Attached to a colorful ribbon, a medal, short of the symbol or motif it bears, is a piece of metal. Due thought seems to have been given to this aspect when the gallantry awards were instituted.Ribbons are integral to the scheme of medals and decorations. In fact, ribbons when worn on the chest by a soldier adequately convey stories of heroism associated with him. It is notable that all ribbons are intended to convey some motif or symbol by means of colours.
A ribbon, generally speaking, is a combination of meaningful colour imprinted on silk, Saffron, green, blue, red and white are the most commonly used colours in the Indian ribbons. Of these red stands for courage and bravery, saffron for self-effacement and dedicated service; green for growth and auspiciousness; white for glory and purity and blue for devotion and sacrifice. Occasionally red symbolises the Indian Army, dark blue the Indian Navy and sky blue the Indian Air Force. Stripes on ribbons generally denote the class of the award. The ribbons are worn by the awardees on their left breast in a specified sequence, the position and priority being the centre of the chest.
For the purpose of classification, Indian honors and awards can be divided into two categories : Gallantry awards and Non-gallantry awards. The gallantry awards are again divisible into two categories: Those for gallantry in the face of the enemy. Those for gallantry other than in the face of the enemy.
The first category of the gallantry awards comprises :
1. Param Vir Chakra
2. Maha Vir Chakra
3. Vir Chakra
4. Sena, Nao Sena and Vayu Sena Medal
5. Mention in Dispatches
6. Chiefs of Staff Commendation Card
The second category of the gallantry awards comprise the following :
1. Ashoka Chakra
2. Kirti Chakra
3. Shaurya Chakra
These were originally named Ashoka Chakra Class I, Class II, Class III.
- Param Vir Chakra– The highest decoration for valour, it is awarded for the most conspicuous bravery or some daring or prominent act of valour, whether on land, at sea or in the air. Find the list of Param Vir Chakra Awardees here.
- Maha Vir Chakra– It is awarded for ants of exemplary gallantry in the presence of enemy whether at sea, on land or in the air. Find the list of Maha Vir Chakra Awardees here.
- Vir Chakra– It is the third in the order of gallantry awards and is given for ants of gallantry in the presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea or in the air. Find the list of Vir Chakra Awardees here.
- Sena, Nao Sena and Vayu Sena Medal- The Sena Medal is awarded to members of the Indian army, of all ranks, for such individual acts of exceptional devotion to duty or courage as have special significance for the Army. Awards may be made posthumously and a bar is authorized for subsequent awards of the Sena Medal. The Sena Medal is given for distinguished service carried out by any soldier, not in the face of the enemy. The Sena Medal also serves as a sort of general commendation medal for the Indian Army. The Vayusena Medal is an Indian military decoration, usually awarded in peacetime for a job well done. However it has been granted during times of conflict for acts of gallantry in the face of enemy by Indian Air Force. Awarded for such individual acts of exceptional devotion to duty or courage as have special significance for the Navy.
- Mention in Dispatches- A soldier Mentioned in Despatches is one whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which is described the soldier’s gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy.
- Chiefs of Staff Commendation Card- This award is given by Air chief/Army chief /Naval chief for individual acts of gallantry of distinguished service in operational or non-operational areas.
- Ashoka Chakra– It is awarded for bravery or some daring or prominent act of valour or self- sacrifice, at sea, in the air or on land. Find the list of Awardees here.
- Kirti Chakra– The Kirti Chakra is an Indian military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the field of battle. It may be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel, including posthumous awards. It is the peacetime equivalent of the Maha Vir Chakra.It is a decoration award for gallantry. Find the list of Awardees here.
- Shaurya Chakra– The Shaurya Chakra is an Indian military decoration awarded for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice while not engaged in direct action with the enemy. It may be awarded to civilians as well as military personnel, sometimes posthumously. It is the peacetime equivalent of the Vir Chakra. It is generally awarded for Counter-Insurgency operations and actions against the enemy during peace-time. Find the list of Awardees here.
Jeevan Raksha Padak series of awards, an offshoot of the Ashoka Chakra series of Gallantry awards, were instituted in the year 1961.
- Jeevan Raksha Awards-These medals are awarded for meritorious ants or a series of ants of a human nature displayed in saving a person from drowning, fire and rescue operations in mines etc.
- Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Padak-The medal is awarded for conspicuous courage under circumstances of very great danger to the life of the rescuer.
- Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak– The medal is awarded for courage and promptitude under circumstances of great danger to the life of rescuer.
Distinguished Service Medals :
A. During Peacetime
- PVSM – Param Vishisht Seva Medal, awarded in recognition to peace time service of the most exceptional order.
- AVSM – Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, awarded for distinguished service of an exceptional order.
- VSM – Vishisht Seva Medal
B. During Wartime
- SYSM – Sarvottam Yudh Seva Medal, awarded for the highest degree of distinguished services in times of war, conflict, or hostilities.
- UYSM – Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, awarded for a high degree of distinguished services in a war, conflict, or hostilities.
- YSM – Yudh Seva Medal , awarded for wartime distinguished service.