President Pratibha Patil on Tuesday said that literature had a key role to play in building a prosperous nation.

Speaking after conferring the Jnanpith Award for 2005 on eminent Hindi poet Kunwar Narain at a function at the Parliament Library Building here, Ms. Patil said there was a need to provide good quality literature to create an ideal society. “The role of literature is not limited to entertaining the reader, but also to guide him along the right path.”

She said Mr. Narain’s poetry bears testimony to his talent and dedication.

The award carries a cheque for Rs. 7 lakh, a shawl and a bronze statue of Vagdevi Saraswati.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Narain said Hindi was one of the major languages of the world today. “Excellent literature is being created in Hindi and in several other Indian languages. Many small languages of the world too are giving us world-class literature, which is reaching us through English… It is essential that the English-speaking sections of our society and the English media are more sensitive to the range of our authentic literatures and litterateurs.”

He said it was important to properly understand the intimate relationships between words and life. “Words never die, that is why they are called non-decaying. It is because of wrong conduct and misuse that their meanings lose their lustre… An ancient word like non-violence acquired a new vigour and willpower from Gandhian conduct, to come alive in life and language again.”

Describing poetry as the world of heart and mind, Mr. Narain said literature for him did not mean just mental indulgence. “It is a very big reality and also a wonder of life. This thought has given me courage and self-confidence. I wish to keep expanding and enriching this world of mine.”

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