Though we all know that B.R. Ambedkar was the architect of the constitution, little is known about the man who penned the constitution in his own impeccable calligraphy. Prem Behari Narain Raizada (Saxena) of Delhi wrote the entire constitution in a flowing italic style in the best calligraphic tradition of our country.
Prem Behari Raizada was born in Delhi in the family of Ram Parshad (grandfather) an eminent scholar of Persian and English. He was a great calligraphist too. Shree Prem Behari learnt calligraphy from his grandfather who brought him up along with his four brothers after his parents died. He graduated from St. Stephens Delhi and joined M/s Govan Brothers.
While being selected for this big honorable job, Jawahar Lal Nehru asked him what he would like to charge for the job. Prem Behar replied “Not a Single Penny I need. By the grace of Good I have all things and quite happy with my life. But I have one reservation, that on every page of constitution I will write my name and on the last page I will write my name along with my grandfather’s name.” His wish was granted and he started working. The task was completed in 6 months. 254 pen-holder nibs were used and No. 303 Nib was used for this calligraphy.
The original version was then signed by all the members of the Constituent Assembly in January 1950. The Constitution itself came into force on the 26th of that month. Photolithographed copies of it were then made at the office of the Survey of India in Dehra Dun.
The art work lavished on it was by one of our most eminent painters, Nandalal Bose. Each page had a frame and at the beginning of each part of the Constitution, Nandalal Bose had depicted some scene from our national experience. In doing so he gave us a gallery of some of the greatest figures of our history.
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. 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 Lakshmibai.
The freedom movement is delineated by line drawings of Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi march and his tour of Noakhali as the great peacemaker, and of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose saluting the Mahatma from abroad and asking for his blessings in the war of India’s liberation.
There are also beautiful renderings of our landscape and some of the masterpieces of our art. Even the decorations used for the borders exemplify in the Santiniketan style.
There are 11 pages of signatures which begin immediately below the list of languages in the Eighth Schedule. The first to sign appears to have been Jawaharlal Nehru. For some unexplained reason the first page has a preponderance of Constitution-makers from the South — B. Patthabhi Sitaramayya, N. Gopalaswami (without Ayyangar), O.P. Ramaswamy Reddy, Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer, Ammu Swaminathan, T. Prakasam, K. Santhanam, K. Venkata Rao, then an illegible name, then G. Durgabai, M. Thrumala Rau, M. Anantasayanam Iyengar and N. Sanjiva Reddy. The names of Abul Kalam Azad, Vallabhbhai Patel and B.R. Ambedkar appear in the first column of the next page along with those of Baldev Singh, Amrit Kaur, Jagjivan Ram, John Matthai, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Jairamdas Daulatram, K.C. Neogy, P. Subbarayan and C. Subramaniam.
The very last signature is that of Feroze Gandhi. The president of the Constituent Assembly seems to have affixed his signatures after all the other members had signed. Nobody seems to have thought of leaving a special place for him, and so he has signed his name in the space next to the list of languages. He has also signed in two languages, first in Devanagari and then in the Roman script. Most others have signed in English, the outstanding exceptions being Abul Kalam Azad in Urdu and Purushottam Das Tandon in Devanagari.
One signature which is not there in the Constitution is that of Mahatma Gandhi. Though he was no longer alive when the Constitution was adopted, it embodies something of the vision of social change that Mahatma Gandhi preached and practiced.