Bhagwad Gita's sales go up after Russia controversy

New Delhi, India - The Bhagwad Gita is a bestseller, controversy or no controversy. The holy book notches up steady sales through the year. In the last financial year, for instance, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, one of the major publishers of the ancient Hindu scripture, sold around six lakh copies of Gita in 13 languages.

Bookshop owners in the city maintain that the Gita sells throughout the year. They have also noticed a small rise in the sales since the controversy erupted late last week. "Hindi, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Oriya, Nepali - the book sells steadily in each of the languages we publish. Gita is a manual for life. Those who filed the case against it in Russia probably did not understand it," B B Tripathi, chief account officer in the book sales department, Gita Press, Gorakhpur told TOI over phone.

Mirza Afsar Baig of the Midland bookstore in the city's Aurobindo Marg has been selling books for over two decades.

"The controversies that crop up around books never cease to amaze me. I've sold over 60 copies of Swami Chinmayananda's The Holy Geeta in the last two days alone. There was a similar interest in Salman Rushdie after his Satanic Verses was banned," says Baig. There was also a rise in interest in books on the Prophet Mohammad and Islam after a US pastor threatened to burn copies of the Koran on the 9/11 anniversary last year, he says.

The city's International Society for Krishna Consciousness ( ISKCON) reported no spurt in sales. However, the organization is confident that the controversy will get more people interested in the subject.

In June this year, the state prosecutor's office in the Russian city of Tomsk, Siberia, filed a petition asking for a ban on the Gita, interpreting it as war-mongering, extremist literature.