The seven most Iconic legends of modern India

India is blessed with many heroes, martyrs, freedom fighters, spiritual masters, leaders and patriots. To name out only a few of the legends will be very unfair for the whole history of India and the immense contribution of all the men and women. But this list of 7 icons defines India in a true sense, without them India would not have been what it is today. They have not only devoted their whole life to the service of nation but they also stand unique among all by their path followed, their love for the nation, without getting labeled by any political or religious views. They were perfect professionals in their field of contribution and even their opponents admired them for their honesty, sincerity and dedication. I think these 7 icons stand tall in the history and making of modern India.

  1. The Tata’s (Jamshedji, J R D and Ratan)
  2. Rabindranath Tagore (Thakur)
  3. Swami Vivekananda
  4. Mahatma Gandhi
  5. Babasaheb Ambedkar
  6. Sam Manekshaw
  7. A P J Abdul Kalam

The Tata family has been among the finest industrial families in India. Jamshedji, JRD and Ratan Tata, all have been the true architects of modern India. Without their exemplary service and dedication to build some of the finest institutions, India would never have been the one which is today. They not only brought India on the world map in industries and business through Tata & Sons group of companies, but also revolutionized India’s industrial revolution. When Jamshedji Tata got introduced to steel, he immediately decided to setup a steel factory in India to make India self-reliant. Similar story goes regarding Hotels, when after being insulted by British for the lack of world class hotel in India, he setup the Taj hotel in Mumbai. On similar front, JRD ventured into Aviation ( today known as Air India), chemicals, auto-industry and many more. And the legacy of J R D was carried ahead by Ratan Tata, and his vision to empower India, and venturing into new projects such as Tata Nano to make a affordable car for middle class Indians has made Tata a household name. Also, Tata’s have been leaders in philanthropy as well, with most recently, Ratan Tata donated 500 crores of rupees to fight against Covid-19.

India Today: Jamshedji, J R D and Ratan Tata

One interesting fact to note is inspite of being the oldest industrial powerhouse of India, Today, Tata’s are not the richest family, but Ambani’s are. And because of this, it is famously said Ambani’s are true businessmen, while Tata’s are true industrialists. Tata’s never cared about making money, but cared about creating wealth for the nation. Tata’s have mentored so many industrialists and entrepreneurs such as Narayana Murthy, Azim Premji and so on, who are successfully carrying this legacy ahead in the form of Wipro, Infosys etc.

Besides, industries, Tata’s took the noble initiative in establishing world class institutes such as Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Tata institute of Social Sciences(TISS), Indian Institute of Science(IISc), National Center for Performing Arts, Tata Memorial Hospital, The Energy and Research Institute(TERI) etc. These institutions have shaped the minds of millions of Indians, and have progressed India towards self-reliance.

J R D Tata

Swami Vivekananda was a well-known spiritual personality of India. He not only introduced the Indian spirituality to the west for the first time in 1892, but also re-ignited the hidden patriotism and energy within Indians to rise up and build up the country again. The current prime minister, Narendra Modi is a follower of Swami Vivekananda, and with his Ramakrishna mission started a journey of the spread of universal brotherhood, spirituality, Ayurveda, Yoga and meditation to all parts of the world. Some of the famous organizations which followed Vivekananda’s footsteps include Sri Sri’s Art of Living, SadhGuru’s Isha Foundation, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental meditation, Swami Prabhupada’s ISKCON, Yogananada Paramhansa’s “The Autbiography of a Yogi” and spreading the kriya yoga taught by Mahavatar Babaji, S N Goenka’s Vipassanna meditation and Neem Karoli Baba’s influence on Beatles, Steve Jobs, Julia Roberts and Mark Zuckerburg. This image of India being the spiritual holyland emerged after the historic visit of Swami Vivekananda to United States.

Also, it is said that Swami Vivekananda had met Jamshedji Tata on a ship to Japan, and they had discussed about the future of India. It isn’t a surprise that Vivekananda’s presence tremendously influenced Jamshedji’s life and his future contributions to the country.

The Better India: Swami Vivekananda and Jamshedji Tata

Rabindranath Tagore( just like Swami Vivekananda, both came from Bengal) will always be remembered as the poet and writer who envisioned the idea of India. He received the Nobel prize for literature in 1913, and was the first Indian to receive the prize. What makes him one of the seven iconic personality is the love and devotion to the motherland. Rabindra Sangeet has achieved the versatile recognition all over the world, and his poems conveyed the need for sacrifice and dedication to free the country from foreign rule. Even today, it is equally applicable, when we see Indians moving abroad to USA for better opportunities, resulting in brain drain, and on the other side, the huge influx of cheap Chinese goods are destroying the small businesses and livelihood of millions of fellow Indians. I remember this Tagore’s poem after seeing the current situation of India and Indians..

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Mahatma Gandhi is another icon of India, without which the book about India will never get finished. Revered as the “Father of India” and known for his non-violence movement against the British, “Satyagraha”, and his insistence on local goods “Swadeshi” & Hindu-Muslim unity, his contributions led to India becoming independent in 1947. Historians and some self-recognized experts debate on Gandhi’s involvement in India’s independence, and how several problems which India still suffers today such as India-Pakistan conflict, legacy of Nehru and his family rule over India, secularism etc have been linked to Gandhi. We might need another post to elaborate on them, but whatever people might think, Gandhi did create the India we have today, and based on the current world scenario, its the best we have got. The roots of secularism, however might be shaken today, but it still is deep enough and have strengthened the very foundations of modern India.

India achieved freedom by non-violent means, and no country in the world had done this before. Looking at the terror and war stricken world today, Indians were indeed very fortunate to have been led by a spiritual leader, who believed in non-violence and truth. Also, Gandhi and Tagore were very good friends, and often interacted with each other. They both visited each other’s Ashram ( Tagore’s Shantiniketan and Gandhi’s Sabarmati and Wardha ashram), and shared the common idea of the unity and freedom struggle of India. J R D Tata also was tremendously influenced by Gandhi and believed in the self-reliance (Swadeshi) idea for a post-independence India. Gandhi was against communism, and so was J R D Tata ( though the reasons were different, for Gandhi it was the communism’s lack of belief in God, while for Tata was the unsuitability of communism for an Indian economy)

Brain Pickings: Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi

I haven’t included Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel in this list (not to avoid a political debate, but to remain apolitical, and because of the huge influence of Gandhi on Nehru and Patel). Barring few things like military, foreign affairs etc, Nehru truely believed and followed the Gandhian way to build a free India. Insistence on self-reliancy, secularism, education, farming, healthcare etc were somewhat influenced by Gandhian ideals, and Patel united India on grounds of Gandhi’s secularism.

Babasaheb Ambedkar is the next icon of modern day India. Known as the chief architect of the Constitution of India, his ascendency from an untouchable community to become one of the nation’s prominent lawyer, jurist and economist is no less than a miracle. He was the most educated lawyer in India at that time. He inspired millions of Indians ( especially from the backward classes) and his role model has enabled them to destroy the prison of casteism, religious hatred and climb the ladder of success. Though his policy of reservation has raised frequent debates in the society, but his life, message and actions have indeed strengthened the foundations of secularism and unified India. Ambedkar and his team’s vision to embrace democracy has been one of the best decisions ever taken, and even though the democracy is not yet the most perfect form in India today, but it was indeed a visionary decision to accept this for a complex and diverse country like India.I cannot imagine how any other form of government would have impacted the country. Dr.Ambedkar even today, remains a hope and guiding light for many Indians, with his message that hard work and fighting against injustice leads to success. After all, all the Warkari community, Buddha, Basaveshwara, Kabir, and even the French and American revolution have proclaimed the same principles of universal brotherhood, tolerance and equality. This is the best gift India has received from Dr.Ambedkar to destroy the age old archaic theories which promoted casteism and created a rift between communities which had weakened India, and due to which India had become a British colony and a poor nation. Let we stay united together, drop all the caste barriers and accept the “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” principle.

Pinterest: Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar

Sam Manekshaw is another legend in the Indian history. His military prowess, dedicated service to the nation, discipline and way of life have influenced us enormously. He is well known for leading India to win the 1971 war against Pakistan, and thereby creating the state of Bangladesh. He not only rejuvenated the morale of Indian forces after the 1962 debacle with China, but also proudly raised the Indian flag in the world, by demonstrating an example of how a military should win the war and how to treat an enemy. I am personally greatly enamoured by Sam Manekshaw’s personality and myself being from a defense background, I can certainly say that Indian military has been one of the finest and secular forces in the world. That’s why, he was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal of India. He was the military architect of India, and remains an inspiration for all Indians ( me included)

Defense Lover: Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

A P J Abdul Kalam is the most recent icon to have served the nation with his love, devotion and dedication. Popularly known as the “Missile Man of India”, he was the chief of DRDO during the successful nuclear tests in Pokhran, 1998. If it was not Dr.Kalam, then we would not have the ISRO and DRDO as we have today. He developed these institutions into one of the finest and best in the world. Later, during his Presidency, he is so far the best President and most liked by all. His success exemplifies the secular power of India. His contribution stands as a testament for a middle class, humble person to rise up and attain the highest position.

Dr.A P J Abdul Kalam

Thus, these seven icons of India are what represents India. Though there are many other legends as well, and they have devoted their life for the service of nation as well, but these 7 icons are the true spirit of India. They were and are not being viewed through the narrow prism of politics, ideology or religion. All of them were born before India became free, and with few exceptions, many lived after India became independent. They knew the essence of India, and understood about the future of India as well. Even during the troubled times when the whole world was lost into World Wars, Great Depression, or got entangled into communism, these leaders did not drift away from their path. They did not support any foreign theory like communism, or capitalism. But thought only what was best for India. All of them had excellent education, many went abroad for higher studies, yet all came back to India to serve the motherland. It would not have been difficult for Gandhi, or Ambedkar or Kalam, to get settled abroad in England or America, for better opportunity or money (In fact, for Dr.Ambedkar , that would have been the best chance to escape the tyranny of the upper caste people in India). But they did not do that. They came back, struggled, fought against the system and finally succeeded. This conveys a strong message for our generations who want to move out of India at the very first chance, just for dollars or because of being fed up by politics or reservations in jobs. Of course its completely fine to go abroad for higher studies and get some experience but I feel the time has come to return back to India and re-build India once again. India needs good people and its become very vital to free India from the clutches of cheap Chinese goods, and internal dirty politics.

As the current situation has entailed many Indians abroad to return back to their country, I thought this post would be helpful to raise the awareness about our country’s past, and to realize the hidden potential within us. May this article guide us to cross the bridge of inequality, to rise the ladder of success, to remove the dust of just serving foreign companies for few dollars or pounds from our mind, and motivate us to start our own venture and adventure to promote this wonderful Indian tradition, knowledge, culture we have endured from our ancestors. Lets say no to Chinese goods, and make and buy in India. Lets #Make locally & Think Globally

As Tagore wrote in his poem, …let my country awake…

Author: Abhi

Hello, this is Abhishek. I am an Electrical Engineer by education, and worked for an Energy Management company in Atlanta, USA. After staying for 5 years in United States, I have moved back to my country, India. Besides work, I am a bibliophile and enjoys reading about history, current affairs, and biographies. I practice ‘Sudarshan Kriya Yoga‘ meditation and volunteer for a NGO, Art of Living. I am a vegetarian, and also a fitness enthusiast. I intend to work for spreading awareness about Cancer. Finally, I enjoy writing and I hope to integrate this interest into my career with more experience. Please like, share and subscribe to my blog. Thank you for visiting!

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