(Last Updated on : 15/01/2009)
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was born on December 3, 1884 and he died on February 28, 1963. He was the first President of Independent India
. Rajendra Prasad was an independence activist and, as a leader of the Congress Party, he played a leading role in the Indian Independence Movement. He served as President of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the constitution of the Republic from 1948 to 1950. He had also served as a Cabinet Minister briefly in the first Government of Independent India.
Rajendra Prasad was born in Zeradei, in the Siwan district of Bihar near Patna. His father, Mahadev Sahai, was a Persian and Sanskrit language scholar, his mother, Kamleshwari Devi, was a saintly lady who would tell stories from the Ramayana to her son. At the age of five, the young Rajendra Prasad was sent to a Maulavi for learning Persian. After that he was sent to Chhapra Zilla School for further primary studies. He was married at the age of 12 to Rajvanshi Devi. He then went on to study at R.K. Ghosh's Academy in Patna to be with his elder brother Mahendra Prasad.
At the age of 18, Rajendra Prasad again joined the Chhapra Zilla School and from there passed the entrance examination of Calcutta University. He stood first in the first division of that examination and joined the Presidency College in 1902. He passed in 1915 with a Gold medal in Masters in Law examination with honors. He went on to complete his Doctorate in Law. His courageous determination towards the service of nation inspired many students like Bihar Kesari Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha and Bihar Bibhuti Dr Anugrah Narayan Sinha who came under his guidance.
Soon after starting his career as a lawyer he was drawn into the Indian freedom struggle. During one of the fact-finding missions at Champaran, Mahatma Gandhi asked him to come with volunteers. Rajendra Prasad was greatly moved by the dedication, courage, and conviction of Mahatma Gandhi and he quit as a Senator of the University in 1921. He found the Bihar Vidyapeeth, along with his colleagues on the basis of traditional Indian model. He wrote articles for News-Papers like 'Searchlight' and 'the Desh' and also collected funds for these papers. He travelled a lot, for explaining, lecturing and counselling. He took active role in helping the affected people during the 1914 floods that errupted in Bihar and Bengal.
When Rajendra Prasad was in jail the earthquake of Bihar occurred on January 15, 1934. During that period, he gave the entire responsibility on his behalf to his close friend and well-known Gandhian Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha as he was released two days later. He started raising funds. The Viceroy had also raised a fund. However, while Rajendra Prasad's fund collected over 38 Lakhs, three times of what the Viceroy could manage. During the 1935 Quetta earthquake, Rajendra Prasad was not allowed to leave the country, he set up relief committees in Sindh and Punjab.
He was elected as the President of Indian National Congress during the Bombay session in October 1934. He again became the President when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose resigned in 1939. After India became independent he was elected as the President of India. As the first President, he was indepedent and unwilling to allow the Prime Minister or the party to seize his constitutional Rights. However, following the dispute over the enactment of the Hindu Code Bill, he repented his stand. He set several important rules and regulations for later Presidents to follow. In 1962, after 12 years as President, he announced his decision to retire. He was later awarded the Bharat Ratna, nation's highest civilian award.