Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Sahitya Akademi Award

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Instituted  1954
Last awarded  2015
First awarded  1955
Total awarded  60
Sahitya Akademi Award
Category  Literature (Individual)
Description  Literary award in India

The Sahitya Akademi Award is a literary honor in India, which the Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, annually confers on writers of the most outstanding books of literary merit published in any of the major Indian languages( 22 official languages) recognised by the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.


Established in 1954, the award comprises a plaque and a cash prize of Rs. 100,000. The award's purpose is to recognize and promote excellence in Indian writing and also acknowledge new trends. The annual process of selecting awardees runs for the preceding twelve months. The plaque awarded by the Sahitya Akademi was designed by the Indian film-maker Satyajit Ray. Prior to this, the plaque occasionally was made of marble, but this practice was discontinued because of the excessive weight. During the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, the plaque was substituted with national savings bonds.

Sahitya Akademi Fellowships

They form the highest honor which the Akademi confers through a system of electing Fellows and Honorary Fellows. (Sahitya Akademi Award is the second-highest literary honor next to a Sahitya Akademi Fellowship).

Bhasha Samman

Sahitya Akademy gives these special awards to writers for significant contribution to Indian languages other than the above 24 major ones and also for contribution to classical & medieval literature. Like the Sahitya Akademi Awards, Bhasha Samman too comprise a plaque and a cash prize of Rs. 1,00,000(from 2009)The Sahitya Akademi instituted Bhasha Samman in 1996 to be given to writers, scholars, editors, collectors, performers or translators who have made considerable contribution to the propagation, modernization or enrichment of the languages concerned.The Samman carries a plaque along with an amount equal to its awards for creative literature i.e. rupees 1,00,000.It was Rs.25,000 at the time of inception, increased to Rs.40,000 from 2001, Rs.50,000 from 2003 and to Rs. 1,00,000 from 2009.The Sammans are given to 3-4 persons every year in different languages on the basis of recommendation of experts' committees constituted for the purpose.

The first Bhasha Sammans were awarded in to Sri Dharikshan Mishra for Bhojpuri, Sri Bansi Ram Sharma and Sri M.R. Thakur for Pahari (Himachali), Sri K. Jathappa Rai and Sri Mandara Keshava Bhat for Tulu and Sri Chandra Kanta Mura Singh for Kokborok; for their contribution to the development of their respective languages.

Translation Awards

Awards for translations were instituted in 1989 at the instance of then-Prime Minister of India, P. V. Narasimha Rao. The Sahitya Akademi annually gives these awards for outstanding translations of major works in other languages into one of the 24 major Indian languages. The awards comprise a plaque and a cash prize of Rs. 50,000. The initial proposal for translation prizes contained provisions for a prize for translations into each of the twenty-two languages recognised by the Akademi; however, this was soon found to be unviable for several reasons: the Akademi found that there were insufficient entries in all the languages, and there were difficulties in locating experts knowledgeable in both, the language of translation and the original language, to judge the translations.Consequently, the Board decided to dispense with its original requirement for additional expert committees to evalute the translations, and also ruled that it was not obligated to grant prizes in languages where suitable books were not nominated. The Akademi also requires that both, the original author as well as the translator, are to be Indian nationals.

Over time, the Akademi has modified and expanded the conditions for the Translation Prizes. In 1992, the Akademi began to allow translations made in link languages to be eligible for the Awards, although it noted that translations made directly from the original language would always be preferred. In 1995, the Akademi also held that joint translations would be eligible, and in 1997, it dispensed with the process of advertising for nominations and replaced it with invitations for recommendations from advisory boards and Committee members.As of 2002, 264 prizes have been awarded to 266 translators.

Anand Coomarswamy Fellowships

Named after the Ceylon Tamil writer Ananda Coomaraswamy, the fellowship was started in 1996. It is given to scholars from Asian countries to spend 3 to 12 months in India to pursue a literary project.

Premchand Fellowships

Named after Hindi writer Premchand, the fellowship was started in 2005. It is given to persons of eminence in the field of Culture from SAARC countries.

Return and Decline of Sahitya Akademi Awards

The Akademi has seen several instances of Awards being returned or declined as an act of protest.


In 1973, G.A. Kulkarni returned the Award for his collection of short stories in Marathi, Kajal Maya because a controversy had arisen regarding the date of publication o the book and its consequent eligibility for the Award. In 1969, Swami Anand declined the Award for contributions to Gujarati literature on the grounds that his religious beliefs precluded him from accepting any pecuniary benefits for public services.

In 1981, Telugu writer V. R. Narla was given the Sahitya Akademi award for his play, Sita Josyam, but returned it on the grounds that the Akademi had allowed an adverse review of the play to be published in their journal, Indian Literature. In 1982, Deshbandhu Dogra Natan was given the Sahitya Akademi award for his Dogri novel, Qaidi ('Prisoner') but returned it on the grounds that he shoud have received the Award much earlier.In 1983, Gujarati writer Suresh Joshi also returned the Award on the grounds that his book, Chintamayi Manasa, did not, in his opinion, deserve the Award, and also expressed the opinion that the Award was generally granted to authors who were "spent forces". This provoked a response from the then-President of the Akademi, Vinayaka Krishna Gokak, who said, concerning the awards that "It is not possible to generalise on the basis of age. Nor can we expect teh Akademi panels to be on the watch for a literary force on the upward curve and catch it at the moment before it starts going downwards. Panels change from year to year and they have to select not literary men but liteary works which are adjudged to be the best among the publications of a particular period."


In 1998, Gujarati writer Jayant Kothari also declined the Sahitya Akademi Award on the grounds that he had made a religious vow that precluded his acceptance of any competitive award, prize or position. In 1991, Jagannatha Prasad Das who was given the Award for his poetry in Odia declined for 'personal reasons'. In 1996, T Padmanabhan, who was given the Award for a book of short stories in Malayalam, declined on the grounds that the Akademi had not shown interest in supporting the short story form, although he noted that he was grateful to the Akademi for the honour.


As of 2015 the award has been returned by many writers for various reasons. 38 recipients had announced their returning of the award in protest of the "rising intolerance in India" under the Modi government due to the incidences of murder of author M M Kalburgi and the Dadri lynching incident. Among others, Ajmer Aulakh, Aman Sethi, Ganesh Devi, Kum Veerabhadrappa and Shashi Deshpande have publicly announced their return of the award. To show their condemnation Deshpande, K Satchidanandan, PK Parakkadvu and Aravind Malagatti have also resigned their posts at the Sahitya Akademi institution.

The recipients who announced to return the awards include: Ajmer Singh Aulakh (Punjabi), Ambika Dutt (Hindi), Anil R. Joshi (Gujarati), Ashok Vajpeyi (Hindi), Atamjit Singh (Punjabi), Baldev Singh Sadaknama (Punjabi), Bhoopal Reddy (Telugu), Chaman Lal (Hindi), Darshan Buttar (Punjabi), Ganesh Devy (Gujarati/English), Ghulam Nabi Khayal (Kashmiri), GN Ranganatha Rao (Kannada), Gurbachan Singh Bhullar (Punjabi), Homen Borgohain (Assamese) Jaswinder Singh (Punjabi), K. Katyayani Vidhmahe (Telugu), Kashi Nath Singh (Hindi), Keki N. Daruwalla (English), Krishna Sobti (Hindi), Kumbar Veerabhadrappa (Kannada), Mandakranta Sen (Bengali), Manglesh Dabral (Hindi), Marghoob Banihali (Kashmiri), Mohan Bhandari (Punjabi), Munawar Rana (Urdu), Nand Bhardwaj (Rajasthani), Nayantara Sahgal (English), Nirupama Borgohain (Assamese), Rahman Abbas (Urdu), Rahmat Tarikere (Kannada), Rajesh Joshi (Hindi), Sarah Joseph (Malayalam), Srinath DN (Kannada), Surjit Patar (Punjabi), Uday Prakash (Hindi), and Waryam Singh Sandhu (Punjabi).


Sahitya Akademi Award Wikipedia