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Presidents of India - Indian Presidents

First President

NAME: Dr. Rajendra Prasad
BORN: December 3, 1884
DIED: February 28, 1963
PRESIDENCY: January 26, 1950 to May 13, 1962

India?s first President was born in the Saran district of North Bihar. Prasad spent his childhood listening to tales from the Ramayana, and the epic had a profound influence on his life. A brilliant student, he studied in the Presidency College, Calcutta, and topped in Master of Arts and Master of Law at the Calcutta University. He joined the Indian National Congress while practicing Law in Calcutta in 1911. Even though he made his mark as a lawyer, he was deeply influenced by Gandhi, and plunged himself into the freedom struggle. Prasad emerged as the Man Friday of the Indian National Congress during the course of the freedom movement and was called upon to handle important assignments. He twice became the president of the Congress in 1934 and 1939. Prasad emerged as the only choice for presidency after the country became a Republic in 1950. As the President, he influenced and moulded policies to a large extent and set numerous precedents for his successors. When it came to relinquishing office in 1962, after being the First Citizen of India for 12 long years, Prasad did not bat an eyelid, despite persuasions from all quarters. The nation befittingly awarded him with a Bharat Ratna.

Second President

NAME: Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
BORN: September 5, 1888
DIED: April 17, 1975
PRESIDENCY: May 13, 1962 to May 13, 1967

Best known as a philosopher, statesman, writer, educationist, humanist and administrator, Radhakrishnan was born in a middle class Hindu family in Tirutani in the then Madras State. Despite being orthodox, his parents had a vision for their son and sent him to Christain missionary schools and colleges, such as Lutheran Mission School, Tirupati; Vellore College, Vellore; and Madras Christian College. He took up Philosophy at the graduation level in Madras University and went on to master the subject. It was because of him that Indian philosophy is today accorded respect in the West. Throughout his glorious career, Radhakrishnan held numerous important academic, cultural and political posts, both in India and abroad, such as Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University, Spaulding Professor of Eastern Religion and Ethics, Oxford University, Leader of the Indian Delegation to UNESCO, Ambassador-Extraord inary and Minister-Plenipoten tiary to the U.S.S.R., etc. He was also showered with notable honorary degrees and distinctions that include Knighthood, Fellow of the British Academy, the Order of Merit and the Bharat Ratna. He has written extensively on philosophical, theological, ethical, educational, social and cultural subjects. Twice the Vice-President of India, Radhakrishnan became the President after Dr. Rajendra Prasad. His birthday is celebrated as Teacher’s Day throughout India.

Third President

NAME: Dr. Zakir Hussain
BORN: February 8, 1897
DIED: May 3, 1969
PRESIDENCY: May 13, 1967 to May 3, 1969

An educator, Zakir Hussain was born in Hyderabad. He studied at Islam High School, Etawah, Uttar Pradesh, and later at the Anglo-Muhammadan Oriental College (now known as Aligarh Muslim University). He also founded the Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi. After coming back from Germany, where he had gone for higher studies, Hussain became the Vice-Chancellor of Jamia. He held several posts as Chairman, Central Board of Secondary Education, a member of the University Grants Commission and a member of the University Education Commission. Hussain served as the Vice-President from 1962 to 1967 and then went on to grace Rashtrapati Bhavan as the third President. The first President to die while in office, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1954 and the Bharat Ratna in 1963.

Fourth President

NAME: Varahagiri Venkata Giri
BORN: August 10, 1894
DIED: June 23, 1980
PRESIDENCY: May 3, 1969 to July 20, 1969 and August 24, 1969 to August 24, 1974

A prolific writer and a good orator, India’s fourth President was born in Berhampur in the Ganjam district of Orissa (then a part of the Madras Presidency). A Telegu by birth, he went to the University of Dublin, Ireland, for higher studies. He soon got absorbed into the freedom struggle in Ireland. Back home, he took active interest in the labour movement and was responsible for forming the All India Trade Union Congress. While taking active participation in the freedom movement, Giri joined the Indian National Congress and mobilised the trade unions in support of the freedom struggle. He was elected to the Parliament in 1952. Thereafter, Giri served as Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Mysore from 1957 to 1967. He became the Vice-President in 1967. Giri had to officiate as President as the then incumbent Dr. Zakir Hussain passed away while in office. He was finally elected the President in 1969. Giri received the Bharat Ratna in 1975.

Fifth President

NAME: Dr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
BORN: May 13, 1905
DIED: February 11, 1977
PRESIDENCY: August 24, 1974 to February 11, 1977

A man of many abilities, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed was born on May 13, 1905 in the Hauz Qazi area of Old Delhi. He received his primary education from Bonda Government High School, Uttar Pradesh, and did his matriculation from the Delhi Government High School, then under the Punjab University. Later, he joined the Catherine College, Cambridge University, and was called to the Bar from Inner Temple of London. Ahmed joined the Indian National Congress in 1931 and took active part in the freedom struggle. He became part of the Central Cabinet after Independence and held important portfolios. The country’s fifth President could not complete his term due to a fatal heart attack.

Sixth President

NAME: Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
BORN: May 18, 1913
DIED: June 1, 1996
PRESIDENCY: July 25, 1977 to July 25, 1982

India?s sixth President was born in the Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh. After completing his primary education at Theosophical High School at Adyar in Madras, Reddy went to Government’s Arts College at Anantpur for higher studies. He plunged into the freedom movement in 1931, participating in various nationalist activities. Reddy became the chief minister of the then newly-formed state of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, and later from 1962 to 1964. He served in the cabinet of Prime ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi. Twice elected as the Lok Sabha Speaker (1967 and 1977), Reddy became the President in 1977 after winning the elections hands down as an unopposed candidate.

Seventh President

NAME: Giani Zail Singh
BORN: May 5, 1916
DIED: December 25, 1994
PRESIDENCY: July 25, 1982 to July 25, 1987

A man of the masses and the only Sikh President of India till date, Zail Singh was born in an agricultural family in village Sandhwan in the then Faridkot State. Hailing from a humble background, Singh showed remarkable acumen in mastering Sikh history and its scriptures. He acquired the epithet of ?Giani? because of his scholarly abilities. After leading the fight against feudalism and participating actively in the freedom movement in Punjab, Singh went on to become the chief minister of the state in 1972. Punjab enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity under his leadership. Indira Gandhi inducted him into her cabinet as home minister in 1980. As home minister, Singh utilised his administrative skills to solve many problems that stared in the face of the nation. He was elected to the highest office of India in 1982.

Eighth President

NAME: Ramaswamy Venkataraman
BORN: December 4, 1910
PRESIDENCY: July 25, 1987 to July 25, 1992

The only living former President, Venkataraman was born in village Rajamadam in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. He did his Masters in Economics from Madras University and Law from Law College, Madras. As a practicing lawyer, he became involved with the Quit India Movement in 1942. Venkataraman was a member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted India`s Constitution. After India became a Republic, he was elected to the Parliament in 1952. Later, he held important portfolios in the Madras Government. Re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980, Venkataraman was part of Indira Gandhi`s Cabinet. He was Governor, International Monetary Fund, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Asian Development Bank. He was elected Vice-President of India in 1984 and became the President in 1987.

Ninth President

NAME: Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma
BORN: August 19, 1918
DIED: December 26, 1999
PRESIDENCY: July 25, 1992 to July 25, 1997

Born in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, Sharma studied in St. John’s College, Agra; Allahabad University; Lucknow University; Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University; Lincoln’s Inn, London and Harvard Law School, USA. He taught Law at Cambridge University in 1946-47. While in Britain, Sharma took active interest in India’s struggle for Independence, and later joined the Indian National Congress. After India became a Republic, Sharma took over as the Chief Minister of Bhopal in 1952 before the state of Madhya Pradesh was formed. He also occupied the posts of the Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra. Sharma was elected the Vice-President in 1987 and eventually the country’s President in 1992. He is credited to have sworn in three prime ministers.

Tenth President

NAME: Kocheril Raman Narayanan
BORN: October 27, 1920
DIED: November 9, 2005
PRESIDENCY: July 25, 1997 to July 25, 2002

A scholar and a writer, Narayanan was born in village Uzhavoor in Kottayam district of Kerala. He did his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English Literature from Travancore University, and later went on to study at the London School of Economics. After a stint in journalism, Narayanan joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1949 and served in Rangoon, Tokyo, London, Canberra and Hanoi. He was India’s Ambassador to Thailand, Turkey, China, and eventually became Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs in 1976. After retiring from Foreign Service, Narayanan became the Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University in 1979. He was India’s Ambassador to the United States from 1980 to 1984. Upon entering active politics, Narayanan became a Member of Parliament from 1985 to 1992. During this period, he served as Union Minister of State in the Central Cabinet holding diverse portfolios. Elected to the post of Vice-President in 1992, Narayanan became the President in 1997. The only Dalit, till date, to occupy the highest office of India, Narayanan presided over the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of India’s freedom from British rule. He is also the first President to cast his vote in the 1998 General Elections.

Eleventh President

NAME: Dr. Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam
BORN: October 15, 1931
PRESIDENCY: July 25, 2002 to July 25, 2007

One of the most distinguished scientists of India, Abdul Kalam is known as the Missile Man of India. He was born at Rameswaram, in Tamil Nadu, and studied Aeronautical Engineering at the Madras Institute of Technology. Kalam developed India`s first Satellite Launch Vehicle. He also developed and enabled operationalisation of Agni and Prithvi missiles. It was largely because of his efforts that India became a nuclear weapons` country. Befittingly, he has been bestowed with all the three civilian honours of the Nation. The 11th President is also credited with many firsts to his credit. He is the first President to be awarded the Bharat Ratna before he occupied Rashtrapati Bhavan, the first scientist to become the President and the first bachelor to be elected to the highest office of the land. He created history by flying the Sukhoi 30.

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