Inspiring Indians - Dr Rajendra Prasad

As the nation celebrates the birth anniversary of its first President, we profile his life and the examples he set for other Indians. 

Dr. Rajendra Prasad was one of the foremost disciples of Gandhiji and he played a crucial role in Indian freedom struggle. He was the first President of Independent India. He served as a leader of the Congress Party and as President of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the constitution of India. 

Early life and Education

Dr. Rajendra Prasad was born on 3 December 1884 in Ziradei, Bihar. His father's name was Mahadev Sahay and his mother's name was Kamleshwari Devi. Mahadev Sahay was a Persian and Sanskrit language scholar. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was greatly attached to his mother and elder brother Mahendra. Being the youngest in a large joint family, "Rajen" was greatly loved. 

Rajen was a brilliant student throughout school and college. He stood first in the entrance examination of the University of Calcutta and was awarded a Rs. 30 per month scholarship. He joined the Calcutta Presidency College in 1902. Later on he switched from Science to Arts and completed his M.A. and Masters in Law. He then completed his Doctorate in Law to attain the title, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. 

Association with Gandhiji 

The arrival of Mahatma Gandhi on the Indian national scene greatly influenced Dr. Rajendra Prasad. While Gandhiji was in Bihar to address grievances of local peasants, Dr. Rajendra Prasad met him. Initially, he was not impressed with Gandhiji's appearance or conversation. In time, however, he was deeply moved by the dedication, conviction and courage that Gandhiji displayed. He decided that he would do everything he could to help, with his skills as a lawyer and as an enthusiastic volunteer. Gandhiji's influence greatly altered many of his views. He reduced the number of servants he had to one, and sought ways to simplify his life. He no longer felt shame in sweeping the floor, or washing his own utensils, tasks he had all along assumed others would do for him. After meeting Gandhiji, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, dedicated himself to the freedom struggle. 

As India's First President  

Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected as India's first President. As a President, he was simple, duty bound and modest. Dr. Prasad transformed the imperial majesty of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the President of India, into an elegant "Indian" home. In 1962, after 12 years as President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad retired, and was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian award.

He recorded his life and the decades before independence in many books. Among the more noted of which are "India Divided", his autobiography "Atmakatha", and "Bapu ke Kadmon Mein".

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