Ever notice the temporary alterations and artwork on Google’s logo on their homepage? Well, those bad boys are there to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and honor phenomenal people who have impacted the world in different ways.
The art is actually called Google Doodles. In the past two decades, the doodles have honored 2,000 exemplary individuals from all over the world which have included many talented and awe-inspiring Indians.
Google began the first week of 2018 by honoring Indian-American biochemist Dr. Har Gobind Khorana. But that was hardly the first Indian they ever honored. In the past year alone Google has honored 18 Indian people.
Get your culture-on and check out the Indian legends who were honored by Google doodles within the last year:
1. Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa
A renowned poet and author of the 20th century, Puttappa was thought to be one of the greatest Kannada writers of his time. He is commonly known by his pen name, Kuvempu.
Puttappa was from the state of Karnataka and he was passionate about his mother tongue of Kannada. He was even a strong advocate to have the language included in education in his home state.
“Kuvempu loved his writing to reflect the simple wonder of the world around him, especially flowers,” Google stated on their Doodles page.
To honor the writer on his 113th birthday, illustrator Upamanyu Bhattacharyya drew the image and Swati Shelar assisted with the Kannada lettering.
2. Mirza Ghalib
One of the most iconic poets of Urdu literature was honored on his 220th birthday by Google. He was born Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh during the rule of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah. He faced a hard life first as an orphan, then as an adult losing his children in infancy and struggling financially as he never had a regular job.
However, his love of language never faltered and he used his gifts to write great poetry.
“His contributions to Urdu poetry and prose were not fully appreciated in his lifetime,” Google explained on their Doodles page, “but his legacy has come to be widely celebrated, most particularly for his mastery of the Urdu ghazal (amatory poem).”
3. Mohammad Rafi
Mumbai based illustrator Sajid Shaikh created the doodle which celebrated Mohammad Rafi’s 93rd birthday last year. Known as Pheeko to his family, as a child it was the customers at the barbershop he worked at and his elder brother who first noticed his talents for singing. Against the wishes of his father, Rafi’s elder brother arranged for him to training under Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan.
Born in Amritsar, raised in Lahore, who knew this kid in a barbershop could grow up to be India’s most legendary playback singer. He has almost 5,000 to his credit in various languages from Hindi, English, Arabic, Persian, and Sinhalese to Creole and Dutch.
4. Homai Vyarawalla
Vyarawalla was India’s first female photojournalist in the 1940s, a field that is still predominantly occupied by males. This “First Lady of the Lens” from Gujarat made history, thus Google doodles celebrated her fierceness on her 104th birthday with a doodle by Mumbai artist Sameer Kulavoor.
Vyarawalla was known to be trekking dangerous waters with the pallu of her sari floating behind and an equipment bag on her shoulders. She gained recognition for her work capturing important moments in history from India’s independence movement as a member at the British Information Services in New Delhi to taking candid shots of the Dalai Lama, Mohandas Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
She also received the Padma Vibhushan in 2010, India’s second-highest civilian honor.
5. Rukmabai Raut
Raut was the first woman to practice medicine in colonial India and to honor this pioneer, Google has a doodle to celebrate her 153rd birthday by illustrator Shreya Gupta. Born in Mumbai, she was sent off to the London School of Medicine for Woman in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Brussels in 1889. After school, she was the chief medical officer at a hospital in Surat for 35 years. Raut also fought against child marriage, she was married at 11 to a 19-years-old and she refused to live with her husband which led to one of India’s most famous court cases. Her actions led to the Age of Consent Act in 1891.
6. V. Shantaram
Shantaram was the producer and director of some of the most influential films of the 1950s that came out of India. He won national and international awards for films which he used to envoke social change. His film’s exposed injustices and advocated for human rights, like “Do Aankhen Baara Haath,” a film about a jail warden who helped dangerous prisoners reform by teaching them the virtue of hard work.
Google honors this innovative filmmaker on his 116th birthday with his own doodle by Sukanto Debnath.
7. Cornelia Sorabji
Sorabji was a revolutionary woman who couldn’t be held down by the law. She was the first Indian woman to study law at Oxford University in 1892, but she couldn’t practice in England or in India because the law forbade women from practicing in both countries. She eventually became legal advisor to the Indian government for the Purdahnashins.
Purdahnashins are veiled women who are not allowed to communicate with males outside their brother, father, and husband. When they became widowed their social customs didn’t allow them to communicate with lawyers and Sorabji worked to enforce their rights to their husband’s property. She also fought for the Purdahnashins’ right to an education so they can gain nursing training.
On the 151st birthday of this powerful lawyer, illustrator Jasjyot Singh Hans created a doodle honoring Sorabji with the Allahabad High Court in the background where she eventually worked.
8. Anasuya Sarabhai
Activist Anasuya Sarabhai changed India’s labor history. Sarabhai was born in Gujrat, studied at the London School of Economics and when she returned home to India she became involved in improving the working conditions of women in factories. She helped organize strikes, negotiated with mill owners, was a vocal supporter of workers, was supported by Mahatma Gandhi, and she paved the way for the development of the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA). She became known as India’s “Motaben” which means elder sister.
On her 132nd birthday, Maria Qamar, aka HateCopy created a fabulous doodle to honor her.
9. Sitara Devi
Artist Ranganath Krishnamani created a doodle for Sitara Devi’s 97th birthday. The legendary Kathak dancer, often called the “Empress of Dance,” was known for her magical ability to tell a story through dance and her skilled footwork was unmatched. She has performed internationally on legendary stages such as the Royal Albert Hall in London and Carnegie Hall in New York.
She led an award-winning career in dance which lasts 60 years, she was even the recipient of the Padma Shree award.
10. Abdul Qavi Desnavi
Born in Bihar, Desnavi went on to become an Urdu author and literary critic who still inspires writers today. He influenced the field of Urdu literature in India and was even the mentor of India’s finest writers like poet, lyricist, and screenwriter Javed Akhtar and poet, philosopher, and critic Iqbal Masood.
His career spanned 50 years and his most celebrated work was the biographical “Hayat-e-Abul Kalam Azad” which was about the freedom fighter Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
For his 87th birthday, artist Pragha Mallya created a doodle to honor him, how cool are the Urdu script style font?
11. Nain Singh Rawat
Rawat disguised himself as a Tibetan monk and walked from his home in Kumaon to Kathmandu, Lhasa, and Tawang. He became the first person to survey Tibet in a time European explorers were fighting to map out Central Asia.
“A thirst for knowledge and the need for secrecy led to the creation of pandits, a select group of highly educated and brave local men trained in geographical exploration. Prominent among these was Nain Singh Rawat, the first man to survey Tibet, determining the exact location and altitude of Lhasa, mapping the Tsangpo, and describing in mesmerizing detail fabled sites such as the gold mines of Thok Jalung,” Google writes on their Doodles page.
For his 187th birthday, Hari and Deepti Panicker created an amazing doodle that was actually 3-D! They created a diorama depicting Rawat’s travels, playing with shadows and lights to create a spectacular creation.
12. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
Astrophysicist Chandrasekhar was honored on his 107th birthday with a special gif for his exemplary work on the evolution of the stars. Though he faced doubt in the 1930s, this child prodigy became the first astrophysicist to win a Nobel Prize 50 years later. Can you believe he published his first theory of star evolution before the age of 20?
At the age of 34, Chandrasekhar was elected to the Royal Society of London, and later became a professor of physics. He also won many awards like the National Medal of Science, the Draper Medal of the US National Academy of Science, and the gold medal of the Royal Astronomical Society.
He even has a theory named after him that is depicted in his doodle, the Chandrasekhar limit. This theory states that a “white dwarf” occurs when a star’s mass is lighter than 1.4 times the sun but when it is 1.4 times heavier the white dwarf can continue to collapse and condense turning into a black hole or supernova explosion.
13. Begum Akhtar
Indian singer Aktharibai Faizabadi’s 103rd birthday was celebrated with a colorful doodle. Supported by her mother, Begum Akhtar trained under masters of her time. Her voiced graced the soundtrack of a few films but she left the film industry sing and compose classical music again. She was known for her ghazals.
She gave up singing after marriage. However, in 1949 she finally made a comeback and enriched the music world until her death in 1974. She has over 400 songs to her credit.
Legendary Bollywood actress Nutan was honored by a Google doodle on her 81st birthday. The beautiful actress took on female-centric films in a male-dominated industry. She had powerful roles in films like “Bandini,” “Sujata,” and “Seema.” She won the Padma Shree in 1947, took home six Filmfare awards and is still the oldest Indian actress to win the Filmfare. She is the sister of actress Tanuja and aunt of actresses Kajal and Tanisha. Her son Mohnish Bahl is also a well-known film and television actor.
For his 88th birthday, Google honors one of India’s finest actors, Rajkumar. The actor has over 200 films under his belt and is a powerful impact in Kannada cinema. He was a trained theater actor. Rajkumar was also trained in classical music and often sang his own songs in his films. He has 13 Karnataka State Film Awards to his name as well as 8 South Filmfare Awards and a National Film Award.
16. Savitribai Phule
A pillar of social reform in India, Google marked Phule’s 186th birthday with a doodle. She, along with her husband, opened the first school for women in India in 1848. Phule is also recognized for setting up a program to help widowed women and for advocating for the “untouchables” in Indian society. The British government even honored Phule and her husband for their work in women’s education.
Today, Phule’s influence can still be seen as the Government of Maharashtra has created an award in her name and the University of Pune was renamed Savitribai Phule Pune University.
17. Asima Chatterjee
Google celebrated the 100th birthday of Dr. Asima Chatterjee, the first woman in India to receive a Doctorate of Science degree in chemistry. Her work revolved around medicinal properties of plants, especially the alkaloids found in plants. The vinca alkaloids are used in chemotherapy to slow down or stall cancer cells from duplicating. Her research has contributed to the formation of treatments for epilepsy and malaria.
She founded the chemistry department at Lady Brabourne College, began a research institute, and was even appointed to Parliment. Chatterjee also received awards like the Padma Bhushan.
18. Jamini Roy
Googled honored another Padma Bhushan winner, Jamini Roy, on his 130th birthday. Roy was known for his recreations South Asian folk art with a twist. He studied at the Government School of Art in Kolkata and soon after his work was exhibited around the world from India to London and New York. Google described his work as simplistic and evolving over the years “from post-impressionist to paintings created on woven fabrics and inspired by Bengali tribal art.”