The proposal to establish a National Academy of letters in India had been under the consideration of the British Government of the country long before independence. In 1944, the Government of India accepted in principle a proposal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal that a National Cultural trust should be set up to encourage cultural activities in all fields. The trust was to consist of three Academies, including the Academy of letters. After freedom, the proposal was pursued by the independent Government of India, while convened a series of conference to work out the details. Consensus emerged in favour of establishing three National Academies one of letters, another of visual arts and the third of dance, drama and music. But deference of opinion persisted whether the Government should take the initiative and establish the Academies or whether it should wait for the advent of individuals who had the necessary moral authority to establish the Academies. Abul Kalam Azad the union minister of education, was of the opinion that "if we had waited for the Academy to grow up from below, we might have had to wait till the Greek Kalends". It was felt that there was no alternative to Government taking the initiative to set up the Academies. The Government's functioning in the process was to be that of a curtain raiser. The Government would set up the Academies, but once they were establish, it would refrain from exercising any control and leave them to perform their function as autonomous institution. The Government of India decided to establish a National Academy of letters to be called Sahitya Akademi by its resolution No F-6-4/51G2(A) dated December 1952.
Sahitya Akademi, India's National Academy of Letters, is the central institution for literary dialogue, publication and promotion in the country and the only institution that undertakes literary activities in 24 Indian languages, including English. Over the 56 years of its dynamic existence, it has ceaselessly endeavored to promote good taste and healthy reading habits, to keep alive the intimate dialogue among the various linguistic and literary zones and groups through seminars, lectures, symposia, discussions, readings and performances, to increase the pace of mutual translations through workshops and individual assignments and to develop a serious literary culture through the publications of journals, monographs, individual creative works of every genre, anthologies, encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies, who's who of writers and histories of literature. It has so for brought out over 4200 books, the present pace of publication being one book every 30 hours. Every year the Akademi holds at least 30 seminars at regional, national and international levels along with the workshops and literary gatherings-about 200 in number per year, under various heads like Meet the Author, Samvad, Kavisandhi, Kathasandhi, Loka: The Many Voices, Men and Books, Through My Window, Mulakat, Asmita, Antaral, Avishkar and Literary Forum meetings.
Akademi gives 24 awards annually to literary works in the languages it has recognized and an equal number of awards to literary translations from and into the languages of India, both after a year long process of scrutiny, discussion and selection. It also gives special awards called Bhasha Samman to significant contribution to the languages not formally recognized by the Akademi as also for contribution to classical and medieval literature. It has also system of electing eminent writers as Fellows and Honorary Fellows and has also established fellowship in the names of Dr. Anand Coomaraswamy and Premchand. The Akademi has launched Centres for Translation in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Delhi, and an Archive of Indian Literature in Delhi. A project office for the promotion of Tribal and Oral literature has also been set up in the North Eastern Hill University Campus, Shillong. Many more imaginative projects are on the anvil. Sahitya Akademi is aware of cultural and linguistic differences and does not believe in forced standardization of culture through a bulldozing of levels and attitudes. At the same time, it is also conscious of the deep inner culture, spiritual, historical and experimental links that unify India's diverse manifestations of literature. This unity seeks an international species-dimension through the Akademi's Culture Exchange Programmes with other counties on the globe.
Languages Recognised: Besides the 22 languages enumerated in the Constitution ofIndia, the SahityaAkademi has recognised English and Rajasthani as languages in which its programme may be implemented. Names of present members of various language Advisory Boards, which have been constituted to render advice for implementing literary programmes in these 24 languages are given in the website
Head Office: The Head Office of the Sahitya Akademi is housed in Rabindra Bhavan, 35 Ferozeshah Road, New Delhi. This elegant building was constructed in 1961 to commemorate the birth centenary of Raindranath Tagore, and houses all the three National Akademies, namely, the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Lalit Kala Akademi and the Sahitya Akademi.
The Head office looks after the publication and programme's in Dogri, English, Hindi, Kashmiri, Maithili, Nepali, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Sanskrit, Santhali and Urdu and functions as a regional office as far as these languages are concerned.
Kolkata: This Regional Office looks after the publication and programme work in Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Manipuri and Oriya, besides a part of publication work in English and Tibetan. It also handles programmes in the other north-eastern languages. The Regional office maintains a major Library.
Bangalore: Looks after the publication and programme work in Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu, besides a part of publication in English. Located in Central College Campus. This regional office also has a major library.
Chennai Office: This office works as sub regional office and looks after the Tamil language and its programmes.
Mumbai: It was set up in 1972, it looks after the publication and programme work in Gujarati. Konkani, Marathi and Sindhi, besides a part of publication work in English and Hindi.
Library: The Sahitya Akademi Library is one of the most important and unique multi-lingual libraries in India with a rich collection of books on literature and allied subjects in the 24 languages recognised by the Sahitya Akademi. The Library is well-known for its huge collection of books on criticism, of works of translation' and reference books including dictionaries.
Sahitya Akademi Award
Every year since its inception in 1954, the Sahitya Akademi Award prizes to the most outstanding books of literary merit published in any of the major Indian languages recognised by the Akademy. The award amount, which was Rs.5,000 since inception, had been enhanced to Rs.10,000 from 1983, Rs.25,000 from 1988, Rs.40,000 from 2001, Rs.50,000 from 2003 and is now Rs.1,00,000 from 2009. The first Awards were given in 1955.
Criteria of Eligibility for the Award
Sahitya Akademi has been giving annual awards to books of outstanding merit and annual prizes for outstanding translations in the 24 languages recognised by it. However, the Akademi felt that in a multilingual country like India that has hundreds of languages and dialects, Akademi's activities should be extended beyond the recognised ones by acknowledging and promoting literary creativity as well as academic research in non-recognised languages. The Akademi, therefore, 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 alongwith an amount equal to its awards for creative literature, i.e. rupees 1,00,000 (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), which is the first step towards the realization of this goal. 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.
History of Bhasha Sammans -
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.
In the Akademi felt that while it was necessary to continue to encourage writers and scholars in languages not formally recognised by the Akademi, it was necessary to extend the scope of this Samman to include scholars who have done valuable work in the field of classical and medieval literature. This being an invaluable heritage of the nation, those who have endeavoured to keep this heritage alive and acquaint succeeding generations with it deserved recognition. It was, therefore, decided that while two sammans may continue to be given for contribution to unrecognized languages two may be earmarked for scholars in the field of classical and medieval literature. This being an invaluable heritage of the nation, those who have endeavoured to keep this heritage alive and acquaint succeeding generations with it deserved recognition. It was, therefore, decided that while two sammans may continue to be given for contribution to unrecognized languages two may be earmarked for scholars in the field of classical and medieval literature.
THE ANUUAL SAHITYA AKADEMI BAL SAHITYA PURASKAR RULES
1. Subject to the provision of rule 1(2), there shall be an award every year for the most outstanding book by an Indian author, first published in any of the languages recognised by the Sahitya Akademi (hereafter referred to as the Akademi) during the five years prior to the year, immediately preceding the year of the award.
2. The award for any language may not be given during any year if, in the opinion of the Jury constituted in pursuance of rule 5 (1), no book published in that language during the five years preceding the year of the award merits the award. However during the initial five years i.e. from 2010 to 2014, the award may be given to an author based on his total contribution to Children’s Literature if no book is considered suitable for the award.
3. The award shall consist of such amount as the Akademi may from time to time decide besides a citation that brings out, briefly, the book’s significance and its author’s contribution to his/her language and literature.
4. Where two or more books are found to be of equal merit, the total literary contribution and standing of their authors shall be taken into consideration in deciding the award.
Criteria of Eligibility for the Award
THE ANUUAL SAHITYA AKADEMI YUVA PURASKAR RULES
Criteria of Eligibility for the Award
Besides the annual awards for creative writing, the Sahitya Akademi has instituted an annual prize for translation from 1989 to be given to outstanding translations in the 24 languages recognised by it. The Translation Prize which carried Rs.10,000 in 1989 was increased to Rs.15,000 in 2001 and is Rs.20,000 from 2003, and is now Rs.50,000 from 2009.
Criteria of Eligibility for the Award