Bhubaneswar: Eminent novelist and academician Dr Pratibha Ray has been appointed as the Bharatiya Jnanpith Selection Board Chairperson.

She is the first Odia woman and Fourth Odia writer to be selected as the chairperson of Prestigious Jnanpith Board. Earlier, Gopinath Mohanty (1973), Sachidananda Routray (1986), and Sitakant Mohapatra (1993) were selected for the important position.

Born on January 21, 1943 at Alabol, a remote village in Balikuda in Jagatsinghpur, she is known for her fight against caste and religion discrimination.

Though her journey of literature had started at the age of nine, she received recognition as a writer with her first novel ‘’Barsha Basanta Baishakha’’ in 1974 which was a best seller. After that, she had never rested her pen and created Aranya, Nishidha, Prithvi, Parichya, Aparmarambha, Nilatrishna, Samundrara Swara etc.

“I’m a humanist. I feel pain of people before shaping them in my stories,’’ she had replied once.

Dr Ray’s Shilapadma in 1983 won her the Odisha Sahitya Academy Award, 1985 while she had conferred with Sarala award in 1990.

Being the reformer of a social order based on equality, love, peace and integration, she was the first woman to win the Moorti Devi Award in 1991 for her incredible book Yajnaseni, originally penned down in 1984.

Apart, she has over 40 novels travelogues and short stories to her credit.

Smt. Ray courted controversy after writing a newspaper article titled ‘’ The Colour of Religion is Black’’ in which she had narrated the undesirable behaviours of priests based on an encounter with them in Puri Jagannath Temple when she was suspected as a Non-Hindu.

The leading writer started her career as a school teacher and later, she taught in various Government Colleges in Odisha for almost 30 years. She has guided and published many research articles during her academic venture. After taking voluntary retirement as a professor of Education, she joined as a member, Public Service Commission of Odisha.

The Jnanpith Award, instituted in 1961, is an Indian Literary award bestow to Indian Authors by Bharatiya Jnanpith for their outstanding contribution towards literature in Indian Languages included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India and English.