Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday presented the prestigious Jnanpith Award to noted Malayalam poet and teacher Professor ONV Kurup at the Government Women's College in Thiruvananthapuram.
The prime minister, in his speech, said Kurup is a great poet and writer, and felt honoured to present an award to such a literary genius.
Dr Singh also pointed out that the first Jnanpith award winner was also a Malayalam poet, GS Kurup.
The text of the prime minister's speech is given below:
"I am extremely honoured to be present here to confer the prestigious Jnanpith Award on such a distinguished man of letters, Shri O.N.V.Kurup. The first Jnanpith Award had also been awarded to another worthy son of Kerala, late Shri G.S.Kurup in 1965, for his outstanding work, Otakkuzhal in Malayalam.
Over the last nearly half a century, the Jnanpith Award has established itself as a very prestigious award recognizing the best of literary talent in the different languages of our country. Towering giants like Tara Shankar Bandopadhyaya, Uma Shankar Joshi, K.V. Puttappa, Sumitranandan Pant and Firaq Gorakhpuri are among the earlier distinguished recipients.
The State has the obligation to play a facilitating role in the development and promotion of creative arts and diverse cultural expressions of our country. But these efforts need also to be supported by private philanthropist and patronage of arts. I therefore commend initiatives such as the establishment of the Jnanpith award that recognize, nurture and promote excellence in writing in Indian languages.
In fact, the promotion of literature in Indian languages is an area where a lot more work should be done. Educated Indians are quite familiar with the works of famous writers of the West. But they are much less familiar with the works of outstanding litterateurs in Indian languages. In fact, in recent years Indian writers in English have become well known and have earned a name for themselves both in India and abroad. The flowering of literary talent in other Indian languages needs a larger platform and greater recognition and both the State and the enterprise sector should contribute to the building of this tradition.
We need to promote 'cross-translations' of works in different Indian languages. The beautiful poems of Shri O.N.V. Kurup should be available in Bengali or Marathi or for that matter in Punjabi. Promotion of such cross translations is an important task that has been taken up by the Sahitya Akademi. We have asked them to step up their efforts to propagate the richness of Indian literature, both contemporary and classical. Appreciating Indian culture should involve the understanding, acknowledgement and recognition of all the different strands and hues of our composite cultural fabric.
It was the British poet Shelly who said that poets are "the unacknowledged legislators of the world". I am happy today that we have gathered to acknowledge the creative achievements of one of the most celebrated poets in Malayalam. Shri Kurup's works reflect deep social commitment and romantic realism. His poetry has humanistic appeal and reflects his strong belief in human dignity and freedom. The richness of his works derives from the beauty and charm of his works and lyrics and his close observation of the nature and human relationships. Shri Kurup's versatile talents have also made a mark in Kerala's entertainment industry, where he is well known as a song writer of great repute.
I am very happy to have come to Kerala and to have the privilege of participating in a number of events that celebrate the great achievements of the people of the beautiful State and its vast potential for development and advancement.
Kerala has all the potential to emerge as a major industrial state and destination for investment. Its highly educated work force makes it ideal for high technology industries. The success of the space industry in the state should be replicated in other sectors. The Government of India is making all efforts to improve the connectivity and transport infrastructure of the state so that it can become a great regional economic hub.
Kerala is gifted with some of the finest natural beauty one can see anywhere. We will support all efforts, therefore, to further expand the immense tourist potential in the state.
It is the natural beauty and allure of Kerala's forests, its beaches, its rivers that have inspired generations of writers, travelers and poets. I hope that Kerala's economic progress and growth will be accompanied by a cultural awakening that promotes pride in its people, celebrates their creativity and ushers in all round and enlightened development of the state.
With these words, I once again congratulate Shri O.N.V Kurup for being awarded the Jnanpith Award and I joined all of you in wishing him many more years of creative literary endeavour."