ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s masterwork the Srimad-Bhagavatam has been reprinted in Spanish after being out of stock for four years, to the delight of the Spanish-speaking world.
Why has it taken so long? Well, for one, the once-struggling Spanish and Portuguese branch of Prabhupada’s publishers the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust has been on a decade-long climb back to success and sustainability, during which it had to focus on smaller books for mass distribution.
Recently, however, it has finally been able to put its resources into the thirteen-volume Bhagavatam.
It’s been a lot of work. Proofreader Gauravani Dasi in Mexico and designer Govinda Damodara Das in Argentina marathoned for sixteen-months nonstop to get the proofs ready. Husband and wife team Gopaswami Das and Laura Minerva wrangled with the difficult Sanskrit fonts. And a team of volunteers in Mexico worked on the extensive indexes and glossaries.
The other reason for the long wait has been the cost, which at $100,000 was prohibitive for a publishing company trying to get back on its feet.
So in 2013 four young women – Damayanti Dasi in Argentina, Nitya Kishori in Peru, and Paramesvari and Apavrita in Mexico – headed a campaign advertising pre-sales in ISKCON temples, on web blogs, and on Facebook, resulting in 600 pre-sold Bhagavatam sets. Loans and generous donations rounded out the total.
Recently the print run of 4,000 sets has been coming in from its printers in India to the BBT’s warehouses in Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Spain, and will be sent to customers soon.
In contrast to the old edition devised by ISKCON Europe’s leadership in the 1980s, which had an illustration-free red and gold cover imitating those of Western classics, the new edition has brought back Srila Prabhupada’s original covers with their colorfully illustrated jackets.
For now, the set also only includes Srimad Bhagavatam Cantos 1 through 10, which Prabhupada himself translated and commented on, leaving the last two Cantos translated by his disciples for a later edition.
Most of the 4,000 sets are expected to go to ISKCON devotees, although the BBT plans to work with temples in Mexico to research ways of selling full sets to members of the public too. A leading book distributor in Spain, meanwhile, already has a system of selling full Bhagavatam sets.
The beautifully designed jacket of the Spanish Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1, Part 1
The new Bhagavatam is a milestone for the Spanish/Portuguese BBT, which has been building up stability, capital, reputation and legal structures since current trustee and manager Hanuman Das came on board in 2004.
Back in the late 1980s, Spanish-speaking countries were some of the leading nations in book distribution. Devotees in Brazil alone were distributing nearly one million books a year. But by the early 2000s, systems had fallen apart and even Brazil’s annual distribution was only 20,000 books.
The BBT established offices all over Latin America; started a school, Collegio Bhaktivedanta, to train book distributors; and sent out teams to boost book distribution in places where it was already happening and start it in places where it didn’t exist.
Today, Brazil is distributing about 300,000 books a year, and across Latin American and Spain nearly 1 million books are going out.
Next, there’s another Spanish Bhagavatam reprint planned for around three years from now, this time of the full twelve cantos.
Beyond that, the Spanish Srimad-Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita are coming to e-books across all platforms, joining the Bhagavad-gita e-book that is already available.
Portuguese e-books will follow, as will reprints of the hard copy Portuguese Srimad-Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita, which also ran out of stock some years ago.
“We’re also creating systems and structures to make us more sustainable that can be transferred to future generations,” says trustee Hanuman Das, who employees many second generation and young devotees amongst his staff. “For instance, we’ve invested a lot of time and money into a cloud accounting system to keep all our offices across the world connected.”
The Spanish/Portuguese BBT is also working on refining legal and copyrights, as well as of course continuing to increase book distribution.
“The BBT has always been more of a business than ISKCON, so we’re working to incorporate tools that will make the operation overall more professional,” says Hanuman.
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies