All you need to know about the Devi Awards — Celebrating Women for their Dynamism and Innovation
Today, Indulge celebrates 15 women, from diverse backgrounds and professions for their contribution towards society as a whole. We track the journey of this beautiful celebration of womanhood…
In December 2014, The Sunday Standard, under the aegis of The New Indian Express Group, decided to take a stand for women; as it strongly believed (and continues to believe) that strong, independent women are the backbone of a nation. This decision led to the organising of the definitive event, The Devi Awards! The award recognises and celebrates exceptional women who display dynamism and innovation in their work.
In the last eight years, over 200 women in close to 20 award ceremonies have been recognised for their contributions to society at large, often even before the world chose to recognise them. From Nikhat Zareen in Hyderabad who won Gold at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships earlier this year to Chandro Tomar on whom the film Saand Ki Aankh (2019) was made, or even Mithali Raj, way before she was a household name — this platform takes pride in the fact that it has recognised women from across various fields and for various achievements, long before they gained popularity.
For every Reeta Devi, who was recognised for her pathbreaking attempts at bringing hygiene to the villages around her through a toilet-building campaign; there’s also an Ekta Jaju who has worked relentlessly over the years to build sustainable ecosystems that can help rural India thrive. The awards have also honoured fearless police personnel from across the country, including Swathi Lakra (Hyderabad) and R Susheela (Bengaluru).
But let’s start this story at the very beginning. Member of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly Vasundhara Raje graced the occasion as the first ever chief guest for the first ever edition of the Devi Awards way back in 2014 and couturier Anju Modi was among the 20 women honoured in Delhi, that eventful evening. In June 2015, The New Indian Express took over the mantle and shifted focus to South India, choosing to honour 20 achievers from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The then deputy chief minister of Telangana, Mahmood Ali, awarded the winners; among which were Mithali Raj and handloom revivalist, Suraiya Hassan. The same year also saw the awards travel to Bengaluru in August and while only ten devis were honoured, the then chief minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah, graced the occasion as the chief guest and presented the awards to the deserving women; among whom were artist Shilo Shiv Suleman and lawyer Jayna Kothari.
In November 2015, the Devi Awards travelled back North to Lucknow and the then chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav, honoured 12 women; including author Ira Trivedi and singer Kavita Seth. In January 2016, the awards returned to Delhi in January and the former Minister of External Affairs of India, Sushma Swaraj honoured 15 women including textile revivalist Vidhi Singhania. By July 2016, the awards visited a new destination in South India, Kerala, and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan honoured 10 women with the award, including singer Vaikom Vijayalakshmi and national level shooter Elizabeth Susan Koshy.
The year 2016 also saw three more editions of the Devi Awards — September in Hyderabad, October in Lucknow and December in Delhi. In September that year, current Vice President of India, Venkaiah Naidu honoured ten women, including boxer Nikhat Zareen, at the award ceremony in Hyderabad; while in Lucknow, the then chief minister Akhilesh Yadav honoured ten women including celebrated folk singer, Madhuri Sharma, at the award function in October. In December, the Devi Awards returned to Delhi after two years and the then Union Minister for Textiles Smriti Irani honoured 20 women with the award; including textile revivalist Laila Tyabji, couturier Ritu Kumar and beautician Vandana Luthra, among others.
The next year saw three more editions spread across the country. In September, the awards visited Lucknow for the third time and this time around chief minister Yogi Adityanath honoured ten women, including sharp shooter Chandro Tomar. In November that year, the Devi Awards made its debut in Mumbai and the then chief minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis presented the award to 11 women; including couturier Anita Dongre, actress Kirti Kulhari, nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar and politician Supriya Sule. By December 2017, the awards were back in Delhi with Rajnath Singh (the current Defence Minister of India), honouring 10 Devis; including couturier Masaba Gupta and chef Ritu Dalmia.
In 2018, the focus of the awards shifted. Reacting to India being ranked by the Thomson Reuters Foundation as the worst country in which to be a woman, the Devi Awards stood by the constitutional right of equality, dignity and freedom from discrimination for all women and decided to increase the reach of these awards. The awards made their debut in Chennai in September 2018 and former Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry — Kiran Bedi honoured 10 women from across Tamil Nadu; including actress Aishwarya Rajesh. The awards then travelled to Lucknow, a few days later; and then made its second show in Mumbai in October 2018. The Lucknow leg saw 10 women awarded; including weightlifter Poonam Yadav — while the Mumbai leg saw another 10 women being honoured; including pole dancer Aarifa Bhinderwala, actress Bhumi Pednekar and singer Rekha Bharadwaj. Both events were graced by the then chief ministers of those states — Yogi Adityanath and Devendra Fadnavis.
The year came to a close with the awards heading back to Delhi in November where 10 Devis, including Ladakh-based eco-activist Tsering Chondol, were honoured by former Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Satyapal Singh. The next edition of the Devi Awards, however, took it to a new city — Kolkata. In August 2019, Indulge honoured nine women, including cultural entrepreneur Madhu Neotia, when current Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani graced the occasion as a chief guest, for the second time. In October that same year, the awards visited Lucknow for the fifth time and 12 women were honoured by chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
The year 2020 saw two back-to-back editions of the awards in two new cities. In February, the awards found their way to Bhubaneswar, where chief minister Naveen Patnaik honoured 12 women; including athlete Dutee Chand, author Pratibha Ray and dancer Sonali Mishra. The next stop was Indore, where former chief minister Kamal Nath honoured 15 women for their contributions to society at large. The next year, 2021, also saw one edition of the Devi Awards at Lucknow in November, where chief minister Yogi Adityanath honoured several women from all walks of life.
Like last year, this year’s platinum partner for the event is RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group. The associate partners include Senco Gold and Diamonds, National Jute Board, Softline by Rupa & Company, Placid Ltd, Pentonic Brand from Linc Ltd and Life Insurance Corporation of India. The outdoor partner is SelvelOne.
Today, at the 21st Edition, 15 dynamic women will be honoured by former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha), Dr Subramaniam Swamy. The Devis have been chosen through a rating process conducted by the senior editorial team of Indulge, The Morning Standard and an independent jury, using a transparent methodology. They have been selected on the basis of their contributions in their chosen line of work, as well as society in general. We congratulate them wholeheartedly! This honour is truly deserved!