|Description||An image of the Sun along with the words "Bharat Ratna", inscribed in Devanagari script, on a peepal leaf|
|Awarded by||Government of India|
|First awardee(s)||Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Sir C.V. Raman, C. Rajagopalachari|
|Last awardee(s)||Bhimsen Joshi|
|None ← Bharat Ratna → Padma Vibhushan|
Any person without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex is eligible for the award. However the recommendations for Bharat Ratna are to be made by the Prime Minister of India to the President of India.
The holders of the Bharat Ratna rank 7th in the Indian order of precedence; however they do not carry any special title nor any other honorifics.
The order was established by Rajendra Prasad, President of India, on 2 January 1954. The original statutes of January 1954 did not make allowance for posthumous awards (and this perhaps explains why the decoration was never awarded to Mahatma Gandhi), though this provision was added in the January 1966 statute. Subsequently, there have been twelve posthumous awards, including the award to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in 1992, which was later withdrawn due to a legal technicality, the only case of an award being withdrawn.
The award was briefly suspended from 13 July 1977 to 26 January 1980.
While there was no formal provision that recipients of the Bharat Ratna should be Indian citizens, this seems to have been the general assumption. Of the 41 awards so far, there has been one award to a naturalised Indian citizen, Mother Teresa (1980), and to two non-Indians, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1987) and Nelson Mandela (1990). The awarding of this honour has frequently been the subject of litigation questioning the constitutional basis of such.
Originally, the specifications for the award called for a circular gold medal carrying the state emblem and motto, among other things. It is uncertain if a design in accordance with the original specifications was ever made. The actual award is designed in the shape of a peepal leaf and carries with the words "Bharat Ratna", inscribed in Devanagari script. The reverse side of the medal carries the state emblem and motto. The award is attached to a 2-inch-wide (51 mm) ribbon, and was designed to be worn around the recipient's neck.
In 2011, the Government of India modified the eligibility criteria to allow sportspersons to receive the award and opened the award for performance of highest order in any field of human endeavour from the earlier criteria for the highest degrees of national service. This service includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as "recognition of public service of the highest order."
Indira Gandhi is the youngest person alive at the time of receiving the award (at the age of 54) and Rajiv Gandhi is the youngest overall to receive the Bharat Ratna (posthumously at the age of 47). Gulzarilal Nanda is the eldest person alive at the time of receiving the award (age 99) and Vallabhbhai Patel is the eldest overall (posthumously at the age of 116).
The original specifications for the award called for a circular gold medal, 35 mm in diameter, with the sun and the legend "Bharat Ratna" (in Devanagari) above and a floral wreath below. The reverse was to carry the state emblem and motto. It was to be worn around the neck from a white ribbon. There is no indication that any specimens of this design were ever produced and one year later the design was altered. 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 its obverse is embossed a replica of the sun, 1.6 cm in diameter, below which the words Bharat Ratna are embossed in Devanagari script. On the reverse are State emblem and the motto, also in Devanagari. The emblem, the sun and the rim are of platinum. The inscriptions are in burnished bronze.
List of recipients 
|Name||Image||Birth / death||Awarded||Notes|
|1.||Chakravarti Rajgopalachari||1878–1972||1954||Independence activist, last Governor-General|
|2.||Sir C. V. Raman||1888–1970||1954||Physicist|
|3.||Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan||1888–1975||1954||Philosopher, India's First Vice President (1952-1962), and India's Second President(1962-1967)|
|4.||Bhagwan Das||1869–1958||1955||Independence activist, author|
|5.||Mokshagundam Visvesvarayya||1861–1962||1955||Civil engineer, Diwan of Mysore|
|6.||Jawaharlal Nehru||1889–1964||1955||Independence activist, author, first Prime Minister|
|7.||Govind Ballabh Pant||1887–1961||1957||Independence activist, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Home Minister|
|8.||Dhondo Keshav Karve||1858–1962||1958||Educator, social reformer|
|9.||Bidhan Chandra Roy||1882–1962||1961||Physician, Chief Minister of West Bengal|
|10.||Purushottam Das Tandon||1882–1962||1961||Independence activist, educator|
|11.||Rajendra Prasad||1884–1963||1962||Independence activist, jurist, first President|
|12.||Zakir Hussain||1897–1969||1963||Scholar, third President|
|13.||Pandurang Vaman Kane||1880–1972||1963||Indologist and Sanskrit scholar|
|14.||Lal Bahadur Shastri||1904–1966||1966||Posthumous, independence activist, second Prime Minister|
|15.||Indira Gandhi||1917–1984||1971||Third Prime Minister|
|16.||V. V. Giri||1894–1980||1975||Trade unionist and fourth President|
|17.||K. Kamaraj||1903–1975||1976||Posthumous, independence activist, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu State|
|18.||Mother Teresa||1910–1997||1980||Catholic nun, founder of the Missionaries of Charity|
|19.||Vinoba Bhave||1895–1982||1983||Posthumous, social reformer, independence activist|
|20.||Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan||1890–1988||1987||First non-citizen, independence activist|
|21.||M. G. Ramachandran||1917–1987||1988||Posthumous, film actor, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu|
|22.||B. R. Ambedkar||1891–1956||1990||Posthumous, chief architect of the Indian Constitution, politician, economist, and scholar|
|23.||Nelson Mandela||b. 1918||1990||Second non-citizen and first non-Indian recipient, Leader of the Anti-Apartheid movement|
|24.||Rajiv Gandhi||1944–1991||1991||Posthumous, Sixth Prime Minister|
|25.||Vallabhbhai Patel||1875–1950||1991||Posthumous, independence activist, first Home Minister|
|26.||Morarji Desai||1896–1995||1991||Independence activist, fourth Prime Minister|
|27.||Abul Kalam Azad||1888–1958||1992||Posthumous, independence activist, first Minister of Education|
|28.||J. R. D. Tata||1904–1993||1992||Industrialist and philanthropist|
|30.||A. P. J. Abdul Kalam||b. 1931||1997||Aeronautical Engineer,11th President of India|
|31.||Gulzarilal Nanda||1898–1998||1997||Independence activist, interim Prime Minister|
|32.||Aruna Asaf Ali||1908–1996||1997||Posthumous, independence activist|
|33.||M. S. Subbulakshmi||1916–2004||1998||Carnatic classical singer|
|34.||Chidambaram Subramaniam||1910–2000||1998||Independence activist, Minister of Agriculture|
|35.||Jayaprakash Narayan||1902–1979||1999||Posthumous, independence activist and politician|
|36.||Ravi Shankar||1920–2012||1999||Sitar player|
|37.||Amartya Sen||b. 1933||1999||Economist|
|38.||Gopinath Bordoloi||1890–1950||1999||Posthumous, independence activist, Chief Minister of Assam|
|39.||Lata Mangeshkar||b. 1929||2001||Playback singer|
|40.||Bismillah Khan||1916–2006||2001||Hindustani classical shehnai player|
|41.||Bhimsen Joshi||1922–2011||2008||Hindustani classical singer|
Living recipients 
- Indian recipients
- Foreign recipients
- Nelson Mandela (1990)
Award to Subhas Chandra Bose 
Indian freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was awarded Bharat Ratna posthumously in 1992. The award was later withdrawn in response to a Supreme Court of India directive following a Public Interest Litigation filed in the Court against the posthumous nature of the award. The Award Committee could not give conclusive evidence of Bose’s death and thus it invalidated the posthumous award.
Award to Abul Kalam Azad 
When the award was offered to freedom fighter and India's first Minister of Education, Abul Kalam Azad, he promptly declined it saying that it should not be given to those who have been on the selection committee. Later he was awarded posthumously in 1992.
- Mahajan, Vidya Dhar (1971). The Constitution of India. Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh: Eastern Book Company. p. 169.
- Hoiberg, Dale; Indu Ramchandani (2000). Students' Britannica India. New Delhi: Encyclopædia Britannica (India). Vol. 3, p198. ISBN 978-0-85229-760-5.
- Dhawan, S. K. (1991). Bharat Ratnas, 1954–1991. Wave Publications. p. 9. ASIN B0006EYROK.
- "Govt changes criteria for Bharat Ratna; now open for all". The Hindu. Press Trust of India. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- Bharat Ratna: Govt amends rules to pave way for sportspersons, Agencies, New Delhi, Fri Dec 16 2011, indianexpress.com
- "Those who said no to top awards". Times of India. 20 Jan 2008. Retrieved 9, Apr 2013.