On the occasion of the 12th All India Oriental Conference held at Varanasi in December 1943, a few leading Indologists approached Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain for the setting up of an organization to undertake systematic research and publication of Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali and Apabhhramsha texts. In response to this, Sahuji, true to his deep love for learning and cultural heritage, took to the decision to found the Bharatiya Jnanpith. On 18th of February, 1944 the formal registration of the organization took place in the form of a Deed of Declaration, laying down its objectives as follows: one, To conduct research and publication of the extinct, rare and unpublished works of knowledge, and two, to encourage the creation of original literature in the service of the people.
Since its inception, the Bharatiya Jnanpith has been working devotedly for the fulfilment of its twin objectives. Its research and publication programme started with the resurrection of a monumental classic. A temple at Moodbidri in Karnataka, had stored for centuries an unidentified manuscript of palm-leaves. The Jnanpith’s painstaking research revealed that it was a ninth century commentary in Prakrit and Sanskrit, of a second century A.D. work, Sat-khandagama, in Prakrit on the doctrine of karman. The sixth & last part of this great work, Mahabandha, has been published in seven volumes, comprising three thousand pages, by Bharatiya Jnanpith.
The completion of this epic-work inaugurated the establishment of ‘Moortidevi Granthamala’ named after the revered mother of late Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain. This was the beginning of the Moortidevi Granthamala, which has, since then been brought out, in scientifically edited form, rare works on Indian thought, culture and religion. These works are in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Pali, Apabhramsa, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi and English, covering subjects like religion, philosophy, logic, ethics, grammar, astrology, poetics.
The objective of encouraging creation of original modern literature is sought to be achieved through several programmes, the most important being the Lokodaya Granthamala. It has been the endeavour of the Jnanpith to highlight the emerging talent whose writings are generally ignored by commercial publishers. Bharatiya Jnanpith can justifiably feel proud of the fact that it has helped a number of writers, who have acquired eminence today, in their formative years.
But its crowning glory continues to be the annual ‘Jnanpith Award’ (of Rs. 5 lakhs), given for the best creative literary writing by any Indian citizen in any of the languages included in the VIII Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The Award is the brain-child of late Smt. Rama Jain, the first President of and the moving spirit behind the Bharatiya Jnanpith since its inception. It has become the most prestigious literary award of the country. Since 1965, thirty-nine eminent writers have received the award in thirty-six years. O n three occasions, the award was shared by two authors. The award has gone so far seven times to Kannada, six times to Hindi, five times to Bangla, four times to Malayalam, thrice each to Oriya and Urdu, twice each to Assamese, Gujarati, Marathi, Telugu and Punjabi, and once to Tamil.
PRESENT BOARD OF TRUSTEES
1. Smt. Indu Jain (Chairman)
2. Shri Alok Jain
3. Ms. Trishla Jain
4. Shri Akhilesh Jain (Managing Trustee)
5. Dr. L.M. Singhvi
6. Shri. T.N. Chaturvedi
7. Shri M. T. Vasudevan Nair
8. Shri. Gopal Krishna Gandhi
9. Dr. Sitakant Mahapatra
10. Shri Nirvan Jain