PARAM VIR CHAKRA (PVC) is India’s highest and most prestigious military decoration, awarded to those who risk their lives above and beyond the call of duty during wartime. It is stated as the “Greatest of the Ultimate Brave”, or ‘Wheel or Cross of the Ultimate Brave,’ and the award is granted for “most eminent bravery in the presence of the enemy.” Such is the expectation that It is almost impossible to win a PVC. In the last 70 years since its creation, tens of millions of soldiers served in the Indian armed forces but only 21 have been awarded PVC. It is on par with Britain’s Victoria Cross or the United States’ Congressional Medal of Honor.

Historical background
The three living recipients of the Param Vir Chakra: 
Yogendra Singh Yadav, Bana Singh, and Sanjay Kumar

The history of present-day Indian gallantry awards can be traced back to the rule of the East India Company. In 1834 “Order of Merit” was established by Governor-General Lord William Bentinck of East India company. Later in 1902, the award was renamed as Indian Order of Merit. For a very long time, the Indian Order of Merit was awarded to the native members of the British Indian army. Things changed in 1911 when Indian soldiers became eligible for Victoria Cross.

After independence, the British honours and awards system informally came to an end. A short time later, first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru took a decision to give gallantry awards for the ongoing conflict in Jammu and Kashmir. Nehru asked the first Indian adjacent general Major General Hira Lal Atal to organise a committee for gallantry medal. On 26th of January 1950, now celebrated as Republic Day of India, the PVC was established by Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, with effect from 15th August 1947.

2nd Lt. Arun KhetraPal

PVC has been awarded 21 times since it’s inception. This coveted medal has been won mostly by soldiers of the Indian army with the lone exception of Flying officer Nirmal Jit Sekhon of Indian Airforce. Two third of all awards were posthumous. Second Lieutenant Arun KhetraPal was just 21 when he was awarded Param Vir Chakra(Posthumously). Subedar Major Yogendra Singh Yadav was the last soldier to win the medal.

Design

Param Vir Chakra was designed by Eve Yvonne Maday de Maros later known as Savitri Khalonkar. The medal itself is a small one. It is cast in bronze with a radius of 1.38 inch(35mm).  In the centre, on a raised circle, is the national emblem, surrounded by four replicas of Indra’s Vajra, flanked by swords. The decoration is hanging from a straight swivelling suspension bar and is held by a 32mm purple ribbon.

RECIPIENTS
RankNameUnitDate of ActionConflictPlace of action
MajorSomnath SharmaKumaon Regiment3 November 1947Battle of BadgamBadgam , Jammu, India
NaikJadunath SinghRajput Regiment6 February 1948First Kashmir warNausera, Jammu, India
2nd Lt.Rama Raghoba RaneBombay Sappers8 April 1948First Kashmir warNausera, Jammu, India
Havildar Major
Piru SinghRajputana Rifles17 July 1948First Kashmir warTithwal, Kashmir, India
Lance NaikKaram SinghSikh Regiment13 October 1948First Kashmir warTithwal, Kashmir, India
CaptainGurbachan Singh Salaria1 Gorkha Rifles5 December 1961Congo CrisisÉlisabethville, Katanga, Congo
MajorDhan Singh Thapa8 Gorkha Rifles20 October 1962Sino-Indian WarLadakh, India
SubedarJoginder SinghSikh Regiment23 October 1962Sino-Indian WarTongpen La, NEFA, India
MajorShaitan SinghKumaon Regiment18 November 1962Sino-Indian WarRezang La, Ladakh India
HavildarAbdul HamidThe Grenadiers10 September 1965Battle of Asal UttarKhemkaran, India
Lt. ColArdeshir TaraporePoona Horse11 September 1965Battle of ChawindaPhillora, Sialkot, 
Pakistan
Lance NaikAlbert EkkaBrigade of the Guards3 December 1971Battle of HilliGangasagar, 
Agartala, India
Flying OfficerNirmal Jit Singh SekhonNo. 18 Squadron IAF14 December 1971Bangladesh liberation WarSrinagar, Kashmir India
2nd Lt.Arun KhetarpalPoona Horse
16 December 1971
Battle of BasantarBarapind-Jarpal, 
Shakargarh, 
Pakistan
MajorHoshiar Singh DahiyaThe Grenadiers17 December 1971Battle of BasantarBasantar River, 
Shakargarh, 
Pakistan
Naib SubedarBana SinghJ&K Light Infantry23 May 1987Operation RajivSiachen Glacier, India
MajorRamaswamy ParameshwaranMahar Regiment25 November 1987Operation PawanSri Lanka
LieutenantManoj Kumar Pandey11 Gorkha Rifles3 July 1999Operation VijayKhaluber /Juber Top, Kashmir, India
GrenadierYogendra Singh YadavThe Grenadiers4 July 1999Battle of Tiger HillTiger Hill, Kashmir, India
RiflemanSanjay KumarJ&K Rifles5 July 1999Kargil WarKargil, Kashmir, India
CaptainVikram BatraJ&K Rifles5 July 1999Operation VijayKargil,  Kashmir, India

Unknown facts
* There is a tradition that exists in the Indian armed forces that all uniformed soldiers render a salute to Param Vir Chakra awardees regardless of rank. Even the highest rank officer salutes the awardees out of respect.

* 20 medals were to awarded to soldiers of the Indian army and one was awarded to a flying officer of Indian Air Force.

Image credit: Ministry of Defence, Government of India | Shiv Aroor
Recipient details: Indian Army