Raja Rao Award
Awarded forOutstanding contribution to the Literature and Culture of the South Asian Diaspora
Presented bySamvad India Foundation and Jawaharlal Nehru University
First awarded2000
Last awarded2009
WebsiteRaja Rao Award page

The Raja Rao Award, in some sources the Raja Rao Award for Literature,[1][2][3][4] is a former literary award named in honour of famed expatriate Indian writer Raja Rao, and bestowed "to recognize writers and scholars who have made an outstanding contribution to the Literature and Culture of the South Asian Diaspora."[5][6][7][8] It has been described as "prestigious",[9][10] and "an important Indian literary prize".[3] It was bestowed by a jury upon seven recipients between its establishment in 2000 and its cessation in 2009. The award was given annually from 2000 to 2004, after which it was given biennially, with one award being given for 2005-2006, and one being given for 2007-2008.

Establishment and course

The award was instituted by the Samvad India Foundation,[4][8][11] a nonprofit charitable trust named for the Sanskrit word for dialogue, which was co-founded by Makarand Paranjape, a professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and Vijay Mishra, a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Murdoch University in Perth. Its purpose was to honour writers of Indian origin settled abroad, mainly those in South-East Asia, and to promote education and cultural contributions to India and the South Asian diaspora.[12][13][9] It was named for Raja Rao, with his permission; Rao having been born in Mysore, Karnataka, India, and eventually moved first to France, and then to live for many decades in the United States. There is no cash prize attached to the award.[9]

The inaugural recipient of the Award was K. S. Maniam, who was bestowed the award in 2000.[14][15][16][17] One literary journal reported that "the 2000 Raja Rao Award that Maniam received in New Delhi was a definite boost to his international acclaim as a writer."[18]

The second winner was Yasmine Gooneratne, whose international scholarship was described as being recognized with "Macquarie University's first higher doctoral degree (D.Litt.), the Order of Australia, and the Samvad India Foundation's Raja Rao Award which acknowledges authors who deal with the South Asian Diaspora in their literary work."[6] The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka wrote of Gooneratne:

When Saraswati did come into Yasmine’s life... she took the form of the goddess Tara. When The Samvad India Foundation singled out Yasmine for the Raja Rao award in 2002, they made her a gift of the beautiful little figurine. This international prize celebrates writers and scholars who have made an outstanding contribution to the literature of the South Asian diaspora, and the honour delighted Yasmine even as it took her by surprise. “I never expected that the Indian writing establishment would regard me in that light,” she says.[5]

Of the third recipient, Edwin Thumboo, who had previously been a juror for the award,[11] the Pune Mirror wrote:

Among the awards he’s received are the National Book Development Council of Singapore’s Book Awards for Poetry (three times); the inaugural S.E.A. Write Award; Singapore’s first Cultural Medallion for Literature, and the Meritorious Services Medal. The Raja Rao Award he received in 2002 is very special to him, says Thumboo, who launched his country’s first National Poetry Festival in 2015.[19]

Of the fifth winner, David Dabydeen, The Encyclopedia of Twentieth‐Century Fiction noted that he was the “winner of many awards including the 2004 Raja Rao Award for Literature and the 2008 Anthony N. Sabga Award for Literature -- the largest literary prize in the Caribbean.”[1] Likewise, another source wrote:

Dabydeen is extremely highly decorated as a writer. The Anthony N Sabga Award was actually his second for 2008, having, a little more than two months ago, gone to India to receive the Hind Rattan (Jewel of India) Award presented by the Government of India. What is more, that was also his second recent Indian recognition, having been the winner of the 2004 Raja Rao Award, given in India for outstanding contribution to literature in the Indian diaspora.[20]

Meenakshi Mukherjee was chair of the last awarding jury in 2008
Meenakshi Mukherjee was chair of the last awarding jury in 2008

The Memoriam of Victor Ramraj, who served as a juror for the awarding of the honor, lauded his participation in committees “too numerous to mention individually”, but noted that “some of the most prestigious were his presidency of the Canadian Association for Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies (1992-95), his membership on the Commonwealth Literature Prize committee (1999-2001) and the Raja Rao Award for Literature of the South Asian Diaspora jury (2004)”.[10]

Meenakshi Mukherjee, chair of the last awarding jury, died in 2009, and the award was discontinued that same year.[16] As of 2021, it has not since been bestowed, and has been described as "discontinued".[16] The last recipient of the award, Vijay Mishra, had also previously been a member of the board of advisors for the award.[11]


The seven recipients were:

Recipient Year(s) Country References
K. S. Maniam 2000 Malaysia [14][16][21][22]
Yasmine Gooneratne 2001 Sri Lanka [23][24]
Edwin Thumboo 2002 Singapore [25][26][27]
Harsha V. Dehejia 2003 Canada [9][28][29]
David Dabydeen 2004 Guyana [1][30]
Varadaraja V. Raman 2005–06 United States [8][31][32]
Vijay Mishra 2007–08 Fiji [33]


The award was bestowed by a three-member jury of "scholars of international standing".[11] Those who served as jurors for selection of the recipient included:

In addition, an International Advisory Board was assembled,[35] generally including some members of the jury as well as other scholars, with the initial board also including Ritu Menon, Malashri Lal, Alastair Niven, and Vijay Mishra.[11]


  1. ^ a b c L. Macedo, "Dabydeen, David", The Encyclopedia of Twentieth‐Century Fiction, Brian Shaffer, editor, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, p. 1035.
  2. ^ Mohit K. Ray, editor, The Atlantic Companion to Literature in English, Atlantic Books, 2007, p. 117.
  3. ^ a b Eric Martone, Encyclopedia of Blacks in European History and Culture, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008, p. 172.
  4. ^ a b KHUSHWANT SINGH (30 October 2000). "Mature Beyond His Age". www.telegraphindia.com.
  5. ^ a b Daniel, Smriti (12 August 2012). "Writing under the gaze of her Saraswati". The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka).
  6. ^ a b Deborah Weagel, "Language, Diaspora, and Identity: An Interview with Yasmine Gooneratne", South Asian Review, 2008, 29. 269-279. 10.1080/02759527.2008.11932589.
  7. ^ Shalini Dube, Indian Diasporic Literature: Text, Context and Interpretation, Shree Publishers & Distributors, 2009 p. 114: “Thus it is appropriate to say that today there exists a 'Raja Rao Award' to recognize writers and scholars who have made an outstanding contribution to the Literature and Culture of the 'South Asian Diaspora'“.
  8. ^ a b c Makarand Paranjape, Science and Spirituality in Modern India, Centre for Indic Studies, University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, 2006, page xiii.
  9. ^ a b c d "Preserving a culture under attack," The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Canada, 4 Oct. 2003, P. C3.
  10. ^ a b c Pamela McCallum, "In Memoriam: Victor J. Ramraj", Ariel; Calgary Vol. 45, Iss. 3, (July 2014): 1-2. DOI:10.1353/ari.2014.0020.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Professional Notes: The Raja Rao Award", World Englishes, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Wiley-Blackwell 2001), pp. 117-118.
  12. ^ Singh, Khushwant (October 28, 2000). "The Indo-Malaysian connection". The Tribune.
  13. ^ David C. L. Lim, The Infinite Longing for Home: Desire and the Nation in Selected Writings of Ben Okri and K.S. Maniam, Rodopi, 2005, page xxiii.
  14. ^ a b Singh, Khushwant (October 28, 2000). "The Indo-Malaysian connection". Tribune of India.
  15. ^ Sani, Rozana (April 17, 2019). "An Ode to K. S. Maniam". New Straits Times.
  16. ^ a b c d Ulagam, Astro (April 28, 2019). "KS Maniam: Malaysia's soil is so accommodative to us; why can't we be the same to each other?". Astro Awani.
  17. ^ Toh, Terence (17 March 2019). "He wrote about what it meant to be Malaysian". The Star.
  18. ^ M.M. Raihanah, "Malaysia and the Author: Face-to-Face with the Challenges of Multiculturalism", International Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies, 5(2), pp.43–63, 2009.
  19. ^ Vinutha Mallya, "Country poet," Pune Mirror, December 23, 2018.
  20. ^ Creighton, Al (April 20, 2008). "Al Creighton's Arts On Sunday". Stabroek News..
  21. ^ "Raja Rao Annual Award 2000". Samvad India Foundation. Archived from the original on 2 December 2019. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  22. ^ Shyam Selvadurai, Story-Wallah! - A Celebration Of South Asian Fiction, Thomas Allen & Son, 2004, p. 437.
  23. ^ Nicholas Birns, Rebecca McNeer, A Companion to Australian Literature Since 1900, 2007, page 107.
  24. ^ a b "Raja Rao Annual Award 2001". Samvad India Foundation. Archived from the original on 2 December 2019. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  25. ^ Jonathan Webster, Understanding Verbal Art: A Functional Linguistic Approach, Springer, 2014, page 125.
  26. ^ Mallya, Vinutha (December 23, 2018). "Country Poet". Pune Mirror.
  27. ^ "Raja Rao Annual Award 2002". Samvad India Foundation. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  28. ^ "Krishnabhakti from Carleton". The Financial Express. January 30, 2005.
  29. ^ "Raja Rao Annual Award 2003". Samvad India Foundation. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  30. ^ "Raja Rao Annual Award 2004". Samvad India Foundation. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  31. ^ Gawlowicz, Susan (April 10, 2012). "RIT Lecture Addresses Science and Religion in Today's World". Rochester Institute of Technology.
  32. ^ "Raja Rao Annual Award 2006". Samvad India Foundation. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  33. ^ "Raja Rao Annual Award 2008". Samvad India Foundation. Archived from the original on 17 February 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  34. ^ a b c "Jury for the Award". Samvad India Foundation. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  35. ^ "Advisory Board". Samvad India Foundation. Archived from the original on 2019-12-02. Retrieved 2 December 2019.