Sahitya Akademi Fellowship

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Sahitya Akademi Fellowship
"The highest honour conferred by the Akademi on a writer is by electing him as its Fellow"
Awarded for Literary award in India
Sponsored by Sahitya Akademi
First awarded 1968
Last awarded 2016
Total awarded 92
First winner Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Last winner

The Sahitya Akademi Fellowship is an Indian literary honour bestowed by the Sahitya Akademi, which is the Indian National Academy of Letters.[1] The Akademi states that, "the highest honour conferred by the Akademi on a writer is by electing him as its Fellow."[2]

History and purpose

The appointment of Fellows to the Sahitya Akademi was based in part on models of academies of letters, and in particular, on the Academie Francaise's model of honouring literary excellent by electing writers as Members.[3] The initial Constitution of the Academy proposed a limited membership of twenty-one Fellows, who were to be "literary persons of outstanding merit".[4] The first General Committee recommended an expansion in the number of fellows, by including fifty Associate Fellows, as well as five Honorary Fellows. The latter provision was to enable the Akademi to honour foreign writers as well. Despite the inclusion of this provision, the Akademi did not make appointments to the position of Associate Fellows, and in 1999 the provision for their appointment was deleted.[4]

Soon after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the first President of the Sahitya Akademi, Mulk Raj Anand proposed that Nehru be elected as a Fellow of the Akademi posthumously. This proposal was rejected, and the Akademi took the view that Fellowships would only be conferred upon living writers.[5] The General Council has, as a practice, refrained from electing its own members for the Fellowship, although there have been instances of members of the General Council become fellows after their term on the Council ends. A significant exception to this practice is the appointment of D. Jayakanthan as a Fellow while he was serving on the Council.[6]

The first Fellow of the Akademi, S. Radhakrishnan, was elected as Fellow in 1968, fourteen years after the Akademi was constituted. Radhakrishnan had previously served on the Council of the Sahitya Akademi, first as Vice-President, and later, as President.[6] He was appointed "in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Indian thought and to the tradition of universal humanism".[6] The first woman to be elected Fellow was Mahadevi Varma, in 1979, .[7] followed by three women writers in 1994 (Malayalam poet Balamani Amma, Bengali novelist and poet Ashapoorna Devi, and Urdu novelist Qurratulain Hyder). Hindi author Krishna Sobti was honoured in 1996, and English novelist Anita Desai in 2009.[8] On 16 February 2016, the Akademi announced the fellowship to Punjabi writer and novelist Gurdial Singh and Bengali poet Nirendranath Chakravarty. As of 2017, there are only 20 fellows of the Sahitya Akademi.[a][8][10]

Appointment of fellowships

The Executive Board of the Akademi recommends the names of literary persons to be elected as Fellows and Honorary Fellows to the General Council. The General Council, who operates for the period of five years, holds an authority to elect a fellow based on the recommendation made by the Executive Board.[11]

The fellowship was established in 1968 and is limited to twenty individuals at any given time.[8] As of 2016, the fellowship has been conferred on 92 writers.[8][10]

In 1994, the Akademi began the practice of holding an event called 'Samvad' in which Fellows read from their work, and each reading was followed by discussions with a panel of critics and writers.[12] The participants in the first series included V. B. Kolte (Marathi scholar, writer, and critic), Harbhajan Singh (Punjabi writer and critic) and Nagarjun (Maithili and Hindi poet and novelist).[12]

Fellowships to foreign authors

In addition to twenty-one fellowships to Indian nationals, the Sahitya Akademi has also instituted three fellowships to international writers and scholars.

Honorary fellowships

The Sahitya Akademi's Constitution provides for the appointment of 'Honorary Fellows' of the Akademi "from among literary persons of outstanding merit who are not nationals of India".[11] The number of such fellowships is limited to ten individuals at any given time, an increase from the original provision for five fellows.[4] The first Honorary Fellow of the Akademi was appointed in 1974: the poet, the first President of Senegal, and theorist of Négritude Léopold Sédar Senghor.[13] The citation provided to him records that "Senghor is one of the leading literary figures of the African continent. As a linguist he has been working to establish links between Dravidian, Sumerian, ancient Egyptian and African languages..."[14] In his acceptance speech, Senghor described himself as an "old admmirer of the Indian Civilisation," emphasizing his fondness for the poetry of Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.[14]

Other Honorary Fellows of the Akademi include American linguist and Indologist Edward C. Dimock; American professor of Sanskrit, Daniel Henry Holmes Ingall; Czech scholar of Dravidian studies, Kamil Vaclav Zvelebil; Chinese professor of Indian literature and translator, Ji Xianlin; Greek diplomant, scholar and poet, Vassilis Vitsaxis; and Russian academic and scholar of Indian history, Evgeni Petrovich Chelyshev.[15]

The most recent recipient of the fellowship is a Mauritian poet, novelist Abhimanyu Unnuth who was awarded in the year 2013.[8] As of 2016, nine individuals have been elected as honorary fellows.

Ananda Coomaraswamy Fellowship

Named after a Sri Lankan Tamil philosopher Ananda Coomaraswamy, the "Ananda Coomaraswamy Fellowship" was instituted in 1996 and is offered to "a person of eminence in the field of Asian art, culture, literature and language studies" from Asian countries to pursue literary projects. It was announced on three individuals, Sri Lankan Archaeologist Senake Bandaranayake, Japanese author and anthropologist Chie Nakane, and Uzbekistani professor Azad N. Shamatov.[b] The fellowship was discontinued after its first conferral and was revived in 2005 but no conferment has been made since then.

Premchand Fellowship

The "Premchand Fellowship" is instituted in 2005 and is named after Hindi writer Premchand, who is popularly known as "Munshi Premchand", during his 125th Birth Anniversary. It is given to "a person of eminence in the field of culture and literature" doing research on Indian literature or to creative writers from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries other than India. The first and sole recipient of the fellowship is a Pakistani national and Urdu writer Intizar Hussain. The period of Fellowship for "Ananda Coomaraswamy Fellowship" and "Premchand Fellowship" ranges from one month to three months depending on the convenience and availability of the recipient. The visiting Fellow needs to submit a comprehensive report of their visit which is to be placed before the Executive Board and are requested to deliver lectures on the topic of their specialization in universities and institutions dealing in the discipline.[8]

List of fellows

A black and white photograph of man wearing glasses and white turban
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan is the first recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship.
A black and white photograph of man sitting in the chair wearing suit
Léopold Sédar Senghor is the first recipient of the Honorary Fellowship.
Current fellows of Sahitya Akademi (from top to bottom)
A photograph of an old woman wearing glasses.
A photograph of an old man wearing white kurta and glasses.
A photograph of an old man wearing blue suit and glasses.
Manoj Das (2006)
# Indicates a current fellow
dagger Indicates Honorary Fellowship
double-dagger Indicates Premchand Fellowship
Section-sign Indicates Ananda Coomaraswamy Fellowship
List of Sahitya Akademi fellows, showing the year[8][10]
Year Recipient
1968 Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
1969 Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay
1969 D. R. Bendre
1969 Sumitranandan Pant
1969 C. Rajagopalachari
1970 Vaikom Muhammad Basheer
1970 Firaq Gorakhpuri
1970 Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar
1970 Viswanatha Satyanarayana
1971 Dattatreya Balkrushna Kalelkar
1971 Gopinath Kaviraj
1971 Kalindi Charan Panigrahi
1971 Gurbaksh Singh
1973 Masti Venkatesha Iyengar
1973 Mangharam Udharam Malkani
1973 Nilmoni Phukan
1973 Vasudev Vishnu Mirashi
1973 Sukumar Sen
1973 V. R. Trivedi
1974 Léopold Sédar Senghor dagger
1975 T. P. Meenakshisundaram
1979 Atmaram Ravaji Deshpande
1979 Jainendra Kumar
1979 Kuppali Venkatappa Puttappa 'Kuvempu'
1979 V. Raghavan
1979 Mahadevi Varma
1985 Umashankar Joshi
1985 K. R. Srinivasa Iyengar
1985 K. Shivarama Karanth
1989 Mulk Raj Anand
1989 Vinayaka Krishna Gokak
1989 Laxmanshastri Balaji Joshi
1989 Amritlal Nagar
1989 Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai
1989 Annada Shankar Ray
1994 Nagarjun
1994 Balamani Amma
1994 Ashapoorna Devi
1994 Qurratulain Hyder
1994 Vishnu Bhikaji Kolte
1994 Kanhu Charan Mohanty
1994 P. T. Narasimhachar
1994 R. K. Narayan
1994 Harbhajan Singh
1996 Jayakanthan
1996 Senake Bandaranayake Section-sign
1996 Edward C. Dimock dagger
1996 Daniel H. H. Ingalls Sr. dagger
1996 Vinda Karandikar
1996 Chie Nakane[b] Section-sign
1996 Vidya Niwas Mishra
1996 Subhash Mukhopadhyay
1996 Raja Rao
1996 Sachidananda Routray
1996 Azad N. Shamatov Section-sign
1996 Krishna Sobti #
1996 Ji Xianlin dagger
1996 Kamil Zvelebil dagger
1999 Syed Abdul Malik
1999 K. S. Narasimhaswamy
1999 Gunturu Seshendra Sarma
1999 Rajendra Shah
1999 Ram Vilas Sharma
1999 N. Khelchandra Singh
2000 Ramchandra Narayan Dandekar
2000 Rehman Rahi #
2001 Ram Nath Shastri
2002 Kaifi Azmi
2002 Eugene Chelyshev dagger
2002 Govind Chandra Pande
2002 Nilmani Phookan #
2002 Bhisham Sahni
2002 Vassilis Vitsaxis dagger
2004 Kovilan
2004 U. R. Ananthamurthy
2004 Vijaydan Detha
2004 Shankha Ghosh #
2004 Bhadriraju Krishnamurti
2004 Amrita Pritam
2004 Nirmal Verma
2005 Intizar Hussain double-dagger
2006 Manoj Das #
2006 Vishnu Prabhakar
2007 Ronald E. Asher dagger
2007 Anita Desai #
2007 Kartar Singh Duggal
2007 Ravindra Kelekar
2009 Gopi Chand Narang #
2009 Ramakanta Rath #
2010 Chandranath Mishra Amar #
2010 Kunwar Narayan #
2010 Bholabhai Patel
2010 Kedarnath Singh #
2010 Khushwant Singh
2013 Raghuveer Chaudhari #
2013 Arjan Hasid #
2013 Sitakant Mahapatra #
2013 M. T. Vasudevan Nair #
2013 Asit Rai #
2013 Satya Vrat Shastri #
2013 Abhimanyu Unnuth dagger
2014 Santeshivara Lingannaiah Bhyrappa #
2014 C. Narayana Reddy #
2016 Nirendranath Chakravarty #
2016 Gurdial Singh

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Gurdial Singh, who was selected as fellow on 16 February 2016, died six months later on 16 August 2016.[9]
  2. ^ a b Out of three recipients, only Bandaranayake and Shamatov availed the fellowship and spent several weeks in India doing literary research. Nakane did not avail the fellowship.


  1. ^ Rao, D.S. (2004). Five Decades of The National Academy of Letters, India: A Short History of Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 7.
  2. ^ "Sahitya Akademi: Fellows and Honorary Fellows". Retrieved 2017-03-22.
  3. ^ Rao, D. S. (2004). Five Decades of The National Academy of Letters, India: A Short History of Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b c Rao, D.S. (2004). Five Decades of The National Academy of Letters, India: A Short History of Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 10.
  5. ^ Rao, D. S. (2004). Five Decades of The National Academy of Letters, India: A Short History of Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 20.
  6. ^ a b c Rao, D.S. (2004). Five Decades of The National Academy of Letters, India: A Short History of Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 21.
  7. ^ Rao, D.S. (2004). Five Decades of The National Academy of Letters, India: A Short History of Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 22.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "Sahitya Akademi Fellows". Sahitya Akademi. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  9. ^ "Noted Punjabi writer Gurdial Singh passes away". The Indian Express. Bathinda. 16 August 2016. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
  10. ^ a b c "Sahitya Akademi Fellowship Announced" (PDF) (Press release). New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 16 February 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Sahitya Akademi: The Constitution I". Sahitya Akademi. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
    • "Sahitya Akademi: The Constitution II". Sahitya Akademi. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
  12. ^ a b Rao, D.S. (2004). Five Decades of The National Academy of Letters, India: A Short History of Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 23.
  13. ^ George 2013, p. 144.
  14. ^ a b Rao, D.S. (2004). Five Decades of The National Academy of Letters, India: A Short History of Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 25.
  15. ^ Rao, D.S. (2004). Five Decades of The National Academy of Letters, India: A Short History of Sahitya Akademi. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 26.


  • George, Rosemary Marangoly (2013). Indian English and the Fiction of National Literature. Cambridge University Press. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-107-04000-7.

External links

  • Official website
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