The term ‘Indian’ may relate to a member of the native, indigenous or aboriginal Americans commonly referred to ‘Red Indians’ and also to the ‘West Indians’ or the ‘Indian Indians.’ An assumption is that on visiting the East Indies, Columbus called its inhabitants as ‘Indios.’ A root of ‘Indians’ is Hindu literally meaning ‘black,’ but mainly standing for the Hindu religion. From it has been coined ‘Hindustan’ which is another name for ‘India.’ It is not known exactly if the great River Indus has something to do with the name ‘India.’ By far the most commonly understood meaning of ‘Indians’ is the inhabitants of the subcontinent of India before 1947 and the citizens of the State of India after it. It is in this perspective that ‘Famous Indians of India’ in history will be reviewed.
Chanakya was born to Canin and Canesvari in the village Canaka in 350 BC. He was the teacher of Chandargupta, the first Emperor of Maurya. In the recorded history of the subcontinent, he was the emperor of entire kingdom. Known also as Kautilya and Vishnu Gupta, Chanakya wrote the oldest Indian book on politics called ‘Arthsastra.’ Although he was born centuries before Machiavelli, but on account of his thoughts, he is sometimes referred to as the Indian Machiavelli. Having first been taught at Taksasila, Chanakya taught in the same five centuries old academy. His book Arthasastra was related to economics, welfare, international relations, and war strategies. In another book Neetisastra he enlightened on the social aspects of the Indian lifestyle and also extended some guidance for the rulers. He wrote 216 ‘Neeti Sutras’ as do’s and don’ts for the rulers. Chanakya died in 283 BC.
2. Abul Fazal
Abul Fazal was born as the second son to Sheikh Mubarak in Agra, India on January 14, 1551. He was assassinated by Vir Singh Bundela during a trip. His severed head was sent to the Mogul Price Salim whose accession he opposed. Abul Fazal was the vizier of the mogul Emperor Akber, who himself was not a learned person but liked the company of learned scholars. He had gathered in his court the top nine scholars from different fields, and they were known as ‘Nauratan’ or nine jewels. Abul Fazal was the brightest among them. He had written the official history of Akbar’s reign, known as Akber Nama comprising three volumes. Its third volume, Ain-i-Akbari has special importance in the contemporary writings. He had also translated the Bible into Persian.
3. Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi, also known as ‘Bapu’ and ‘Gandhiji’ was born to Putlibai (mother) and Karamchand Gandhi (father) in Porbandar, Kathiawar Agency, British-ruled India on October 2, 1869. He was assassinated by a Hindu Nationalist Nathuram Godsey on January 30, 1948. Mahatma Gandhi was a Hindu leader of the highest renown, more known as one of the two most prominent figures of the Indian Independence movement. His philosophy of Satyagrah and Ahinsa advocated non-violence. He led a simple life. He is honored officially as the Father of the Nation, and his birthday is commemorated as a national holiday.
4. Jamsetji Nasarwanji Tata
Jamsetji Nasarwanji Tata was born to Nasarwanji and Jeevanbai Tata in Navsari, Gujarat, India on March 3, 1839 and died in Bad Nauheim, German Empire on May 19, 1904 at the age of 65. He was educated at Elphinstone College, Bombay, India. He considered three basic principles for the industrial progress of India being: steel as the mother of heavy industry, hydroelectric power as the cheapest source of energy, and technical education as an essential for industrial advancement. He was an influential person not only in India but also being well-known in other countries too. George Washington encouraged him to visit Niagara Falls to review hydroelectric power generation. His son, Sir Dorabji Tata, fulfilled his dream by establishing the Tata Hydro Electric Power Supply Company in 1910.
5. Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Harivansh Bachchan, popularly known as Amitabh Bachchan, was born to Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Teji Bachchan in Allahabad, United Provinces in British India on October 11, 1942. He is the most famous Indian actor, singer, producer, and television presenter. He became known for the first time with his appearance in the Hindi Film Angry Young Man in the 1970s. He has appeared in more than 180 films since then. On account of his outstanding career he has been honored with many awards a few of them being: National Film Award, Film Fare Award, Padam Shiri, and Padma Bhushan Civilian Awards from the Indian Government, Film Fare Lifetime Achievement Award, Superstar of the Millennium 2000, French Highest Civilian Award of France, Knight of the Legion of Honor. The BBC voted him ‘Greatest Star of Stage or Screen’ in 1999. He was the first living Asian to be displayed as a wax statue in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in London and later on in New York and Hong Kong.
6. Sachin Tendulkar
Sachin Tendulkar was born to Ramesh Tendulkar and Rajni Tendulkar in Bombay, Maharashtra, India on April 24, 1973. Standing 5’5’ (1.65 m) high, popularly known as ‘Little Master,’ right-handed Sachin Tendulkar is regarded as one of the Greatest Batsman of All Time. Next only to Donald Bradman, Sachin is the second greatest batsman. He is the second greatest all-time One Day International (ODI) batsman. Sachin Tendulkar broke Brian Lara’s record for the most runs in test cricket on October 17, 2008 and became the first batsman to score 15,000 runs in test cricket on November 8, 2011. Tendulkar has been honored with the highest Indian Civil Award, Padam Vibhushan, and the second highest civil award, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. He has been honored with many honorary degrees and other awards.
7. Kalpana Chawla
Kalpna Chawla was born to Banarsi Lal Chawla and Sanjogta Kharbanda in Karnal, Haryana India on July 1, 1961, and she was one of the seven crew members who died on February 1, 2003, after the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere during mission STS-107. She received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. She received her early education from Tagore Public School Karnal. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh in 1982, and a master’s from the University of Texas, Arlington, and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. As an Indian American Astronaut with NASA, she is a permanent chapter in the history of space engineering. She was posthumously awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
8. Lakshmi Mittal
Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, commonly known as Lakshmi Mittal, was born in Sadulpur, Rajasthan, India on June 15, 1950. He is the chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel manufacturing company. He was educated at St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta. He is best known as a steel tycoon. In addition to being Chairman and CEO of AcelorMittal, he is also Director of Goldman Sachs, owner of Karrick Limited, Co-owner of Queens Park Rangers F.C. He is the richest man in India, the U.K., and Asia, the second richest in Europe, and the sixth richest person in the world with personal wealth over $20.7 billion. He is the 44th most powerful person of the Forbes list of 68 people. Financial Times named him ‘Person of the Year’ in 2006 and the Times counted him as one of the ‘100 Most Influential Persons in the World.’ In the recorded history of the world, the wedding of his daughter Vanisha Mittal was the most expensive.
9. Mirza Ghalib
Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib was born to Abdullah Baig and Izzat-ul-Nisa Begum in Agra, Mughal Empire on December 27, 1797 and died in Delhi, Punjab in British India on February 15, 1869 at the age of 72. He was the most famous and greatest poet of Urdu and Persian. Last Moghul Emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar, was a poet himself and was tutored by the famous poet ‘Zauq’ who was Ghalib’s rival. Both Ghalib and Zauq, however, agreed upon the greatness of Meer Taqi Meer, best known for his simplicity and meaningfulness of his ‘Ghazal’ the most popular genre of Urdu and Persian poetry. The Emperor honored Mirza Ghalib with three titles; Najm-ud-daula, Dabir-ul-Mulq, and Mirza Nosha. Diwan-i-Ghalib is the most known book of poetry in Pakistan and India.
10. Kundan Lal Saigal
Kundan Lal Saigal was born to Amarchand and Kesar Bai in Jammu, British India on April 11, 1904 and died in Jalandhar, Punjab, India on January 18, 1947 at the age of 42. He was the most famous vocalist, actor, and playback singer of his time. He was a school dropout and did some odd jobs like time keeping for the railway and salesmanship for Remington Typewriters prior to being introduced to the film industry. In 1933 his four ‘Bhajans’ in the film Puran Bhagat made him known throughout India. Later on he emerged as the most remembered superstar of the Indian film industry. Saigal was an idol for the post-independence generation by virtue of his unique voice. Among those who idolized his voice were the superstars like Lata Mageshkar, Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, and Kishore Kumar.
Fame is what came effortlessly to a few who neither cared nor dreamed of it, and it fell into their hands like ripe fruit. Contrarily, quite a few others strove hard, though, to capture it and yet failed to see its glimpses. Some acquired and lost it quicker than they thought, and others retained it even after their death without any effort on their part.