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What are the national sports awards in India?

There are six sports awards in India at the national level: Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award. the Arjuna Award, the Major Dhyan Chand Award, the Dronacharya Award, the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy and the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar. 

They are given to sportspersons, support staff or organisations for their achievements and contribution to Indian sports. All these awards are given out annually by India’s Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and are presented by the President of India at the Presidential Palace, usually on 29 August.

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Sports Awards in India: Full list

AwardAwarded forMajor recipients
Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Most outstanding performance by a sportsperson over the period of last four years.Viswanathan Anand
Abhinav Bindra
Mithali Raj
Sunil Chettri
Sachin Tendulkar
Virat Kohli
Rohit Sharma 
Dhyan Chand Award Lifetime contribution to sports development.Manpreet Singh
Nandan Bal
Varinder Singh
Arjuna Award Consistent outstanding performances over the period of last four yearsSimranjeet Singh
Shikhar Dhawan
Neeraj Chopra
Smriti Mandhana
Rohan Bopanna
Vinesh Phogat
PV Sindhu
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy Top performance in the inter-university tournaments over the period of last one yearGuru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar
Punjab University in Chandigarh
Delhi University based in Delhi
Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar Playing a visible role in the area of sports promotion and development over the period of last three years.Tata Steel
Railways Sports Promotion Board
Petroleum Sports Promotion Board
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation
Dronacharya Award Producing medal winners at prestigious international events.Rani Siwach
Sarpal Singh
Om Prakash Dahiya
Pullela Gopichand 

Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna

The Khel Ratna Award, also known as the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, is the highest sporting honour of India. Instituted in 1991–1992, the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award is awarded annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. The award comprises a medallion, a certificate, and a cash prize of Rs 25 lakhs, and is awarded to those who are selected by a committee constituted by the Ministry for their “spectacular and most outstanding performance in the field of sports over a period of four years” at international level. Formerly known as the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in Sports and Games, the award was renamed Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna in 2021 after one of India’s greatest field hockey players of all time, Dhyan Chand. He scored more than 1000 goals over a career of more than 20 years.

The first sportsperson to win this national sports award was Chess Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand in the year 1991–92. In 2001, an 18-year-old Abhinav Bindra became the youngest recipient of the award for delivering good performance consistently. 

As many as 12 sportspersons received the award last year, including Neeraj Chopra (athletics), Mithali Raj (cricket) Sunil Chhetri (football) and Manpreet Singh (hockey). As of 2021, 57 sportspersons from fifteen sport disciplines have been awarded the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna.

Dhyan Chand Award

The Dhyan Chand Award, officially known as Major Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sports and Games, has a nearly similar name to the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna. Named after Dhyan Chand, this award was instituted in 2002 to honour sportspersons for their contributions to sport both during their career and after retirement. Awarded annually by the Indian government, the Dhyan Chand Award carries a Dhyan Chand statuette, a certificate, ceremonial dress, and a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh.

The Dhyan Chand Award is given only to the disciplines included in the events like Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships, Cricket and Parasports. The Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports decides the recipients from a list of nominations. Shahuraj Birajdar (Boxing), Ashok Diwan (Hockey), and Aparna Ghosh (Basketball) were the first three athletes to win the award in 2002.

Arjuna Award

The Arjuna Award, known officially as Arjuna Awards for Outstanding Performance in Sports and Games, is India’s second-highest sporting honour. Instituted in 1961, the award has undergone several revisions over the years. As per the latest revision in 2018, the Arjuna Award is given to disciplines falling under categories like Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championship, World Cup, Indigenous Games, Parasports and cricket.

The recipients are selected by a committee constituted by the Ministry. The recipients are honoured for their “good performance in the field of sports over a period of four years” at the international level. As of 2020, the award, named after one of the characters of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, comprises a bronze statuette of Arjuna, certificate, ceremonial dress, and a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh.

A total of 20 sports persons were awarded the Arjuna Award in 1961. This includes boxer PK Banerjee and cricketer Salim Durani. In 2021, the likes of Shikhar Dhawan (cricket), Simranjit Kaur (boxing), Varun Kumar (hockey) and Ankita Raina (tennis) received the award.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy

The Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy, named after Abul Kalam Azad, a senior leader of Indian independence movement, is awarded annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to the “overall top performing University in sports and promoting competitive sports in University” over the preceding year. The university which secures the first position is awarded a trophy and a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh. The second and third-place universities receive cash prizes of Rs 7.5 lakh and Rs 4.5 lakh respectively.  In 2021, the Punjab University received the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy for the third consecutive year. The first recipients of the rolling MAKA trophy in 1957 was Bombay University, while Amritsar’s Guru Nanak Dev University has won it the most number of times (22).

Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar

The Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar, which in English translates to ‘National Sports Promotion Award’ recognizes the “involvement of corporates, voluntary organizations, and sports control boards, in the promotion and development of sports in the country” over the last three years. Awarded annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar was first started in 2009. Organisations in these four categories are awarded – Identification and nurturing of budding and young talent, encouragement to sports through corporate social responsibility, employment of sportspersons and sports welfare measures, and sports for development. The award comprises a citation and a trophy in all the categories.

A total of 48 such awards have been given out over the years. Manav Rachna Educational Institutions won the award in 2021 for identification and nurturing of the sports talent over the past 25 years.

Dronacharya Award

The Dronacharya Award, officially known as Dronacharya Award for Outstanding Coaches in Sports and Games, is awarded annually by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to those who have done “outstanding and meritorious work on a consistent basis and enabled sportspersons to excel in international events” over a period of four years. Named after Drona, a character from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, the award comprises a bronze statuette of Dronacharya, a certificate, ceremonial dress, and a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh.

Instituted in 1985, the award is given only to the disciplines included in the events like Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championship and World Cup along with Cricket, Indigenous Games, and Parasports.

In 2021, Dronacharya award winners list comprised nine people. Shri T.P. Ouseph, who has trained many national level athletes, was one of the recipients.

Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award

The Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award is not officially considered a national sports award in India, but deserves a special mention. Since 2004, the award has been given out along with the other six National Sports Awards. Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award is the highest award for adventure sports in India. Named after Tenzing Norgay, one of the first two individuals to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the award is annually given out by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for “outstanding achievement in the field of land adventure, sea and air” over the last three years. The award for adventure activities comprises a bronze statue of Tenzing Norgay along with a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh.

FAQs

What is the highest sports award in India?

Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award is the highest sports award in India.

What are the state awards in sports in India?

The six state awards in sports in India are Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, the Arjuna Award, the Major Dhyan Chand Award, the Dronacharya Award, the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy and the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar.

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