institute new Indian awards for gallantry: the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), and Vir Chakra (VrC). After the PVC, the MVC and VrC are the second and third highest gallantry awards during wartime.

Pt. Nehru entrusted the implementation of the PVC to Major General Hira Lal Atal, the first Indian adjutant general of India. He in turn requested Savitri Khanolkar, the wife of an Indian Army officer, Vikram Khanolkar of the Sikh Regiment, to design the medal for the PVC. Coincidentally, the first PVC was awarded to Major Somnath Sharma, the brother-in-law of Khanolkar's daughter.

Despite gaining independence from British rule, India still remained a dominion of the United Kingdom. This meant that the Governor-General of India could not approve the establishment of the awards without assent from the British Crown. Therefore, a draft of the Royal Warrant was sent to London for approval by King George VI. However, by mid-1948 it became clear that the King's ratification would not be forthcoming for some time. As author Ian Cardozo suggests: "How could the King sanction awards for a war between two members of the Commonwealth? Also, the King would have not even have been a symbolic presence on the awards.

Therefore, the draft warrants to formally establish the new gallantry awards were not put into effect. On 1 January 1949, a ceasefire was implemented in Jammu and Kashmir, and as it was becoming too late to honour acts of heroism from the 1947–1948 Indo-Pakistani War, Nehru forwarded the draft warrants to Governor-General Chakravarti Rajagopalachari to "institute the awards as your own". But Rajagopalachari felt that, as India was still a dominion, it would be inappropriate for him to establish the awards without the King's approval. He instead suggested to Nehru that, as India was to become a republic on 26 January 1950, it would be appropriate to announce the establishment of the awards on that date, but with retroactive effect from 15 August 1947.

On 26 January 1950, now celebrated as Republic Day of India, the PVC was established by Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, with effect from 15 August 1947 (Independence Day of India). Provision was made in the event a PVC recipient was to receive a further award of the medal; if this were to arise, the recipient would receive a bar to their existing PVC, along with a gift of a replica of the vajra (club), the weapon of Indra, the god of heaven. As of January 2018, no instances of an individual being conferred with a second PVC have arisen.