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MAHARISHI SWAMI DAYANAND SARASWATI- FOUNDER OF ARYA SAMAJ
Swami Dayanand was born in 1824 in Tankara in the state of Gujarat. At that time the whole of India was enwrapped in a kind of deep slumber. Age old customs and traditions were prevalent but they were devoid of inspirations conducive to a progressive society. At such a period of darkness a
leader, a torch bearer in the name of Swami Dayanand made his entry on the Indian scene. He started to awaken all sections of the Hindu society. His greatness lay in the fact that he made an impact in all parts of the country, among all sections and on every facet of life.
Religious Reform and Spirit of Independence
In the field of religion Dayanand freed the society from the bonds of numerous gods to the worship of one omnipresent God caring for all. By removing superstition and meaningless customs and practices Dayanand showed the true path of worship and sacrament. Taking the Vedas as the foundation he rekindled the true form of the Hindu Dharma. The Hindu society had abandoned the principles of religious unity and consequently it was fragmented.
As a maker of modern India he was the first to kindle the spirit of nationalism and independence. Dayanand was the foremost and most forceful of the leaders who brought about revolutionary changes in the religious, social, political and educational life of India in the early years of struggle for independence.
Revival of the Vedas
The Vedas are the source and inspiration of Hindu scriptures. Before the advent of Dayanand more attention was given to the scriptures of the various denominations. The basic principles of the Vedas were lost. The study of Vedas was prohibited to the common man; Swami Dayanand was the first person to re-establish the importance of the Vedas and declare that its teachings should reach everyone. The Vedas were reintroduced not only as books to enhance the quality of the library or to be looked upon with reverence but they were reintroduced as books containing the repository of knowledge and the source of all wisdom.
To expound the deep knowledge of the Vedas Swami Dayanand wrote his great book “Introduction to the Commentary on Vedas” as a prelude to his expositions of the Vedas. His writings influenced even western scholars to study the Vedas according to the methods of the ancient rishis.
Revision of Sacraments(Sanskaars) and religious rites.
During the course of thousands of years many denominations came into being in the Hindu society. They started many religious rites according to their teaching and beliefs and thus many kinds of prayers, rituals and worship gained ground. The original form of Vedic sanskaars thus changed considerably. Swami Dayanand, taking the Vedas as his authority, modified the mode and form of the religious ceremonies. He wrote his popular book the “Sanskar Vidhi” for this. The Vedic sanskars were thus revived and given importance.
Upholding of religious principles and Denunciation of Blind faith
With the birth of many denominations numerous religious principles were initiated and practised. Blind following and hypocrisy began increasing. In the name of religion many forms of blind following became ingrained in the human society. Prayers to appease stars and planets replaced worship to God, and witchcraft and sorcery became the order of the day. In order to restore true Vedic principles by getting rid of blind faith and false beliefs and misconceptions, Swami Dayanand wrote his famous book, “The Light of Truth” (Satyarth Prakash) in 1875. This book changed the thinking pattern of people.
Dayanand said- “The main object of my writing this book is to elucidate true principles, ie, to declare as untruth what is untruth. Truth is speaking, writing and believing in connection with a thing as it actually is. ….it is the sacred duty of learned men to put before the public the real nature of truth and untruth.”
Uprooting the caste system and untouchability
Swami Dayanand endeavoured to have the caste system completely uprooted with the backing of the Vedas. He pointed out , with illustrations form the Vedas, that every person is the child of God and there can be no differentiation of high or low birth. To give one the certificate of superiority at the time of birth would result in stifling his/her progress.More pernicious than the caste system was the abhorrent practice of untouchability. Dayanand struck his heavy blow on this practice as well.
Ideals for Education and opening the doors of Education to all
The development of man is dependent upon the system of education exposed to him/her. Western thinking had changed the whole ideal of human society. The Western ideal of society was based on enjoyment and undisciplined freedom and to counteract this thinking Swami Dayanand advocated the ideal of spiritual knowledge. For the attainment of this he stressed on the practice of celibacy (Brahmacharya), self discipline and meditation as the basis. His followers started educational institutions on these lines in India.
Swami Dayanand declared that it is the right of all persons including women to be educated in all faculties of learning. He opened the way for them to learn the teachings of the scriptures.
Establishment of Arya Samaj
Swami Dayanand was confronted with much opposition to his revolutionary thoughts and many attempts were made to kill him. In order to maintain continuity of his work of the Vedic principles and the reform movement initiated by him he established the Arya Samaj movement in 1875. He lived up to his principles and ideals fearlessly up to the last days of his life. His end came when he was poisoned and he died in 1883 on the eve of Deepawali.
Acknowledgement: The above article is based on the book “Shastra Navinatam-A Concise Study of Hindu Scriptures” edited by Pt. Nardev Vedalankar.