‘Religion is the opiate of the masses’ with ‘Religion is the medicine of masses’ – Karl Marx
Gita Press took this as an attack by antagonist or foreign civilization or religious community like Islam and Christianity that spoiled the tenets of Sanatan dharma.
In India, religion is part or a way of life for her people. We cannot imagine India without religion and religious discourses, which happens at every nook and corner. The riots or the communal violence exhibits religion, a sensitive issue which is attached to people’s mind and heart. The symbols, colors and things for instance the saffron color and Hinduism, cow and Hinduism, long beard and Muslim, Burkha and Muslim, these have gained the belongingness to a particular community. To position the identity in the society and claiming Hindu community as majority, in 19th century, organizations and groups started using Print medium to circulate their ideas, which gave birth to various Journals.
Religion is at the heart of India’s inception and character. It is not a newly evolving entity for India. In the Hindi heartland, you can’t do politics without engaging with caste. The 19th and early 20th century were a time of religious-enmity between Hindu and Muslims, marked by various riots and competitive communalism (91 riots between 1923 to 1927).The issue of Cow slaughter and fight for supremacy between Hindi and Urdu. During this time, Religious journals became captious to this expression. Religion was (Mukul, 2015; 17) gaining ground as a subject of debate in the public domain and slowly but surely came to be reflected in the pages of various genres.
Periodicals of different genres surfaced like, some related to women (Chand, Jyoti, Grihalakshmi), to children (Balak) and to education (Shiksha Amrit, Shiksha Sevak), besides the magazine of Arya Samaj and magazines like Brahman, Matwala and Pratap. These became vehicles to express the aspirations of the expanding class of literates.
The Religious division of the 1920s and 1930s redefined the politics of nationalism and also blurred the lines between nationalism and religious revivalism. It is not that there were no special journals dealing with Hinduism in general and Sanatan Hindu dharma in particular. Sanatan Dharma Pataka was started in 1900 and continues only till 1920s because it failed to make any impact on the concerned readers and society itself. In this context, the birth of Gita Press and how its magazine Kalyan became a successful vehicle for the expression of religious and communal issues, in order to share and position their views on the Hindu concerned issues in a society till today. The propagation of Sanatan dharma, with all its prominence on rituals, texts social practice and institution was mixed with the ideals of nationalism among the Hindu people and ultimately the readers itself.
The occurrence of Gita press/Kalyan(monthly journal of Gita press) showed that how Gita Press created an empire which spoke about Hindu and their position in society in such a manner which creates fear and a model of ‘Bhakti’ that you can count for instance taking the name of Lord Rama 1001 times. Gita Press created (Mukul, 2015) an empire that spoke in a militant Hindu nationalist voice and imagined a quantifiable, reward-based piety. Almost every notable leader and prominent voice, including Mahatma Gandhi, was roped in to speak for the cause.
So specifically, the ideas expressed by Gita Press and its publications played a critical role in the formation of a Hindu political consciousness in the light of following issues: Cow protection (a law to ban cow slaughter: role of Gita press), religion in electoral politics, caste issues (temple entry of untouchables and Gita press opposed of it), Varna system and rejection of Hindu code bill.
The increasing communalization of politics and Gita Press/Kalyan came to engage the space relating to public discourse on religion, it is also about that how two Marwari businessmen turned spiritualists Jaydayal Goyandka and Hanuman Prasad Poddar, set up the Gita Press/Kalyan Magazine in the name of defence of religion and uplifting the Hindu community.
The introduction of print technology and oral culture that go generation by generation in India in a form of passing a traditional legacy. The mixture of print and oral propagation worked perfectly for Gita Press for their goal of re-establishing the superiority of Santana dharma.
The Popularization of Gita and other texts in Hindi was seen as strengthening self and to counter the efforts of Christian Missionaries. The printing of religious texts contributed to the consolidation of Gita press as Paul Arney calls Gita Press the ‘leading purveyor of print Hinduism in the 20th century’ and ‘ able to take advantage of the introduction of mass printing technology and successfully promote a homogeneous, popular, Bhakti-oriented Brahminical Hinduism to which spiritual aspirants of many theological and sectarian persuasions could relate.’
Gita Press aim of promoting the supremacy of Hindu identity and superiority of Sanatana Dharma continues even today. At a time when politics causing a lot of differences between people and causing them to separate into various groups, despite of that Gita Press’ pattern is unchanged, and its political agenda remains undiluted even today.