Just before Independence, the Royal Asiatic Society in Bengal had proposed the formation of a National Cultural Trust to preserve and promote India’s artistic heritage. “After freedom, the proposal was pursued by the Government of India, who convened a series of conferences to work out the details. Consensus emerged in favour of establishing three National Academies: one of letters, another of visual arts, and a third of dance, drama and music,” says a Sahitya Akademi document.
In the 50s, painters, dancers, singers, and actors began to persuade governing leaders to institutionally support the country’s traditional and modern cultures.
The Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) was the first of the three to be established in 1953, followed shortly by Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA), and Sahitya Akademi (SA).
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Against the backdrop of the ongoing cultural renaissance of those years, the role of the Akademis was and still is to revive, preserve, and patronise Indian art, dance, music, and literature. Awards given by each academy continue to be the highest recognition for an artist in India.
SNA supports India’s rich legacy of performing arts that goes back many centuries. It remains an important centre for music, dance, and drama.
Over time, SNA set up several State centres. Its archives, which includes music, films, and costumes, is considered the most comprehensive collection of material on the Indian performing arts.
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LKA, also known as the National Academy of Art, was established in 1954. Its objectives include providing space for exhibitions, fellowships, awards, and taking art shows to foreign shores. LKA used to have the interesting task of buying art for the country’s collection, and almost every well-known Indian artist has been associated with LKA at some point in their career. LKA’s ambitious Triennale, which debuted in 1968, established India as an art destination.
The SA’s primary role is to keep alive and support the country’s literary traditions and works in 24 languages. Its centres consistently host seminars, dialogues, and reading across the country. Involved in translations and publications, SA has published 6,000 books since its inception.