The Bharat Ratna is India’s supreme civilian award, for the highest degrees of national service, including artistic, literary and scientific achievements. It is an honor, and provides no title, no particular status to the recipient. Since it was first established by the President of India in 1954, the Bharat Ratna has been awarded to more than 35 personalities, including Mother Theresa, a naturalized Indian citizen, Nelson Mandela and Ghan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, non-Indian citizens. Though there have been several posthumous awards, surprisingly, the Bharat Ratna was never awarded to Mahatma Gandhi
, who is considered the father of the Nation.
The Award now has the design of a peepal leaf, stem downwards. In the center, there is a burnished bronze sun with the name Bharat Ratna inscribed. On the reverse of the Award are the state motto and another inscription of the name — both in burnished bronze. This is to be worn around the neck on a two-inch wide white ribbon.
Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padmashree are the other civilian awards that follow the Bharat Ratna in ranking.