Dr. Rajendra Prasad was a political leader and the first President of India. Let’s take a look at his life history, achievements, and contribution to freedom movement.
Born: December 3, 1884
Place of Birth: Ziradei village, Siwan district, Bihar
Parents: Mahadev Sahay (Father) and Kamleshwari Devi (Mother)
Wife: Rajvanshi Devi
Children: Mrityunjay Prasad
Education: Chhapra Zilla School, Chhapra; Presidency College, Calcutta
Association: Indian National Congress
Movement: Indian Freedom Movement
Political Ideology: Liberalism; Right-winged
Religious views: Hinduism
Publications: Atmakatha (1946); Satyagraha at Champaran (1922); India Divided (1946); Mahatma Gandhi and Bihar, Some Reminisences (1949); Bapu ke Kadmon Mein (1954)
Passed Away: February 28, 1963
Memorial: Mahaprayan Ghat, Patna
Image Credit: http://www.4to40.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/dr-rajendra-prasad.jpg
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was the first President of independent India. His contribution to the nation runs much deeper. He was one of the prominent leaders of the Indian Nationalist Movement alongside Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri. He was one of those passionate individuals who gave up a lucrative profession to pursue a greater goal of attaining freedom for the Motherland. He took up the helms of designing the Constitution of the nascent nation by heading up the Constituent Assembly post-independence. To say it succinctly, Dr. Prasad was one of the chief architects in shaping the Republic of India.
Early Life and Education
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was born into a big joint family in Ziradei village of Siwan district near Chhapra of Bihar. His father, Mahadev Sahay was a scholar of Persian and Sanskrit language while his mother Kamleshwari Devi was a religious lady.
From an age of five, young Rajendra Prasad was placed under the tutelage of a Maulvi to learn Persian, Hindi and Mathematics. Later he was transferred to the Chhapra Zilla School and went on to study at R.K. Ghosh's Academy in Patna along with elder brother Mahendra Prasad. At the age of 12, Rajendra Prasad was married to Rajavanshi Devi. The couple had one son, Mrityunjay.
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A brilliant student, Rajendra Prasad stood first in the entrance examination to study at the University of Calcutta. He was awarded a scholarship of Rs.30 per month and he joined the Presidency College in 1902. He was initially a student of science and his teachers included J.C. Bose and Prafulla Chandra Roy. Later he decided to switch his focus to arts stream. Prasad lived with his brother in the Eden Hindu Hostel. A plaque still commemorates his stay in that room. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was instrumental in the formation of the Bihari Students' Conference in 1908. It was the first organization of its kind in the whole of India. The move produced the entire political leadership of the nineteen twenties in Bihar. In 1907, Rajendra Prasad passed with a Gold medal in the Masters degree in Economics from University of Calcutta.
Post his post-graduation, he joined as a Professor of English at the Langat Singh College of Muzaffarpur, Bihar and later became its Principal. He left the job in 1909 and came to Calcutta to pursue a degree in Law. While studying Law at the University of Calcutta, he taught Economics at the Calcutta City College. He completed his Masters in Law during 1915. He then went on to pursue a Doctorate degree in Law from the Allahabad University.
He started his law practice at the Calcutta High Court in 1911. In 1916, Rajendra Prasad joined the Patna High Court after its establishment. He continued his law practice in Bhagalpur (Bihar) while continuing his advanced academic degrees. Dr. Prasad eventually emerged as a popular and eminent figure of the entire region. Such was his intellect and his integrity, that often when his adversary failed to cite a precedent, the judges asked Rajendra Prasad to cite a precedent against them.
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Role in the Nationalist Movement
Dr. Prasad entered the political arena in a quiet, light-footed manner. He attended as a volunteer in the 1906 Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress and formally joined the party in 1911. He was subsequently elected to the AICC.
In 1917, Mahatma Gandhi visited Champaran to support the cause of the peasants’ revolting against the forceful cultivation of Indigo by the British authorities. Gandhi invited Dr. Prasad to the area to undertake a fact finding mission regarding the claims of both the peasants and the British. Although skeptical initially, Dr. Prasad was mightily impressed by Gandhi’s demeanor, dedication and philosophy. Gandhi undertook the ‘Champaran Satyagraha’ and Dr. Prasad offered his whole-hearted support to the cause.
In 1920, when Gandhi announced the commencement of the Non-cooperation movement, Dr. Prasad gave up his lucrative law practice and dedicated himself to the cause of freedom. He led the programs of non-cooperation in Bihar. He toured the state, holding public meetings and making heartfelt speeches for the support of movement. He undertook collection of funds to enable the continuation of the movement. He urged people to boycott Government schools, colleges and offices. As a gesture of support to Gandhi’s call to boycott attending British sponsored educational institutions, Dr. Prasad asked his son Mrityunjaya Prasad to leave the University and join Bihar Vidyapeeth. He started the National College in Patna in 1921. He upheld the ideas of Swadeshi, asking people to boycott foreign goods, peruse the spinning wheel and wear only khadi garments.
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Nationalist India expressed its admiration by electing Rajendra Prasad as the President of the Bombay session of the Indian National Congress in October 1934. He was elected President for a second time in 1939 when Subhash Chandra Bose resigned from the post. His third stint as the President of All India Congress Party was in 1947 when J. B. Kripalani resigned from the post.
He became very much involved in the Quit India movement launched by Gandhi in 1942. He led protests and demonstrations in Bihar (Patna in particular). The nationwide uproar demanding independence instigated the British Government to undertake mass arrest of all influential Congress leaders. Dr. Prasad was arrested from Sadaqat Ashram, Patna and was sent to Bankipur Central Jail where he spent 3 years imprisonment. He was released on 15 June 1945.
Relationship with Gandhi
Like many of his contemporaries, the political consciousness of Dr. Rajendra Prasad was greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. He was deeply impressed by how Gandhi took up the cause of people and gave them his all. His interactions with the Mahatma led him to alter his views on untouchability. Following his example, Dr. Prasad embraced an austere and simplified life. He readily gave up on luxuries like servants and riches. He renounced his pride and ego, even started performing household chores like sweeping, washing and cooking.
As President of Independent India
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was selected as the Food and Agriculture Minister in the interim Government headed by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1946. Soon he was elected President of the Constituent Assembly on December 11, the same year. He presided over the Constituent Assembly from 1946 till 1949 and helped frame the Constitution of India. On January 26, 1950, the Republic of India came into existence and Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected to be the first ever President of the country. Unfortunately, on the night of 25 January 1950, a day before the Republic Day of India, his sister Bhagwati Devi passed away. He set about the cremation but only after his return from the parade ground.
As President of India, he duly acted as per the Constitution, independent of any political party. He travelled the world extensively as an ambassador of India, building diplomatic rapport with foreign nations. He was re-elected for 2 consecutive terms in 1952 and 1957, and remains only President of India to achieve this feat.
Dr. Prasad was always ready to help people who were in distress. He volunteered his services for the relief work during the great flood that affected Bengal and Bihar in 1914. He distributed food and clothes to the victims himself. When the earthquake of Bihar occurred on January 15, 1934, Rajendra Prasad was in jail. He was released two days later. He set himself for the task of raising funds and set up the Bihar Central Relief Committee on January 17. He oversaw collection of relief funds and collected over Rs 38 Lakhs. During the Quetta earthquake in 1935, he set up the Quetta Central Relief Committee in Punjab, although he was prevented by the British to leave the country.
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In September 1962, Dr. Prasad's wife Rajavanshi Devi passed away. The incident led to deterioration of his health and Dr. Prasad retired from public life. He resigned from office and returned to Patna on May 14, 1962. He spent the last few months of his life in retirement at the Sadaqat Ashram in Patna. He was awarded the "Bharat Ratna", the nation's highest civilian award, in 1962.
Dr. Prasad passed away, after suffering from brief illness for around six months, on February 28, 1963.
For other uses, see Rajendra Prasad (disambiguation).
Rajendra Prasad ( listen (help·info); 3 December 1884 – 28 February 1963) was the firstPresident of India, in office from 1950 to 1962. An Indian political leader, and lawyer by training, Prasad joined the Indian National Congress during the Indian Independence Movement and became a major leader from the region of Bihar. A supporter of Mahatma Gandhi, Prasad was imprisoned by British authorities during the Salt Satyagraha of 1931 and the Quit India movement of 1942. Prasad served one term as President of the Indian National Congress from 1934 to 1935. After the 1946 elections, Prasad served as Minister of Food and Agriculture in the central government. Upon independence in 1947, Prasad was elected as President of the Constituent Assembly of India, which prepared the Constitution of India and served as its provisional parliament.
When India became a Republic in 1950, Prasad was elected its first President by the Constituent Assembly. Following the general election of 1951, he was elected President by the electoral college of the first Parliament of India and its state legislatures. As President, Prasad established a tradition of non-partisanship and independence for the office-bearer, and retired from Congress party politics. Although a ceremonial head of state, Prasad encouraged the development of education in India and advised the Nehru government on several occasions. In 1957, Prasad was re-elected to the presidency, becoming the only president to serve two full terms.
Rajendra Prasad was a Kayastha Hindu  and born in Zeradai, in the Siwan district of Bihar. His father Mahadev Sahai, was a scholar of both the Sanskrit and the Persianlanguages, while his mother, Kamleshwari Devi, was a religious woman who would tell stories from the Ramayana to her son, Prasad.
When Prasad was five years old, his parents placed him under the tutelage of a Moulavi, an accomplished Muslim scholar, to learn the Persian language, Hindi and arithmetic. After the completion of traditional elementary education, he was sent to the Chapra District School. Meanwhile, in June 1896, at an early age of 12, he was married to Rajavanshi Devi. He, along with his elder brother Mahendra Prasad, then went to study at T.K. Ghosh's Academy in Patna for a period of two years. He secured first in the entrance examination to the University of Calcutta and was awarded Rs. 30 per month as a scholarship.
Prasad joined the Presidency College as a dancer in Calcutta in 1902, initially as a science student. He passed Intermediate level classes & dance then called as F. A. under the University of Calcutta in March 1904 and further graduated with First Division from there itself in March 1905. Impressed by his intellect, an examiner once had commented on his answer sheet "examinee is better than examiner". Later he decided to focus on the study of arts and did his M.A. in Economics with first division from the University of Calcutta in December 1907. There he lived with his brother in the Eden Hindu Hostel. A devoted student as well as a public activist, he was an active member of The Dawn Society. It was due to his sense of duty towards his family and education that he refused to join Servants of India Society. Prasad was instrumental in the formation of the Bihari Students Conference in 1906 in the hall of the Patna College. It was the first organization of its kind in India and produced important leaders from Bihar like Anugrah Narayan Sinha and Krishna Singh, who played a prominent role in the Champaran Movement and Non-cooperation Movement.
As a teacher
Rajendra Prasad served in various educational institutions as a teacher. After completing his M.A in economics, he became a professor of English at the Langat Singh College of Muzaffarpur in (Bihar) and went on to become the principal. However, later on he left the college for his legal studies and entered into the Ripon College, Calcutta (Presently Surendranath Law College). In 1909, while pursuing his law studies in Kolkata he also worked as Professor of Economics at Calcutta City College. In 1915, Prasad appeared in the examination of Masters in Law, passed the examination and won a gold medal. He completed his Doctorate in Law from Allahabad University in 1937.
As a lawyer
In the year 1916, he joined the High Court of Bihar and Odisha. Later in the year 1917, he was appointed as one of the first members of the Senate and Syndicate of the Patna University. He also used to practice law at Bhagalpur, the famous silk-town of Bihar.
Role in the Independence Movement
Prasad's first association with Indian National Congress was during 1906 annual session organised in Calcutta, where he participated as a volunteer, while studying in Calcutta. Formally, he joined the Indian National Congress in the year 1911, when the annual session was again held in Calcutta. During the Lucknow Session of Indian National Congress held in 1916, he met Mahatma Gandhi. During one of the fact-finding missions at Champaran, Mahatma Gandhi asked him to come with his volunteers. He was so greatly moved by the dedication, courage, and conviction of Mahatma Gandhi that as soon as the motion of Non-Cooperation was passed by Indian National Congress in 1920, he retired his lucrative career of lawyer as well as his duties in the university to aid the movement.
He also responded to the call by Gandhi to boycott Western educational establishments by asking his son, Mrityunjaya Prasad, to drop out of his studies and enrol himself in Bihar Vidyapeeth, an institution he along with his colleagues founded on the traditional Indian model.
During the course of the independent movement, he interacted with Rahul Sankrityayan, a writer, and polymath. Rahul Sankrityayan was greatly influenced by Prasad's intellectual prowess, finding him to be a guide and guru. In many of his articles he mentioned about his meeting with Sankrityayan and narrated about their meetings. He wrote articles for the revolutionary publications Searchlight and the Desh and collected funds for these papers. He toured widely, explaining, lecturing, and exhorting the principles of the independence movement.
He took an active role in helping the affected people during the 1914 floods that struck Bihar and Bengal. When an earthquake affected Bihar on 15 January 1934, Prasad was in jail. During that period, he passed on the relief work to his close colleague Anugrah Narayan Sinha. He was released two days later and set up Bihar Central Relief Committee on 17 January 1934, and took the task of raising funds to help the people himself. During 31 May 1935 Quetta earthquake, when he was forbidden to leave the country due to government's order he set up Quetta Central Relief Committee in Sindh and Punjab under his own presidency.
He was elected as the President of the Indian National Congress during the Bombay session in October 1934. He again became the president when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose resigned in 1939. On 8 August 1942, Congress passed the Quit India Resolution in Bombay which led to the arrest of many Indian leaders. He was arrested from Sadaqat Ashram, Patna and sent to Bankipur Central Jail. After remaining incarcerated for nearly three years, he was released on 15 June 1945.
After the formation of Interim Government of 12 nominated ministers under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru on 2 September 1946, he got the Food and Agriculture department. Later, he was elected the President of Constituent Assembly on 11 December 1946. Again on 17 November 1947 he became Congress President for a third time after J. B. Kripalani submitted resignation.
Two and a half years after independence, on 26 January 1950, the Constitution of independent India was ratified and Prasad was elected the nation's first President. Unfortunately, on the night of 25 January 1950, a day before the Republic Day of India, his sister Bhagwati Devi passed away. He set about the cremation but only after his return from the parade ground.
As President of India, he duly acted as per the Constitution, independent of any political party. He travelled the world extensively as an ambassador of India, building diplomatic rapport with foreign nations. He was re-elected for 2 consecutive terms in 1952 and 1957, and remains only President of India to achieve this feat. As the President of India, he travelled the world extensively as an ambassador of the country, building a diplomatic rapport with foreign nations. The Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan were open to 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 other parts of the country.
Prasad acted independently of politics, following the expected role of the president as per the constitution. Following the tussle over the enactment of the Hindu Code Bill, he took a more active role in state affairs. In 1962, after serving twelve years as the president, he announced his decision to retire. After relinquishing the office of the President of India on May 1962, he returned to Patna on 14 May 1962 and preferred to stay in the campus of Bihar Vidyapeeth. He was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian award.
He died on 28 February 1963. Rajendra Smriti Sangrahalaya in Patna is dedicated to him.
- President of Constituent Assembly
- Satyagraha at Champaran (1922)
- Division of India (1946, online)
- Atmakatha (1946), his autobiography written during his 3-year prison term in Bankipur Jail
- Mahatma Gandhi and Bihar, Some Reminiscences" (1949)
- Bapu Ke Kadmon Mein (1954)
- Since Independence (published in 1960)
- Bharatiya Shiksha
- At the feet of Mahatma Gandhi
- Rajendra Prasad, first President of India, by Kewalram Lalchand Panjabi. Published by Macmillan, 1960.
- Rajendra Prasad: twelve years of triumph and despair, by Rajendra Lal Handa. Published by Sterling Publishers,1979.
- Dr Rajendra Prasad, Correspondence and Select Documents, by Rajendra Prasad, Valmiki Choudhary. Published by Allied Publishers, 1984. ISBN 81-7023-002-0. Excerpts (Vol. 1-Vol. 10)
- Dr Rajendra Prasad by India Parliament. Lok Sabha. Published by Lok Sabha Secretariat, 1990.
- Rajendra Prasad and the Indian freedom struggle, 1917–1947, by Nirmal Kumar. Published by Patriot Publishers, 1991. ISBN 81-7050-128-8.
- Dr Rajendra Prasad: Political Thinkers Of Modern India, by V. Grover. Published by Deep & Deep Publications, 1993.
- First Citizens of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad to Dr Shanker Dayal Sharma: Profile and Bibliography, by A. B. Kohli. Published by Reliance Pub. House, 1995. ISBN 81-85972-71-0.