A Brief History of Back to Godhead Magazine

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada began publication of Back to Godhead magazine from his home in Calcutta in 1944. The Second World War was in progress, and the Japanese were bombing Calcutta. There was rationing of essential war supplies, and the government at first refused his request for paper for printing. But he was persistent, his request was finally granted, and in the second issue of the magazine, with veiled sarcasm, he thanked the government for their enlightened attitude toward such a spiritual publication.

Srila Prabhupada's spiritual vision was uncompromising. The magazine would contain only the transcendental messages of the great sages of India, especially Lord Chaitanya, and his duty would be simply to repeat them, according to time and circumstance in the present age. He would not manufacture anything, and so his words would descend as transcendental sound to guide people back to Godhead. He admitted that the subject matter, being from a totally different sphere of consciousness, might seem dry to his readers, but said that anyone who actually gave attention to the message would benefit.

Notwithstanding the humble circumstances surrounding the beginning of the magazine, Srila Prabhupada's goals and vision were nothing less than the salvation of the entire world. He never altered or lost that vision throughout his life, and he left this example to all his followers. His success in later years would be proof to his disciples of the words of Bhagavad-gita,

yatra yogesvarah krsno
yatra partho dhanur-dharah
tatra srir vijayo bhutir
dhruva nitir matir mama

"Wherever there is Krishna, the master of all mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion."


The publication schedule of Back to Godhead was irregular. After the beginning in 1944, the next issues we have are from 1952. Then follow the Volume III issues which were printed during March to November 1956, October to November 1958, and February to September 1960. The Hindi issues, of which we have only Volume I, Nos 1 and 3, were printed in Kanpur in 1958. From the final issues in the 1960s we can see that Srila Prabhupada was becoming more interested in book publication, and the later issues contain excerpts from books that he intended to publish. Of particular interest is Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu, which appears in the later Back to Godheads with transliterations, word-for-word translations, translations, and purports. After his arrival in America he was to publish a summary-study of this work as The Nectar of Devotion.

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