Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visits the site of India’s first nuclear test at Pokhran in Rajasthan, in 1974.(HT File Photo)
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visits the site of India’s first nuclear test at Pokhran in Rajasthan, in 1974.(HT File Photo)

Smiling Buddha: How India successfully conducted first nuclear test in Pokhran

It took a nearly two-year preparation for India to conduct the nuclear test in Pokhran. Indira Gandhi had authorised scientists at BARC to detonate an indigenously designed nuclear device in September, 1972.
By hindustantimes.com | Edited by Amit Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 18, 2021 07:04 AM IST

India is observing the 47th anniversary of its first nuclear test in Rajasthan's Pokhran on Tuesday. It made India a nuclear power.

The test was codenamed 'Smiling Buddha' and conducted on May 18, 1974. The name was chosen because the test was conducted on Buddha Purnima that year. “The Buddha has finally smiled” was the message conveyed by Raja Ramanna, the director of India’s premier nuclear research institute Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

It was the first confirmed nuclear test by a nation that was not a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Though the yield of the device detonated at Pokhran is debated, it is believed that the actual yield was around 8-12 Kilotons of TNT. The highlight of the test was that India had managed to avoid detection by the United States and other intelligence agencies.

The country also faced a series of sanctions from national like the United States which said that such tests can lead to nuclear proliferation.

It took a nearly two-year preparation for India to conduct this test. Indira Gandhi had authorised scientists at BARC to detonate an indigenously designed nuclear device in September, 1972.

After 1974, India again nuclear tests at same location (called Pokhran-II tests) in 1998 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister. The tests saw a series of five nuclear explosions, in May 1998 at Pokhran. National Technology Day is observed every year on May 11 as a reminder of the anniversary of the Pokhran-II tests.

Last year, when India marked the anniversary of the 1974 Pokhran tests, it was facing extremely severe cyclonic storm Amphan, which hit West Bengal and Bangladesh coasts. This year, the country is faced with mitigiating the effects of another cyclone Tauktae, which has wreaked havoc in states along its western coast.

Lakhs of people have been evacuated from the coastal areas in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat. The Centre is coordinating with the state governments affected by the cyclone in rescue and relief operations.

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