Eminent Sanskrit poet Satya Vrat Shastri was presented the prestigious 42nd Jnanpith Award by the Princess of Thailand, Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, at a function at the Parliament House here for his “outstanding contribution to the enrichment of Indian literature.”

Organised by the Bharatiya Jnanpith, the award recognises Dr. Shastri for introducing a number of new genres in Sanskrit writing such as autobiography, diary and collections of letters in verse. His magnum opus, The Ramayana: A Linguistic Study, is the first ever linguistic appraisal of the Valmiki Ramayana and also of any existing Sanskrit work.

The award, for 2006, included a bronze replica of Vagdevi Saraswati, a citation and a shawl.

Ms. Sirindhorn, who did her Masters in Sanskrit under the guidance of Dr. Shastri and produced a dissertation on Sanskrit inscriptions in her country, said her guru’s vast knowledge and poetic genius was beyond praise.

Stating that there were moments in life when the heart does the speaking, Dr. Shastri said he found himself face to face with a long chain of memories.

“I have never kept an account of what I achieved during the past eight decades of my life. Newer and newer ideas, thoughts and aspirations for creative expressions would surge in my mind, not allow me time for brooding over what was over. My first poem saw the light of day when I was 12. And the journey that started with it has continued through a number of intermediary stations in the form of three Mahakavyas, three Khandakavyas, a Prabandhakavya and a two-volume Patrakavya.”

Dr. Shastri said he had done both creative and critical writing.

“One cannot prepare a critique without being one whose heart is in tune with the writer and is at the same wavelength. He first lifts himself to the level of the thinking of the author whose work he is preparing to analyse critically. Without gauging his mind, justice cannot be done to him. It is first necessary to know what he thinks, under what circumstances and in what mental state he writes.”

A creative writer must know which words to use, and where to use them may not necessarily form part of the process of writing. Words came to him of themselves, like a natural torrent.

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