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There are several awards in literature at national as well as regional language level. Among them the Njanapeedam Puraskar is considered to be the highest, because of its merit and the prize money. This award was instituted by late Shantiprasad Jain, a reputed industrialist of this country. It is managed by Bharathiya Njanapeeta Trust. The trust was formed for working towards the betterment of the Indian culture and literature. The award is given to only those works in the Indian languages recognized by the constitution.
In the beginning the award was given to the best work selected from among the works published in recognized Indian languages. Later the selection procedure was changed and started to give the award to the individual based on his/her total contributions to literature.
The award carries a metallic sculpture of Saraswathy Devi, Seven lakh rupees and a citation. The sculpture of Saraswathy is made as a replica of the idol of Saraswathy inside the Saraswathy Kantabharanaprasada Temple of Dharanagar in Ujjaini. This idol in the temple was installed at the time of Bhoja Raja who was an ardent lover of art and literature.
The Njanapeeda Purskar was started in the year 1965 and the first recipient was none other than G.Sankara kurup (1901 – 1978), one of the great poets of Malayalam language. It was a collection of poems, Odakkuzhal, by him which won the award. G. Sankarakurup was a college teacher and was selected to Rajyasabha once. He worked as the President of Kerala Sahitya Academy. Nation honoured him with 'Padma bhooshan' based on his achievements in literature.
Njanapeedam Praskar came to Kerala again in the year1980. S. K. Pottekad (1913 – 1982) got the award for his novel Oru Deshathinte Katha. It was written almost as his biography. Pottekad contributed to Malayalam literature immensely. His short stories, novels, travelogues, dramas and poems have enriched the literature. He had received Sahitya Academy (both Kendra and Kerala) awards. He was elected to Loksabha from Thalassey Parliamentary constituency. He also served as the President of the Cooperative Society of Literary Workers.
It was Thakazhi Shivasankara Pillai's Novel Kayar (Coir) which again brought Njanapeeda Puraskar to Kerala, in the year 1984. Thakazhi's stories are well known in the literature. His creations are mainly based on the life of people in and around his native place, Kuttanad in Alappuzha district. One of his famous work 'Chemmeen' (shrimp) has been translated to 19 languages. Some of his works, including 'Chemmeen' (which won President's Gold Medal) have been made films. He took twenty years to finish his award winning novel Kayar. By size, with more than thousand pages, it is the second largest novel in Malayalam. Thakazhi received in addition to Njanapeedam, Kendra sahitya Academy award, Vayalar award, Vallathol Purskaram, Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, etc. President honoured him with Pdmabhooshan also. Thakazhi was born in 1912 and died in 1999.
Fourth time, in 1995, the Njanapeedam award was won by Malayalam literature through M. T. Vasudevan Nair. Though the award was for the over all contributions of the author, his novel Randamoozham was mentioned. Malayalam language is highly obliged to MT (Vasudevan Nair is generally referred as MT) for his wide contributions to the language. His novels, short stories, film scripts, travelogues, and above all the films directed by him are all well recognized and have enriched the literature and film world. He served Sahitya academy as its President. He received several awards including Padma Bhooshan. Films directed scripted by him also got awards including President's gold medal. MT is still active in literature and films.
On the basis of the overall contributions made to Malayalam poetry, O. N. V. Kurup received Njanapeedam puraskaram in the year 2008. he was recipient of Sahitya Academy Award, Ezhuthachan Puraskaram and several other awards. He was honoured with Padmasree also. ONV has written songs to several films and dramas. Several times he got the State's awards for his film songs. ONV served as the Chairman of Kerala Kala Mandalam. By profession he worked as a Malayalam Professor in Government colleges. ONV continues to serve the Malayalam literature.