Geeta Vachaspati Sadashiv Shastri Bhide, then in old times, from Hyderabad, South India, to the North India i.e. up to Sindh, travelled himself to spread the work and efforts of Geeta Mandir Mandal. In 1925, Hindu Dharma Parishad, held at Hydrabad, Bhide Shastri proposed that Margashirsha Shudha Ekadashi will be celebrated as Geeta Jayanti. Money and donations received from his untiring visits, Sadashiv Shastri Bhide, established the financial base for Geetadharma Mandal. At times he was so particular that donation money received as ‘dakshina’ after the meals, he used to add it to the Mandal’s funds. Even though Shastriji was blind, time and again he had visualised dream of own independent building for the Mandal. Fortunately, today, the Mandal has its own magnificent architectural style premises, with the grace of Shree Yogeshwar. This premise has a courtyard Auditorium.
The founder of this Geetadharma Mandal was the former editor of ‘Kesari’ and senior journalist Maharishi Mr G V Ketkar, who was grandson of Lokmanya Tilak. He himself was a scholar and a devotee of Shrimad Bhagavad Geeta. On this subject of Shrimad Bhagavad Geeta, his maximum writing and articles involved subjects from Geeta. It seems that, in Indian languages, such a rich writing on Geeta, nobody else could have done it. After the establishment of the Geetadharma Mandal in 1924, to spread the work and thought process of Mandal, Sadashiv Shastri Bhide took the responsibility of touring all over India and the campaign himself, while senior journalist Mr G V Ketkar, knowing the seriousness of the mantle he had undertaken, created lot of propaganda by wiring about Geeta through various newspapers. He also organized Geeta recitation competitions in various schools. Mr G V Ketkar made huge correspondence so that ‘Geeta Jayanti’ will be celebrated on Margashirsha Shudhha Ekadashi. Fortunately, now this day is celebrated as ‘Geeta Jayanti’ throughout India, and the humble credit goes to Geetadharma Mandal. The Mandal has dream of celebrating this day as International Geeta Jayanti.
On 9th December 1939, the founder of the Mandal, Sadashiv Shastri Bhide died prematurely. After his demise, the mantle of the Mandal’s work came to Mr G V Ketkar alone. In this situation along with Mr Nagarkar, Mr Bhide and other volunteers, Mr G V Ketkar continued the work with great zeal during the time period 1940 to 1958. During this period, Mandal used to organise examinations and competitions on Geeta every year in various educational institutions.
Going ahead, as per the earnest appeal made by Mt G V Ketkar, famous Sanghayogi and social activist Mr Vinayakrao Apte, in 1959, accepted the responsibility as a secretary of Geetadharma Mandal and the overall development of the Geetadharma Mandal. Vinayakrao had in depth study of Srimad Bhagvad Geeta. He used to give public lectures for promotion of Geeta verses. From the 1960 to 1967, in a very short period of time, Mr Vinayakrao Apte gave tremendous momentum to the work of the Mandal.
Every year by conducting various functions and events such as Sanskar Varga, Geeta Jayanti Mahotsav, and theme-based lectures, lot of momentum was thrusted to Geetadharma Mandal’s work in this period. During the same period late Sadashiv Shastri Bhide edited version of Bhagavad Geeta book for learning was published. It was seen that because of the efforts put by Vinayakrao, other volunteers; Mr Balasaheb Sathe, Mr R S Joshi, Mr Wamanrao Athavale, Mr Nath Khare too joined the Mandal’s work. The spread of work of Geetadharma Mandal increased in big way. Everybody popularly knew the Geetadharma Mandal and its work. Unfortunately, Sanghayogi Vinayakrao Apte passed away in January 1967. During the tenure of Vinayakrao Apte’s secretaryship, in 1966, Principal of Wadia College, Pune and well-known Geeta Scholar Mr Madhav Gangadhar Mahajan took over as president of Mandal. He presided over the period from 1966 to 1983. During this period, the work of Mandal got accelerated in all areas. In this period, in 1970, the magazine ‘Geeta Darshan’ was started. 10,000 sq ft of mansion was purchased in the heart of Pune’s Sadashiv Peth. This place has ground to accommodate sudience of approximately 250 people.
Scrolling through the pages of history and looking at the progressive journey of Geetadharma Mandal, next coming period, i.e. 1983-1988, was handled by P D A founder of famous theatrical institute and scholar of Indian culture, Mr Bhalba Kelkar took the charge of Geetadharma Mandal. He initiated the daily knowledge imparting programme (lectures/discourses) in Geetadharma Mandal. It has been going on nonstop for more than thirty years now.
In later times, retired police commissioner and Sanskrit scholar Mr Sridhar P Marathe became the President of the Mandal. During his tenure, 1988 to 1992, one-third construction of the new building of Geetadharma Mandal was completed. Under his presidentship, Mandal through its Publishing House published many books. After this tenure, the well-known scholar of Sant Vangmaya (Saint literature) and renowned author, Principal Dr Hemant V Inamdar held the charge of Geetadharma Mandal.
From 1993 to 1999, every year, he organized a 21-day theme-based lecture series for seven years on one subject each year. Lecture series on great saints such as Shri Dnyaneshwar, Shri Namdeo, Shri Eknath, Shri Tukaram, Shri Samarth Ramdas Maharaj and Grantharaj Dnyaneshwari and Shrimad Bhagavad Geeta were organised by Dr Inamdar in better way. During his tenure, ‘Marathi Tatvadnyan Mahamandal’ was merged in Geetadharma Mandal to bring synergy. After this, Dr Mrs Kalyani Namjoshi, renowned scholar and popular Pravachankar, presided over, from 1999 to 2010, the activities such as Geeta Santha, daily discourses and Publications Department got special momentum. From 2010, Dr Mukund R Datar is the President of the Mandal. Dr Mukund Datar, retired professor and well-known speaker, is the author of many Sant Sahitya (Saint literature) books. He is known as cultural thinker, and in his tenure, the all-round progress of the Geetadharma Mandal is being achieved at a much faster pace.
As mentioned here about the great contributions of all Presidents, it is worth to mention the massive work done by Secretaries and Joint Secretaries. In this, Mr Vasantrao V Apte, whose selfless, goal-seeking, prompt and untiring efforts for growth of Geetadharma Mandal for 42 years continuously until the year 2009, are worth mentionable. For more than 20 years, he was a secretary of the Mandal. During his tenure, the construction of the magnificent mansion of Geetanjali was completed. Mr. Vasantrao Apte was editor of ‘Geeta Darshan’ magazine for 37 consecutive years. Similarly, Professor Dr G V Karandikar, Scholar of Samarth Ramdas Swami literature and society well-wisher also selflessly served as a joint secretary for more than 20 years. Advocate Mr Dnyanesh Bendre was active as a secretary from 2007 to 2015. These things deserve special mentions.