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Param Vir Chakra, abbreviated as the PVC, is India's highest military decoration, awarded for displaying distinguished acts of valour during wars. Param Vir Chakra translates as the Wheel of the Ultimate Brave, and the award is granted for most conspicuous bravery in the presence of the enemy. It was designed by Savitri Khanolkar, whose daughter's brother-in-law, Major Somnath Sharma, was coincidentally awarded the first Param Vir Chakra.

As of April 2020, the medal has been awarded twenty-one times, of which fourteen were posthumous and sixteen arose from actions in Indo-Pakistani conflicts. Of the twenty-one awardees, twenty have been from the Indian Army, and one has been from the Indian Air Force. A number of central and state governments and ministries of India provide allowances and rewards to recipients of the PVC (or their family members in case of the recipient's death). Only twenty-one military personnel have received this award to date.

History

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.

During the First World War, in addition to the IOM, the award system of the British Indian Army was expanded. Based on the British practice for recognising actions of gallantry, senior officers would be awarded the Distinguished Service Order, junior officers the Military Cross, and enlisted men with the Military Medal. This system continued through the Second World War.

Post-independence, the British honours and awards system in India informally came to an end. A short time 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.

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 would be 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. The medal carries with it the right to use "PVC" as a post-nominal.

Regulations

The regulations of the PVC were set out in The Gazette of India the day the award was established, 26 January 1950, as follows:


First: The decoration shall be in form of a medal and styled and designated the Param Vir Chakra (hereinafter referred as the Chakra).

Second: The medal shall be circular in shape, made of bronze, one and three-eighth inches in diameter, and shall have embossed on the obverse, four replicas of Indra’s Vajra with the state emblem embossed in the centre. On the reverse, it shall have embossed Param Vir Chakra, both in Hindi and English, with two lotus flowers between the inscriptions. A sealed pattern of the decoration shall be deposited and kept.

Third: The medal shall be suspended from the left breast by a plain purple-coloured ribbon of one and a quarter inches in width; on those occasions when only the ribbon is worn, a replica of Indra’s Vajra in miniature shall be fixed in the centre of the ribbon.

Fourth: The 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.

Fifth: The Chakra may also be awarded posthumously.

Sixth: The distinction shall be conferred by the President.

Seventh: The names of those persons upon or on account of whom the decoration may be conferred shall be published in The Gazette of India, and a Register thereof kept under the directions of the President.

Eighth:

  • Officers, men and women of all ranks of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, of any of the Reserve Forces, of the Territorial Army, Militia and of any other lawfully constituted Armed Forces.
  • Matrons, Sisters, Nurses and the staff of the Nursing Services and other Services pertaining to Hospitals and Nursing and Civilians of either sex serving regularly or temporarily under the orders, directions or supervision of any of the above-mentioned Forces.

Ninth: If any recipient of the Chakra shall again perform such an act of bravery as would have made him or her eligible to receive the Chakra, such further act of bravery shall be recorded by a bar to be attached to the ribbon by which the Chakra is suspended, and for every such additional act of bravery an additional bar shall be added, and any such bar or bars may also be awarded posthumously. For every bar awarded, a replica of Indra’s Vajra in miniature shall be added to the ribbon when worn alone.

Tenth: The miniature decoration, which may be worn on certain occasions by those to whom the decoration is awarded, shall be half the size of the Chakra and a sealed pattern of the said miniature decoration shall be deposited and kept.

Eleventh: Every recipient of the Chakra being or ranking junior in rank to that of Sub-Lieutenant in the case of the Navy, Second Lieutenant in the case of the Army, and Pilot Officer in the case of the Air Force, shall, from the date of the act by which the decoration has been gained, be entitled to a special pension, and each additional bar shall carry with it additional pension for life at such rates as the President may prescribe. On the death of the recipient of the Chakra to whom the clause applies, the pension shall be continued to his widow until her death or remarriage under such rules as may be prescribed by the President.

Twelfth: This Chakra shall rank first among all awards.

Thirteenth: The President may cancel and annul the award of the Chakra to any person together with any pension appertaining thereto not already paid, and thereupon his or her name in the register shall be erased and he or she shall be required to surrender his or her insignia; but it shall be competent for the President to restore the decoration when such cancellation and annulment has subsequently been withdrawn, and with it such pension as may have been forfeited.

Last: Notice of cancellation or restoration in every case shall be published in The Gazette of India.

An amendment to the above regulations on 26 January 1980 saw Clause 12 deleted, and the remaining clauses renumbered accordingly.

Design Specifications

The name of the award translates as the "Wheel of the Ultimate Brave". The medal is a circular bronze disc 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 copies of the vajra, the mythical weapon of Indra, the ancient Vedic king of the gods. The motif symbolizes the sacrifice of Rishi 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.

List Of Recipients

  • Somnath Sharma (3 November, 1947)
  • Arun Khetarpal (16 December, 1971)
  • Hoshiar Singh Dahiya (17 December, 1971)
  • Gurbachan Singh Salaria (5 December, 1961)
  • Albert Ekka (3 December, 1971)
  • Vikram Batra (5 July, 1999)
  • Sanjay Kumar (5 July, 1999)
  • Yogendra Singh Yadav (4 July, 1999)
  • Manoj Kumar Pandey (3 July, 1999)
  • Ramaswamy Parameshwaran (25 November, 1987)
  • Bana Singh (23 May, 1987)
  • Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon (14 December, 1971)
  • Ardeshir Tarapore (11 September, 1965)
  • Abdul Hamid (10 September, 1965)
  • Shaitan Singh (18 November, 1962)
  • Joginder Singh (23 October, 1962)
  • Dhan Singh Thapa (20 October, 1962)
  • Karam Singh (13 October, 1948)
  • Piru Singh (17 July, 1948)
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