Gita Press, Recipient of the International Gandhi Peace Prize

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On July 18, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, heading a jury, selected Gita Press for the International Gandhi Peace Prize. This annual award was initiated on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Bapu in 1995 as a tribute to him and his philosophy of truth and nonviolence. It is awarded to individuals and institutions in recognition of their outstanding contribution to social, political, cultural, and economic transformation by following the path of ahimsa as shown by Gandhiji.

Background and Contribution of Gita Press:

Established on April 29, 1993, under the guidance of Jayadayal Goyandka and later joined by Hanuman Prasad Poddar, Gita Press is a non-profit organization located in Gorakhpur. Its purpose is to promote the principles envisioned in Sanatan Dharma and create awareness among the masses. Gita Press is the largest publisher and distributor of Hindu religious texts. The press has published around 48 million copies of the Ramcharitmanas, 40 million copies of the Bhagavad Gita, 15 million copies of Hindu classics such as the Puranas and Upanishads, as well as numerous pamphlets. They have set affordable prices to expand their reach and cover a large audience.

Why Gita Press was Chosen:

The jury, consisting of the Prime Minister, the head of the opposition, the Chief Justice of India, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, and one eminent person, unanimously selected Gita Press for the Gandhi Peace Prize, recognizing its outstanding contributions to the political, social, economic, and cultural transformation of the country. When asked why the government chose Gita Press, Narendra Modi said, “Gita Press is not just an organization but a living faith. It is not just a printing press but a temple to crores of people.” Gita Press, a staunch devotee of Hinduism, has undertaken the responsibility of spreading the principles of Sanatan Dharma among the masses, leading to the cultural transformation of society.

Gita Press and Gandhiji:

Although Gandhiji’s ideology differed from that of Gita Press, which was dedicated solely to Hinduism and had a communal angle, during the independence struggle, Gita Press advocated Hinduism and supported the well-being of Hindi people only. On the other hand, Gandhi sought the emancipation of society as a whole, the upliftment of everyone, and communal harmony. In fact, the press supported communal riots in 1946, which contradicted the philosophy and teachings of Gandhiji. However, after Gandhi’s assassination, the press began publishing Gandhian philosophy, ideals, thoughts, and values in its journal, Kalyan.

Gita Press’s Views on Harijans and Women:

It is evident that Gita Press focuses solely on the cause of Hinduism but has been rigid, orthodox, and conservative in its approach towards caste and women. Its manager stated, “We still believe in the varna system as written in Gita. We believe in Gita as it is the only truth.” Gita Press was against the Hindu Code Bill and vehemently urged readers to protest against then Law Minister BR Ambedkar, who was demanding his resignation for conferring rights to women. In the August 2016 edition, an essay titled ‘A Call to Spiritual Life’ by Swami Sivananda contained passages such as, “O Devis! Don’t waste your lives in fashion and passion. Open your eyes. Walk the path of righteousness. Preserve your Pativrata Dharma. See divinity in your husband.” The press opposed the rights and independence conferred to women, stating that women cannot be independent at any cost and must live under the guidance of their father, husband, or son.

 

Opposition to the Choice:

Gita Press was closely associated with the Hindu Mahasabha and supported the rigid and orthodox aspects of Hinduism. Choosing Gita Press for the Gandhi Peace Prize goes against the principles and teachings of Gandhiji, who believed in communal harmony.

Despite these criticisms, Gita Press, as the largest publisher of Hindu religious texts, has succeeded in instilling and spreading Sanatan Dharma among its followers, reaching even the poorest sections of society with their affordable pocketbooks. Through its contributions, Gita Press has magnificently contributed to the cultural transformation of society over the centuries.

“Article Credit- Riya Singh”

 

Read More: Politics

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