The awakening of India during the 19th century looked not merely to the west for inspiration but also to the India’s glorious past. It was Swami Dayananda Saraswati who adored the glorious past of India to establish Arya Samaj and gave the slogan “Back to the Vedas”. The great revivalist set his reforms against the prevalent orthodoxy of the Hindus like caste system, practice of child marriage etc.
The founder of the Hindu reform organization Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand Saraswati was born on 12th February, 1824 at Morbi in Gujarat as Moolshankar. Karsanji Trivedi a tehsilder, was his father, who vowed to bring up his boy a a devout Saivite and steep him in the wisdom of the Vedas. It was the father’s good fortune that a very early age Moolshankar mastered the four Vedas. When he was fourteen he observed Mahasivaratri fast and visited the temple of Shiba along with his father to offer prayer. Being too much anxious for the revelation, he continued to sit inside the sanctum of the Shiba temple, long after the other devotees had left, but saw a mouse crept on the image and took the offering placed before it. It set him thinking and neither his parents nor any of his relatives could convince him of the sanctity of image worship. The second important event in his life was the death of his uncle who loved him very much. This made Moolsankar seek the knowledge to overcome death. He regarded earthly attractions as transient. Therefore, when a marriage was arranged for him, he left home and adopted the life of an ascetic.
Swami Dayanand kept wondering all over India and received spiritual education from Swami Virajanand. Then he stared preaching against the falsehood of the prevailing puranic faith like idol worship, caste by birth and the exclusion of females from the study of the Vedas. He preached that Hindu should worship just one, formless God. He stood against polytheism by telling people the true meaning of the names of God and established how all of them pointed at one and the same god-paramatma, the supreme self. Further he raised voice against superstition and unrighteousness which reigned supreme in the grab of true religion. His new doctrine was attacked in a public meeting of Kashi and he was asked to defend it. Although the issue was unsettled. Dayanand continued to preach his doctrine. After sometime he visited Calcutta and made some overtures to Brahmo Samaj. Because of certain difference he stood apart from the latter movement. The Brahmo Samaj was the rationalistic movement of the west and aimed to form elite. Moreover, it did not accept the infallibility of the Vedas or the transmigration of soul as it was pledged to the negation of both. Although Dayanad could not be won over by the Brahmo Samaj, there was one good result out of this contact. It was Keshab Chandra Sen who insisted on the importance of carrying the propaganda in the langue which the people understand better. This made Dayanand to preach his doctrine in Hindi.
Swami Dayanand’s major arguments for going back to the Vedas was that, “the four Vedas i.e. Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda, the repositories of knowledge and religious truth, are the words of God. They are absolutely free of error and the Supreme and independent authority”. To spread awareness of his movement andto revitalize Vedic knowledge, Dayanand published many religious books like Satya Prakash. The Rig-Vedaadi, Bhasyya-Bhoomika and Sankar Vidhi.
Swami Dayanand established Arya Samaj on April 7th 1875 in Bombay to reform the Hindu society. He rejected caste system and encouraged inter-caste marriages. He did not recognize the superiority and authority of the Brahmins and claimed that everyone had the right to study the Vedas. More important was the stress that he laid on suddhi, a method for reconverting those Hindus who had gone over or either to Islam or Christianity. A few more subsidiary features were envisaged by the Arya Samaj.
The first meeting of Arya Samaj was held in 1875 and its constitution was drawn up with three principles: -
The Veda alone are absolutely authoritative,
Every member should contribute one hundredth part of his money towards the fund o the Samaj. Te Arya Vidyalaya and the paper Arya Praksh,
The Vedas and the ancient Arya Granthas should be studied and taught in the Arya Vidayalaya.
Later on these principles were replaced by ten principles.
As the movement grew, a split occurred in the Samaj in 1892over the question of eating meat and the purpose of the educational institutions. The unorthodox party argued that although Dayanand did not favor eating meat, the ten principles were silent about it. On the other hand, the orthodox party supported the teaching of Dayanand, not just the ten principles. Gradually the orthodox party trumped emphasizing on those distinct features which distinguished the movement from the Brahmo Samaj. Ramkrishna Mission, the Prarthana Samaj and such other religious movements.
The movement not only gave an opportunity to recognize Hinduism but also gave a momentum to the nationalist movement. Lala hans Raj, the principal of the D.A.V. College at Lahore and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab were the leaded of the movement. As the movement always had the overtone of aggressiveness towards other sects, it encouraged terrorism and the growing antagonism of the Muslim League. Indeed the Arya Samaj founded by Swami Dayanand is one of the living forces of modern India and Dayanand a heroic soul.
The challenge of Hindu orthodoxy by Swami Dayanand Saraswati induced anger and wrath of many orthodox Hindus which subsequently led to fourteen attempts of poisoning Dayanand Saraswati. Miraculously he could able to cure himself from the thirteen attempts using his Yougic abilities but the fourteenth tome was proved fatal and Swami Dayanand died leaving behind him the Arya Samaj, a chain of Dayanand Anglo Vedic School (DAV), Hospitals, community halls and Libraries.