‘Kya hoga aise Swarajya se jo Hindutva na hoga (What’s the use of a Nation that is not Hindutva?)’. Author Akshaya Mukul read out the lines of a poem from his book ‘Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India’, which was discussed at the final session on Day 2 of the Chandigarh Literature Festival. With an interesting and diverse line-up, the second day was a mixed bag.
Mukul’s session, moderated by festival director Annie Zaidi, took the audience back to the past, traversing through to where we as a nation stand today and exploring the role of the Gita Press and its journal ‘Kalyan’ in creating the idea of ‘Hind’ and ‘Hindustan’.
Mukul, who worked on the book for five years, made headlines after he refused to share the same stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards recently. However, he refused to comment on his stance and merely focused on the book.
The Gita Press
He mainly talked about how two Marwaris, Jaya Dayal Goyandka and Hanuman Prasad Poddar, used the press to promote the principles of Sanatan Dharma. Poddar was the founding and lifetime editor of its noted magazine Kalyan.
Talking about why he wrote the book, Mukul said, “Growing up in north India, it was almost impossible to escape the Gita Press. It made me curious how the brand worked and yet people know so little about it.” He added its impact was beyond publishing. The most prominent leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, were contributing to Kalyan and the larger picture had to be put together to explore its role as a potent vehicle to spread the idea of a Hindu nation state. Talking about political involvement back then, he said, “It was never repudiated by the Congress. It was very much hand-in-glove with the press. But Nehru never wrote for them,” said Mukul.
‘Bhakti, gyan and vairagya’
When asked about the core values of the magazine, he said the motto of the magazine was ‘bhakti’ (devotion), ‘gyan’ (knowledge) and ‘vairagya’ (renunciation). “Poddar laid it out clearly. They had grand designs to save Hindu society, with the usual communal talk, cow slaughter, the fact that we had a great Hindu past and how it was interrupted by the Muslim rule,” he said.
“They created such a strong ritualistic universe under the surface and brought it to the masses. Both, Poddar and Goyandka, would have been elated with what’s happening now.”