Param Vir Chakra
Param Vir Chakra is India’s highest gallantry award given to the bravest of the brave in the armed forces who fight for the nation without caring for their own life or security. It is the dream of every soldier and officer in the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy to win the Param Vir Chakra.
The Param Vir Chakra was introduced on January 26th, 1950 as the Indian version of Britain’s Victoria Cross. It is the highest wartime gallantry award in India.
The winners of the Param Vir Chakra such as Captain Vikram Batra, who exhibited extraordinary valor during the Kargil War in 1999 and Major Shaithan Singh, who led the 13th Battalion of the Kumaon Regiment against the full might of the Chinese Army in the 1962 War are well known names. Their courage under fire and extraordinary valor has become a part of Indian folklore. They are our greatest heroes and will always be remembered in India.
The Param Vir Chakra does not carry much of a cash prize, but for soldiers of the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy, there is no greater honor than this.
The Param Vir Chakra medallion was designed by Mrs. Savitri Khanolkar, who was married to Vikram Khanolkar, an officer with Netaji Subhash Chadra Bose’s Indian National Army. The medal is a circular bronze disc that is 1.375 inches in diameter and consists of a raised circle with the state emblem at the center.
The first winner of the Param Vir Chakra was Major Somnath Sharma, who won the award posthumously for his great bravery and sacrifice during the first India-Pakistan war over Kashmir in 1947-48. His actions saved Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, from falling into the hands of Pakistanis. Interestingly, Major Sharma hails from the same village in the state of Himachal Pradesh as the great Captain Vikram Batra.
Maha Vir Chakra
The Maha Vir Chakra is the second highest wartime gallantry award in India, given to soldiers and officers of the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy for courage under fire. More often than not, the recipients of this award make the supreme sacrifice for the nation, and hence are granted the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously.
The Maha Vir Chakra does not carry much of a cash prize, however, it is the greatest honor a soldier can aspire to after the Param Vir Chakra. The medal consists of a large 5-pointed heraldic star which is engraved on both the sides of the medal. There is a gilded state emblem of India embossed on a circular centerpiece. The word “Maha Vir Chakra” is written in both English and Devanagiri script on the reverse of the medal, with a design of two lotus flowers in the middle.
A total of 156 Maha Vir Chakras have been handed out since the medal was instituted on January 26, 1950. Soldiers of the Indian Army have won a vast majority of the Maha Vir Chakras, but the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy haven’t been far behind either. In fact, during the 1971 war with Pakistan, which India won handsomely, the Indian Air Force won as many as 11 Maha Vir Chakras.
One of the most distinguished winners of the Maha Vir Chakras has been Brigadier Sant Singh, who has won the award not once, but twice, for his extraordinary bravery and leadership exhibited in the 1965 war as well as in the 1971 war against Pakistan.
The Vir Chakra ranks third in precedence in the list of wartime gallantry awards after the Param Vir Chakra and the Maha Vir Chakra. The Vir Chakra is awarded for extraordinary acts of valor in the face of enemy fire, on land, air and sea.
The Vir Chakra was instituted on January 26, 1950. It consists of a medallion which is to be worn on the right shoulder. The Vir Chakra is a circular medal is made of silver with a diameter of 1-3/8inches. It resembles a five pointed star with a chakra or embossed circle at the center that holds the national emblem. The word Vir Chakra is written in English and Hindi in the center, along with the design of a lotus flower. There is a ribbon as well, which is 32mm in width and decorated with two colors – dark blue and half saffron.
Vir Chakra is only awarded for wartime gallantry. The very first winners of the Vir Chakra were Subedar Nadikerianda Bheemaiah and 2nd Lieutenant R Kanikasamy, for their extraordinary courage under fire in the Kashmir War of 1947-48.
There were many notable winners of the Vir Chakra during the Kargil War of 1999, such as Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja, Captain Jintu Gogoi, Captain Vijayant Thapar, Major M. Saravannan, and Colonel Lalit Rai.
The Government of India offers a lump sum amount to the winners of the Vir Chakra. In addition to that, they are given a nominal pension set at Rs. 850 per month.