Born on February 12, 1824, Swami Dayanand (originally named Moolshankar) mastered the four Vedas at an early age. He was hardly fourteen when he could discuss philosophy with the scholars. In 1838, his father advised him to spend Mahashivaratri in prayer and fasting. He sat inside the temple of Lord Shiva, waiting for the revelation. He saw rats running all over the Sivalinga, the Lord. They ate up every bit of the offerings left there by the devotees and the Lord could not defend Himself. A terrible doubt arose in his mind. He sat hurt and disbelieving. He lost faith in a God of stone. He resolved to seek the Creator. He decided to leave his home and dear ones in 1846 when he was only twenty-two. He became a sanyasi.
He travelled across hill and plain, through field and desert A village saint taught him meditation and yoga. This training kept him physically fit. He got his head shaven and put on saffron clothes. This marked the birth of a new star a great spiritual leader. He met the blind sage Virjanand of Mathura who admitted the brilliance of his disciple. He told Dayanand to destroy idolatory, remove ignorance and persuade the people to give up meaningless rituals. He said — let the light of the Vedas reach every home.
India, towards the middle of the 19th century, had already been brought under the British rule. The white missionaries ‘ were destroying India’s old vedic culture and they set up westernized schools. Superstitions ruled supreme. Religion became the opium of the masses. The spirit of religion was lost. Every form of corruption prevailed. The widows were forced to burn themselves in their husband’s funeral pyre. All hands were against the reformer. His only weapons were a keen intellect awl fearlessness. He travelled without rest with his dream of re -establishing the Vedas as the basis of Indian life.
People in thousands turned out to welcome this interesting and fiery young man. His attack on the established customs and beliefs of the day earned him a number of enemies too. He interpreted the Koran and the Bible in a new way. But the truth of the matter was that he respected all religions. He attacked only the senseless rituals. He was poisoned by his cook and he breathed his last on October 30, 1883. The essence of his philosophy is contained in the Satyartha Prakash. He built the Arya Samaj around his ten basic principles. He can be truly called the Father of New India, the saviour of the Hindus and a great social reformer.