This Republic Day, Meet The Calligraphy Artists Behind The Indian Constitution

L: Prem Behari Narain Raizada R: A page from the Indian Constitution
L: Prem Behari Narain Raizada R: A page from the Indian ConstitutionThe Indian Express

Today, we celebrate 73 years of India declaring itself a republic and being the largest democracy in the world. The Constitution of India, the lengthiest handwritten constitution in the world, upholds the hopes and aspirations of 140 crores of citizens of this beautiful country and the idealisms that inspired our brave freedom fighters to overthrow the colonial British regime.

The Constitution of India is said to be thirty times longer than the American Constitution and is one of the most beloved texts of our countrymen. We all know that the great Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar is the father of the Indian Constitution but today we shall delve deeper into the artists who were also behind the revered document.

Prem Behari Narain Raizada and Vasant Krishnan Vaidya are the two people who wonderfully penned each and every page that carries the goals and dreams of India's founding fathers. The original constitution was written in a flowing italic style.

The handwriting for the English version of the Indian Constitution was done by calligraphy artist Prem Behari Narain Raizada. He was born to a family of renowned calligraphers. Raizada was raised by his grandfather, who was a scholar of English and Persian. Under his grandfather’s tutelage, Raizada learned the art of calligraphy and cherished it for the rest of his life.

Jawaharlal Nehru called upon Raizada to draft the first copy of the Indian Constitution in the late 1940s. When Nehru asked how much he would charge for his services, Raizada modestly responded, "Not a single penny. By the grace of God, I have all the things and am quite happy with my life. But I have one reservation — that on every page of the Constitution, I will write my name and on the last page I will write my name along with my grandfather’s name.” His request was honored by our (then) Prime Minister.

The ideating and writing of our Constitution is not just a one-person effort but a collaborative effort of several think tanks and artists. The Constitution was beautified and decorated by Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan artists including Nanda Lal Bose and his students, along with Beohar Rammanohar Sinha.

The calligraphy of the lesser-known Hindi version of the original constitution was done by Vasant Krishnan Vaidya and also beautifully decorated and illuminated by Nanda Lal Bose.

All these artists worked together in the Constitution Hall and finally created the document that carries a preamble, eight schedules, and 395 articles. The final manuscript had 251 pages and weighed 3.75 kg.

The Constitution of India took two years, 11 months, and 18 days to complete and is a document that set the foundational tone of our great nation. The original copies, written in both Hindi and English, are kept in special helium-filled cases in the Library of the Parliament of India.

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