Special Feature: List of firsts in India

First women President - Pratibha Devisingh Patil, the 12th President of India and the first woman to hold the office, was born on December 19, 1934, at Nadgaon village in Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district. After completing her basic education, she secured a Master’s degree in Political Science and Economics from Jalgaon and a law degree  She was sworn in as President on July 25, 2007. She was also the Governor of Rajasthan, the first woman to occupy the post.

Pratibha Patil

Pratibha Patil. Pic/AFP

First Indian to go in space - Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma was a former Indian Air Force test pilot who flew aboard Soyuz T-11 as part of the Intercosmos programe. In 1984 he was appointed as the Squadron Leader and pilot of the Indian Air Force. He was selected on 20 September 1982 to become a cosmonaut and go into space as part of a joint programe between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Soviet Intercosmos space program. His crew held a joint TV news conference with then PM Indira Gandhi and when she asked him how India looked from outer space, he replied 'Saare Jahan Se Achcha'. India became the 14th nation to send a man to outer space.

Rakesh Sharma. Pic/AFP

First female teacher - Savitribai Phule was an Indian social reformer. Along with her husband, Jyotirao Phule, she played an important role in improving women's rights in India during British rule. The couple founded the first women's school at Pune in 1848. She is considered a pioneer of modern Marathi poetry.

Savitribai PhuleSavitribai Phule

First President of India – Dr Rajendra Prasad was a lawyer who joined the Indian National Congress during the independence movement and became a major leader from Bihar. Mahatma Gandhi was a major influence in his life and he extended his support to Gandhi's non-cooperation movement and launched the salt satyagraha in Bihar. He was President of the Constituent Assembly that framed the Constitution of India and was awarded the Bharat Ratna, nation's highest civilian award, in 1962.

First President of India Rajendra Prasad (R) taking oath of office in front of Indian Parliament in New Delhi on January 26, 1950. Pic/AFP
First President of India Rajendra Prasad (R) taking oath of office in front of Indian Parliament in New Delhi on January 26, 1950. Pic/AFP

First Prime Minister - Jawaharlal Nehru was a prominent lawyer and a central figure in Indian politics. He emerged as the paramount leader of the Indian independence movement under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi and ruled India from its establishment as an independent nation in 1947 until his death.

First Airport in India – Juhu Aerodrome in Mumbai was founded in 1928 as India's first civil aviation airport. It served as the city's primary airport during and up to World War II. In 1932, JRD Tata landed at the Juhu aerodrome, inaugurating India's first scheduled commercial mail service.

First Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force - Subroto Mukerjee was educated in India and England and joined the Royal Air Force and later was one of the first recruits of the Indian Air Force. He had an illustrious career and had been awarded with many honours until his accidental death in 1960. On 1 April 1933, "A" Flight of the No 1 Squadron, Indian Air Force, was formed at Karachi. Subroto was one of the five Indian pilots who made up the flight. He has been called the "Father of the Indian Air Force".

First Indian Chief of the Naval Staff - Ram Dass Katari was an Indian Navy Vice Admiral who served as the 3rd Chief of the Naval Staff. He was the first Indian to hold the office and succeeded the last British officer to the post, Vice Admiral Sir Stephen Hope Carlill. He led the Indian Navy in the conflict during the liberation of Goa against the Portuguese Navy.

First Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army - Field Marshal KM Cariappa led the Indian forces on the Western Front during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947. He is among the only two Indian Army officers to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal (the other is Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw). His illustrious military career spanned almost three decades and was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Military in 1949.

First woman Prime Minister - Indira Gandhi was the third Prime Minister of India and an essential figure of the Indian National Congress party. She served from 1966 to 1977 and then again from 1980 until her assassination in 1984, is the second-longest-serving Prime Minister of India and the only woman to hold the office.

First woman Chief Minister - Sucheta Kriplani was an Indian freedom fighter and politician, who became the first woman to be elected Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. She participated in the Indian independence movement and later worked closely with Mahatma Gandhi during the Partition riots.

First woman Lok Sabha Speaker - Meira Kumar is a politician and a five time MP. She was elected unopposed as the first woman Speaker of Lok Sabha and served from 2009 to 2014. She is a lawyer and a former diplomat. In 1970, she joined the Indian Foreign Service and spent her life in many countries.

First woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest - Bachendri Pal is an Indian mountaineer, who in 1984 became the first Indian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. She got her first taste of mountaineering thrill at the age of 12, when she, along with her friends, scaled a 13,123 ft high peak during a school picnic. During her college, she got employment as an instructor at the National Adventure Foundation, which had set up an adventure school for training women to learn mountaineering. After summiting a number of smaller peaks, she was selected to join India's first mixed-gender team to attempt an expedition to Mount Everest in 1984

First silent movie - Raja Harishchandra was the first silent film to be made in India. Directed and produced by Dadasaheb Phalke, it was the first full-length Indian feature film and was released on 3 May 1913. The film was based on the legend of Raja Harishchandra, recounted in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. It marked a historic benchmark in the film industry in India.

First program telecast on Doordarshan - Krishi Darshan. It commenced on 26 January 1967 and is one of the longest running programs on Indian television.

First woman newsreader - In another first for Indian women, Pratima Puri was the first newsreader for Doordarshan, which began a five-minute news bulletin in 1965.

First passenger train – On 16 April 1853, the first passenger train service was inaugurated between Bori Bunder in Mumbai and Thane, covering a distance of 34 kilometres.

First Indian woman in space - Kalpana Chawla, born in Karnal, Haryana, was the first Indian-American astronaut and first Indian woman in space. She first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In 2003, Chawla was one of the seven crew members killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

First Miss World - Reita Faria was the first Indian and Asian to win the Miss World title in 1966. She is the only beauty queen who qualified as a doctor during her reign. She was born in Mumbai and after her one-year tenure as Miss World, she refused modeling and films and instead concentrated on medical studies. She was a student at the Grant Medical College & Sir J. J. Group of Hospitals where she completed her MBBS degree.

First two female physicians from India - Kadambini Ganguly & Anandibai Gopal Joshi. Anandibai began her medical education at the age of 19. She graduated with an MD on 11 March 1886, the topic of her thesis was "Obstetrics among the Aryan Hindoos". On her graduation, Queen Victoria sent her a congratulatory message.
Kadambini Ganguly studied medicine at the Calcutta Medical College. She went to the United Kingdom in 1892 for further education. After working for a short period in Lady Dufferin Hospital, she started her own private practice.

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