The Ashoka Chakra is the central motif on the national flag of India. It is rendered in navy blue and represents the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law). The Ashoka Chakra medal is one of the highest peacetime gallantry awards in India and is awarded for acts of exceptional courage, daring and self-sacrifice. In this article, we will examine the history, meaning and colors of the Ashoka Chakra medal.
History of the Ashoka Chakra Medal
The Ashoka Chakra medal was instituted by the Government of India on 4 January 1952. It was originally called the Ashoka Chakra, Class I. The statutes governing the award were revised in 1967 and the present name of Ashoka Chakra was adopted. This medal replaced the British George Cross, which was discontinued after India gained independence.
The award recognizes non-operational gallantry awards during peacetime. Acts that qualify for the medal involve courage and devotion to duty with a high degree of risk to life. The award can be given to civilians as well as military personnel. The medal may be awarded posthumously.
The first Ashoka Chakra was awarded on 15 August 1952 to Gaya Prasad Shukla, a young Indian Administrative Service officer who sacrificed his life to save a girl from drowning. Six more awards were conferred in 1952. Since then, the medal continues to recognize brave hearts who display outstanding courage.
Meaning of the Ashoka Chakra
The emblem on the center of the medal is the Ashoka Chakra, which appears on the center of the national flag of India. This Chakra (wheel) was adopted by Emperor Ashoka to represent the Buddhist Dharma and Law of Moral Order.
The Chakra signifies that there is life in movement and death in stagnation. The process of the wheel represents the cycle of life. The 24 spokes represent the 24 hours of a day. In post-independence India, the Chakra symbolizes continuity, righteousness and progress.
By featuring the Chakra, the medal honors the values of courage, sacrifice and moral strength represented by this ancient symbol. The deep navy blue color scheme further epitomizes calmness, truth and perseverance.
Color Scheme of the Ashoka Chakra Medal
The Ashoka Chakra medal employs just two colors in a simple but striking design:
Navy Blue: The Ashoka Chakra at the center of the medal is rendered in navy blue. This dark shade represents the sky and ocean depths, signifying vastness and depth. In ancient Indian tradition, blue is associated with balance, wisdom and inner strength.
Gold: The outer rim of the medal is gold. The gold evokes radiance, prosperity and enlightenment. It represents the achievement of human potential.
Gold and blue are complementary colors, creating a harmonious contrast. The limited color palette gives the medal an elegant and distinguished look.
|Ashoka Chakra||Navy Blue||Wisdom, duty, vastness|
|Outer rim||Gold||Achievement, enlightenment|
The Ashoka Chakra medal employs a straightforward circular medal design:
– The centerpiece is the navy blue Ashoka Chakra emblem, 3.5cm in diameter.
– Surrounding the Chakra is a thin gold rim engraved with text in Hindi script reading “Ashoka Chakra”.
– The reverse side features the national emblem of India, the Lion Capital of Ashoka, along with the text “Ashok Stambh”.
– The medal is attached to a plain horizontal gold bar suspended from a gold lotus flower motif.
– The ribbon is dark green, 32mm wide with five 2mm white vertical stripes.
– The complete medal unit is 4 cm in diameter.
The components are elegant in their simplicity, allowing the deep blue Ashoka Chakra to truly stand out.
Who Can Receive the Ashoka Chakra?
The Ashoka Chakra can be awarded to both civilians and military personnel. There are no formal eligibility criteria in terms of rank, status, age, gender, nationality, race or profession. The main requirements are:
– The act displays conspicuous gallantry, daring and self-sacrifice.
– It is performed with selfless devotion to duty and beyond the call of duty.
– It carries a high degree of risk to the life of the recipient.
– It results in conspicuous service of the highest order.
Military recipients are often awarded for neutralizing terrorists and infiltrators. Civilian awards often recognize lifesaving acts, disarming criminals, or averting disasters under dangerous conditions.
The awardee’s identity and actions must be well corroborated with evidence and eyewitness accounts. Recommendations come directly from the Ministry of Defence.
Number of Ashoka Chakra Awardees
Since its inception in 1952, the Ashoka Chakra award has been conferred to just 45 recipients (as of September 2022). This includes:
– 5 awards in 1952
– 1 in 1953
– None from 1954 to 1956
– 1 in 1957
– 1 in 1959
– 1 in 1962
– 1 in 1965
– 2 in 1966
– None from 1967 to 1969
– 1 in 1970
– 1 in 1971
– None from 1972 to 1998
– 1 in 1999
– 1 in 2000
– 3 in 2001
– 1 in 2011
– 26 awards since 2013
The initial awards recognized gallantry in various conflicts. After a long gap, recent awards have honored acts counter-terrorism operations and infiltration at the borders.
The exclusivity of the award makes it one of incredible distinction for its select recipients.
Notable Recipients of the Ashoka Chakra Award
Here are some of the most notable awardees of the Ashoka Chakra over the years:
Major Somnath Sharma (1947) – He was the first military recipient and the first to receive posthumously for his bravery in the Kashmir operations of 1947. He sacrificed his life saving Srinagar airfield from being captured by invaders.
Lachhiram (1952) – A simple villager who lost his life while saving eight others from a mad elephant at great personal risk.
Rattan Singh (1952) – The other early recipient who displayed outstanding courage in shielding villagers from armed dacoits.
Satya Prakash Malaviya (1954) – A school teacher who showed remarkable bravery and presence of mind in saving children from a burning school building.
Hoshiar Singh (1961) – Led his troops in the liberation of a village in Goa from Portuguese occupation, charging ahead despite serious injuries.
Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon (1971) – The only member of the Air Force decorated with this medal for single-handedly defending his post against PAF strikes, making the supreme sacrifice.
Bana Singh (1987) – Led Operation Rajiv to capture the Siachen glacier from Pakistan, completing an extremely arduous assault.
Sandeep Unnikrishnan (2008) – A NSG commando who rescued thousands during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. He died fighting terrorists at the Taj Mahal hotel.
These examples give a glimpse of the extraordinary courage and sacrifice behind each Ashoka Chakra decoration.
Latest Ashoka Chakra Awardees
Some of the most recent awardees include:
Lance Naik Nazir Wani (2018) – Sacrificed his life in an anti-terrorist operation in Kashmir, displaying valiant leadership under heavy fire. He was the first Kashmiri to receive this honor.
Abhinandan Varthaman (2019) – An IAF pilot who calmly faced capture and hostility from the Pakistani military after being shot down, following the highest military codes.
Colonel Santosh Babu (2021) – Led his battalion against Chinese troops in Galwan valley, falling in battle but resisting incursion on Indian territory.
Danish (2022) – A local youth who saved many lives by helping security forces pinpoint terrorist locations in Kashmir, at great personal risk.
The recent awards recognize the persistent threats to India’s security from terrorism and border attacks. The recipients set an example of selfless courage.
Significance of the Ashoka Chakra Medal
The Ashoka Chakra medal holds deep significance for India. Some key aspects are:
– It is the highest peacetime military decoration and recognizes the most extraordinary acts of bravery, on par with awards like the Param Vir Chakra.
– The select few who are honored serve as an inspiration to all citizens.
– It immortalizes the memory of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for India.
– The medal connects today’s heroes with the ancient ideals represented by the Ashoka Chakra.
– It affirms the values of courage, sacrifice, duty and selflessness from the time of Ashoka to the present.
– The medal highlights the constant vigil and preparedness required to protect India’s security and integrity.
– It sets the bar for all soldiers and civilians to live up to the morals symbolized by the medal’s navy blue Chakra.
The Ashoka Chakra award has an aura of prestige and honor surrounding its distinctive two-tone circular medal design.
The Ashoka Chakra medal recognizes the highest displays of valor, courageous leadership and self-sacrifice for India. Instituted in 1952, its navy blue Ashoka Chakra emblem honors the eternal values represented by Emperor Ashoka. Awarded selectively to just 45 recipients so far, the medal is a high point of distinction for military and civilians. Its elegant design channels the ancient symbol of the spinning Chakra into a modern award befitting the extraordinary awardees who have demonstrated the true meaning of the Ashoka Chakra.