What Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) were to Protestant Reformation in Europe, Swami Dayananda was to the Indian Renaissance in the 19th century.
He founded the first Arya Samaj at Bombay in 1875 nearly twenty-two years before Swami Vivekananda established the Ramakrishna Mission and forty- seven years after Raja Rammohan Roy formed the Brahma Sabha which subsequently grew into the Brahma Samaj.
If the Brahma Samaj ignited the spark of social reform in Bengal, the Arya Samaj stirred the Punjab and parts of northern and western India with its social commitment, benevolent work, nationalistic activity and sense of pride in the Vedic heritage.
The Arya Samaj brought about a resurgence of Vedic values castigating religious and social evils ranging from idolatry, superstition, rigidity of caste and untouchability to polygamy, child marriage, ill-treatment of widows, custom of Purda, and general inequality between the sexes.
Considering education to be a catalyst of social transformation he laid emphasis on teaching both boys and girls in the art and science of life,and in technical skills so as to broaden their mental horizons, unfold their innate abilities , and cultivate virtue.
After the demise of Swami Dayananda (October 30, 1883) It became imperative to continue his legacy not by constructing a memorial in stone and mortar but by venturing into the domain of education to root out illiteracy of mind and soul as per the 8th commandment of the Arya Samaj which says: ‘We should aim at dispelling ignorance and promoting knowledge.’ The establishment of Dayan and Anglo Vedic College Trust and Management Society (popularly DAV) three years after his death marked the beginning of DAV movement aimed at crystallizing his social and educational ideas.
The DAV movement grew out of the dialectical interplay between the forces of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, revivalism and reform, faith and reason. It gushed forth with a new sense of purpose and direction in response to the western challenge, emergence of new socio-economic milieu and the rise of new middle classes and converged the quintessential aspects of the Vedic tradition with the prevailing spirit of science and rationality and of humanism.
The fact that Lala Sain Das, a science teacher , was sent to England to do advanced study in his subject shows the progressive outlook of DAV in its formative years, a tradition which continues.
Following an integrated approach to divinity (DEVAS) and its belief in the cosmic law of unity and harmony which must prevail at social level, as per the Rigvedic hymn (X.191.2-3), DAV has all along kept itself away from sectarianism, caste distinctions, regionalism or parochialism.
It is as much an instrument of the Arya Samaj as an independent organization with a cluster of educational, social and humanitarian institutions, involved in the task of man-making (to borrow Swami Vivekananda’s expression) and nation building. The aim of DAV is to establish knowledge as value, prepare students for living and for life, and lace national feelings with global outlook.
The DAV movement was nurtured by puissant souls like Rai Bahadur Lala Lal Chand(1852-1912), Mahatma Hans Raj (1864-1938),Pt. Guru Dutt Vidyarthi(1864-1890), Lala Lajpat Rai ( 1865-1928), Bhai Parmanand (1874-1947), Lala Durga Das, Principal Sain Das(1840-1890), Bakshi Ram Rattan, Dr Mukund Lal Puri, Bakshi Tek Chand and Mehar Chand among others. It sought inspiration from many Arya revolutionaries and martyrs like Pandit Lekh Ram (1857-1897), Swami Shraddhananda( 1857-1926), Ram Prasad Bismil( 1897-1927),Shahid Rajpal(1884-1929) , and others.
The vivisection of India gave DAV movement a temporary setback as majority of institutions were in Pakistan. But it resurrected itself with the dynamic work of stalwarts like Principal Mehar Chand , Lala Balraj, Dr Justice Mehar Chand Mahajan , Dr G.L.Datta, Lala Suraj Bhan,Prof. Ved Vyasa,Darbari Lal , Tirth Ram Tuli and G.P.Chopra(b. 1920),the current President of DAV family.
The first DAV High School was established at Lahore on June 1, 1886 with Lala Hans Raj (1864-1938) as its headmaster. Hans Raj, called the father of DAV movement, became known as Mahatma, due to his honesty, integrity and selflessness as also his futuristic vision and wisdom. He served with missionary zeal without drawing any salary.
The School grew into College as per resolution no 3 dated April 28, 1888 of the DAV management and Hans Raj became its first Principal.
What began as a small educational venture with a group of only 505 students in the first session has now assumed vast dimensions. In its 125- years history DAV has proliferated into rural, urban. Semi-urban, slum and tribal areas in almost all parts of the country except Kerala.
Its network of 715 institutions include schools (government-aided, public, model, international and non-formal ), colleges of arts, science, law, education, agriculture, engineering and technology, commerce and management, medical and paramedical institutions relating to Ayurveda, dentistry, nursing and health-care; a Vedic research institute (Hoshiarpur),and, a recently established University in Jalandhar(Punjab).
DAV has also associated with government and private sector to expand its activities.
At Solapur, Centre for the Preservation of the Heritage of Maharashtra and Centre for the promotion of classical Sanskrit and (the dying) Modi and Brahmi scripts, have been established by this author, and a historical museum created to connect students with their cultural past.
The spirit behind any social activity determines its range and quality as also its continuity. The social programmes of DAV have been both preventive and ameliorative, deriving sustenance from the sixth and ninth commandments of the Arya Samaj which say: ‘do good for all’ promote ‘physical, spiritual and social well-being’ of all, avoid being self centric and work for ‘welfare of others.’
Yajna which forms the substratum of Arya metaphysics and ethics is not a mere fire ritual but a benevolent institution which involves every living being and even primeval elements. In its social meaning, it envelopes all humanitarian activities undertaken without selfish motive.
As social problems can be best handled socially by changing the mental environment of people, and creating in them an awareness about vital issues, DAV institutions endeavour to inculcate a sense of responsibility among the youth by educating and involving them in purposeful activities so that they can become catalysts of change. The youth are helped in building correct social attitudes by inculcating Vedic values, applicable universally, and are galvanized against such evils as gender bias, female foeticide, child abuse, dowry, alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, environmental pollution, corruption, black money, communalism, population explosion, violence against women, AIDS, beggary, etc. through seminars, symposia, workshops, declamation contests, guest lectures, courses in righteousness ( Dharma Shiksha), social awareness camps, character-building camps (charitra Nirman shivers), Vedic awareness camps ( Vedic chetana Shivirs), public rallies or processions and signature campaigns.
Students are sometime asked to take an oath against the menace of dowry, drinking or smoking. As per Annual Report of DAV College Managing Committee (2008-2009), United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) School-based programme was implemented in 40 DAV Public Schools of Delhi and Jharkhand. Arya Yuvak Samaj (Estd. 1896) has been particularly active in the task of restoring social health.
Innovative social programmes like ‘say no to poly-bags’, ‘say no to fire-crackers’, ‘say no to dowry, ‘say no to drugs’, ‘donate eyes’, ‘plant and maintain a tree’, ‘ clean surroundings’, ‘save water’, ‘keep smiling’ etc. , have been a popular feature of DAV institutions, and have received public acclaim and support. Blood donation camps, mass immunization camps, medical relief camps, Dental checkups, Blood group checkups etc., are organized at regular intervals, sometime in association with Red Cross Society of India or other NGO’s.
Students are encouraged to visit residential social welfare institutions meant for children and women , the aged , and the physically and mentally retarded persons , and public hospitals to donate food, money or other goods on their birthdays or some special day. It is on record that some students collect funds for the charitable work of social organizations like the National Association of Blind, Spastic Society of India, Help-Age and Tuberculosis Association of Bihar.
Specific days such as International Day against Drug Abuse, World AIDS Day, International Women’s Day, World Health Day, World Earth Day, Sanskrit Day, National Youth Day, Republic Day, Independence Day, Gandhi Jayanti, Rishi Bodh Divas (enlightenment day of Swami Dayananda), birth and death anniversaries of builders of modern India etc., are observed to raise the awareness level of students.
The concept of Wall Magazine in which students pour out their literary output or express views on important social matters in a free and frank way, is fast gaining ground in some institutions.
In pursuance of the Vedic ideal of universal kinship which expresses itself in the phrase, vasudhaiva kutumbhakam, (‘the world is one family’), DAV has launched a diverse range of ameliorative programmes relating to children and women, the victims of natural calamities, and the subaltern classes, in rural, urban, semi-urban, tribal and hilly areas, without any distinction of caste, color or creed.
As per Annual Report of DAVCMC, published on the occasion of completion of 125 years of its service to society, and earlier reports, more than 47,000 underprivileged children from economically backward / tribal classes have been receiving assistance from DAV institutions in the form of free education, free textbooks, free midday meals and even free uniforms.
Statistics show that 9664 students from slum areas (jhuggi –jhonparis) of Delhi are being given free education in DAV schools of Delhi by running evening classes; 550 students from economically backward groups, including 300 students from jhuggi-jhonparis, provide free uniform, and study material by DAV Public School, Gurgaon; and 70 children in Jammu have been adopted for philanthropic purposes by Maharaja Hari Singh DAV Public School.
Arya Anathalaya, Pherozpur (Punjab) founded by Swami Dayananda in 1877 and run by Arya Pradeshik Pratinidhi Sabha, New Delhi, a religious wing of DAV Society, furnishes free residential and other facilities to 200 destitute boys and girls and trains them in vocational courses so that they may stand on their feet.
DAV establishment is spending about Rs 21.93 lakhs annually to run an orphanage in Jammu and Kashmir. A Children Home (BAL Ashrama) for orphans and destitute of Bihar and Jharkhand is being established at Kanke on a 2-acre piece of land in DAV Public School.
In Bihar, free education is being provided to 11500 students which include 500 students belonging to war victims’ families. An innovative programme, ‘Project Candle’ is run by S L DAV Public School Khagaria, to wipe out illiteracy from the villages nearby. The literate child, symbolizing a candle, is given the task to light up the life of an illiterate child.
In Jharkhand, 12000 students, nearly half of them Adivasis, and Chakma refugees of Arunachal Pradesh, are given free education in DAV public schools at Hehal and Giridih. In Ranchi and Khunti , DAV provides free education to more than 5000 poor and Adivasi students.
The residential school in Bundu is meant exclusively for Adivasi children, and is run with the financial support of the Welfare Department of government.
Taking cognizance of the magnitude of illiteracy and population growth in some segments of the Hindi belt, DAV institutions have started non-formal educational centers (Anaupacharik Shiksha Kendras) by involving the faculty and tapping the student power. At present 31 non-formal centers of education are functioning in Bihar and Jharkhand. Two of them are being run for the inmates of Jail in Giridih, numbering about 775.
Special attention is being paid towards literacy of the fast vanishing Birhor tribe with its sub-divisions, Jaghis and Uthalu, in and around Dhanbad. In Khunti and its suburbs, free eye operation camps have been organized under the auspices of the Dayanand Foundation for the last about three decades. As per Annual Report, 976 cataract patients were treated during the year 2010-11.
Mahatma Narayan Das Grover (1923-2008), a DAV official , who worked for the poor and tribes in eastern , western and central India , and in Sikkim and Nepal, at different periods of time , was so imbued with the Arya spirit to serve the Adivasis of Khunti, one of the 24 districts in the south Chhotanagpur division of Jharkhand, that he carried an inscription on his arm which read, ‘ Jeevan ka hare ek pal Khunti ke liye.’- ‘Each moment of life for Khunti’. He adopted the photograph of a destitute Adivasi child as the emblem of non-formal schools and became popular as ‘Jhole Wala Baba’ , ‘Man with a hanging bag’, or ‘the Gandhi of Bihar’ .
In the north-eastern region, DAV has set up a cluster of Ashrama schools and vocational centre’s with the support of Social Welfare Department of Government of India. Freeship is given to tribal students in job-oriented professional courses in DAV Colleges in Punjab and Haryana. In Dayanand Law College, Solapur , free legal- aid clinics and legal literacy camps have been organized since 1989.
As Villages constitute the lifeline of India, DAV has established about 50 schools in rural areas of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar where the population is less than 5000. DAV has also mooted the setting up of model villages in association with public and private sector in the state of Haryana.
Some DAV schools particularly in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana cater to nearly 2700 children with physical or mental disabilities. Mental development centres ( Mano Vikas Kendras) in Delhi run by Kulachi Hansraj Model School and Ved Vyas DAV Public School, Vikaspuri are pioneers in this respect. Koshish Red Cross School for Special Children in Amritsar (taken over by DAV management in 2008) provides training, education and a caring environment to both intellectually challenged and Hearing-impaired children. Two schools for special children are also being run in Gurgaon (Haryana) and Ballabhgarh , Faridabad.
DAV has remained in the forefront in providing relief and rehabilitation to the victims of natural calamities or war. As per data available DAV has contributed Rs 6, 77, 58, 536/- in relief funds in times of national crisis. When earthquakes hit Latur (Maharashtra) in 1993 and Bhuj (Gujarat) in 2001, cyclones hit Orissa in 1999, earthquakes-induced tidal waves traversed Vishakhapatnam in 2004 or floods ravaged Bihar in 2008, taking a heavy toll of human lives, displacing families and leaving children orphaned, villages were adopted for physical support and children homes (Arya Bal Sadan, Bal Ashrama) and schools established in Solapur (Maharashtra), Bhuj, Rajayyapet (Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh) and Narktiaganj, a subdivision of West Champaran in Bihar.
To empower women from the lower strata of society DAV runs crafts and vocational centres in slum areas of Delhi, Faridabad and Yamunanagar (Haryana) , Ranchi ( Jharkhand ), Imphal (Manipur) and other places.
Women are given free training in cutting, stitching, embroidery, doll-making etc. and sometime offered sewing machines or other material after they complete their course. Some centres like that of Yamunanagar, also provide training in computers, food preservation etc. Occasionally, mass marriage projects are undertaken in which a couple is given clothes, articles and other useful goods worth Rs 20,000. As per DAV records, 1000 girls have been helped to enter the household life (Grihastha Ashrama).
DAV has a trifoiliate character – it stands for an educational organization , for a convergence of noble souls (Arya) involved in the task of nation- building and for a progressive movement dexterously involved in maintaining social health . Khushwant Singh writes: “The more I hear of the DAV set-up, the more I admire the way it functions. It is probably among the very few educational organisations in the world which is free of ego clashes of the people who run it. (Hindustan Times, April 17, 2011).
Dr. Satish K Kapoor (Ex British Council Scholar), Secretary, Dayan and Institutions, Solapur (Maharashtra).
Email – infinityami50-at-gmail.com