Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India

by Akshaya Mukul

Akshaya Mukul

Fellow
New India Foundation

2011

Reviews

Is Hindu nationalism a viable project? This is not an idle question, for the Prime Minister calls himself a Hindu nationalist and remains an active member of a cultural organisation that propagates a militant version of Hindu nationalism, also known as Hindutva.

- The Hindu

The Gita Press was an institution with unmatched cultural and social influence. The two pillars of its publication programme included making texts like the Bhagwad Gita and its flagship journal Kalyan cheaply available.

- The Indian Express

The subject I am referring to here is not just the Gita Press which the title refers to, but the intellectual underpinning of the Hindutva movement as it unfolded in the 20th century. In many ways, it reminds me of an unrelated book, Ayodhya: The Dark Night (about the Babri land grab) in the way it reveals how putrid and unknown some aspects of Hindu nationalism are.

- India Today

Synopsis

Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India is an original, eminently readable and deeply researched account of one of the most influential publishing enterprises in the history of modern India. The book features an extraordinary cast of characters – buccaneering entrepreneurs and hustling editors, nationalist ideologues and religious fanatics. The Gita Press created an empire that spoke in a militant Hindu nationalist voice and imagined a quantifiable, reward-based piety. Almost every notable leader and prominent voice of the first half of the 20th century, including Mahatma Gandhi was canvassed to speak for the cause. The themes of Cow slaughter, Hindi as the national language and the rejection of Hindustani, the Hindu Code Bill, were some of the themes highlighted by the Press’s flagship publications, Kalyan and Kalyana-Kalpataru.

The ideas articulated by Gita Press and its publications played a critical role in the formation of a Hindu political consciousness, indeed a Hindu public sphere. This history provides new insights into the complicated and contested rise to political pre-eminence of the Hindu Right.

Author Profile

Akshaya Mukul

Akshaya Mukul is an independent researcher. Currently on a Homi Bhabha Fellowship he is working on the first English biography of the noted Hindi writer Sachidanand Hiranand Vatsyayan Agyeya. A journalist for more than two decades, Mukul has worked with The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Pioneer and Asian Age. New India Foundation awarded him a fellowship in 2011 that resulted in Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India. The book has won five awards: Tata Literature Live Book of the Year (2015), Atta Galatta Prize (2015), Ramnath Goenka Award for Non-Fiction, Crossword Prize for the best non-fiction and Shakti Bhatt first book prize. The book has also been translated into Tamil.

Mukul has also contributed to A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures in English (2005) edited by Prem Poddar and David Johnson, Edinburgh University Press.