National Sports Awards and Honours in India

This article looks at the top sports awards conferred at the National level under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports

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Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award

The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna is India’s highest award for achievement in sports and is named in honour of the Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It was started in 1991-92 and is awarded annually by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

As of 2014, the criteria for giving the award includes the performance in sports over a period of four years at international level.

Vishwanathan Anand was the the first recipient of the award who was honoured 1991–92.

In 2001, sport shooter Abhinav Bindra, then aged 18, became the youngest recipient of the award

List of Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award Recipients

The nominations for the award are received from all government recognised National Sports Federations, the Indian Olympic Association, the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the Sports Promotion and Control Boards, and the state and the union territory governments with not more than two eligible sportspersons nominated for each sports discipline. In case of cricket, the nominations are received from the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

Dronacharya Award

The Dronacharya Award, officially known as Dronacharya Award for Outstanding Coaches in Sports and Games, is an award to honour the outstanding coaching abilities. The award is named after Dronacharya, who was considered as the master of military warfare in the epic Mahabharata. It is awarded annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

The Dronacharya Award was instituted in 1985 and the first recipients of the awards were Bhlachandra Bhag (Wrestling), Om Prakash Bharadwaj (Boxing) and O.M. Nambiar (Athletics)

See the complete list of Dronacharya Award Recipients.

Arjuna Award

Started in 1961, The Arjuna Awards are given annually by the by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to recognize excellent achievement in sports.

Over the years, the scope of the award has been expanded and many athletes who belonged to the pre-Arjuna Award era were also included in the list. Further, the number of disciplines for which the award is given was increased to include indigenous games and the physically handicapped category.

To be eligible for the award, a sportsperson should not only have had good performance consistently for the previous four years at the international level, but should also have shown qualities of leadership, sportsmanship and a sense of discipline.

List of Arjuna Award Recipients

Dhyan Chand Award

The Dhyan Chand Award, officially known as Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sports and Games, is the lifetime achievement sporting honour for excellence in sports. The award is named after Dhyan Chand (1905–79), the hockey wizard who scored more than 1000 goals during a career which spanned over 20 years from 1926 to 1948.

Instituted in 2002, it is awarded annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.

The first recipients of the award were Shahuraj Birajdar (Boxing), Ashok Diwan (Hockey), and Aparna Ghosh (Basketball), who were honoured in 2002. Usually conferred upon not more than three sportspersons in a year, a few exceptions have been made (2003, 2012–2013, and 2018–2019) when more recipients were awarded.

Dhyan Chand Award Recipients

Besides these National awards there are other awards like Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Award given by the Govt. of India. Many reputed awards are also conferred by private institutions.


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