According to Dr. S. Radhakrishna, "among the markers of modern India who had played and important role in the spiritual uplift of people and kindled the fire of patriotism, among them Swami Dayananda occupied the chief place." Swami Dayananda was a great social reformer and also a cultural nationalist. He was a great soldier of light, a warrior in God's world, a sculptor of men and institution. Dayananda Saraswati's greatest contribution was the foundation of Arya Samaj which brought a revolution in the field of religion.
Life of Dayananda:
Dayananda was born in an orthodox Brahman family at Tankara in the Morvi state in Kathiawar in 1824. The name of his father was Karsamji Tiwari who served as a priest in a saiva temple. The childhood name of Dayananda was Mulasi Dayaram or Mulasankar.
Under the loving care of his father Dayananda had acquired proficiency in Veda, Sanskrit grammar and Sanskrit language from childhood. Like Gautama became Buddha after witnessing four ordinary scenes of life, Dayananda's life style changed after a single incident. When he was fourteen years of age he kept fast on the Shivaratri day with the other members of the family.
At night other members of the family after worshipping Shiva began to sleep but Mulaji remained vigilant. He saw a rat eating the offering made to Shiva by the Devotees. This incident led him to think that the idol of Shiva could not be real God. When the idol could not protect the offering made to it, it could never protect the whole world. He became convinced about the futility of idol worship.
This experience aroused his conscience and Dayananda became a staunch crusader against the vices of Hinduism. His father tried to involve him in family life through marriage with a view to put restriction on his independent mind. Dayananda was not willing to enter into the bondage of family life.
The death of his uncle and sister further made him pensive to find out the real nature of death. Dayananda left home in search of truth and knowledge only at the age of 21in A.D. 1845. For long fifteen years Dayananda wandered from the bank of the Narmada to the caves of Himalayas in search of true God, but failed in finding an answer to his quest. During this period he came in contact with Lal Bhagat sect and Paramananda Paramhansa. The experience of the long travels made him more conscious on the vices of traditional Hinduism. In 1861 at Mathura Dayananda came in contact with Swami Brijananda.
This contact is decisive point in his career. He became his disciple and studied the ancient religious literature, various mythological books and Sanskrit grammar text. The philosophical foundation of Dayananda took concrete shape at Mathura. He got knowledge and realization. Mulasankara became Dayananda Sarswati and by the instruction of his guru Vrijananda dedicated himself to spread the message of Veda and to fight against the conservative Hindu religion and wrong traditions.
Dayananda though had contact with Brahmo Samaj; they were not prepared to accept the supremacy of the Vedas and transmigration of soul. To fulfill the mission of his life, he founded Arya Samaj at Bombay on 10th April, 1875 and passed the rest of his life in establishing Arya Samaj branches at different places. The reformative zeal of Dayananda irritated the orthodox Hindus. Dayananda stood firm and resolute in the face of criticisms. He died of food poisoning on 30th October, 1883.
Works of Dayananda:
The philosophy of Dayananda Saraswati can be known from his three famous contributions namely "Satyartha Prakash", ""Veda Bhashya Bhumika" and "Veda Bhashya Bhumika" and Veda Bhashya. Further the journal "Arya Patrika' edited by him also reflects his thought. Besides establishing his reputation as a prolific writer, above works indicate his role as a religious reformer. Swamiji believed that selfish and ignorant priests had perverted Hindu religion.
To him Veda is rock-bed of Hindu culture and infallible, being the inspired one of God. He tried to purge Hinduism from its vices and to provide it a rational basis. He gave the clarion call "Goods Back to Vedas". As a social reformer Dayananda was not influenced by western culture but was a true symbol of Hinduism. His approach was reformative to strengthen the fighting spirit of Hinduism.
He was against idol worship, caste system, ritualism, fatalism, infanticide, sale of grooms etc. he also stood for the liberation of women and upliftment of depressed class. Keeping in mind the supremacy of Vedas and Hindus, he opposed Islam and Christianity and advocated for Suddhi movement to reconvert the other sects to Hindu order. Swami Dayananda Saraswati sincerely believed that through the spread of Vedic education the urge of regeneration of Indian society could be met.
The gurukulas, Girl's Gurukulas and DAV colleges were the most significant contribution of Dayananda. In fact the efforts of Swami Dayanananda freed the people from the clutches of western education. Dayananda Saraswati also contributed to the growth of democracy and national awakening. It is said that "political independence was one of the first objectives of Dayananda. Indeed he was the first man to use the term Swaraj. "
He was the first to insist on people to use only swadeshi things manufactured in India and to discard the foreign things. He was the first to recognize Hindi as national language of India." Dayananda Saraswati was the strong votary of democracy and self government. He declared that good Government was no substitute for self-government.
He paid utmost attention to the regeneration of rural India. In many ways Dayananda anticipated Mahatma Gandhi in his constructive programme. His Arya Samaj was constituted through the procedure of democratic election from the below to bottom. Swami Dayananda represented a transitional stage and inaugurated future developments with his vision of a complete overhaul of Hindu Society.
Dayananda founded the first Arya Samaj at Bombay in 1875 and another at Lahore in 1877. The Arya Samaj was the institutional symbol of Dayananda's philosophy. The Samaj had done splendid work in social and educational field.
The success of this Samaj has been greatly due to commendable contribution of three gifted successors of Dayananda-Lala Hansaraj, Pandit Guru Dutt and Lala Lajpat Rai. The objectives of Arya Samaj was to recover and revive the forgotten values of Aryan culture, to inspire the Indians with the great Aryan ideal of the past and to reestablish the greatness of India by responding to internal as well as external challenges.
The members of Arya Samaj were guided by "Ten Principles" of which the first one was to study and realize the importance of Veda. The other principles provide emphasis on leading a moral and virtuous life. The Arya Samajists believe in one Supreme Being, who is omnipotent, eternal and maker of all. Dayananda believed in God alone and difference did not want the people to mistake shadow for the substance. Arya Samjists also emphasized on the expansion of education and abolition of illiteracy.
They also believed in karma and rebirth pursued path for the well being of the world. The Arya Samajists were opposed to idolatry, ritual and priesthood, and particularly to the prevalent caste system and popular Hinduism as preached by orthodox Brahmins.
They were also the ardent advocate of social reform, enlistment of women and depressed class and spread of education. The Arya Samajists stood for social equality and championed social solidarity and consolidation. One of the objectives of Arya Samaj was to prevent conversion of Hindus to other religions and to reconvert those Hindus who had been converted to other religions like Islam and Christianity through a pacificator ceremony called Shuddhi.
The Arya Samaj movement through its multi-dimensional activities weakened the hold of orthodox and conservative elements. It also contributed more than the rational movement of Brahmo Samaj to the development of a new national consciousness in India.
To conclude with the observation of cultural Heritage of India Series "The Arya Samaj is Dayananda writ large, and it reflects his versatile personality. It has in it saints, philosophers, organisers, scholars, thinkers and the laity-all reflecting in different prisms, in potent ways, the light of the brilliant son of lofty moral and spiritual ideals that Dayananda embodied. There is no doubt that his personality will leave its impress on humanity, and will influence, in an increasing measure, the religious history of India and the world."