Raja Ram Mohan Roy was an Indian social and religious reformer. He is credited with co-founding the Brahmo Sabha, a social-religious reform movement. Often referred to as the Father of the Bengal Renaissance, Roy has had an influential role in fields like politics, education, and religion. In 2004, he was ranked 10th in BBC's Greatest Bengali of all time poll.
Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath who contributed greatly to the fields of literature, art, and philosophy. Referred to as the Bard of Bengal, Tagore is credited with reshaping Bengali literature and music. The first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore is also credited with composing the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was the second President of India and served from 1962 to 1967. He is regarded as one of India’s most eminent scholars and wrote extensively on Indian philosophy and religion. Lifelong he defended Hindu traditions and culture against criticism from the West. September 5, his birthday, is observed as Teachers Day in India, in his honour.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was an Indian social reformer and educator. He is best remembered for his efforts to modernize and simplify Bengali prose for which he is widely regarded as the father of Bengali prose. As a social reformer, Vidyasagar played a crucial role in enacting the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, which legalized the remarriage of Hindu widows in India.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was an Indian politician who played an influential role in the Indian independence movement. Dubbed the Iron Man of India and Unifier of India, Sardar Patel played an important role in integrating various princely states into a united, independent nation. In 2018, the world's tallest statue called the Statue of Unity was dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
The 13th Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh became the first Sikh in office when he took office in 2004. A prominent economist and academic, he held several key posts in the Government of India in the 1970s and 1980s. Known for his humility, he has been described by the media as "one of the world's most revered leaders."
Raghuram Rajan is an Indian economist who served as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India from 2013 to 2016. He also served as the 15th Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India. For his significant contribution in the field of economics, Raghuram Rajan was honored with the Fischer Black Prize by the American Finance Association in 2003.
Indian Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi had run away to Arunachala, a sacred mountain in Tamil Nadu, at 16, and had stayed there throughout his life. He propagated vichara, or self-enquiry, as the primary means of self-realization, instead of the study of scriptures as proposed by the Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was an Indian independence activist, Islamic theologian, and scholar. He played a key role in the Indian independence movement, serving as a senior leader of the Congress. His contribution to the Indian education system is recognized across India by celebrating his birthday as National Education Day.
Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar, also known as Valluvar, had written some of the finest masterpieces of Tamil literature, such as his collection of couplets, Tirukkural. His towering statue adorns the coast of Kanyakumari, the southern-most tip of India. He is also known as the patron saint of bus drivers in Chennai.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was an Indian politician and independence activist. He formulated the Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva and was a leading figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. He was known for his strong oratory skills and was an eloquent writer. He was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but was later acquitted.
The founder of the Ramakrishna Mission and Ramakrishna Math, Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, philosopher, and spiritual leader. He is credited with introducing the Indian philosophies of Yoga and Vedanta to the Western world. He is also credited with elevating the status of Hinduism as a major religion in the modern world by raising interfaith awareness.
Renowned history scholar and JNU professor Romila Thapar has also taught at Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. She has previously been in the news for rejecting the Padma Bhushan twice, stating she didn’t accept state awards. She has also often opposed Hindutva and the “saffronization” of education.
Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, also known as Ala-Hazrat, was a renowned Islamic scholar and an Urdu poet. Born in Bareilly, British India, he belonged to a family of Rohilla Pushtuns who had migrated from Qandahar. He wrote about various subjects such as philosophy, science, and astronomy.
Indian sage Vyasa, also known as Vedavyasa, is regarded as the author of one of the most significant Indian epics, the Mahabharata. Considered one of the seven immortals of Hinduism, he is also credited with dividing the Vedas into four parts and penned the eighteen Puranas.
Islamic scholar and philosopher Abul A'la Maududi was born into an elite Aurangabad family. He grew up to be fundamentalist who believed Islam should be free of Western influences and launched the Jamaʿat-i Islami. Though an important figure in Pakistani politics, he was also imprisoned for a while for opposing the government.
Vinoba Bhave was an Indian social reformer and advocate of human rights and nonviolence. A close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Bhave played an important role in the Indian freedom movement. In 1958, he became the first person to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. In 1983, Vinoba Bhave was posthumously honored with the prestigious Bharat Ratna award.
Actor, film director and playwright, Girish Karnad was also a Rhodes Scholar with a Masters degree in philosophy, political science and economics. A prolific writer, he authored scores of plays in Kannada, which were later translated into other languages. Also an eminent actor, film director and screenwriter, he was conferred with numerous awards including the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.
Urjit Patel is an Indian economist. From 2016 to 2018, he served as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. In 2018, he resigned stating personal reasons. He also became the fifth governor to have resigned before the completion of his term. Urjit Patel is the recipient of Yale University’s Wilbur Cross Medal.
Indian politician Subramanian Swamy, who is a BJP MP, has also been the president of the Janata Party earlier. Known for his far-right views, he was previously a professor economics at IIT, Delhi. He boasts of a PhD from Harvard and has penned several books, such as Terrorism in India.
Satish Dhawan was an Indian aerospace engineer and mathematician remembered for his research in the field of boundary layers and turbulence. From 1972 to 1984, Dhawan served as the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization during which he played a key role in the development of the space program in India. In 1981, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan.
British civil servant A. O. Hume is remembered as the Father of the Indian National Congress, having co-founded the party. Apart from being an administrator, he was also an ornithologist and had written List of Birds in India. His vocal criticism of the British made his bosses distrust him.
Mahadev Govind Ranade was an Indian social reformer, scholar, author, and judge. Ranade is credited with co-founding the Indian National Congress as well as founding several organizations like the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Widow Marriage Association, and Vaktruttvottejak Sabha. He also contributed as an editor of a nationalist publication named Induprakash.
Bengaluru-based Indian historian and author Ramachandra Guha is best known for his iconic books Gandhi Before India and India After Gandhi. As a journalist, he has also written on cricket and was a long-time columnist for The Hindu. He has also been honored with the Sahitya Akademi Award.
Apart from being one of the co-founders of the Communist Party of India, M. N. Roy also established the Mexican Communist Party. Jailed for his political activities, he penned the nine-volume Prison Manuscripts in prison. He later joined the Indian National Congress but quit it soon after.
Kabir was an Indian saint and mystic poet whose works influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, which in turn played a key role in the formation of Sikhism, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism and Islam and his legacy continues to live through a religious community known as the Kabir panth.
Osho Rajneesh was an Indian godman and mystic. Also known as Acharya Rajneesh and Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh, he was the founder of the Rajneesh movement. He preached the importance of meditation, mindfulness, celebration, love, courage, and creativity and called for a more open attitude to human sexuality, because of which he was considered a controversial new religious movement leader.
At 22, William Dalrymple penned the award-winning book In Xanadu. His 6-year research in Delhi culminated in the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award-winning volume City of Djinns. He has also presented the 6-part docu-series Stones of the Raj and written for publications such as Time and The Guardian.
The widely revered Hindu religious leader and saint who had a large following was known for promoting the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a devotee of Goddess Kali who he worshipped as the universal mother. His marriage to Sharada Devi was never consummated. Swami Vivekanada was the most famous disciple of the Bengal-born mystic.
Indian environmental activist and physicist Vandana Shiva is known for her anti-GMO campaigns. The Gandhi of grain is the founder of RFSTN, which promotes sustainable agriculture, and is against globalization. She developed an interest in environmentalism after witnessing a forest at her hometown being cleared for a project.
Keshab Chunder Sen was an Indian social reformer and philosopher. Although he was born a Hindu, Sen thought highly of Christian theology and wanted to incorporate the theology of Christian practice into the framework of Hindu thought. By the use of Christian missionary methods, Keshab Chunder Sen effected several social reforms in India.
Sri Aurobindo was an Indian philosopher, poet, yogi, teacher, and nationalist. He was one of the most influential leaders of the Indian independence movement before becoming a spiritual reformer, focusing on spiritual evolution and human progress. He is credited with founding the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, which continues to serve spiritual aspirants from all over the world.
The recipient of Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award of India, Jaggi Vasudev is a mystic, yogi, and author. His spiritual program called inner engineering is famous all over the world, particularly in the Western world. Popularly known as Sadhguru, Jaggi Vasudev's yoga programs, environmental initiatives, and educational and social initiatives have earned him celebrity status in India.
Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi was an Indian Islamic scholar. A member of the famous Naqshbandī Sufi order, Sirhindi was widely known as a reviver for his work in resurrecting Islam during Mughal Emperor Akbar's reign. He is also remembered for his contributions to Sufi practices and epistemology. There is a shrine named Rauza Sharif dedicated to Sirhindi in Sirhind, Punjab, India.
Ashraf Ali Thanwi was not just a prominent Indian Sunni Islamic scholar but had also penned countless books, such as Bayan Ul Quran, on various aspects of Islam. Apart from making efforts to retain the authority of Islamic scholarly tradition, he also supported the Muslim League and the creation of Pakistan.
Jairam Ramesh is an Indian politician and economist. From 2011 to 2014, he served as the Minister of Rural Development. An influential figure, Ramesh also served as the Minister of State at the Ministry of Environment and Forests from 2009 to 2011. Jairam Ramesh has contributed as a columnist for many popular publications and has also authored many books.
Aśvaghoṣa was an Indian Buddhist philosopher, poet, dramatist, and orator. Widely regarded as one of the greatest Indian poets of all time, Aśvaghoṣa was the most popular and important poet among a group of Buddhist court writers. He is credited with writing two of the most important Sanskrit-language poems held dear by the Buddhist community—Buddhacharita and Saundarananda.
Sant Eknath was an Indian Hindu saint, philosopher, and poet who lived in the 16th-century. A devotee of the Hindu deity Krishna, he is considered a major figure of the Warkari tradition. Hindu scholars often view him as a spiritual successor to the prominent Marathi saints Dnyaneshwar and Namdev. He wrote a variation of the Hindu religious text Bhagavata Purana.