The Padma Vibhushan is awarded to recognize exceptional and distinguished service to the nation, in any field, including services rendered by government servants. The decoration may be awarded posthumously.
The Padma Vibhushan was originally established, in January 1954, as the "Pahela Varg" or "First Class" of a three-class "Padma Vibhushan" award. This medal was originally described as circular gold medal, 1-3/8 inches in diameter, with an embossed lotus flower in the center with the legend "Padma Vibhusman" above and a floral wreath below. The reverse was to depict the state emblem with the legend "Desh Seva" or "National Service" above and a lotus wreath below. This medal was to be worn from the ribbon described below. This design was altered within a year, and there is no indication that any awards of the Padma Vibhushan, Pahela Varg, in this style ever took place (though some specimens and prototypes were probably produced?). On 8 January 1955, the badge was altered to that described below.
The original (1954) statutes of the decoration provided for bars to represent subsequent awards of the medal; no record of these awards has been located. This provision has been dropped since the 1955 modifications and, in practice, most initial appointments have been to Padma Shri, with subsequent promotions to Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan representing continued national service of an increasingly high order, although direct appointments to higher levels of the award have been rarely noted.
From 13 July 1977 until 26 January 1980, awards of this decoration were suspended.
Neither the Padma Vibhushan nor the Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri are easily rendered into English, so the clumsy rendering of their names into this latter language must be taken as more approximate than usual!
Established: 2 January 1954, by the President of India. The statutes were revised on 8 January 1955 to redesign the badge and remove the class structure and further amended on 30 August 1955 (to make provision for a miniature badge of the award) and 26 January 1957 (when the award was further redesigned, as detailed below). Award of the decoration was suspended from 13 July 1977 to 26 January 1980.
Obverse: The badge specified in January 1955 was to be a "mainly circular" 1-3/16 inch toned bronze badge with geometrical patterns and, in the center, a lotus flower with four major petals embossed in white gold. Above and below this flower, the name of the decoration "Padma / Vibhushan" was to be embossed in silver-gilt. In 1957, the badge itself was altered to be of burnished bronze, with all embossing in white gold. The badge is suspended by a ring.
Reverse: In the center, the national emblem, with motto below, in white gold.
Ribbon: 32 mm, medium pink ("lotus-colored"). Female recipients are authorized to wear the badge from a bow fashioned from this ribbon.
Awards: To understand the award better, a sample recipient would be that to the famous singer Lata Mangeshkar, made on 26 January 1999.
- Padma Vibhushan, Pahela Varg, 1954-1955 - probably never awarded, prototype badges struck?
Padma Bhushan, geometrical badge:
- badge in toned bronze and embossing in white gold and silver-gilt, 1955-1957
- badge in burnished bronze and embossing in white gold
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