Gita Press, renowned for publishing Hindu Sanatana Dharma books, receives Gandhi Peace Prize. Let’s know the journey of the publisher.
The journey of Gita Press started 100 years ago, and it has become one of the world’s largest publishing houses.
Founder of Gita Press
Jaydayal Goyandka, a Marwari businessman from Bankura, West Bengal, founded the Gita Press officially in 1923. Apparently, the seeds for the idea were sown over a long period of time. He got the idea during his business travels.
He was a trader in cotton, kerosene oil, textiles and utensils. Moreover, his work took him all over the place, from small towns like Chakradharpur (now in Jharkhand) to cities like Kharagpur and Calcutta.
Being a religious man, Goyandka formed groups of friends in all the towns he visited. Most of them were his other businessmen. He gathered the other businessmen in satsangs (religious congregations) and discussed different religious texts, most importantly – the Bhagavad Gita.
However, there was a hurdle in his mission. Goyandka and his friends did not find an authentic translation of the Gita, along with a faithful commentary. They made several attempts to get the text published by an external publisher, but even that failed. Then, Goyandka decided to start his own publishing house.
Meanwhile, Ghanshyamdas Jalan, Goyandka’s friend and a businessman from Gorakhpur, offered to set up the press in his hometown. However, Gita Press was ready to print its first translation of the Gita with commentary on a hand press bought for Rs 600 in April 1923.
Gita Press takes off with Kalyan
Eventually, in 1926 that Gita Press truly came to life as a serious player in the fast-emerging Hindi publishing world of the early twentieth century. It is said that they began their first monthly journal- Kalyan, which was exclusively devoted to Hinduism.
Consequently, a number of important socio-political developments took place at this time. Mukul points at a couple of important factors.
Firstly, Hindi was consolidated as a language of Hindus. Then there was a rapid growth of its use in the public sphere by the end of the nineteenth century. Subsequently, competition grew among the Hindus and the Muslims in the period. The monthly journal Kalyan clearly expanded the differences and helped to spread the Hindu nationalist message.
Initially, Kalyan, the monthly journal, was helmed by Hanuman Prasad Poddar, a rising Marwari leader with links to Hindu Mahasabha. Kalyan was used widely to spread the message of Sanatan dharma. Pieces from the Hindu scriptures were used to educate people on ideas of nationalism and how future India should look like.
Very soon, Kalyan influenced the minds of the people through high-quality editions of the Ramayana, Gita, Mahabharata, Puranas and other Hindu religious texts. Gita Press sold the magazine for cheaper rates and became one of the most important institutions in modern Hinduism and Hindu nationalism.
Present-day Gita Press
Gita Press has emerged as one of the world’s largest publishers and the only indigenous publishing enterprise of colonial India that continues to thrive in the 21st century. Moreover, it publishes its books in 15 languages, including English, Urdu and Nepali. It has 20 retail outlets and over 2500 booksellers in India and abroad selling them.
During the pandemic, when all the publishers across the world struggled, Gita Press grew. Its demand has grown so much that the publishers are often unable to meet it. According to a spokesperson, the Gita Press sold over 2.40 crore copies of books for nearly Rs 111 crore in the financial year 2022-23.
As per their numbers, the Gita Press sells nearly 10 lakh copies of Ramcharitmanas every year. However, the present-day print order in Kalyan is approximately 1.60 lakh copies. Over the years, it has sold over 17 crore copies of Kalyan.
Gita Press receives The Gandhi Peace Prize for 2021:
The Gandhi Peace Prize for 2021 has been conferred on the Gita Press at Gorakhpur which is celebrating its centenary this year. There is a very fine biography from 2015 of this organisation by Akshaya Mukul in which he unearths the stormy relations it had with the Mahatma and the… pic.twitter.com/PqoOXa90e6
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) June 18, 2023