In November 1935 Srila Prabhupada (then Abhay Charan De) was with his spiritual master in Vrindavana. Having heard of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's stay here, Prabhupada, bringing his son with him, had travelled from Bombay, just to have darshana of his spiritual master.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta then said directly to Prabhupada, "Amar iccha chila kichu bai karana": "I had a desire to print some books. If you ever get money, print books." Standing by Radha-kunda and beholding his spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada felt the words deeply enter his own life-"If you ever get money, print books."
In December 1936, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta was in poor health at Jagannatha Puri. Prabhupada was in Bombay, and he wrote his Guru Maharaja a letter., "You have got many disciples, and I am one of them, but they are doing direct service to you but I am a householder. Is there any particular service I can do?"
Two weeks later, Prabhupada received a reply. Prabhupada at once recognized this to be the same instruction he had received at their first meeting, in 1922.: "Turn yourself into a very good English preacher. This will do much good to yourself as well as your audience."
Soon after Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura passed away, the Gaudiya Matha broke down into two major factions fighting over who would be the next Acharya. Quarreling and fistfights broke out. The preaching of the Gaudiya Matha stopped. As the Gaudiya Matha broke down, Prabhupada was also affected. Under the present circumstances, how could he carry out his spiritual master's order to preach?
Srila Prabhupada began to think seriously about writing. He would have to continue on his own, maintaining his business and simultaneously trying to write and publish as he understood there would be no help from the Gaudiya Matha. The English journal The Harmonist had not been published since Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's passing away. Now almost a decade had passed, and the Gaudiya Matha had been too busy fighting in court to consider preaching. From his front room at 6 Sita Kanta Banerjee lane, Prabhupada conceived, wrote, edited, and typed the manuscript for a magazine. He designed a logo, a long rectangle across the top of the page with the words - Back to Godhead.
But when he went to buy paper, he met with government restrictions. Because of the war and the subsequent paper shortage, they wanted to assay what he had written in terms of the national needs. Srila Prabhupada's request for paper was perfunctorily denied, but he persisted. He appealed that using paper to print the teachings of the Personality of Godhead was not a waste and not untimely in the present troubled atmosphere. Finally he obtained permission to print his first edition of Back to Godhead, a forty-four page publication. The first issue was released on February 14, 1944 - 75 years ago.
Srila Prabhupada not only typed and edited his magazine. He even got it printed, and personally distributed them.
Srila Prabhupada went on to write more than 70 volumes of books in his lifetime, and in 1972 he established the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, to publish his books. The BBT today is the world's largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy and till date almost 550 million books have been distributed. It all started 75 years ago, with the release of that tabloid magazine, from the small front room in Sita Kanta Banerjee lane.