Swamy Dayananda and Arya Samaj


Established in 1875 by Dayananda, Arya Samaj during his life time had branches in all main centres of North India, particularly Punjab and United provinces. It was established with a charter of ten basic rules, membership was open to all those irrespective of caste, religion, race who agreed upon these ten core principles

arya_samaj

1.       God is the primary cause of all true knowledge and of everything known by its means.

2.       God is All-truth, All-knowledge, All-beatitude, Incorporeal, Almighty, Just, Merciful, Unbegotten, Infinite, Unchangeable, without a beginning. Incomparable, the Support and the Lord of All, All pervading, Omniscient, Imperishable, Immortal, Exempt from fear, Eternal, Holy and the Cause of the Universe. To Him alone worship is due.

3.       The Vedas are the Books of true knowledge, and it is the paramount duty of every Arya to read or hear them read, to teach and read them to others.

4.       An Arya should always be ready to accept truth and to renounce untruth.

5.       All actions must conform to virtue, i.e., should be performed after a thorough consideration of right and wrong.

6.       The primary object of the Samaj is to benefit the whole world, viz., by improving the physical, spiritual, and social condition of mankind.

7.       All ought to be treated with love, justice and with due regard to their merits.

8.       Ignorance must be dispelled and knowledge diffused.

9.        No one should be contented with his own good alone, but everyone should regard his or her prosperity as included in that of others.

10.   In matters which affect the general social well-being of our race, no one should allow his or her Individuality to interfere with the general good, but in strictly personal affairs everyone may act with freedom.

According to Mulraj, first president of Arya samaj in Lahore, Dayananda had consciously chosen a charter with broader principles to give more personal liberty, without compromising the basic core and to accomadate all sections of hindu society.

Arya Samaj had a three tier organisational structure- a local branch, a provincial assembly and an all-india assembly at the top to oversee its affairs with leadership elected democratically at all levels. British govt had apprehensions on Arya Samaj, they looked at its goals and ideology with suspicion, a deadly mix of religious inspiration and organisation that could stoke nationalistic feelings among its followers against their rule.

Arya samaj as an organisation didn’t participated in politics, but members participated in nationalist struggle against british rule in their individual capacity. The Samaj was open about its agenda, its motivation was to restore vedic way of life in an open democratic manner.  It had a universal agenda to restore vedic way of life which was prevalent across the planet in the past, the agenda was not limited to hindus, Indians but to entire humanity, so there was no reason to participate in politics against British. They had no qualms to admit that inspiration from samaj could most likely stimulate political consciousness among followers, but that was not their agenda, they claimed all their activities were open and transparent.

Arya samaj emerged as an important socio-cultural organisation for hindus in a short period. In Punjab and united provinces it grew in strength, particularly very influential in centres like Lahore. Among its members were influential persons, businessmen, govt employees, lawyers and other well qualified established persons. Samaj gave a liberal socio-religious identity to the hindus from their own roots.

Arya samaj was the first socio-cultural hindu organisation that took up the task of addressing the challenges before hindu society with a well organized modern approach. Samaj was involved in social reform, education, service activities and reconversion to vedic religion.

The inspiration for samaj was to reform hindu religion and follow vedic way of life, apart from that samaj did commendable work in spreading education among masses. From community efforts they tried to impart indigenous as well as vocational modern education with primary, secondary schools across Punjab and United provinces. The Dayanand Anglo Vedic college, established in 1885 in Lahore, and the Gurukul at kangri near Haridwar, established in 1902 were considered model institutions for their aims in education.

The DAV college in Lahore, headed by Lala Hans Raj, a brilliant university graduate who gave up bright career to serve the cause as honorary principal for decades, became a model indigenous institution in a short period without taking any assistance from british govt. For a nominal fee it had provided quality education bereft of colonial prejudices, it’s curriculum included exposure to traditional classics as well as modern scientific knowledge and vocational training.

Another experiment to revive the vedic Gurukul education system was the Gurukul established in Kangri, close to Haridwar. It was founded by Munshi Ram, a lawyer who gave up his profession and invested all his resources in bringing up this institution. It was run as a residential institution, students had to spend their life of “Brahmacharya” away from parents studying both traditional and modern subjects while practicing vedic life style. Education and maintenance of student was free of cost. The remarkable feature of these experiments by Samaj was the recognition of the importance of modern secular and scientific education along with traditional education. This approach equipped students to face contemporary world and compete with others trained in british education with confidence. British govt was uneasy with this self-reliant indigenous approach of Samaj, tried to create hurdles with their power, but couldn’t defeat the spirit of people like Lala Hans Raj and Munshi Ram.  Arya samaj became a pioneer in the field of education with increased number of such institutions.

 

Social Service

       Hindu society as it was structured had an inbuilt mechanism for service at the level of family and community, it served the purpose in the past, with changing economic, social and administrative setup, an explicit organized approach to social service was needed. Arya samaj realized this necessity, undertook service activities competing with well organized and resourceful Christian missionaries.

Under British rule famines and starvation deaths were a regular feature in the country. When the harvest was good the surpluses were taken out of the country, during droughts and famines country was left to starve. Arya Samaj did commendable service in famine affected areas of Rajasthan, central provinces, Bombay state, parts of Punjab during famine years of 1897-98 and 1899-1900. They formed Hindu orphan relief movement to rescue orphaned children in famine areas, established number of hindu orphanages, provided sustenance and education for boys and girls.

Samaj’s service activities were not just limited to famine relief, also provided medical help during pestilences, nursing the sick and took up disposal of dead bodies.  During earthquake in Kangra valley in 1904 samaj organized massive relief measures and won the admiration of people and government, they were the first to reach the afflicted area.

Though their resources were limited compared to Christian missionaries, they had set a model before hindu society on the need for organized social service to serve each other, also gave confidence to hindus that they can organize and stand on their own as a society.

Shudhi – Reconversion

        The most important contribution of Arya Samaj towards long term hindu interests along with its reformist agenda was its attempt to reconvert people back to vedic religion from other religions with “Shudhi” programmes. In these events a person or group who intended to return back to vedic religion had to maintain himself with milk diet for 15 days, after that a yagna would be organized to solemnize their re-entry into native faith. This was nothing short of a revolutionary move given the fact that Hindu punditry for centuries foolishly refused to accept requests from people for re-entry to native traditions even if they never left on their own. This smugness and foolish attitude resulted in serious damages to hindu society, the damaging consequences continue to this day. Samaj organized these “shudhi” events wherever feasible, an organization to reconvert muslim rajputs was also formed.

Arya Samaj recognized the importance of numbers for the survival and sustenance of Hindus. It had worked to strengthen the weakest links of hindu society. They made efforts to uplift the weaker sections of society socially and spiritually, provided for their education and welfare, fought for their social status on par with others in hindu society.

Arya samaj pioneered hindu reform and rejuvenation at a time when its confidence was all time low. They blended hindu core to modernity. One may not have to agree with Dayananda or Arya samaj on everything but it’s important to see their immeasurable contribution in the context of historical process, external challenges and evolution of hindu society. It may not be exaggeration to say Samaj stands first in original thinking and intellectual honesty among Hindu inclined socio-cultural organizations even to this day. This speech by Lala Hans Raj at the anniversary of Lahore Arya Samaj makes the point clear on the quality of intellectual debates in Samaj

       “… During the palmiest days of Mahomedan rule, the Hindus had never acknowledged themselves beaten by their masters in intellectual and moral progress. A Mahomedan Babar might defeat a Hindu Sanga and dispossess him of a portion of his territory, but even he had to bend before a Hindu Nanak. Akbar, Faizi, Jehangir, and Dara Shikoh had to bear testimony to the learning and saintliness of Hindu devotees. But with the advent of the English the case has become different. Hardly a day passes when we are not reminded of our inferiority. The railway, the telegraph and the factory speak in unmistakeable terms both to the educated and the uneducated that Englishmen are far superior to them in the knowledge of natural laws and their application to the conveniences of human life. The wonderfully complex machine of administration which regulates our affairs displays to us high powers of organization in the nation that bears rule over us. The dramas of Shakespeare, the poems of Milton, and the writings of Bacon attest the intellectual eminence of the ruling people. The perseverance, truthfulness, courage, patriotism, and self-sacrifice of Englishmen excite feelings of respect and admiration in our minds. What wonder is then that in their company we feel ourselves conquered and humiliated?

    

    Just at this moment of weakness, the missionary comes to us and whispers that the superiority of the European over the Indian is the gift of the Son of God whom he has acknowledged as his King and Saviour, and that your countrymen can really become great if they come under His banner. The idea thus insinuated is daily fed and strengthened by the education that he imparts to us through a large number of Mission Schools and Colleges that cover the country with their network. The missionary criticizes the evils that have of late corrupted our society, and proudly points to his own community as entirely free from those curses. He compares our sacred books with Christian Scriptures, and proves to the satisfaction of many misguided people that the latter are infinitely superior to the former. He is also encouraged in his proselytizing work by the apathy of the Hindus towards religious instruction. They send their children to schools for secular education without making any provision for religious training at home or at school, with the result that our boys grow up utterly ignorant of the religious principles of their Shastras. No Christian father will ever entrust his sons to the care of him whom he believes inimical to his faith, but we do it daily, only to bewail the result of our folly when some mishap befalls us. The godless education of Government Schools and Colleges has increased our indifference to religion, and we have been so completely won over to the world that we are ready to sacrifice our highest religious interests for the slightest worldly advantage to ourselves.

  The labours of the Sanskrit scholars of Europe have also facilitated, though unconsciously, the path of the missionary. Accustomed to receive secular truths from the West without the slightest hesitation, our young men, unacquainted with the sublime truths of their Scriptures, are led to put implicit faith in the opinions of Western scholars on the subject of Hindu religion. … I do not mean to blame such distinguished savants as Professors Max Muller and Monier Williams, or cast a slur on the world-wide reputation which they have deservedly won after years of toil in the sacred field of Sanskrit literature. European savants . . . have been misled by the commentaries of native Sanskrit scholars whom they have closely followed, and it is no fault of theirs if they have failed in fields where men more favourably situated than themselves had shared the same fate. . . .

 

” The Hindu religion, which could well withstand the steel of Mahomedan bigotry for hundreds of years, has been brought face to face with European science and criticism, wielded by the hands of men who are either indifferent to our interests or interested in converting us to their faith. Our situation demands that we brace our nerves to defend our religion, if we believe it to be true, against the attacks of its assailants ; but, alas ! we ourselves have misgivings in our hearts. The vast and insensate majority of our conservative countrymen is so much steeped in idolatry and superstition, that it is well-nigh unconscious of its own wretchedness. It is, moreover, divided into rival sects giving nominal allegiance to the Vedas but passionately clinging to the various books composed by their founders for the benefit of their followers. Whenever any section of the community has kept itself aloof from contending factions , it has, with an inconsistency characteristic of our race, outwardly recognized the sovereignty of all, but, inwardly ignoring the claims of religion altogether, yielded its heart to none.

 

A few meaningless ceremonies excepted, there is no common tie that unites the Hindu masses, no common link that fastens them to each other, no one principle which all of them may be moved to defend. As for the people who call themselves educated, they are beset with greater difficulties and less provided for against danger. Education has deprived them of the ignorant pride which, in the case of common people, is the source of dogged pertinacity and tenacious adherence to their own views. Light has reached them only to reveal the hideous situation they are in. The godless education of our Schools and Colleges has sapped the foundations of faith in God and His revealed Will; our boys are taught to despise their own religious books and prize those of the foreigner ; above all, the conviction has been brought home to us by the writings of European savants that, although we possess some philosophical works of inestimable value, our religious books contain a great deal of rubbish and nonsense along with a few gems of truth that lie embedded in it. We are told that the Vedas, which are the basis of our religion and science, embody the child-like utterances of the primeval man, that they teach the worship of the elements, and enjoin the practice of foolish rites that could please children but are disgusting to civilized man. Some of these opinions derive countenance even from the opinions of our priests, the natural guides of our people, who, devoting themselves exclusively to the study of works composed in the mythological period, remain ignorant of the knowledge of Divine Revelation and, in their zeal to defend the present corruptions of society, lend a helping hand to the enemies of their faith. Thus the ancient religion of the Hindus, deserted by those who ought to have proved its best defenders, seems doomed to destruction by the blows dealt to it by its young adversaries. It seeks safety in concealment ; it is afraid to come out and measure swords with its opponents in the field of debate and discussion ; it confesses itself humbled and beaten by its enemies. It seems impossible to defend, without a blush on the face, the faith of the Rishis who at one time gave law and learning to the whole civilized world.

 

Thus the Hindu faith, assailed on all sides by its vigorous opponents, had put forward one defender, but he also deserted it in time of need. The faith of the Rishis was in danger of being swept out of the land where it had flourished from immemorial times. Even the Vedas, the expression of the Divine Will, entrusted to the care of the Brahmins, were threatened with oblivion. Men had despaired of finding unity in the chaos of conflicting opinions which the Hindus erroneously believed to be their religion, and had given up the task as hopeless.

Everything portended utter confusion and dire destruction to our faith when Swami Dayananda

Saraswati, the great Seer of the age, appeared among us.

 

” I have called Swami Dayananda the great Seer because, like Rishis of yore, he saw the Truth face

to face. . . . There are some who call Swami Dayananda an impostor, a liar, a false interpreter

of the Vedas. I do not quarrel with them, because,in the search after truth, these slanderers have never wandered in the mazes of Hindu Shastras, never felt the difficulties that lie in the way of Vedic students,and never realized the importance of the discovery made by Swami Dayananda. The great Swami stands on a pedestal so high that the eyes of those who look at him from below are dazed, and they find nothing substantial in his place. … I admit that the truth discovered by him is the only bond which can unite us as a nation and that the movement inaugurated by him will, like the famous cow of the Hindu mythology, yield us all that is desirable in social and religious matters ; but these collateral benefits should not weigh in our minds as proofs of the ulterior motives of the Swami. They are rather an index of the importance of his discovery and work. The brightness of the truth, discovered by him, would have been the same without these additional lights. Nor should we be swayed in our judgment against him by what has been miscalled the unanimous voice of the pandits. Had truth been judged by numbers, no reform would have ever succeeded. Weigh him not by the votes of those who are the devoted followers of the mythological school, but by the evidence which he can bring forward to establish the existence of the school which he has followed.”

      Arya Samaj had a vibrant intellectual culture of debate, though at times it had caused ideological divisions. It’s important to discuss and differ than to stagnate, new vital currents of thought and action could emerge from such debates.

Arya samaj had enriched the spiritual, social, intellectual, cultural, and political life of hindu society, from its spring of inspiration emerged many personalities who made their mark on Indian society including its struggle for national independence.

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About krishnarjun108

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2 Responses to Swamy Dayananda and Arya Samaj

  1. Sanjiv Bhushan says:

    The only hope in any age lies in the intelect (Pragya) of the people living in that age. Past record, interpreted correctly and adapted to current times is the key to better life for all. Like Arya Samaj, there were and are many people and organizations that from time to time suggest to the society to take a the path of moralistic and more fulfilling life. And this process will go on endlessly. Times of despair, like the one that Swami faced, will certainly come again. Equally certain is the process of revival. I shall be wrong if thought that if I did so and so thing then my country and people will be endlessly moralistic and hence cheerful. Best of all the persons can also just make an effort. In the end I feel efforts like Swami Dayanand and Mahatma Hansraj bring a fresh wind of revival and any loving heart will always want that such people should continue to come and inspire the newer generations. Congratulations for the thought provoking article.

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