Festival of Letters


The week-long Annual Festival of Letters held from March 09-14 at Sahitya Akademi witnessed an inspiring participation from more than 170 writers and scholars from across India. They all converged at the annual festival of Sahitya Akademi to deliberate over the challenges Indian languages are facing and the role of literature in society. A report. Sahitya Akademi Festival of Letters kick started with Akademi Exhibition, which was inaugurated by eminent Hindi poet and fiction writer Dr Ramdaras Mishra. Later Sahitya Akademi Awards were conferred to 24 award winners at a glittering ceremony held at Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi. Dr Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, presidents, Sahitya Akademi presented the awards and distinguished Hindi poet and scholar, Dr Kedarnath Singh was the chief guest. Dr K Sreenivasarao, secretary, Sahitya Akademi, in his welcome address, observed that though the Sahitya Akademi Award is given to a particular book in each language, it is much more that it is also a recognition and celebration of rich and long cultural and linguistic traditions that each author and a book represents. He also enumerated how these Awards along with various other activities of the Akademi represent the core that is nothing but service to literary communities all over India. He highlighted the role of the writers in particular in the success story of Sahitya Akademi which completed 60 years of literary service in India and abroad.

Whereas Dr Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, president, Sahitya Akademi, in his presidential address, talked at length about the uniqueness of the writers and special place of creativity in human existence. With specific reference to Sahitya Akademi, he said that the works of these Awardees are Akademi’s voice. He observed that more often than not it is the writers and poets who plant the seeds of creativity, imagination and ideas into the common man and quoted “Yeh Sahitya Hi Hai Jo Maun Ko Mukher Karta Hai, Aur Sannate Ko Shabd Deta Hai.” He also appealed to young writers not to get distracted by power and such elements as they often kill the creativity. Dr Kedarnath Singh, distinguished Hindi poet and scholar, who was the chief guest, talked about the diversity and richness that the set of awardees present need to be protected. While acknowledging various initiatives of the Akademi in preserving and promoting numerous languages and dialects of India and the literature contained in them, he also appealed Akademi to take initiatives to preserve and promote like-minded literature but written in other scripts like Tibetan. Dr Chandrasekhar Kambar, vice president, Sahitya Akademi, proposed a vote of thanks.

Day two started with the Writers’ Meet, wherein twenty Sahitya Akademi Award 2014 winners read out their papers on various aspects of creative writing. Dr Chandrasekhar Kambar, vice president, Sahitya Akademi, chaired the session. Dr Kambar spoke briefly about the awards, writing process and leading a creative life before inviting the Award winners to present their papers. The open house witnessed lively interactions between the writers and media and public. Variety of interesting subjects were discussed during the session such as ‘Censorship and the role of the writer in the society,’ ‘Political power and writing,’ ‘Role of literature and impact of writing on society,’ ‘Status of literature in south India,’ ‘Why do writers fear in writing openly?,’ ‘Should realistic depictions be adopted across the genres and styles of writing to avoid misinterpretations and misunderstandings?’ and ‘How to protect the readers from mischievous publishers and cunning writers?’ and much more.

Award winning writers’ responses ranged from personal experiences, well known case citations and possible theoretical and logical arguments. Dinesh Mishra coordinated the lively session. In the evening, renowned Critic, Social Theorist and Political Psychologist, Dr Ashis Nandy, delivered annual Samvatsar lecture on ‘Do we protect cultural diversity or cultural diversity protects us?’ Dr Nandy talked at length about various factors affecting cultural diversity and societies.

Day three started with the second edition of the Face to Face programme in which five Award winning writers, Arupa Kalita (Assamese), Ramesh Chandra Shah (Hindi), Jayant Vishnu Narlikar (Marathi), Jaswinder (Punjabi) and Rachaplem Chandrasekhara Reddy (Telugu) were in conversation with eminent scholars of their language. They spoke about their life, creative writing, society and challenges ahead in their conversations with scholars. The Yuva Sahiti: Young Writers’ Meet, was inaugurated by distinguished Hindi writer and scholar, Prof Giriraj Kishore. Smt. Chitra Mudgal was the chief guest.

In all, eighteen young poets recited their poems and three young fiction writers read out their recent stories in this day long programme. Inaugurating the meet, Prof Giriraj Kishore, who has more than 40 titles to his credit and has been decorated with many prestigious awards in his long and illustrious career, talked about the value of youth writings for a country. He appealed to the president of Sahitya Akademi to create and operate a TV channel given that almost all the electronic media in all the languages of India have neglected literature per se’ and it becomes the duty of Sahitya Akademi, to take it up. He lamented the decline in the standards of literature across the country and observed that Sahitya Akademi should put in more efforts to improve the situation.

In the evening there was a Bharatanatyam classical dance performance by eminent dancer, Geeta Chandran.

On the fourth day the Symposium on ‘Unwritten Languages’ was held. Distinguished linguists and scholars such as Prof. Udaya Narayana Singh, Prof Anvita Abbi, Prof Awadhesh Kumar Singh, Prof Ayesha Kidwai, Prof Umarani Pappuswamy, Prof Kavita Rastogi, Prof BN Patnaik, Prof BRK Reddy, Prof Mahendra Mishra, Prof ImtiazHasnain, Prof Farooq Ahmad Mir and Prof Pradip Prabhu participated in the symposium. These eminent linguists discussed and debated across two sessions focusing on “Challenges of scripting the unwritten languages” and “A world of myths and tales.” The day also witnessed an event that has become an integral part of Festival of Letters, a three day National Seminar. The theme and concept for this year’s seminar was ‘The region and the nation in Indian fiction.

In the evening the Foundation Day Lecture was delivered by Prof SL Bhyrappa, renowned Kannada writer and scholar. Delivering his lecture, Prof Bhyrappa gave an overview of the climate that prevailed in India in the past sixty years, especially what creative writers in native languages of India underwent. He presented a neat and detailed analysis of the status of country’s intelligentsia from pre-independence to post independence to economic liberalization periods and how the vocal intelligentsia has not reconciled itself to the inevitable economic change.

Day five started with the second day of the three-day seminar on ‘The region and the nation in Indian fiction.’ Prof K Satchidanandan, in his introductory remarks talked about the evolution of the concepts of region and nation in Indian fiction. Eminent scholars like Dr Bhalachandra Nemade, Damodar Mauzo, Prof Sitanshu Yashaschandra, M Mukundan, M Asaduddin, Dr Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee and Dr Anil Kumar Boro participated in the day’s proceedings.

As part of its commitment to promote and encourage literature from all the North-Eastern languages and providing ample opportunities to litterateurs from North-East regions to interact with writers from rest of the country, Sahitya Akademi had organised a day long “Purvottari: North-East and Northern Writers’ Meet’ at Rabindra Bhawan Lawns. Twenty poets from various parts of North-East and Northern India along with four noted short story writers presented their latest creations. On the last day, there were many activities related to kids and their literature. The Akademi organised a day long Spin-a-Tale programme for the promotion of children literature, where eminent authors and writers participated.

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