When we delve about the social reformers of Indian History , the first name that comes in our mind is Raja Ram Mohan Roy or may be B.R Ambedkar – father of Indian Constitution. But there is one more social reformer who not only opposed the Sati practice like Raja Ram Mohan Roy but also stood up against the discrimination done to depressed class people just like B.R Ambedkar and many before him.
He is also known as the “Luther of Hinduism” and was the first one to use the terms Swarajya (self-rule), Swabhasha (self-language) and Swadharma (practicing righteousness). This is the story of Swami Dayanand Saraswati who not only patronized the Indic teachings but worked for betterment of the complete Indian society.
He also attacked other religions like Christianity, Islam and opposed forced conversion of the innocent Hindus.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati and His Early Childhood
Known as Mool Shankar in his childhood, Swami Dayanand Saraswati was born on February 12, 1824 in Tankara (Gujarat). He and family were the follower of Lord Shiva and due to this, Mool Shankar developed a strong connection towards righteousness (DHARMA), rituals and virtue from his childhood days.
In 1846 , when he was only 22 he decided to leave his home and became Ascetic (तपस्वी). For almost 25 years i.e from 1845 -1869 Dayanand Saraswati lived in the harsh mountains and the forest regions of the Himalayas to find the true meaning of life. He gave up all the material goods and lived a life of self-denial of worldly pleasures.
As an Ascetic he became the disciple of Virajanand Dandeesha. He later promised his guru that he would dedicate his life to restore the lost pride of Vedas and Sanatan Dharma. He was the first person who considered Hindi as a National Language. His book Satyartha Prakash which was a commentary on Vedas and focused on spreading knowledge of the infallible principles of VEDAS was also published in Hindi.
Dayanand Saraswati condemned the practice of animal sacrifice, idol worship, pilgrimage etc. After the formation of Arya Samaj Dayanand Saraswati dedicated rest of his life to abolish various social issues.
He was in favor of widow remarriage and focused on women’s education rights. He believed that women should be allowed to master the Vedas. He was against the Caste System and discrimination against women. These bold views of Swami Dayanand Saraswati made him and his teaching famous instantly.
To do these social reforms , he set up a number of Gurukuls to teach his followers the knowledge of the Vedas. He also criticize several religious practice of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism and several others.
Arya Samaj : Towards Reformation
Dayanand Saraswati on april 7 formed the ARYA SAMAJ at Bombay. People often confused with the name of Arya and wrongly believed that Arya is for BRAHMANS only or that Arya Samaj was for only Hindus.
What is Arya Samaj ?
ARYA SAMAJ i.e ‘Society of the Nobles’ especially focused on teaching the Vedic values and its ideals. He was the one who gave the famous slogan- “वेदों की ओर लौटो” ( Go Back to the Vedas”. )
There are Ten Tenants of Arya Samaj
- God is the efficient cause of all true knowledge and all that is known through knowledge.
- God is existent, intelligent and blissful. He is formless, omniscient, just, merciful, unborn, endless, unchangeable, beginning less, unequalled, the support of all, the master of all, omnipresent, immanent, unaging, immortal, fearless, eternal and holy and the maker of all. He alone is worthy of being worshipped.
- The Vedas are the scriptures of all true knowledge. It is the paramount duty of all Aryas to read, teach and recite them and to hear them being read.
- One should be ready to accept the truth and to renounce untruth.
- All acts should be performed in accordance with Dharma that is, after deliberating what is right and wrong.
- The prime object of the Arya Samaj is to do good to the world, that is to promote physical, spiritual and social good of everyone.
- Our conduct towards all should be guided by love, righteousness and justice.
- We should dispel Avidya (ignorance) and promote Vidya (Knowledge).
- No one should be content with promoting his/her good only; on the contrary, one should look for his/her good in promoting the good of all.
- One should regard oneself under restriction to follow the rules of society calculated to promote the wellbeing of all, while in following the rules of individual welfare all should be free.
Challenge to Christian Missionaries
Dayanand Saraswati aggressively attacked the customs and practices of colonial Christian and radical Islamic missionaries, which no one could have even imagine. Shudhi (purification) movement (in late 19th century) of Arya Samaj was able to thrash the ambitions of the missionaries in their own language.
For decades, Conversion of Hindus especially of those who were poor, uneducated and who belong to depressed class were common during the Mughal and British rule. Dayanand Saraswati was already against the caste system and wanted to finish this type of mentality from Indian culture. He wanted to unite the divided Indians . Dayanand Saraswati gave the slogan “India for Indians”. In 1882 the Arya Samaj formed a ‘Cow Protection Association’.
The Shudhi movement of Arya Samaj was able to bring back 15000-18000 converted hindus into their old faith. In 1882 , the Arya Samaj formed a Cow Protection Association to protect the Cow which is consider sacred in Hinduism.
It is because of the teachings of Dayanand Saraswati , that the Arya Samaj is active not only in India but in several other countries too. Canada, USA, Britain, South Africa, Mauritius, Netherlands, Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and the list goes on.
His teachings and virtues have inspired many freedom fighters like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Ram Prasad Bismil, Veer Savarkar, M.G.Ranade, Lala Lajpat Rai and many more.