Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gita Press – Churning Holy Words


Much before Ramayana was a gleam in Ramanand Sagar’s eyes, a tiny printing press made Hindu scriptures part of the middle class Indian’s everyday life…

The Gita Press, the old and rather majestic press, is one of the most authentic publishing house whose main work is to churn out whole of Hindu scriptures and transform into book form. Located amidst the bustling market of Gorakhpur is dedicated to publish Hindu scriptures from Mahabharata, Puranas to literature for children. The entrance is indeed epitomizes the Indian history in a grand manner – an entrance symbolizes Indian temple architecture while the pillars are inspired from the cave temples of Ellora, the gopuram is influenced by the Meenakshi temple in Madurai. Inside the house, around 150 employees are dedicatedly working their job – editing and proof reading, a man goes from table to table, room to room. He mutters “Narayana- narayana”, much like mythological Narad Muni, to people working there. Perhaps he was imbibing spiritual fervor to people, to work more sincerely.

The record publishing of the Gita Press can astonished even a cold man. Established over nine decades ago, this publishing house has published 6.34 crore copies of the Gita (in different editions) and 6.49 crore copies of the Ramcharitamanas, despite the large quantities that it prints, is unable to meet the demand from readers. In 2006, it consumed 3,600 ton of paper and had a sale of Rs. 25 crore.

The press has given an absolutely new dimension to book culture in the world. Perhaps no other publishing house in the world has so much success solely publishing religious scriptures and mythological stories. The stalls are to be found even in all the cities of India.

The printing press the revolutionized religious books, was formed accidentally. In the 1920s, devotees of Seth Jai Dayal Goyandka, a Gita preacher, suggested he publish his interpretations. The Vanik Press in Kolkata published a book but full of mistakes. The furious Goyandka started thinking about setting up his own printing press. One of his pupils Ghanshyam Jalan convinced him to start one at Gorakhpur, which was where Gita Press was first set up on April 29, 1923.

Gita Press is a name that is now virtually engraved on the soul of spiritual India. It has become synonymous with a pioneer, a publishing house that re-introduced the scriptures, religious texts and the Vedas to people, taking it from the portals of temples to modern India’s drawing room.

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