When western education was gaining momentum in India, Dayanand Saraswati put emphasis on the Vedic education. He wanted to free India from western influence and gave a clarion call - "Go back to Vedas." He dreamt of an India united socially, religiously and nationally free from British rule. To meet these ends, he established the Arya Samaj in 1875 at Bombay and later on shifted its centre of activities to Lahore.
The Arya Samaj worked on ten principles. The first and foremost principle of Arya Samaj was to study the Veda as it was the mine of information and the only source of truth. Among other principles of the Arya Samaj, opposition to idol worship, faith in the theory of Karma, chanting of Mantras or Vedic hymns, opposition of the theory of God-incarnation, polygamy, child-marriage and propagation of Sanskrit language etc. were very important.
With his Arya Samaj, Dayanand came forward to reform the orthodox Hindu society. He raised voice against the predominance of the Brahmins, rigidity of the caste system, untouchability and so on.
To save the Indian mass from conversion to Christianity, Dayanand introduced Sudhi (purification) movement by which he reconverted the people to Hinduism who had accepted either Islam or Christianity by force or by compulsion of circumstances. He wanted to abolish untouchability from Indian society and to provide them with equal rights what other higher castes enjoyed in the society. Though he wanted to educate the women, he was never in favor of co-education. He directly attacked Christianity and emboldened the Hindu society by checking conversion.
In the religious front, Dayanand attacked idol worship, ritualism, fatalism, etc. He laid stress on Havan, Vajna, Sradha and other ceremonies which have been described in the Vedas. He opposed the worship of several gods and preached the idea of worshipping one god. He rejected the false ideas reflected in the Puranas. He proclaimed that the Vedic religion was the only religion which could lead the people to attain salvation.
In the field of educational reform, Dayanand put emphasis on the Vedic education which later on resulted in the establishment of D.A.V. Colleges, Gurukulas and Girls' Gurukulas. To preserve the memory of Swami Dayanand, Lala Hansraj, Pandit Guru Dutta and Lala Lajpat Rai established a school at Lahore which became famous in course of time as .the Dayanand Anglo Vedic College. As it imparted education basing upon western liberalism, Swami Sradhananda established in 1902 a new institution at Haradwar named as Gurukul to impart education in the light of Swami Dayanand's thought. Dayanand had put emphasis on the study of the Vedas and Sanskrit language which was materialized through the D.A.V. movement.
Swami Dayanand was a staunch nationalist. He was the first man who used the term 'Swaraj'. He proclaimed that Hindi should be the national language of India. He insisted upon the use of Swadesi goods. These ideas of Dayanand definitely had influenced the future leaders of Indian national movement like Ball Gangadhar Tikal, Lajpat Rai and later on Mahatma Gandhi. Dayanand was the author of three great books like Start Parkas, Veda Bhatia and Veda Bhatia Bohemia.