Famous Personalities


Abul Fazal (1561-1602):  The author of Ain-i-Akbari and Akbarnama. He was the celebrated Mughal court poet, and Prime Minister during Akbar’s reign.


Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988):   Also called ‘Frontier Gandhi’ because heorganised the people of the North-west Frontier Province (NWFP) of undivided India (now merged with Pakistan) on Gandhian principles. He was a staunch congress manwho called himself a soldier of the freedom struggle. His admirers called him Badshah Khan. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1987.


Akbar (1542-1605):  The greatest Mughal Emperor of India, he reigned from 1556.


Al-au-din Khalji. :  He ruled north India between 1296-1316. He was strongestruler of the Khlaji dynasty and during his reign the Muslims progressed towards the Narmada river in the Deccan.


Aryabhatta (476-520 AD):  The Indian astronomer who adorned the court of Chandrgupta Vkramaditya, India’s first satellite is named after him.


Ashoka, the Great (264-288 BC): Grandson of Chandragupta, Ashoka was a great emperor of India After the battle of Kalinga, he renounced violence and embraced Buddhism.


Aurobindo Ghosh: An exponent of Indian nationalism; a philosopher, poet and saint. His famous works. Include Life Divine and Essays on the Gita.


Babur (1483-1530):  Founder of the Mughal empire in India. He conquered the throne of Delhi after the first battle of Panipat and ruled for years (1526-30).


Banabhatt: Noted Sanskrit scholar and court poet of Harshavardhana who wrote the  Kadambari and harshacharita.


Bahadurshah Zafar (1807-62):  The last ruler of the Mughal dynasty. He fought  against the British in the first war of  Indian independence in 1857. After his defeat, the British exiled him to Rangoon.


Bonnerjee, W C:  The first President of the Indian National Congress.


Bankim Chandra Chatterjee:  Author of Vande Mataram, the national song of India, taken from his work Anand Math. He was a celebrated Bengali novelist.


Bairam Khan :  He was Akbar’s uncle and also his tutor and was known as Khan-i- Khona.


Bachendri Pal :  First Indian woman and fifth woman in the world to scale Mt Everest.  She scaled the summit on May 23, 1984 along with two male members- Lhatoo  Dorjee and Sherpa Sardar Ang Dorjee.


Begum Akhtar :  The ghazal queen of India who died in 1974. She was awarded Padma bhush an posthumously in 1975.


Bhaskara I : An astronomer of the 7th century and a contemporary of Brahmagupta, India’s second satellite is named after him.


Bhaskara II :  Mathematician and astronomer of the 12th century, his name is also associated with India’s third satellite.


Bhagat Singh :  A patriot and revolutionary, known as Shahid-e-azam, who along with Sukh Dev and Raj Guru became a martyr on March 23, 1931.


Bhaskaracharya :  The greatest astronomer who lived in the 12th century. He wrote  Sidhanta Siromani in 1150 .


B R Ambedkar (1893-1956) :  Father of the Indian Constitution. He was also a well  known jurist.


Charan Singh (1902-87) : The Lok Dal leader, Charan Singh was Prime Minister of  India on 1979.


Changez Khan : The Mongol conqueror who came to India during the reign of  Iltutmish (1210-36).


Chandragupta – II  (Vikramaditya): A brave emperor of the Gupta dynasty during  whose reign art and literature flourished. The ear was known as the Golden Age of the Guptas.


Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1445-1533) :  A pioneer of the Bhakti movement in Bengal, he was a devotee of Lord Krishna.


Chanakya :  Also known as Kautilya, Chanakya was the writer of the famed treatise Arthasastra, a book on statecraft. He was Prime Minster during Chandragupta Maurya’s reign.


Chandragupta Maurya (321-298 BC) :  Founder of the Mauryan Dynasty in India, Chandragupta spread his empire beyond India. Kautilya (Chanaya) was his minister.


Chatrapati Shivaji (1627-1680) : Born in 1627, a military genius, Shivaji was the last

Hindu king who partly succeeded in establishing ‘Hindu Swaraj’. He fought many battles Against  Aurangzeb and was successful in shattering the Mughal empire in India.


Lord Curzon (1895-1925) :  Viceroy of India during 1889-1905, he became a prominent figure after the World War I.


Lord Cornwallis (1738-1805) : The British statesman who commanded the British Army in South Carolina during the War of American independence in 1781. He was Governor- General of India for two terms and is well known for his land reforms.


Dara Shikoh :  Eldest son of Mughal emperor Shahjahan, he was killed by his brother

Aurangzeb who usurped their father’s throne.


Dhanvantari :  An Indian physician who adorned the court of Chandragupta Vikramadiya.


Dhyan Chand (1905-79) : A great hockey player, he captained the Indian hockey team

which won a gold medal in the historic 1936 Berlin Olympics. He scored 101 goals at the

Olympic games and 300 goals in the international matches and his record is still unbroken. It earned him the title ‘Hockey Wizard’.


Fa-hein :  The first Budhist pilgrim of China to visit India during the reign of Chandragupta Vikramaditya.


 Firdausi :  A Persian poet, well known for his epic Shahnama.


Gautam Buddha (623-453 BC) : Founder of Buddhism. Buddha was born in Lumbini near Nepal. He was the son of Sudhodana, king of Kapilvastu in Nepal. He renounced the world and later came to be known as the Buddha.


Govind Ballabh Pant (1887-1961) : Veteran Congress leader. He was Chief Minister of UP, and later  Union Home Minster. He was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1958.


Guru Tegh Bahadur : Son of Guru Hargobind and ninth Guru of the Sikhs, he was executed by Aurangzeb when he refused to embrace Islam.


Guru Nanak (1469-1538) : Founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak born in Nankana Sahib, now located in Pakistan. He was a contemporary of the Mughal ruler Akbar.


Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708) : The 10th and the last Guru of the Sikhs who spent a

major part of his life fighting the Muslims. He founded the Khalsa, the inner council of the Sikhs in 1699. He said to be the author of Dasam Granth.


Jamshedji Tata (1813-1904) :   Founder of the Tata Iron and Steel Company, one of the largest integrated steelworks in the world. He also founded the Indian of Science in Bangalore and built the Taj Hotel in Mumbai.


Jayaprakash Narayan (1902-79):  Also known as ‘Loknayak’, he formed the Janata Party and defeated the Congress party in 1977. He was conferred the title of Rashtra Bhushan in 1977.


Jayadeva:  Liven in the 12th century and is the author of Gita Govinda. The book is a noble work of lyrical poetry and describes the love of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha, and their separation and reunion.


Jagdish Chandra Bose (1858-1937):   Eminent physicist and botanist, he was he founder of the Bose Research Institute, Calcutta. Bose was a pioneer in the identification of life in plants and is also said to have developed wireless telegraphy independent of Marconi.


Kabirdas:  Hindi poet who was one of the greatest exponents of the Bhakti movement-a socio religious movement. He believed in the equality of all religions and unit of Hindus and Muslims.


Kaka Sabeb Kalelkar : Philosopher and educationist, he was Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat

University and one of the oldest disciples of Gandhiji. He died on August 21, 1991, at the age of 96. He authored more than 120 books in Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi and English.


Kalhana:  A Kashmiri poet of the 11th century and author of Rajatarangini, the book describes the history of Kashmir up to 10th Century.


Kanishka (120-162 AD): The greatest King of Kushan dynasty, he was a great conqueror but later became a follower of Budha. He was the only ruler of India whose territory extended up to central Asia.


K M Munshi:  A great writer, educationist and constitutional law expert; he played an active role in India’s freedom struggle.


Rani I.akshmibai of Jhansi (1835-58):  The ruler of Jhansi, she was a great warrior who took part in the first war of  independence in 1857 (Indian Mutiny).


Lal bahadur Shastri (1904-66): Indian statesman, who succeeded Pandit Nehur as the second Prime Minister of India (1964-66): He signed the Tashkent Agreement with Ayub

Khan for a ceasefire between India and Pakistan.  Also known as ‘Man of Peace’, he died in Tashkent on January 1, 1966, few hours after he had signed the Indo-Pak accord.


Mahakavi Kalidas (c. AD 400):  India’s one of the greatest Hindi poet and dramatist, Kalidas lived during the reign of Chandragupta Vikramaditya. His famous works are Shakuntala, Raghuvamsha, Meghdoot and Kumara Sambhava.


Mahavira (599-527 BC):  Born in Kundagram near Vaishali (Bihar), he was a an apostle of non-violence, who preached the observance of chastity, penance, contemplation and self-mortification. He attained englishtement under a sala tree. He went o to found Jainism, a major religious sect in India.


Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861-1946):  A prominent lawyer of Allababad, he also   founded The Banaras Hindu University. He served as President of Indian National Congress, and was an Indian delegate at the Round Table Conference in 1931.


Manu:  Regarded as the ancient law giver of India and author of Manu Samriti.


Mira Ben (1892-1982): An English woman named Madeline Slade, who became Gandhiji’s disciple and was later called Mira Behn in view of her dedication to India and to Gandhiji’s  teachings.


Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (1325-51):  A learned Sultan of Delhi who was well known for his profound ideas and poor administrative capabilities. He tried to shift his capital from Delhi to Devangiri in Decan, When he found that his subjects did not approve of the idea, he reshifted to Delhi.


Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1879-1948): Fonder of the separate Muslim state of Pakistan. He was the President of the Muslim League for many years and after partition of  India, became the first Governor of Pakistan in 1947.


Munshi Premchand (180-1937): A well known author of Hindi novels and short stories That brought him international fame.


Nargis Dutt (1929-81):  The first Indian actress to have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha, she was a recipient of the Padmashri and is well known for her film Mother India.


Paninl :  Well known Hindu sage and Sanskrit grammarian, he belonged to the Vedic era and authored Ashtadhyayi.


Pulakesin II (608-42 AD) :  The most powerful ruler of the Chalukyan dynasty that ruled the Deccan.


Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) : A Sikh prince of Punjab, he captured Lahore in 1799 and proclaimed himself Maharaja. He wrested control of Punjab for the Afghans and Pathans and earned the title Lion of Punjab.


Raja Rammohun Ray (1744-1833) : The social reformer who tried to eradicate sati, Purdah and child marriage; he also advocated widow remarriage and women’s education. He was the founder of the Brahmo Samaj.


Sarojini Naidu (1879-1948) :  Also called ‘Nightingale of India’, she was a great poetess in English. She participated in India’s freedom struggle and became President of the Indian National Congress in 1925 and the first woman Governor of a state (UP) .


Swami Dayanand Sarsawati (1824-83) : Founder of the Arya Samaj an dauthor of Satya Prakash he is well known for his opposition of various social taboos.


Samudragupta (330-7 AD) : Son and successor of Chandragupta I; and a powerful and Able Hindu king, he was also known as ‘India’s Napolean’.


Shahjahan (1592-1666) : Mughul emperor of India, brought the Mughul empire to its golden age. A great patron of art, architecture and literature, he built the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved Mumtaz Mahal. He was deposed by his son Aurangzeb and imprisoned in Agra.


Shankaracharya (born 788 AD) : One of the greatest Hindu reformers who revived the Hindu religion and successfully threw back the tide of Buddhism and Jainism, he was a founder of the Advaitic philosophy.


Sher Shah Suri : He ruled India between 1540-45 and was the first Muslim king who paid special attention to administrative reforms. The Grand Trunk highway was constructed during his rule. He also introduced currency in India.


Sir Syed Ahmed (1817-98) : An educationist and reformer of the Muslim community in

India, he established the MAO College at Aligarh in 1875, which later became the Aligarh

Muslim University. 


Sohrab Modi : The Grand Old Man of Indian cinema and winner of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 1978, he produced India’s first Technicolor film Jhansi ki Rani in the early 1950s. Another film Mirza Ghalib was the first Hindi film to receive the President’s Gold Medal in 1955. He died in 1984,


Sunga Pushyamitra : Brahmin Commander-in-chief of the last Mauryan king Brihadratha.He killed his master and founded the Sunga dynasty.


Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar (1894-1955):  An Indian scientist remembered for creating a chain of national laboratories.


Tansen (c. 1492-1589) :  A great exponent of Indian classical music. He was one of the nine gems in the court of Akbar.


Tantiya Tope : One of the heroes of the war of Indian Independence in 1857, he was the brave Commander of Nana Sahib’s forces.


Tara Bai : Tarabai of Gwalior resisted the attempts of Lord Ellen borough to annex Gwalior. She was the thirteen year old widow of Jankoji Scindia who died in February 1843.


Tenzing Norgay (1914-86) : Indian mountaineer; the first to conquer Mt Everest on May 29, 1953 along with Sir Edmund Hillary. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1959.


Todar Mal (1556-1605) : One of the nine gems and revenue minister in court of Akbar, known for his reforms in policies of land revenue.


Tulsidas : A great Hindi poet religious preacher and known for his work Ramacharitamanas, which depicts the life of Lord Rama.


Valmiki : A celebrated Sanskrit poet of ancient India, and author of the Ramayana.


Varahmihira : A distinguished astronomer, mathematician and philosopher of early times. He was one of the nine gems in the court of king Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II).


V V Giri (1894-1980):  The third Vice-President (1967-69) and the fourth President of India (in 1969 he was acting President). He was a recipient of the Bharat Ratna in 1975. He died in 1980.


Vijayalakshmi Pandit (1900-90) : Sister of Jawaharlal Nehru, Vijayalakshmi Pandit was the first woman minster of an Indian state (UP). She holds the distinction of being the first woman to become President of the UN General Assembly and the first Indian woman Ambassador to Moscow.


Vivekanad, Swami (1863-1902) : A disciple of Ramakrishna Paramhansa he championed the greatness of the Vedantic philosophy. His famous talk at the Chicago Conference of World Religions in 1893 made the Westerners realize the greatness of India for the first time. He established the Ramakrishna Mission, in memory of his guru.


Ved Vyas : A great Sanskrit scholar; he wrote the Mahabharata, one of the most revered texts of the Hindus.


 Prominent Figures of the Indian Freedom Movement :


Allan Octavian Hume (1829-1912): A retired English member of the Indian Civil Services who was a great sympathiser o the Indian people and propagated the ideals of the Congress in Britain. He founded the Indian National Congress in 1885 and was its first General Secretary.


Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920): An aggressive freedom fighter, popularly known as ‘The Father of Indian Unrest’. His political career began in 1896 during the famine in the Deccan. His followers, along with him, preached the relevant sections of the Famine Relief Code and motivated the people to be bold and fearless in demanding their rights and coined the slogan ‘Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it.’ He is the author of Gita Rahasaya through which he taught the people to fight against oppression and unrighteousness. He started two well known newspapers- Kesari (Marathi) and Maratha (English)- to arouse national sentiments. The three leaders, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gangadhar Tilak and Binpin Chandra pal are known in the history of the Indian freedom movement as ‘Lal, Bal, Pal.’


Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932): An extremist leader of the freedom struggle and an ardent supporter of the boycott of foreign goods, the swadeshi movement and national education. He did not believe in Dominion Status and wanted full-fledged independence. Pal achieved national stature after the partition of Bengal, in the 1907 Surat Congress session he fought for Tilak’s candidature for presidentship.


Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917): Also known as the ‘Grand Old Man of India’, he was a prominent Congress leader and worked for Swaraj in England, which was the centre of his political activities. He was the first Indian to be elected as a member of the House of Commons from a London country. He also author of a monumental work-Poverty and Un-British Rule in India.


Surendranath Bannerji (1848-1925): He entered the Indian Civil Services in 1869 but was dismissed for a minor irregularity. He then established the Rippon College of which he remained the Principal for several years. Surendranath Bannerji started a daily newspaper Bengali, which was published in English. He was President of Indian National Congress twice (1895 and 1902) and led the anti-partition agitation in 1905.


Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915): Gokhale started as a maths teacher and rose to the position of the Principal of the well known Ferguson College, Pune. He played a commendable role in the Imperial Legislative Council of which he was a member in 1902. He founded the Servants of India Society and served as President of the Indian National Congress in 1907.


Mrs Annie Besant (1847-1933): Also known as the ‘Grand Old Lady if Indian Nationalism’. She became member of the Theosophical Society in 1889 and became its President in 1907. She settled in India and worked for the social upliftment of the people. Mrs Annie Besant joined the Congress and in 1916 inaugurated the All India Home Rule League in Madras. She played a prominent role in uniting militant and moderate leaders at the Congress session at Lucknow in 1920. Later she left the Congress but continued to serve India. She has translated the Bhagwad Gita into English.


Lala Lajpat Rai (1865-1928):  A dedicated social worker and educationist, he joined the Indian National Congress in 1888. He supported the extremist leaders in the 1907 Congress split along with Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai started and edited a newspaper Young India, presided over the 1920 Congress Session, and became member of the Indian Legislative Assembly in 1923. In 1920 he led the non-cooperation movement in Punjab and was sent to jail. When he visited Lahore on October 30, 1928, he suffered severe lathi blows in a police attack and later died of his injuries. He is also called ‘Sher-e-Punjab’ and ‘Punjab’ and ‘Punjab kesari’.


C R Dass (1870-1925): Also known as ‘Deshabandhu’, a lawyer at the Calcutta Bar, he entered politics in 1920. He presided over the Gaya Congress session and along with Motilal Nehru and Hakim Ajmal Khan launched the Swaraj Party in 1923.


Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861-1946): He joined the congress in 1886 and was twice elected President of the Indian National Party to protect rights of the Hindu community at the Round Table Conference and founded the Nationalist Party to protect rights of the Hindu community.


Mahatma Gandhi Mohan Malaviya (1869-1948): Known as ‘Father of the Nation’ and ‘Bapu’, he was a true believer of non-violence. He led the Indian National Movement from 1920 till 1947 and he worked for Hindu-Muslim unity. He was assassinated in 1918. (further details in ‘India’s Freedom Struggle’ section)


Subhas Chandra Bose (1897): Also known as ‘Netaji’, he resigned from the Indian Civil Service in 1921 and supported the non-cooperation movement led by Gandhiji. He was elected President of the Congress in 1938 but left the Congress in 1938 and formed the Forward Bloc party. Subhas Chandra Bose was arrested during World War II but escaped from Indian and went to Japan where he formed the Indian National Army (INA) to fight the British. However, he was unsuccessful due to Japan’s surrender after the war. It was Netaji’s wish to unfurl the national flag at the Red Fort in Delhi. It is thus in his remembrance that the National Flag is unfurled every year at Red Fort on August 15. He also gave the slogan ‘Jai Hind’ to the nation. He is believed to have died in an air crash in 1945.


Motilal Nehru (1861-1931): A national leader of the Gandhian era and a noted lawyer of the Allahabad High Court, Motilal Nehru joined the Home Rule League in 1917 and was elected President of the Indian National Congress in 1930. He founded the Swaraj Party and donated his palatial house ‘Anand Bhawan’ (later known as Swaraj Bhawan) to the Congress.


Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875-1950): Also known as the ‘Iron man of India’, Sardar Patel was Home Minister in independent India’s first cabinet during which time he worked tirelessly for the integration of the Indian princely states.


Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958): A great national leader who believed in communal harmony, he was elected President of the Indian National Congress in 1923 and was a close associate of Gandhiji. He remained Union Minister for Education from January 1947 till his death on February 22, 1958.


Dr Rajendra Prasad (1884-1963): Dr Prasad joined the Congress in 1911. He also edited a new Hindi weekly called Desh. He is said to have changed the whole base of Indian politics after the 1920 Nagpur session of the Congress by deciding to involve the masses in the freedom movement. He remained the food and Agriculture Minister in the interim ministry and was elected President of the Constituent Assembly in 1947. He later took over as President of India in 1952 (1952-62).


Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964): Nehru was a leading member of the Indian National Congress. As Congress President at the 1929 Lahore Session he declared that complete independence was the aim of the Congress. Jawaharlal Nehru remained Prime Minister of India from 1947 till his death. He proposed the doctrine of Panchsheel, which is based on the ideology of peaceful coexistence and non-alignment. He authored Discovery of India and Glimpses of World History, among other books.


Abbreviated Titles of Some Well Known Figures:


    Original Name

     Also Called

    Abdul Gaffar Khan

     Badshah Khan, Frontier Gandhi

    Bal Gangadhar Tilak


    C F Andrews


    C N Andrews


    C Rajagopalachari

     Rajaji or ‘CR’

    C R Das


    Dadabhai Naroji

     Grand Old Man of India

    Florence Nightingale

     Lady with the Lamp

    Jawaharlal Nehru

     Chacha, Panditji

    Jayaprakash Narayan

     JP, Loknayak

    Lal Bahadru Shastri

     Man of Peace

    Lal Lalpat Rai

     Sher-e-Punjab Kesari

    M K Gandhi

     Bapu, Mahatma, Father of the Nation

    M S Golwalkar


    Madan Mohan Malaviya


    Field Marshal K M Cariappa


    Rabindranath Tagore


    Maj Gen Rajinder Singh


    Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

     Man of Iron, Strong Man of India

    Sarojni Naidu

     Nightingale of India

    Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah


    Sheikh Mujibur Rehman

     Banga Bandhu

    Subhash Chandra Bose


    Tenzing Norgay

     Tiger of Snows

    T Prakasam

     Andhra Kesari