Story of Raja Ramanna and his contribution for India’s first Nuclear Test

Raja Ramanna was one of the secretive personalities surrounding the Indian nuclear programme, a programme started in 1947, and being directed by Homi J. Bhabha. After his doctorate in physics, Ramanna returned in 1954 to India, where he joined the senior technical staff of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), where he worked under Homi J. Bhabha in classified nuclear weapons projects. In 1958, Ramanna was tasked to develop the ingenious nuclear fuel cycle critical for the development of nuclear devices. While Bhaba dedicated to develop this programme, Ramanna inducted by to choose the preferable nuclear test site to carry out the weapon-testing experiments. The exact dates are unknown, but Ramanna chose and began the underground construction of nuclear test site at an Indian Army base, the Pokhran Test Range (PTR). After the disastrous death of Homi Bhaba, Ramanna was immediately elevated to become the directing officer of this programme. Ramanna, serving as the CDO of BARC, began to take initiate to develop the first nuclear weapon. At BARC, the initial designing of nuclear weapon was completed under his guidance and the necessary nuclear weapons’ explosive material for this weapon was completed under Ramanna by 1970. As the first nuclear device was completed and developed under his guidance, Ramanna went to Indian Prime Minister’s Office, where he had notified Indian premier Indira Gandhi about the successful development of the nuclear device. In 1974, Ramanna and other officials of the BARC verbally notified Indira Gandhi that India was ready to conduct the test of its small miniature nuclear device. Indira Gandhi verbally gave permission to Ramanna to carry out the test, and preparation was taken under Ramanna. Ramanna immediately travelled to Pokhran to pay a visit to the nuclear site that was constructed under his guidance. Preparations were completed under extreme secrecy and the first nuclear device was flown from Trombay to Pokhran Test Range with Ramanna. Ramanna and his team installed the nuclear device in the nuclear test site and necessary preparations were done before Indira Gandhi’s visit to his site. In the morning in May 1974, Ramanna conducted the first test of a small nuclear device under codename Smiling Buddha. Pictures of Indira Gandhi inspecting the aftermath of the explosion site were flashed on front pages of newspapers in India and the world over with Ramanna and Dr. Homi Sethna, India’s top nuclear scientist duo, by her side. Following this achievement, Ramanna gained international famed and was also honoured with India’s highest civilian awards the same year by the Indira Gandhi’s administration.

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