The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Indian Politicians of all time. This list of famous Indian Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Indian Politicians.
With an HPI of 85.91, Ashoka is the most famous Indian Politician. His biography has been translated into 124 different languages on wikipedia.
Ashoka (; Brāhmi: 𑀅𑀲𑁄𑀓, Asoka, IAST: Aśoka), also known as Ashoka the Great, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty, who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from c. 268 to 232 BCE. A grandson of the dynasty's founder Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka promoted the spread of Buddhism across ancient Asia. Considered by many to be one of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka expanded Chandragupta's empire to reign over a realm stretching from present-day Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east. It covered the entire Indian subcontinent except for parts of present-day Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. The empire's capital was Pataliputra (in Magadha, present-day Patna), with provincial capitals at Taxila and Ujjain. Ashoka waged a destructive war against the state of Kalinga (modern Odisha), which he conquered in about 260 BCE. According to an interpretation of his Edicts, he converted to Buddhism after witnessing the mass deaths of the Kalinga War, which he had waged out of a desire for conquest and which reportedly directly resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations. He is remembered for the Ashoka pillars and edicts, for sending Buddhist monks to Sri Lanka and Central Asia, and for establishing monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha.Beyond the Edicts of Ashoka, biographical information about him relies on legends written centuries later, such as the 2nd-century CE Ashokavadana ("Narrative of Ashoka", a part of the Divyavadana), and in the Sri Lankan text Mahavamsa ("Great Chronicle"). The emblem of the modern Republic of India is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka. His Sanskrit name "Aśoka" means "painless, without sorrow" (the a privativum and śoka, "pain, distress"). In his edicts, he is referred to as Devānāmpriya (Pali Devānaṃpiya or "the Beloved of the Gods"), and Priyadarśin or Priyadarshi (Pali Piyadasī or "He who regards everyone with affection"). His fondness for a tree is the reason for his name being connected to the "Ashoka tree" or Saraca indica, and this is referenced in the Ashokavadana. In The Outline of History (1920), H.G. Wells wrote, "Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star."
With an HPI of 82.61, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam is the 2nd most famous Indian Politician. His biography has been translated into 75 different languages.
Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam ( (listen); 15 October 1931 – 27 July 2015) was an Indian aerospace scientist who served as the 11th President of India from 2002 to 2007. He was born and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu and studied physics and aerospace engineering. He spent the next four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and was intimately involved in India's civilian space programme and military missile development efforts. He thus came to be known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. He also played a pivotal organisational, technical, and political role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974.Kalam was elected as the 11th President of India in 2002 with the support of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the then-opposition Indian National Congress. Widely referred to as the "People's President", he returned to his civilian life of education, writing and public service after a single term. He was a recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour. While delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Kalam collapsed and died from an apparent cardiac arrest on 27 July 2015, aged 83. Thousands, including national-level dignitaries, attended the funeral ceremony held in his hometown of Rameswaram, where he was buried with full state honours.
With an HPI of 81.35, Jawaharlal Nehru is the 3rd most famous Indian Politician. His biography has been translated into 134 different languages.
Jawaharlal Nehru (; Hindi: [ˈdʒəʋaːɦərˈlaːl ˈneːɦru] (listen); 14 November 1889 – 27 May 1964) was an Indian independence activist and, subsequently, the first Prime Minister of India. Considered as one of the greatest statesmen of India and of the twentieth century, he was a central figure in Indian politics both before and after independence. He emerged as an eminent leader of the Indian independence movement, serving India as Prime Minister from its establishment in 1947 as an independent nation, until his death in 1964. He was also known as Pandit Nehru due to his roots with the Kashmiri Pandit community, while Indian children knew him better as Chacha Nehru (Hindi: Uncle Nehru).The son of Swarup Rani and Motilal Nehru, a prominent lawyer and nationalist statesman, Nehru was a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge and the Inner Temple, where he trained to be a barrister. Upon his return to India, he enrolled at the Allahabad High Court and took an interest in national politics, which eventually replaced his legal practice. A committed nationalist since his teenage years, he became a rising figure in Indian politics during the upheavals of the 1910s. He became the prominent leader of the left-wing factions of the Indian National Congress during the 1920s, and eventually of the entire Congress, with the tacit approval of his mentor, Mahatma Gandhi. As Congress President in 1929, Nehru called for complete independence from the British Raj and instigated the Congress's decisive shift towards the left. Nehru and the Congress dominated Indian politics during the 1930s as the country moved towards independence. His idea of a secular nation-state was seemingly validated when the Congress swept the 1937 provincial elections and formed the government in several provinces; on the other hand, the separatist Muslim League fared much poorer. However, these achievements were severely compromised in the aftermath of the Quit India Movement in 1942, which saw the British effectively crush the Congress as a political organisation. Nehru, who had reluctantly heeded Gandhi's call for immediate independence, for he had desired to support the Allied war effort during World War II, came out of a lengthy prison term to a much altered political landscape. The Muslim League under his old Congress colleague and now opponent, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had come to dominate Muslim politics in India. Negotiations between Congress and Muslim League for power sharing failed and gave way to the independence and bloody partition of India in 1947. Nehru was elected by the Congress to assume office as independent India's first Prime Minister, although the question of leadership had been settled as far back as 1941, when Gandhi acknowledged Nehru as his political heir and successor. As Prime Minister, he set out to realise his vision of India. The Constitution of India was enacted in 1950, after which he embarked on an ambitious program of economic, social and political reforms. Chiefly, he oversaw India's transition from a colony to a republic, while nurturing a plural, multi-party system. In foreign policy, he took a leading role in the Non-Aligned Movement while projecting India as a regional hegemon in South Asia. Under Nehru's leadership, the Congress emerged as a catch-all party, dominating national and state-level politics and winning consecutive elections in 1951, 1957, and 1962. He remained popular with the people of India in spite of political troubles in his final years and failure of leadership during the 1962 Sino-Indian War. In India, his birthday is celebrated as Children's Day.
With an HPI of 80.94, Indira Gandhi is the 4th most famous Indian Politician. Her biography has been translated into 120 different languages.
Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (Hindi: [ˈɪndɪɾa ˈɡaːndʱi] (listen); née Nehru; 19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was an Indian politician and a central figure of the Indian National Congress. She was the 3rd Prime Minister of India and was also the first and, to date, only female Prime Minister of India. Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the 1st Prime Minister of India. She served as prime minister from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984, making her the second longest-serving Indian prime minister after her father.During Nehru's premiership from 1947 to 1964, Gandhi was considered a key assistant and accompanied him on his numerous foreign trips. She was elected President of the Indian National Congress in 1959. Upon her father's death in 1964, she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri's cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting. In the Congress Party's parliamentary leadership election held in early 1966 (upon the death of Shastri), she defeated her rival Morarji Desai to become leader, and thus succeeded Shastri as Prime Minister of India. As prime minister, Gandhi was known for her political intransigency and unprecedented centralisation of power. She went to war with Pakistan in support of the independence movement and war of independence in East Pakistan, which resulted in an Indian victory and the creation of Bangladesh, as well as increasing India's influence to the point where it became the sole regional power of South Asia. Citing separatist tendencies, and in response to a call for revolution, Gandhi instituted a state of emergency from 1975 to 1977 where basic civil liberties were suspended and the press was censored. Widespread atrocities were carried out during the emergency. In 1980, she returned to power after free and fair elections. After Gandhi ordered military action in the Golden Temple in Operation Blue Star, her own bodyguards and Sikh nationalists assassinated her on 31 October 1984. In 1999, Indira Gandhi was named "Woman of the Millennium" in an online poll organised by the BBC. In 2020, Gandhi was named by Time magazine among the world's 100 powerful women who defined the last century.
With an HPI of 79.64, Shivaji is the 5th most famous Indian Politician. His biography has been translated into 57 different languages.
Shivaji Bhonsale I (Marathi pronunciation: [ʃiʋaˑɟiˑ bʱoˑs(ə)leˑ]; c. 1627 / 19 February 1630 – 3 April 1680), also referred to as Chhatrapati Shivaji, was an Indian ruler and a member of the Bhonsle Maratha clan. Shivaji carved out an enclave from the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of the Maratha Empire. In 1674, he was formally crowned the Chhatrapati (emperor) of his realm at Raigad. Over the course of his life, Shivaji engaged in both alliances and hostilities with the Mughal Empire, the Sultanate of Golkonda and the Sultanate of Bijapur, as well as with European colonial powers. Shivaji's military forces expanded the Maratha sphere of influence, capturing and building forts, and forming a Maratha navy. Shivaji established a competent and progressive civil rule with well-structured administrative organisations. He revived ancient Hindu political traditions and court conventions and promoted the usage of the Marathi language. Shivaji's legacy was to vary by observer and time, but nearly two centuries after his death, he began to take on increased importance with the emergence of the Indian independence movement, as many Indian nationalists elevated him as a proto-nationalist and hero of the Hindus.
With an HPI of 77.52, Chandragupta Maurya is the 6th most famous Indian Politician. His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.
Chandragupta Maurya (reign: 321–297 BCE) was the 1st emperor of Ancient India and the founder of the Maurya Empire, one of the largest empires on the Indian subcontinent. Chandragupta's life and accomplishments are described in ancient Greek, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain texts, but they vary significantly. In Ancient Greek and Latin accounts, Chandragupta is referred as Sandrocottus or Androcottus. Chandragupta Maurya was a pivotal figure in the history of India, laying the foundations of the first government to unite most of South Asia. Chandragupta, under the tutelage of Chanakya, created a new empire based on the principles of statecraft, built a large army, and continued expanding the boundaries of his empire until ultimately renouncing it for an ascetic life in his final years. Prior to his consolidation of power, Alexander the Great had invaded the North-West Indian subcontinent before abandoning his campaign in 324 BCE due to a mutiny caused by the prospect of facing another large empire, presumably the Nanda Empire. Chandragupta defeated and conquered both the Nanda Empire, and the Greek satraps that were appointed or formed from Alexander's Empire in South Asia. Chandragupta first gained regional prominence in the Greater Punjab region in the Indus. He then set out to conquer the Nanda Empire centered in Pataliputra, Magadha. Afterwards, Chandragupta expanded and secured his western border, where he was confronted by Seleucus I Nicator in the Seleucid-Mauryan War. After two years of war, Chandragupta was considered to have gained the upper hand in the conflict and annexed satrapies up to the Hindu Kush. Instead of prolonging the war, both parties settled on a marriage treaty between Chandragupta and Seleucus I Nicator. Chandragupta's empire extended throughout most of the Indian subcontinent, spanning from modern day Bengal to Afghanistan across North India as well as making inroads into Central and South India. According to the Jain accounts dated to 800 years after his death, Chandragupta abdicated his throne and became a Jain monk, traveled away from his empire to South India and committed sallekhana or fasting to death. Contemporary Greek evidence however avers that Chandragupta did not give up performing the rites of sacrificing animals associated with Vedic Brahminism, an ancient form of Hinduism; he delighted in hunting and otherwise leading a life remote from the Jain practice of Ahimsa or nonviolence towards living beings. Chandragupta's reign, and the Maurya Empire, set an era of economic prosperity, reforms, infrastructure expansions, and tolerance. Many religions thrived within his realms and his descendants' empire. Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivika gained prominence alongside Vedic and Brahmanistic traditions, and minority religions such as Zoroastrianism and the Greek pantheon were respected. A memorial for Chandragupta Maurya exists on the Chandragiri hill along with a 7th-century hagiographic inscription.
With an HPI of 76.93, Aurangzeb is the 7th most famous Indian Politician. His biography has been translated into 70 different languages.
Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad (3 November 1618 – 3 March 1707), commonly known by the sobriquet Aurangzeb (Persian: اورنگزیب, lit. 'Ornament of the Throne') or by his regnal title Alamgir (Persian: "Conqueror of the World"), was the sixth Mughal emperor, who ruled over almost the entire Indian subcontinent for a period of 49 years. Widely considered to be the last effective ruler of the Mughal Empire, Aurangzeb compiled the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, and was among the few monarchs to have fully established Sharia law and Islamic economics throughout the Indian subcontinent. He was an accomplished military leader whose rule has been the subject of praise, though he has also been described as the most controversial ruler in Indian history.He was a notable expansionist; during his reign, the Mughal Empire reached its greatest extent, ruling over nearly all of the Indian subcontinent. During his lifetime, victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to 4 million square kilometres, and he ruled over a population estimated to be over 158 million subjects. Under his reign, India surpassed Qing China to become the world's largest economy and biggest manufacturing power, worth nearly a quarter of global GDP and more than the entirety of Western Europe, and its largest and wealthiest subdivision, the Bengal Subah, signaled proto-industrialization.Aurangzeb was noted for his religious piety; he memorized the entire Quran, studied hadiths and stringently observed the rituals of Islam. Unlike his predecessors, including his father Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb considered the royal treasury to be held in trust for the citizens of his empire. He did not enjoy a luxurious life and his personal expenses and constructions of small mosques were covered by his own earnings, which included the sewing of caps and trade of his written copies of the Quran. He also patronized works of Islamic and Arabic calligraphy.Multiple interpretations of Aurangzeb's life and reign over the years by critics have led to a very complicated legacy. Critics argue that his policies abandoned his predecessors' legacy of pluralism and religious tolerance, citing his introduction of the jizya tax and other policies based on Islamic ethics, demolition of Hindu temples, the executions of his elder brother Dara Shikoh, Maratha king Sambhaji and the Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur, and the prohibition and supervision of behaviour and activities that are forbidden in Islam such as gambling, fornication, and consumption of alcohol and narcotics. Some historians question the historicity of the claims of his critics, arguing that his destruction of temples has been exaggerated, and noting that he built more temples than he destroyed, paid for their maintenance, employed significantly more Hindus in his imperial bureaucracy than his predecessors did, and opposed bigotry against Hindus and Shia Muslims.
With an HPI of 76.64, Rani of Jhansi is the 8th most famous Indian Politician. Her biography has been translated into 59 different languages.
Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi (pronunciation ; 19 November 1828 — 18 June 1858), was the Maharani consort of the Maratha princely state of Jhansi from 1843 to 1853 as the wife of Maharaja Gangadhar Rao. She was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and became a symbol of resistance to the British Raj for Indian nationalists. She died in the Rebellion, wounded and killed in a battle on 18 June 1858. The Rebellion was suppressed by November that year.
With an HPI of 76.47, Subhas Chandra Bose is the 9th most famous Indian Politician. His biography has been translated into 58 different languages.
Subhas Chandra Bose ( (listen) shuub-HAHSS CHUN-drə BOHSS; 23 January 1897 – 18 August 1945) was an Indian nationalist whose defiant patriotism made him a hero in India, but whose attempts during World War II to rid India of British rule with the help of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan left a troubled legacy. The honorific Netaji (Hindustani: "Respected Leader") was first applied to Bose in Germany in early 1942—by the Indian soldiers of the Indische Legion and by the German and Indian officials in the Special Bureau for India in Berlin. It is now used throughout India.Subhas Bose was born into wealth and privilege in a large Bengali family in Orissa during the high noon of the British Raj. The early recipient of an unusually Anglocentric education, his teenage and young adult years were interspersed with brilliant academic success, oversize religious yearning, and stark rebellion against authority. In a college in which his five brothers had preceded him, he was expelled for participating in an assault on a professor. He was also rusticated from the University of Calcutta, but after reinstatement 18 months later he managed to study blamelessly and excel academically. Sent to England at his father's urging to take the Indian Civil Service examination, he succeeded with distinction in the vital first exam but demurred at taking the more routine but clinching final exam. He cited nationalism to be a higher calling than the civil service. Returning to India in 1921 to join the nationalist movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, Bose at first worked with C. R. Das in Bengal. He flowered under Das's mentorship. He then followed Jawaharlal Nehru to leadership in a group within the Congress. The group was younger, less keen on constitutional reform, and more open to socialism. Bose rose precociously to become Congress president in 1938. After reelection in 1939, differences arose between Bose and Gandhi. The senior leadership in the Congress supported Gandhi, and Bose resigned as president, and was eventually ousted from the party. In July 1940, Bose was arrested by the Bengal government over a small protest, and later kept housebound under a strict police watch. In mid-January 1941, he escaped from India in dramatic cloak-and-dagger fashion, heading northwestward into Afghanistan.In April 1941, Bose arrived in Nazi Germany, where the leadership offered unexpected, if equivocal, sympathy for India's independence. In November 1941, German funds were used to open a Free India Centre in Berlin, and to set up a Free India Radio on which Bose broadcast nightly. A 3,000-strong Free India Legion was recruited from among Indian POWs captured by Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps to serve under Bose. Bose's reputation as a politician, adversely affected in the previous two years, was refurbished somewhat. Throughout 1941 the Germans intermittently but inconclusively considered a land invasion of India. Although it was peripheral to their main goals in Eastern Europe, Bose remained optimistic about its likelihood. By the spring of 1942, however, the German army had become mired in Russia, and Japan had won quick victories in Asia. A German land invasion of India became untenable, and Bose became keen to move to southeast Asia. Adolf Hitler, during his only meeting with Bose in late May 1942, suggested the same and offered to arrange a submarine. During this time Bose became a father; his wife, or companion, Emilie Schenkl, whom he had met during an earlier visit to Europe in 1934, gave birth to a baby girl in November 1942. Identifying strongly with the Axis powers, Bose boarded a German submarine in February 1943. Off Madagascar, he was transferred to a Japanese submarine from which he disembarked in Japanese-held Sumatra in May 1943. His wife, child, and 3,000 Indian men remained in Germany, the latter left to an uncertain future.The Indian National Army (INA) had been formed in 1942 from the Indian POWs of the British Indian army captured by the Japanese in the Battle of Singapore. After arrival in Singapore, Bose enlisted Indian civilians, chiefly Tamil ones, in Malaya and Singapore. The Japanese had come to support a number of puppet and provisional governments in the captured regions. With Japanese support, a Provisional Government of Free India under Bose was formed in the Japanese-occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Although the Japanese military at all times exercised firm control over the islands, Bose's visit in December 1943 was widely publicized. Charismatic and driven, Bose displayed unflagging enthusiasm for the cause of liberating India. The INA under Bose became a model of diversity by region, ethnicity, religion, and gender. However, the Japanese considered Bose to be militarily unskilled and unrealistic, and Bose's military effort was short-lived. In late 1944 and early 1945, the British Indian Army first halted and then devastatingly reversed the Japanese attack on India. Almost half the Japanese forces and fully half the participating INA contingent were killed. The INA was driven down the Malay Peninsula and surrendered with the recapture of Singapore. Bose chose not to surrender with his forces or with the Japanese. He aimed to escape to Manchuria with a view to seeking a future in the Soviet Union which he believed to be turning anti-British. En route to Manchuria, his plane crashed in Taiwan, and he died from third-degree burns. Some Indians did not believe that the crash had occurred. Many among them, especially in Bengal, believed Bose would return to gain India's independence.The Indian National Congress, the main instrument of Indian nationalism, praised Bose's patriotism but distanced itself from his tactics and ideology, in particular his collaboration with fascism. The British Raj, never seriously threatened by the INA, charged 300 INA officers with treason in the INA trials, but eventually backtracked in the face both of popular sentiment and of its own end.
With an HPI of 76.34, B. R. Ambedkar is the 10th most famous Indian Politician. His biography has been translated into 64 different languages.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (IPA: [bhɪməɑo ɹæmdʒi ɑmbɛdkɑə]; 14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), also known as Babasaheb Ambedkar ([bʌbəsɑheb ɑmbɛdkɑə]), was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer, who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalits). He was British India's Minister of Labour in Viceroy's Executive Council, Chairman of the Constituent Drafting committee, independent India's first Minister of Law and Justice, and considered the chief architect of the Constitution of India. Ambedkar was a prolific student, earning doctorates in economics from both Columbia University and the London School of Economics, gaining reputation as a scholar for his research in law, economics and political science. In his early career, he was an economist, professor, and lawyer. His later life was marked by his political activities; he became involved in campaigning and negotiations for India's independence, publishing journals, advocating political rights and social freedom for Dalits, and contributing significantly to the establishment of the state of India. In 1956, he converted to Buddhism, initiating mass conversions of Dalits.In 1990, the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, was posthumously conferred upon Ambedkar. Ambedkar's legacy includes numerous memorials and depictions in popular culture.
Pantheon has 238 people classified as politicians born between 2000 BC and 1987. Of these 238, 62 (26.05%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Narendra Modi, Ram Nath Kovind, and Pervez Musharraf. The most famous deceased politicians include Ashoka, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, and Jawaharlal Nehru. As of October 2020, 26 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Rajaram I, Amrapali, and Balaji Baji Rao.
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Which Politicians were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Politicians since 1700.