“We The People”— Part-2:  The Man who (literally) wrote India’s Constitution — Prem Behari Narain Raizada
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“We The People”— Part-2: The Man who (literally) wrote India’s Constitution — Prem Behari Narain Raizada

November 27, 2019

By Dr. C. D. Sreenivasa Murthy

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution, is very well- known as its architect, but very little is known about the man who literally penned the Constitution. When the draft of the Constitution of India was ready to be printed, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wanted it to be handwritten in a  flowing italic style.  He approached the renowned calligrapher Prem Behari Raizada with the proposal of hand-writing the Constitution. 

Prem Behari was born in 1901 and came from a family of traditional calligraphists. He lost his parents when he was very young and was brought up by his grandfather Ram Parshad Saxena and uncle Mahashya Chatur Behari Narayan Saxena. Prem Behari’s grandfather was a scholar in Persian and an accomplished calligrapher, and he taught him calligraphy. Calligraphy is the art of producing decorative handwriting or lettering with a pen or brush. 

When Nehru asked Raizada, he refused any payment for his hard and patient work. But he had one important request.  He wanted to write his name on every page of the Constitution and on the last page write his name along with his grandfather’s name. Granting his request, the Government of India entrusted with Prem Behari the prestigious job of writing the Constitution in beautiful calligraphy. He was allotted a room in the Constitution Hall which later came to be known as Constitution Club.

The original manuscript of the Constitution was written on parchment sheets measuring 16X22 inches, and these have a lifespan of a thousand years. The finished manuscript consisted of 251 pages and weighed 3.75 kg. In all, 432 pen holder nibs were used by Prem Behari for this calligraphy-writing of the Indian Constitution.

Dr. Rajendra Prasad greeting Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (left).

The hand-written Constitution is also a work of art. The famous painter Nandalal Bose and his students designed the borders of every page and adorned them with beautiful art pieces, in the miniature style. The “Preamble” page was done by Beohar Rammanohar Sinha. They depicted some scenes from our national history. In doing so, they have created in the hand-written pages a gallery of some of the greatest figures of our national history. 

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The Vedic period is represented by a scene of Gurukula,  and the epic period by a visual of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana returning homeward and another of Krishna propounding the Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield.

There is a beautiful line drawing of Nataraja, as depicted in the Chola Bronze tradition.  Then there are depictions of the lives of the Buddha and Mahavira, followed by scenes from the courts of Ashoka and Vikramaditya. Other great figures of our history who are represented are Akbar, Shivaji, Guru Gobind Singh, Tipu Sultan and Rani Lakshmibai.

The famous painter Nandalal Bose of Shantiniketan who decorated the pages of the Indian Constitution.

But it was the single-handed effort of Prem Behari Narain Raizada (Saxena) that brought to life the primary contents and the preamble to the Constitution. This manuscript was signed by the members of the Constituent Assembly on 24th January 1950. It was first signed by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, while the last to sign in was Feroze Gandhi, the then President of the Constituent Assembly.

[The third part of “We The People” article titled “Interesting facts about the Constitution of India” will be published in SOM tomorrow]


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