New Delhi, March 18, 2013
Well-known Malayalam poet Sugathakumari has been chosen for the prestigious 22nd Saraswati Samman for 2012 for her Malayalam poetry collection, Manalezhuthu (The Writing on the Sands), published in 2006.
The Saraswati Samman was instituted by the K K Birla Foundation in 1991 and is one of the highest literary honours in the country. It is given every year for an outstanding literary work written in any Indian language mentioned in Schedule VIII to the Constitution of India by an Indian citizen and published during the last 10 years.
The award carries a purse of Rs 10 lakhs, a citation and a plaque. The selection for the award is made by a high-level committee presided over by former Chief Justice of India R C Lahoti.
Other members of the selection committee are Prof. Krishna Datt Paliwal, Dr. Damodar Mauzo, Dr. E.V. Ramakrishnan, Prof. Indira Parthasarathy, Dr. Jayanti Chattopadhyay, Prof. N.D. Mirajkar, Mr Manoj Das, Dr. Ratanlal Shant, Mr S. Muhammad Ashraf, Mr Rupchand Hansda Mr Priyavrat Bhartia and Mr N.K. Bhattacharjee, Director, K K Birla Foundation.
Born in 1934 to an enlightened family, Sugathakumar's mother was a professor of Sanskrit and father a Gandhian freedom fighter whose Kerala Gaanam was a marching song for all those who fought for the unification of Travancore, Cochin and Malabar.
After her schooling in Thiruvanthapuram, Sugathakumari did her graduation and Masters in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Comparative Philsophy on the ‘Concept of Moksha’. She worked as the Principal of Jawahar Balabhavan and edited a magazine called Thaliru.
"With over 15 volumes of poetry and six collections of prose published during the last five
decades, Sugathakumari has established herself as a major poet of Malayalam with a unique
voice of her own characterized by emotional empathy, humanist sensitivity and moral alertness," the selection committee said.
"She began as a poet of subjective sentiments and personal quests, but progressively widened her thematic range, assimilating into her poetry, contemporary social concerns such as ecological crisis, oppression of women and failures of ideals that inspired the very idea of Indian nation.
"She commands readership across all sections of society for her inclusive vision and compassion that emphasize human values," it said.
Some of her better known works are Mutthuchippi (Pearl and Oyster, 1961), Pathirappookkal (Midnight Flowers, 1967), Irul Chirakukal (The Wings of Darkness, 1969), Raathrimazha (Night Rain, 1977), Ambalamani (Temple Bell, 1981) and Radhayevide (Where is Radha?, 1995).
The committee said Manalezhuthu, the book of 27 poems published in 2006 which has won the award, represents the best of contemporary Malayalam poetry.
"Poems in this anthology are marked by the variety of lyrical mode, complexity of metaphorical imagination, temporal impingement of the past and future on the present and moral indignation over the fate of the nature and the marginalised. The contemporaneity of the themes, especially those dealing with women, children and environment makes this anthology dearer to the hearts of the socially sensitive readers. The best example in Manalezhuthu of how Sugathakumari writes with a passion and a mission is the poem titled ‘The Women’s Commission’.
"Her everyday experience as Chairperson of the Women’s Commission translates as a poem. Composed in an emotional style, it connects the reader to the hard hitting realities of women’s life," it said.
Among other things, Sugathakumari founded "Abhaya", an organization for the welfare of the mentally ill, in 1985. Over the last two decades, Abhaya has enlarged its scope of activities to rehabilitation of the mentally ill, women and children in distress, legal aid for poor women, treatment centers for the mentally ill and addicts, homes for girl children from high risk groups and so on.
"Fortunately, all this work did not dry up the springs of poetry in Sugathakumari. On the
contrary, they reinforced each other and augmented their resources reciprocally," the committee said in a press release.
Previous recipients of the award include Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Manubhai Pancholi ‘Darshak’, Indira Parthasarathy, Dalip Kaur Tiwana, Mahesh Elkunchwar, . Govind Chandra Pande, Sunil Gangopadhyay, K.Ayyappa Paniker, Jagannath Prasad Das, Naiyer Masud, Lakshminandan Bora, Surjit Patar, S.L. Bhyrappa and A A Manavalan.
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