The maestro Soumitra Chattopadhyay has another gemstone added to his crown – Légion d’honneurm, more commonly known as The Legion of Honour. He will be awarded in Kolkata by Alexandre Ziegler, the French Ambassador to India.
The National Order of the Legion of Honour is an integral part of France’s national patrimony. It aims to embody and uphold their ‘strong values tied to the history of France’.
Apart from the fact that The Legion of Honour is the highest award in France, here are some more remarkable facts associated with it.
# It was founded by Napolean
The National Order of the Legion of Honour was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. It was a modern act of that time – this order of merit was meant for both for military and civil people in France.
He wanted to praise people from all walks of life, not just the nobility or knights. The award was open to men from all ranks and social status in recognition for their accomplishments. It was also used to gain political bonds.
# It was the first secular award of Europe
Europe at that time was ruled quite a lot by the Roman Catholics and honours were bestowed accordingly. When Napolean established the award order, he made it a secular institution.
# It was the ‘fairest’ award
What sets apart Legion of Honour from other awards is it path breaking history. It awarded women for their bravery and contribution.
It recognized men of all social classes. This displeased many royals like the King of Sweden who refused to accept the honour.
# More than 30 Indians have been honoured by the Legion of Honour
According to the official website of the Legion of Honour, each year 3,000 individuals are awarded the insignia. Mostly reserved for French, the award is also given to select foreign recipients.
More than 30 Indians have been honoured till date. Names include entrepreneurs like JN & JRD Tata and Nadir Godrej; artists like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Zubin Mehta, Alarmel Valli; Sanskrit researcher Ramanuja Tatacharya ; actors like Amitabh Bachchan and also Karambir Singh Kang, the general manager of the Taj Hotel known for his unmatched bravery at the 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attacks.
# The President of France came to India to award Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray was bestowed the honour in 1987 by the then President François Mitterrand who came to Kolkata to present the award to the legendary director.
# Durga Charan Rakshit was the first Indian to be honoured
In 1896, the French honoured Durga Charan Rakshit for his collaboration and growth in Chandannagar, West Bengal. Rakshit was a writer, a businessman and an advisor to the French establishment in Chandannagar. With his vision, the town transformed into a booming economic success. He exported Indian goods all over the world thereby giving the poor farmers and artisans a new leash at life.
# The award has multiple categories
The order of the Legion of Honour has three ranks of increasing distinction – Knight, Officer and Commander and the titles of Grand Officer and Grand Cross. The honorees are bestowed different levels as per their contribution. The five-armed asterisk badge is decorated and worn accordingly.
Soumitra Chattopadhyay has been conferred the highest rank of Commander.
# It is punishable to wear the badge wrongly
As soon as an honoree accepts the award, he is bound by the duties and customs to uphold the award as per its rules. Rules to wear it will vary with official and public ceremonies, business attire, evening attire, military uniform, legal and religious robes. If the honoree fails to do so, he could be reprimanded and if essential, the medal would be withdrawn.
Even wearing the medal if it does not belong to you is punishable and can land you in jail for one year along with a big, fat fine.
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Credits: Chandernagore: From Boundage to Freedom, 1900-1955 By Sailendra Nath Sen, Wikipedia, www.legiondhonneur.fr, indebollywoodetcie.blogspot.com, Pinterest