[Vice President M. Hamid Ansari presenting the ICCR World Sanskrit Award 2015 to Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, in New Delhi on November 21, 2016.]
New Delhi: Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand and George Cardona, Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania, USA, were on Monday presented with the World Sanskrit Award by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) here.
Instituting of an annual 'World Sanskrit Award' was announced by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during her inaugural address in the 16th World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok in June 2015.
On the occasion, Vice President M. Hamid Ansari said that "the case for studying Sanskrit makes itself, and there is no need at all to invoke higher spiritual incentives" in order to justify this.
He congratulated Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, who received the award for 2015, and Prof. George Cardona, an American linguist and Indologist who received the award for 2016, for being the first recipients of ICCR's World Sanskrit Awards. Minister of State for External Affairs, M.J. Akbar among other dignitaries were also present on the occasion.
"Her Highness is an eminent scholar of Sanskrit and Pali, is keenly interested in epigraphy and has been a patron of Sanskrit studies in Thailand and propagation of Sanskrit. Prof. George Cardona, Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania has singularly been responsible for making the University of Pennsylvania a centre of Sanskrit learning in North America," he said.
He further said that Thai and other Southeast Asian languages have strong roots in Sanskrit, which reflects their remote past relationship with Sanskrit. In Europe and in the United States also there has been a long and valuable tradition of scholarship in Sanskrit, he added.
The awards were presented to honour eminent Sanskrit scholars and recognise their outstanding contribution to the study, teaching or research in Sanskrit language and literature.
Addressing the gathering, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn said, "It is gracious of Government of India to grant me the first World Sanskrit Award. I feel both humbled and honoured by this gesture. What I have done to promote Sanskrit is just a drop in the vast ocean of what other scholars have done in this field."
Princess Sirindhorn described Sanskrit as "the eternal legacy to mankind" and said that it is through Sanskrit that "Indian values and ethos" have been embeded in Thai culture.
She has been awarded with several Honorary Doctorates and awards, including Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature (Sanskrit) from the University of Delhi in 1987; Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development Award from the Government of India in 2004; and Magsaysay Award for Public Service in 1991.
George Cardona also expressed his gratitude on receiving the award. "I am honoured to receive this award and very happy to see Sanskrit being celebrated in this manner. My debt to India is enormous", he said.
Prof. Cardona was earlier awarded President of India's Certificate of Honour in Sanskrit in the year 2012.
The Jury comprised of eminent Sanskrit scholars under the Chairmanship of Professor Lokesh Chandra, President ICCR. Nominations for the award are sought from Indian Missions/Posts abroad as well as from the Jury members.