Story of Jnanpith Award- recipients-Rules and selection Process

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Jnanpith Award

The Jnanpith Award is an Indian literary award presented annually by the Bharatiya Jnanpith to an author for their “outstanding contribution towards literature”. 

Instituted in 1961, the award is bestowed only on Indian writers writing in Indian languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India and English, with no posthumous conferral.

From 1965 till 1981, the award was given to the authors for their “most outstanding work” and consisted of a citation plaque, a cash prize of ₹1 lakh (equivalent to ₹50 lakh or US$70,000 in 2018), and a bronze replica of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and wisdom.

 The first recipient of the award was the Malayalam writer G. Sankara Kurup who received the award in 1965 for his collection of poems, Odakkuzhal (The Bamboo Flute), published in 1950.

The rules were revised in subsequent years to consider only works published during the preceding twenty years, excluding the year for which the award was to be given and the cash prize was increased to ₹1.5 lakh (equivalent to ₹23 lakh or US$32,000 in 2018) from 1981.

As of 2015, the cash prize has been revised to ₹11 lakh (equivalent to ₹12 lakh or US$17,000 in 2018) and out of twenty-three eligible languages, the award has been presented for works in sixteen languages: 

Hindi (eleven), Kannada (eight), Bengali and Malayalam (six each), Gujarati, Marathi, Odia, and Urdu (four each), Telugu (three), Assamese, Punjabi, and Tamil (two each), English, Kashmiri, Konkani, and Sanskrit (one each). The award has been conferred upon fifty-eight writers including seven women authors. In 1976, Bengali novelist Ashapoorna Devi became the first woman to win the award and was honored for the 1965 novel Pratham Pratishruti (The First Promise), the first in a trilogy.

Background of Jnanpith Award

The Bharatiya Dnyanpith, a research and cultural institute founded in 1944 by industrialist Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain of the Sahu Jain family, conceived an idea in May 1961 to start a scheme “commanding national prestige and of international standard” to “select the best book out of the publications in Indian languages”.

 Later in November, Rama Jain, the Founder President of the Bharatiya Jnanpith, invited a few literary experts to discuss various aspects of the scheme. 

Jain along with Kaka Kalelkar, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Jainendra Kumar, Jagdish Chandra Mathur, Prabhakar Machwe, Akshaya Kumar Jain, and Lakshmi Chandra Jain presented the initial draft to the then President of India Rajendra Prasad who had shown interest in the scheme’s implementation. 

The idea was also discussed at 1962 annual sessions of the All India Gujarati Sahitya Parishad and the Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad.

On 2 April 1962, around 300 writers of various Indian languages were invited to Delhi for the two sessions conducted by Dharamvir Bharati in which the draft was finalized and later presented to Prasad. The first award selection committee meeting was scheduled on 16 March 1963 and Prasad was appointed as its president.

 However, Prasad died on 28 February 1963 and thus the scheduled meeting was chaired by Kalelkar and Sampurnanand acted as president of the committee.

The first Selection Board consisted of Kalelkar, Niharranjan Ray, Karan Singh, R. R. Diwakar, V. Raghavan, B. Gopal Reddy, Harekrushna Mahatab, Rama Jain, and Lakshmi Chandra Jain and was headed by Sampurnanand. 

Works that were published between 1921 and 1951 were considered for the first award. 

The nine language committees that were formed were to submit to the board nominations along with translations of the work into Hindi or English. 

The final round had four authors; Kazi Nazrul Islam (Bengali), D. V. Gundappa (Kannada), Viswanatha Satyanarayana (Telugu), and G. Sankara Kurup (Malayalam). 

On 19 November 1966, Kurup was presented with the citation, statue of Saraswati, and a cheque for the prize of ₹1 lakh (equivalent to ₹45 lakh or US$63,000 in 2018) at a ceremony held at Vigyan Bhavan, Delhi.

 In his acceptance speech, Kurup appreciated the concept of the new award and thanked it for bringing “integration of the diverse people of this land on a spiritual plane”.

Rules and selection process of Jnanpith Award

The nominations for the award are received from various literary experts, teachers, critics, universities, and numerous literary and language associations.

 Every three years, an advisory committee is constituted for each of the languages.

The language of the most recent recipient’s work is not eligible for consideration for the next two years.

 Each committee consists of three literary critics and scholars of their respective languages. All the nominations are scrutinized by the committee and their recommendations are submitted to the Dnyanpith Award Selection Board (Pravara Parishad).

The Selection Board consists of between seven and eleven members of “high repute and integrity”. Each member is part of the committee for a term of three years which can also be extended further for two more terms.

 The recommendations of all language advisory committees are evaluated by the board based on complete or partial translations of the selected writings of the proposed writers into Hindi or English. The recipient for a particular year is announced by the Selection Board, which has final authority in selection.

List of recipients

1965 (1st)        G. Sankara Kurup        Malayalam    

1966 (2nd)       Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay   Bengali

1967 (3rd)       Umashankar Joshi       Gujarati            

 1967 (3rd)      Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa ‘Kuvempu’      Kannada

1968 (4th)       Sumitranandan Pant   Hindi

1969 (5th)       Firaq Gorakhpuri         Urdu   

1970 (6th)       Viswanatha Satyanarayana Telugu   

1971 (7th)       Bishnu Dey      Bengali           

1972 (8th)       Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’         Hindi   

1973 (9th)       D. R. Bendre    Kannada         

1973 (9th)       Gopinath Mohanty      Odia   

1974 (10th)     Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar  Marathi          

1975  (11th)    Akilan  Tamil

1976 (12th)     Ashapoorna Devi         Bengali           

1977 (13th)     K. Shivaram Karanth   Kannada         

1978 (14th)     Sachchidananda Vatsyayan    Hindi   

1979 (15th)     Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya           Assamese       

1980 (16th)     S. K. Pottekkatt            Malayalam     

1981 (17th)     Amrita Pritam Punjabi           

1982 (18th)     Mahadevi Varma        Hindi   

1983 (19th)     Masti Venkatesha Iyengar      Kannada         

1984 (20th)     Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai     Malayalam

1985 (21st)      Pannalal Patel Gujarati          

1986 (22nd)     Sachidananda Routray            Odia   

1987 (23rd)     Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar ‘Kusumagraj’       Marathi          

1988 (24th)     C. Narayana Reddy     Telugu

1989 (25th)     Qurratulain Hyder      Urdu   

1990 (26th)     Vinayaka Krishna Gokak         Kannada         

1991 (27th)     Subhash Mukhopadhyay         Bengali           

1992(28th)      Naresh Mehta Hindi   

1993 (29th)     Sitakant Mahapatra    Odia   

1994 (30th)     U. R. Ananthamurthy  Kannada

1995(31st)       M. T. Vasudevan Nair Malayalam

1996 (32nd)     Mahasweta Devi         Bengali           

1997 (33rd)     Ali Sardar Jafri            Urdu   

1998 (34th)     Girish Karnad  Kannada         

1999 (35th) †  Nirmal Verma Hindi   

1999 (35th) †  Gurdial Singh  Punjabi           

2000 (36th)     Mamoni Raisom Goswami     Assamese       

2001 (37th)     Rajendra Shah Gujarati          

2002 (38th)     Jayakanthan    Tamil  

2003 (39th)     Vinda Karandikar        Marathi          

2004 (40th)     Rehman Rahi  Kashmiri         

2005 (41st)      Kunwar Narayan         Hindi   

2006 (42nd) †  Ravindra Kelekar        Konkani          

2006 (42nd) †  Satya Vrat Shastri       Sanskrit          

2007 (43rd)     O. N. V. Kurup Malayalam     

2008 (44th)     Akhlaq Mohammed Khan ‘Shahryar’  Urdu   

2009 (45th) †  Amarkant        Hindi   

2009 (45th) †  Sri Lal Sukla     Hindi   

2010 (46th)     Chandrashekhara Kambara    Kannada         

2011 (47th)     Pratibha Ray   Odia   

2012 (48th)     Ravuri Bharadhwaja   Telugu

2013 (49th)     Kedarnath Singh          Hindi   

2014 (50th)     Bhalchandra Nemade Marathi          

2015 (51st)      Raghuveer Chaudhari Gujarati          

2016 (52nd)     Shankha Ghosh            Bengali           

2017 (53rd)     Krishna Sobti   Hindi   

2018 (54th)     Amitav Ghosh  English

2019 (55th)     Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri       Malayalam

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