Bharat Ratna (Hindi: भारत रत्न, translates to Jewel of India or Gem of India in English) is India's highest civilian award, awarded for the highest degrees of national service. This service includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as "recognition of public service of the highest order." Unlike knights, holders of the Bharat Ratna carry no special title nor any other honorifics, but they do have a place in the Indian order of precedence.
The award was established by the first President of India, Rajendra Prasad, on 2 January 1954. Along with other major national honours, such as the Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, the awarding of the Bharat Ratna was suspended from 13 July 1977 to 26 January 1980.
The honour has been awarded to forty one people, a list which includes two non-Indians and a naturalized Indian citizen. Tamil Nadu is the state with the highest number of awardees (8) followed closely by Uttar Pradesh (7). Originally, the specifications for the award called for a circular gold medal carrying the state emblem and motto, among other things. It is uncertain if a design in accordance with the original specifications was ever made. The actual award is designed in the shape of a peepul leaf and carries with the words "Bharat Ratna", inscribed in Devanagari script. The reverse side of the medal carries the state emblem and motto. The award is attached to a two-inch wide ribbon, and was designed to be worn around the recipient's neck.
The original specifications for the award called for a circular gold medal, 35 mm in diameter, with the sun and the Hindi legend "Bharat Ratna" above and a floral wreath below. The reverse was to carry the state emblem and motto. It was to be worn around the neck from a white ribbon. There is no indication that any specimens of this design were ever produced and one year later the design was altered.