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Remembering Savitri Khanolkar: The Lady Who Designed the Param Vir Chakra

Today, Transcontinental Times remembers the Lady Behind the "Wheel of the Ultimate Brave" on her birth anniversary

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Ishita Chakraborty
Ishita Chakraborty
Editor-in-Chief at Transcontinental Times, Computer Science Graduate, PG diploma in Journalism and Mass communication. Ishita is a youth activist for PETA India, President of Girlup IWO, and a linguaphile. She covers fashion and lifestyle, politics, UN initiatives, sports, and diversity.

INDIA: India’s highest military honour, the Param Vir Chakra, is given for outstanding bravery during a war. Param Vir Chakra, which means “Wheel of the Ultimate Brave,” is given for “most outstanding bravery in the presence of the enemy.”

Savitri Khanolkar designed the Param Vir Chakra. Khanolkar was a Swiss national whose real name was Eve Yvonne Maday de Maros. She was married to Vikram Ramji Khanolkar who was an Indian army officer.

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Today, Transcontinental Times remembers the Lady Behind the “Wheel of the Ultimate Brave” on her birth anniversary.

About Savitri Khanolkar

Khanolkar was born to a Russian mother and a Hungarian father in Neuchatel, Switzerland. Her mother Marthe Hentzelt worked as a teacher at the Rosseau Institute, and her father André de Maday was a professor of sociology at Geneva University.

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She met Vikram Khanolkar, a young Indian Army cadet who had travelled to Switzerland for a break while attending Sandhurst training in 1929.

Khanolkar was still a teenager when she fell in love with Vikram. Vikram was much older than her at that time.

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Despite her father’s reluctance, she travelled to India in 1932 and wed Vikram in Lucknow. After being married, she changed her name to Savitri Bai. Despite coming from a European background, she easily adapted to Hindu customs.

She adopted a vegetarian diet, picked up the languages of Marathi, Hindi, and Sanskrit, and learned Indian dance, music, and painting. She never liked being referred to as a foreigner and called herself a ‘European with an Indian soul’.

Khanolkar studied India’s ancient history and folklore and was particularly interested in Hindu Puranas, which she read in great detail.

Seeing her keen interest in Indian culture, Major Hira Lal Atal, the country’s first native adjutant general, approached her for assistance in designing the Param Vir Chakra.

Khanolkar, well-versed in the Puranas, remembered Rishi Dadichi, who sacrificed his own body so that Indra might create the deadly Vajra or thunderbolt. She created the design of double Vajra, which was a popular Tibetan pattern at that time.

The Param Vir Chakra has a radius of 13/8 inches and is cast in bronze. The Ashoka stambh is in the center, perched on a raised circle that is surrounded by four replicas of Indra’s Vajra.

Photo Credit: Multiple sources

Interestingly, Major Somnath Sharma, the brother-in-law of Savitri Bai’s elder daughter Kumudini, who died while fighting at the Battle of Badgam during the 1948 War with Pakistan, was the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra.

In addition to designing the Param Vir Chakra, Khanolkar also did a lot of social work. She helped the families of soldiers killed in the war and Partition refugees.

Savitri Bai spent her later years with Ramakrishna Math after losing her husband in 1952. She also wrote a book on the Saints of Maharashtra.

At the age of 77, Khanolkar passed away on November 26, 1990, after living a truly remarkable life.

Also Read: Indian Army Pays Tributes to Its Valiant Bravehearts

Author

  • Ishita Chakraborty

    Editor-in-Chief at Transcontinental Times, Computer Science Graduate, PG diploma in Journalism and Mass communication. Ishita is a youth activist for PETA India, President of Girlup IWO, and a linguaphile. She covers fashion and lifestyle, politics, UN initiatives, sports, and diversity.

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