President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday presented the Padma awards, the highest civilian award of India, to 44 persons which included celebrities and unsung heroes who have worked for the society.
In a formal ceremony in the imposing Durbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhavan here, Mukherjee conferred Padma Vibhushan to mystic guru Sahdguru Jagadish Vasudev and singer K J Yesudas.
Wife of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Sunder Lal Patwa received the award on his behalf.
The focus of this year's Padma awards, according to the officials in the Home Ministry, was on recognising talent of unknown and unsung heroes of the country.
Among 44 persons who were awarded with Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri, 40 were present to receive the honour while in three cases, where awards were given posthumously, relatives received it.
One recipient of Padma Shri was also not present in the ceremony.
Inventor of musical instrument 'Mohan Veena', Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt; Professor of modern languages and Acharya of Kashi Vishvanath Temple, Devi Prasad Dwivedi; Jain monk, Jainacharya Ratnasundersuri Maharaja were conferred Padma Bhushan by the President in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, senior Cabinet ministers and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Journalist Cho S Ramaswamy was also honoured with Padma Bhushan posthumously and his wife received it.
The President awarded Padma Shri to celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor, singer Kailash Kher, Bollywood chronicler Bhawana Somaaya, former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal, Olympians Dipa Karmakar, Sakshi Malik and Vikas Shive Gowda, Paralympic Gold medalist Mariyappan T and others for their excellence.
Kher told PTI that he was honoured to receive the award.
“India has a great tradition of music and intellect. It attracted attackers from abroad because of its wealth and intellect," he said.
Karmakar, who was limping because of a knee injury, attracted the attention of Prime Minister who was sitting in front row and queried about her well being.
“It is a knee injury. I have to take rest for five six months, then I will train for Commonwealth Games," Karmakar said after the ceremony.
The 23-year-old "Produnova Princess" from Tripura had finished fourth in artistic gymnastics at Rio Olympics last year which is the best by Indian in the competition dominated by Western countries and China.
Malik is the first woman wrestler from the country to win an Olympic Bronze medal in the women's 58 kg wrestling.
Among unsung heroes, school dropout Jitendra Haripal, popular as 'Rangabati ki Awaz' who is known for Odhisa's most popular recorded song "Rangabati" and being a top exponent of Kosli-Sambalpuri music was also conferred Padma Shri.
Ela Ahmad, 81, from Assam who has been running the only women magazine in the northeast since 1970, and volunteer fire fighter Bipin Ganatra from West Bengal were also decorated with the honour.
Ganatra is the only person apart from fire brigade officials who has been to almost every fire accident site in Kolkata in the last 40 years.
"I started it when I was 10 years of age. I used to go to site of fire accident and help the Fire Department in whatever way I could. After losing my brother in a fire accident, I started actively helping fire department," Ganatra said.
Chintakindi Mallesham from Telangana who was conferred Padma Shri invented Laxmi ASU machine to reduce the time and menial labour required to weave Pochampalli silk sarees.
His invention impacted 60 per cent of looms engaged in weaving Pochampalli.
'Highway Messiah' Dr Subroto Das from Gujarat known for bringing medical relief to accident victims on national highways was also among the recipients of Padma Shri.
Another Padma Shri recipient, 66-year-old social worker from Karnataka, Girish Bharadwaj, known as 'Sethu (bridge) Bandhu', has to his credit building of more than 100 low-cost and eco-friendly suspension bridges connecting remote villages across India.
Among other unsung awardees were Anuradha Koirala, a 67-year-old Nepalese woman, who has been instrumental in rescuing and rehabilitating 12,000 sex trafficking victims; Gujarat's Genabhai Dargabhai Patel aka 'Anar Dada' who is a 'divyang' farmer and has taken huge efforts to make his drought-hit village in Banaskantha district become the largest producer of pomegranate in the country.
Other Padma awardees included archaeologist Asoke Kumar Bhattacharyya (posthumously), writer of children literature Eli Ahmed, Shehnai maestro Krishna Ram Choudhary, Telecom expert Tripuraneni Hanuman Chowdary, social worker Dattatrey Narayan and journalist Balbir Dutt.
The President also conferred Padma Shri to painter Tilak Gitai, scientist Jitendra Nath Goswami who was part of Chandrayaan mission, actor Sadhu Meher, transplant surgeon Mukut Minz, Odissi dancer Aruna Mohanty, Birkha Bahadur Subba Muringla who developed Limboo language into modern form and mridangam artist T K Murthy.
Expert on Iranian and Central Asian studies Kashinath Pandit, Carnatic vocalist Parassala B Ponnammal, sculptor Aekka Yadagiri Rao, Technology professor Ajoy Kumar Raym, the US based media magnet Hasmukh Shah, Sanskrit expert Harihar Kripalu Tripathi, Unani expert Mohammed Abdul Waheed and noted surgeon Dr Devendra Patel also received the honour.
Kannada lexicographer G Venkatasubbiah, who was awarded Padma Shri, was not present in the ceremony.
(With inputs from PTI)