National Sports Day 2023: History, Significance, Awards

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national sports day

The National Sports Day is observed on 29th August in India. It is the birth anniversary of Major Dhyan Chand, India’s legendary hockey player. This day of national importance was instituted by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in 2012 to promote sporting and athletic activities in the nation. On this day, the President of India bestowed Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, Dronacharya Award, and Arjuna Award to deserving personalities from the sports fraternity. These awards recognise the labour and hard work of sports personalities. Furthermore, the government of India conducts multiple seminars on this day to raise awareness about the benefits of sports.  

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History of National Sports Day

Since 2012, the Indian Government has chosen to observe National Sports Day on Major Dhyan Chand‘s birthday. Dhyan Chand entered the military at a young age and acquired hockey skills under the guidance of his coach, Pankaj Gupta. His proficiency in ball dribbling propelled him to the role of captain of the Indian Hockey team. His exceptional abilities earned him the nickname ‘Chand’.

Throughout his athletic career, he secured three Olympic medals and remains the sole hockey player to have been honoured with the Padma Bhushan award. His lifetime achievements and awards in the sports realm are regarded as a pinnacle in Indian sports history.

Who was Dhyan Chand?

Major Dhyan Chand was born on August 29, 1905, in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh. He gained prominence during India’s pre-independence period and played a pivotal role in India’s consecutive gold medal wins at the 1928, 1932, and 1936 Summer Olympics. His birth anniversary is celebrated as National Sports Day in India. Here are some details of this international player:

  • Dhyan Chand’s hockey journey started with a British Indian Army regimental team. He displayed unwavering dedication to the sport.
  • The Olympic website records that Dhyan Chand would practice hockey under the moonlight after completing his daily army duties. This practice routine earned him the name ‘Dhyan Chand’.
  • Furthermore, in 1936, he was selected as the captain of the Indian hockey team.
  • His dedication led him to attain the ranks of lieutenant, captain, and eventually major in the army.

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The foremost objective of Sports Day is to raise awareness about the importance of sports in daily life. Furthermore, the day is dedicated to celebrating the honours and achievements of sportspersons, coaches, and individuals/organisations working toward promoting sports.

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Awards and Recognition

On National Sports Day, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports announces winners of National Sports Awards- Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, Dronacharya Award, Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement, Arjuna Award, Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy.

Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna 

Considered one of the highest sporting honours in India, this award was formerly known as the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratan Award. This award was instituted in 1991. It is given for exceptional sports achievements over a four-year period leading up to the award year. The honour recognises excellence in international sports and games such as the Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships, and equivalent globally acknowledged tournaments. As of 2022, the award includes a medal, a certificate, and a monetary reward of INR 25,00,000.

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Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement

Furthermore, the government of India also awards Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement on Sports Day on National Sports Day. Established in 2002, the award is exclusively granted to sports categories like the World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games, World Championships, Asian Games, and Paralympic Games. It also includes Parasports, Indigenous Games, and Cricket. Nominations for a specific year are open until either April 30 or the final working day of April. Generally, no more than three athletes are honoured with this award annually.

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Dronacharya Award

This award is an honour for coaches of different sports. It is given annually to acknowledge and appreciate exemplary sports coaches who supported and trained teams and sportspersons in winning or displaying exceptional performances in international tournaments. The Dronacharya Award was instituted in 1985. The honour is named after Guru Drona, also known as “Guru Drona,” “Dronacharya,” or “Guru Drona,” a figure from the ancient Indian Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. The Kaurava and Pandava princes were appointed as royal statesmen for their training in the military arts and estrus (divine weaponry), as he was a master of sophisticated military combat. As of 2022, the winning coach receives INR 15 lakh for her/their/his contribution to the sports fraternity. 

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Arjuna Award

It is the second-highest honour in the sporting community of India. Named after Arjun, a Mahabharat character, this award was introduced in 1961. Since then, Arjuna Award has expanded considerably. As a result of its expansion, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna was established in 1991. This honour is bestowed on sports personalities, on National Sports Day, who have showcased excellence in national and international sports events in the last four years. Aside from “outstanding performance in athletics spanning four years,” recipients are acknowledged for their “exceptional leadership, sportsmanlike conduct, and display of discipline” on an international level. The award package encompasses a bronze statue of Arjuna, a certificate, a ceremonial robe, and a cash prize of INR 15 lakh. Distinguished athletes from various categories are bestowed with these honours by the President of India.

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Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar

This National Sports Award was introduced in 2009 by the central government’s Department of Sports. It is awarded to people who qualify under any of the following categories:

  • Spotting and fostering budding sports talents
  • Working with the objective of ‘Sports for Development’
  • Encouraging and promoting sports via CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)
  • Creating employment opportunities for athletes and sports-related welfare initiatives

The award aims to stimulate and boost the participation of corporations, voluntary groups, sports governing bodies, and similar entities in advancing and nurturing sports within the nation. Any public or private corporate entity, sports governing bodies, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including state and national sports organisations, that have made a notable contribution to the enhancement and growth of sports, are eligible for consideration for the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar.

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Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy

The trophy was introduced in 1956-57. It is a rotating award presented by the Ministry of Sports on National Sports Day to the leading university in sports performance during the preceding year. Its purpose is to encourage competitive sports within the university sector, engaging students and motivating teams to actively participate in sports. The selection process for the MAKA Trophy is governed by the guidelines outlined in its scheme. For the MAKA Trophy 2023, sports accomplishments from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, will be taken into account. This scheme is applicable only to universities recognized by the Government or University Grants Commission.

According to the MAKA Trophy scheme, sports disciplines considered for the award must meet the following criteria:

  • The sports disciplines should hold recognition from the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
  • The sports disciplines should be included in the Olympics/Asian Games/Commonwealth Games.
  • In addition, three sports disciplines – Chess, Kho-Kho, and Cricket – are included based on their popularity and as indigenous games.

Also Read: International Chess Day


When is National Sports Day celebrated?

It is observed on 29th August 2023 each year from 2012 onwards. This award was instituted by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India.

What are the National Sports Awards of the Government of India?

These awards include Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award, Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement, Arjuna Award, Dronacharya Award, Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Trophy. 

On whose birth is National Sports Day celebrated?

This day was instituted to commemorate the achievements of Major Dhyan Chand, who was born on 29th August 1905.

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