Undoubtedly the cradle of the first major civilization, five millennia ago India was a
fabled land where milk and honey flowed freely. Through the next few millennia, the land
produced many noble souls who kept the country's rich spiritual and cultural heritage
throbbing. From astronomy, mathematics and medicine to spiritual mastery and renowned
universities, the land produced the best in all spheres.
Somewhere down the line, we lost our way, with complacency and inertia taking over,
even as the world forged ahead and we were enslaved by different foreign invaders, including
Centuries of serfdom, strife and struggle followed, as we sought to assert our
identity and preserve the nation's rich cultural heritage. It was during this period of
enslavement that countless inspiring personalities came to the helm, exhorting countrymen
inspiring personalities came to the elm, exhorting countrymen to awake from their slumber,
throw off the foreign yoke and reclaim India's rightful place among the comity of nations.
One man who inspired Indians and foreigners through his oratory was 19th century legend,
Swami Vivekananda, who once said: "First reform yourself before you reform the world." And a
writer like Premchand used the written word as a source of inspiration.
Some of the most inspiring personalities lived during the 20th century, a crucial
period in the country's march towards independence. In this reawakening, individuals from
every sphere contributed their mite: freedom fighters, politicians, social reformers,
writers, artists and philosophers even film and sports personalities. For instance, hockey
wizard Dhyan Chand helped India whitewash all the white, supposedly superior nations during
the Amsterdam (1928), Los Angeles (1932) and Berlin (1936) Olympics. India's stupendous gold
run during this period dazzled onlookers, stunned opponents and silenced critics. It was
moments such as these that had the nation glowing with pride, underscoring the fact that
true genius couldn't be repressed despite centuries of cultural and imperialist hegemony.
Added to these were the inspiring examples of Gandhi, Tilak Vinoba Bhave, Sri
Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore and countless others who led from the front during the
freedom struggle. Most Indian leaders eschewed violence, focusing on out ancient tradition
of non-violent protest.
Once freedom was won, the war was still not over. Centuries of foreign domination
had bankrupted the nation and its treasury and the 'Made in India' tag carried negative
connotations A new crop of individuals then came to the fore, ensuring the country did not
lag behind in innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. JRD Tata, MS Oberoi, GD Birla, AB
Godrej, Jamnalal Bajaj, Jagadish Chandra Bose, CV Raman, Homi Bhabha, Dhirubhai Ambani and
others ensured that India's ancient spirit of enterprise was re-ignited. And a guru like
Osho Rajneesh showed the path of spiritual freedom not just to Indians but also to
Where once we did not manufacture even a safety pin, India is today the cynosure of
all eyes with the world, largest pool of trained manpower. In many spheres, the 'Made in
India' tag is now flaunted, not hidden particularly in Information Technology. Where once
Indian students aspired to study at Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford and other foreign
universities, today the best foreign companies come to India every year for bodyshopping at
the IIT campuses, vying for our best brains through stupendous packages!
In this amazing turnaround, hundreds and thousands of Indians have played a key
role. Selecting only hundred-odd names has been an arduous task, with other equally
deserving ones having been left out due to space constraints. This is not just a collection
of achievements and milestones by select individuals it is the story of an entire era.
I am grateful to M/s Pustak Mahal for accepting this book for publication. Thanks
also to Ms A Sunita Purushottaman for helping me in this endeavour. And grateful thanks to
the editorial staff at Pustak Mahal without whose untiring efforts this book would not have
seen the light of day.
Back of the Book
For people of all age groups, reading about the lives and times of great Indians is always
inspiring and uplifting. This book presents insights on more than 100 famous Indians of the
20th century. The names include Gandhi, JP, Dr Zakir Hussain, JRD Tata, MS Oberoi, Ramnath
Goenka, J C Bose, Homi Bhabha, Vinoba Bhave, Baba Amte, Mother Teresa, Harivansh Rai
Bachchan, R K Narayan, Raja Ravi Varma, Amrita Shergil, Osho, J. Krishnamurti, Aurobindo,
Satyajit Ray, Madhubala, V. Anand, Sam Manekshaw, Salim Ali and V. Kurien, amongst
From their early years to achievements in the chosen fields, Famous Indians of the
20th Century covers all the relevant details. The book makes excellent reading for students,
teachers, parents and all other professionals seeking credible information on the lives and
achievements of famous Indians of the 20th century.
Vishwamitra Sharma is a prolific and versatile writer. He has edited hundreds of
books and published thousands of articles in national dailies and weeklies. He has authored
over 80 books on various subjects such as science, health, yoga, palmistry, astrology,
vaastu shastra and the like.
He began his journalistic career before 1947 in Lahore with the daily Milap. During
the turbulent pre-Partition days, he took part in the freedom struggle under the dynamic
leadership of Jayprakash Narayan. After moving to independent India in 1947, he joined the
Hindi daily Jansatta. Thereafter, he worked with All India Radio for 20 years. After
retirement, he worked in the book publishing industry.
An octogenarian now retired from active service, he still continues to pen his
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