Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of independent India, was not merely a political figure but a luminary whose life journey was intricately woven with the struggle for freedom and the building of a nascent nation. Read here to learn more about his life.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad served as the first President of India, holding the office from January 26, 1950, until May 13, 1962.
Dr. Prasad was a key figure in the Indian freedom struggle and a stalwart of Indian politics, renowned for his humility, wisdom, and dedication to the nation.
Born on December 3, 1884, in Ziradei, Bihar, Rajendra Prasad’s legacy extends beyond his political career, encompassing his contributions to the drafting of the Constitution and his unwavering commitment to the ideals of justice, equality, and the welfare of the people.
Early Life and Education
Rajendra Prasad hailed from a modest agricultural family. His father, Mahadev Sahai, instilled in him the values of humility, hard work, and a commitment to education.
Rajendra Prasad’s early education took place in traditional Indian institutions before he pursued higher studies at the University of Calcutta.
His academic prowess led him to earn a Master’s degree in Law, setting the stage for a distinguished career in academia and public service.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad: Entry into Politics
Rajendra Prasad’s foray into politics coincided with the swelling wave of the Indian independence movement.
His association with Mahatma Gandhi and his commitment to non-violence and civil disobedience marked the early years of his political journey.
- He played a pivotal role in the Champaran and Kheda movements, advocating for the rights of farmers and indigo planters, which earned him recognition as a leader attuned to the socio-economic struggles of the masses.
- Prasad called for non-cooperation in Bihar as part of Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement. He gave up his law practice and started a National College near Patna, in 1921.
- In March 1930, Gandhiji launched the Salt Satyagraha. He planned to march from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi seashore to break the salt laws. A salt Satyagraha was launched in Bihar under Dr. Prasad. Nakhas Pond in Patna was chosen as the site of the Satyagraha.
He presided over the Bombay session of the Indian National Congress in October 1934.
Following the resignation of Subhas Chandra Bose as the President of the Congress in April 1939, he was elected President.
- He did his best to heal the rifts created between the incompatible ideologies of Subhas Chandra Bose and Gandhiji.
- Rabindranath Tagore wrote to him, “I feel assured in my mind that your personality will help to soothe the injured souls and bring peace and unity into an atmosphere of mistrust and chaos…”
Role in the Constituent Assembly
As an astute legal mind and a committed nationalist, Rajendra Prasad’s most significant contribution came during the framing of the Indian Constitution.
In 1946, he was elected the President of the Constituent Assembly, where his sagacious leadership guided the assembly through the arduous task of crafting a document that would lay the foundation for the world’s largest democracy.
His eloquence, diplomatic skills, and profound understanding of the diverse socio-cultural fabric of India played a crucial role in navigating the debates and conflicts that emerged during the constitution-making process.
Dr. Prasad’s commitment to social justice found expression in the Constitution, which enshrined principles of equality, justice, and fundamental rights.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad: The First President of India
With the declaration of India as a Republic on January 26, 1950, Dr. Rajendra Prasad assumed the mantle of the first President of the country.
His presidency marked an era of stability and continuity, providing the newly independent nation with a steady hand at the helm.
As President, he embodied the spirit of the Constitution, emphasizing the need for unity in diversity and the welfare of the common person.
Throughout his tenure as President, Rajendra Prasad demonstrated a deep commitment to democratic values and the principles of the Constitution. He upheld the dignity of the presidential office while remaining accessible to the common citizen.
His presidency set the tone for the constitutional role of the head of state, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the integrity and independence of constitutional institutions.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s personal life reflected the values he championed in public service. His simple lifestyle, humility, and unwavering integrity earned him the admiration of people across the socio-economic spectrum.
In a post-colonial era marked by transitions and challenges, his leadership provided a stable foundation for the nascent Indian Republic.
The Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan were open to the public for about a month for the first time during his tenure, and since then it has been a big attraction for people in Delhi and many other parts of the country.
Contributions to Education and Literature
Beyond politics, Rajendra Prasad was a man of letters and an advocate for education.
He served as the President of the Constituent Assembly’s Education Committee and later as the Minister of Food and Agriculture in the interim government.
His literary contributions, including works in Hindi and English, reflected his deep insights into Indian history, culture, and spirituality.
- He recorded his life and the decades before independence in many books, among the more noted of which are “Satyagraha at Champaran” (1922), “India Divided” (1946), his autobiography “Atmakatha” (1946), “Mahatma Gandhi and Bihar, Some Reminiscences” (1949), and “Bapu ke Kadmon Mein” (1954)
Later Years of Dr. Rajendra Prasad
After serving two terms as President, Rajendra Prasad retired from active politics in 1962. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian award.
However, his association with public service continued through various roles, including his appointment as the chairperson of the National Integration Council.
He continued to be a guiding force, offering his wisdom on matters of national importance until his passing on February 28, 1963.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s life journey encapsulates the spirit of India’s struggle for independence and the subsequent endeavor to build a democratic and inclusive nation.
His leadership, both as a key figure in the freedom movement and as the first President, remains a source of inspiration. Dr. Prasad’s legacy is not confined to the pages of history but lives on in the democratic ethos, constitutional values, and the collective memory of a grateful nation.
As an architect of the Indian Republic, his vision and commitment continue to guide the country toward the ideals of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity that he holds dear.
-Article by Swathi Satish