Journalist Akshaya Mukul has won the Shakti Bhatt Prize, given to the best first book of the years, for Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India. The winner was chosen from a field of six shortlisted books by judges Samanth Subramanian, Mahesh Rao and Janice Pariat.

The other five authors on the shortlist were:

  • Manu S Pillai, The Ivory Throne
  • Madhu Gurung, The Keeper of Memories
  • Sophia Khan, Yasmeen
  • Nisid Hajari, Midnight’s Furies
  • Kanishk Tharoor, Swimmer Among the Star

The winning book was published by HarperCollins India.

The judges said, “Mukul’s painstaking research tells the story of a publishing house in the Hindi heartland, which, through its output of religious texts and magazines, achieved enormous influence to become the vehicle of an intensely focused political project. The current overseers of that regrettable project – of Hindutva, or Hindu nationalism – have only become bolder and more powerful, which makes Gita Press challenging, timely and provocative.

They added: “Mukul’s book was a highly original and commendable work involving a dogged determination to set out the many particularities of the Gita Press and the colourful personalities that drove its agenda. It is also a book that is relevant to cultural homogenisation across the ages, since at its heart it reveals what it takes to be a cultural mythmaker, and how a specific nexus of religious, caste and linguistic considerations have reaped extraordinary rewards.”

The prize is funded by the Shakti Bhatt Foundation and Priti Paul through the Apeejay Trust.