Society of Letters founded by the Indian government in 1954. Sahitya is literature in Sanskrit. The Akademi's offices are in the capital Delhi, which was the literary hub for Urdu writers and poets during the Mughal reign (Mirza Ghalib lived in Delhi). Despite its association with the government, the organization is extremely influential and relatively independent. Modern India has a limited tradition of private patronage for the arts and culture. Most philanthropists focus on health, education and more frequently temples and other religious organizations. In this environment the Akademi fills a large gap, it organizes seminars, awards travel fellowships, and publishes two journals (one in English, one in Hindi). The Akademi also publishes Indian and international fiction, criticism and poetry in book form. Yet, in the horse-race that is literature, the Akademi is mostly known for the Sahitya Akademi award.
Every year the Sahitya Akademi awards 22 prizes to a 'shabdab' wordsmith writing in each of the Indian languages it recognizes (Assamese, Bengali, Dogri, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajashtani, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu). Recipients must be Indian citizens and the prize is awarded for a specific work which could be a play, poem, novel or translation. In keeping with its mission to promote and preserve all Indian languages, the Akademi also awards prizes to oustanding works in other Indian languages (there are almost 800 languages and dialects spoken on the Indian subcontinent). The Sahitya Akademi award is the most prestigious literary award in India. The Akademi has a website at www.sahitya-akademi.org.