Do You Know A Swiss Born Designed India’s Highest Gallantry Award: Paramvir Chakra?
India’s highest galantry award, Param Vir Chakra, was designed by Eve Yvonne Maday de Maros who was later known as Savitri Bai Khanolkar.
Born on 20 July 1913 in Switzerland Savitri Bai Khanolkar was always enamoured by Hinduism. She learned Hindi, Samskrit and Marathi to better immerse herself in the Hindu thought and mind. The spirituality of the country motivated her to immerse herself in Hindu scriptures as she later took a degree from the Nalanda University.
In 1932, the 19 year-old Eve had fallen in love with Cadet Vikram Ramji Khanolkar who was visiting Switzerland during a term break from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, UK. Soon they got married, and Eve became an Indian. She adopted the name ‘Savitri Bai’.
An ardent admirer of Hindu culture and tradition Mrs Khanolkar after independence was chosen to design the medals by the army’s Adjutant General, Major-General Hiralal Atal.
Savitri Bai turned to the Hindu scriptures to complete the task assigned to her. She chose the motif of Dadhichi, a Vedic rishi (sage) who made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight of good over evil. Asked by the Gods for help in overcoming a fearsome demon, Vrutrasur, Dadhichi gave up his body to let the Gods fashion a vajra – a deadly thunderbolt – from his thighbone. Armed with this vajra, Indra slew Vrutrasur.
Savitri designed a simple medal with purple ribbon. Imprinted on the medal face are four replicas of Indra’s vajra, reflecting Dadhichi’s sacrifice. Between the vajras is embossed the Ashok emblem. The medal is cast in bronze.
Major Som Nath Sharma won India’s first PVC. He was awarded the medal retrospectively when it was instituted on India’s first Republic Day. On November 3, 1947, Major Som Nath Sharma, leading a hundred infantrymen, fought to the death in a heroic last-ditch battle near Srinagar airfield against 700 Pathan tribal invaders from Pakistan. Sharma and his battalion, 4 Kumaon, had flown in from New Delhi to hold off the invaders who were closing in on the airfield, Kashmir’s lifeline.
Sharma’s dogged resistance won the time to fly in more soldiers, save Srinagar, and eventually win back the Kashmir Valley for India.
Major Som Nath Sharma was awarded PVC along with the other four recipients of the 1947-48 Kashmir war – Lance Naik Karam Singh; 2nd Lieutenant RR Rane; Naik Jadunath Singh; and Havaldar Major Piru Singh Shekhawat.
Savitri Bai Khanolkar also designed the major Gallantry Medals for both war and peace, namely Ashok Chakra (AC), Maha Vir Chakra (MVC), Kirti Chakra (KC), Vir Chakra (VrC) and Shaurya Chakra (SC)! She also designed the General Service Medal–1947, used until 1965.
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