The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award is India's highest honour given for achievement in sports. It is awarded by Goverment of India. The words "Khel Ratna" literally translate to "Sports Gem" in English. The award is named after the late Sh. Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India. It carries a medal, a scroll of honour and a substantial cash component. Up to 2004-05, the cash component was Rs 5,00,000 however the prize money has been increased to Rs 7,50,000.

Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award

The award was instituted in the year 1991-92 to supply the lack of a supreme national accolade in the field of sports. Predating the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna are the Arjuna awards in India that have always been given to outstanding sportspersons in each of many sporting disciplines every year. The Khel Ratna was devised to be an overarching honour, conferred for outstanding sporting performance, whether by an individual or a team, across all sporting disciplines in a given year.

A selection committee consisting of eminent people affiliated to sports is constituted every year by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to evaluate sporting performances. Usually, performance within April 1 of one year to March 31 of the next year is considered. To qualify for this award, a sportsperson or team must take part in discipline that is included in the Olympic Games, the Asian Games or the Commonwealth Games. Professional sportsmen competing in billiards snooker and chess are also eligible for this honour. A person can receive this award only once in his lifetime and must be nominated for the award by a member of parliament, state governments, the Sports Authority of India or national sports federations. The committee make a recommendation to the ministry, and after this is vetted at various levels in the government, the nominee is invested with the award by the President of India.

The following two years, the award went to the Weightlifting field and Ms. K. Malleswari in the year of 1994. In 1995, another weightlifter named Ms. N. Kunjarani won the award. However, in the year of 1996, the then newest sensation of Indian Tennis, Leander Paes won this honourable award for the first time in his life. The famous game of Cricket that is compared with religion in India entered it name for the first time in the Award’s list in the year of 1997 when Sachin Tendulkar won it for his extraordinary batting.

In 1998, Jyotirmoyee Sikdar from Athletics won the "Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award" for her brilliant performance. Then in the year of 1999, the veteran Hockey player of India Dhanraj Pillay won the award and made all the Hockey players to feel proud for him. In the second year of the new millennium that is the 2001, the Badminton superstar from India who won the All England Badminton Championship at a very young age, won the award for showing excellence in his own field of sport. He was joined by the Shooting superstar Abhinav Bindra to share the award with him. The award again has a joint winner in the very following year when Anjali R. Bhagwat from the field of Shooting and Ms K.M. Beenamol from Athletics shared it. It stayed back to the field of Athletics as the then new latest sensation of India in Athletics; Anju Bobby George won it comprehensively. One of the great Shooting superstars from India, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore who won the Silver Medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic also won the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in the same year and in the year of 2005, the upcoming superstar of India in the field of Billiards, Pankaj Advani won the award. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award, 2007 presented to Manavjeet Singh Sidhu for his achievement in trap shooting.

All the names of the sportspersons that have been discussed so far in this article are the winners of the "Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award". These awardees are also the biggest names in the history of Indian sports. However, there are still more and more sportspersons to come forward and win the award in future. A list of the names of all winners of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award so far is mentioned below.

List of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award Winners (Awardees)

Year Name of the Sportsperson(s) Sport Discipline
1991-92 Viswanathan Anand Chess
1992-93 Geet Sethi Billiards
1993-94 Not Conferred
1994-95 Cdr. Homi D. Motivala (Joint) Yachting (Team Event)
1994-95 Lt. Cdr. P. K. Garg (Joint) Yachting (Team Event)
1995-96 Karnam Malleswari Weightlifting
1996-97 Nameirakpam Kunjarani (Joint) Weightlifting
1996-97 Leander Paes (Joint) Tennis
1997-98 Sachin Tendulkar Cricket
1998-99 Jyotirmoyee Sikdar Athletics
1999-2000 Dhanraj Pillay Hockey
2000-01 Pullela Gopichand Badminton
2001-02 Abhinav Bindra Shooting
2002-03 Anjali Ved Pathak Bhagwat (Joint) Shooting
2002-03 K. M. Beenamol (Joint) Athletics
2003-04 Anju Bobby George Athletics
2004-05 Lt. Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore Shooting
2005-06 Pankaj Advani Billiards and Snooker
2006-07 Manavjit Singh Sandhu Shooting
2007-08 Mahendra Singh Dhoni Cricket
2008-09 Mary Kom (Joint) Boxing
2008-09 Vijender Singh (Joint) Boxing
2008-09 Sushil Kumar (Joint) Wrestling
2009-10 Saina Nehwal Badminton