The Ashoka Chakra is the highest peacetime military decoration awarded to the soldiers and officers of the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy, BSF, CRPF and the Police, for valor and courageous action away from the battlefield.
The Ashoka Chakra is the peacetime equivalent of the Param Vir Chakra. It was instituted on 4 January 1952 as the Indian version of Britain’s George Cross. Back then, it was called “Ashoka Chakra, Class I”.
Winners of the Ashoka Chakra are granted a monthly stipend of Rs. 1400 by the Indian government. The cash prize associated with this award is only nominal, the real value is the prestige associated with it.
Some of the past winners of the Ashok Chakra such as Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan of the NSG, the hero of 26/11 attacks, who flushed out terrorists who were hiding in the Taj Hotel, and made the ultimate sacrifice in the process have become a part of Indian folklore.
There have been a few police officers who have won the award as well, such as the Meghalaya cop R. P. Diengdoh, who led an operation to neutralize terrorists hiding in the jungles of the North East and made the ultimate sacrifice to the nation.
The most recent recipient of the Ashoka Chakra was
Havildar Hangpan Dada of the Assam Regiment, who led an attack against terrorists hiding in the jungles of Assam, killing four of them, before succumbing to his injuries on the night of 26 May, 2016.
The Kirti Chakra is a prestigious award presented to members of the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy, as well as the Paramilitary such as BSF and CRPF for their courageous action under enemy fire in peacetime operations. Civilian forces such as the Police can be awarded the Kirti Chakra.
The Kirti Chakra is an equivalent of the Maha Vir Chakra, which is presented for extraordinary bravery during wartime operations. The Kirti Chakra ranks above the Shourya Chakra, but below the Ashoka Chakra.
It was instituted in January 1950 and was modeled after the George Cross given by Britain for acts of bravery under fire. It was then called as the “Ashoka Chakra, Class II”. It was felt by the government and military observers that separating acts of bravery on the basis of class wasn’t the right thing to do. For this reason, in 1967, the name “Kirti Chakra” was given to the honor.
The Kirti Chakra carries a nominal cash prize of Rs. 1000 each month, awarded by the Government of India. The cash prize may be small, but the award carries a lot of prestige as it has been won by the bravest of the brave.
Subedar Mahendra Singh of the 9 PARA (Special Force) and Sepoy Jagdish Chand (Posthumous) of 546 DSC Platoon were given the Kirti Chakra in 2016. One of the most illustrious winners of the award was Col. N. J. Nair, who has won both the Kirti Chakra and the Ashoka Chakra for entirely different military operations.
The Shaurya Chakra is the third highest Indian military decoration awarded for courage under fire during peacetime operations. Recipients of the Shaurya Chakra are chosen for fearless action under fire and self-sacrifice for the sake of the nation.
Not just members of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy, even those working for paramilitary forces such as BSF and CRPF, as well as for the Police, can be chosen for the Shaurya Chakra. Generally, the Shaurya Chakra is awarded to military, paramilitary and police personnel engaged in counterinsurgency operations and anti-Maoist operations.
The Shourya Chakra ranks third in the order of precedence, after the Ashoka Chakra and the Kirti Chakra. It is considered higher than the Sena Medal.
The award was instituted on 4 January 1952. Back then, it was called as “Ashoka Chakra, Class III”. The name of the award was changed to Shaurya Chakra in 1967 as it was felt by many that any separation by class had no meaning when evaluating acts of bravery, courage and self-sacrifice by defense personnel and the police in the service of the nation.
The Shaurya Chakra consists of a circular bronze medal, 1-3/8 inches in diameter. It has Ashoka’s chakra (wheel) at the center, surrounded by an ornate edge and a lotus wreath. The name of the medal – Shourya Chakra – is embossed on the edge.
The most recent winners of the Shaurya Chakra include Colonel Santosh Yashwant Mahadik (Posthumous) of the 41 Rashtriya Rifle (PARA) and Major Praphul Kumar Bhardwaj of the 12 PARA (Special Force).