The founder of Arya Samaj
Swami Dayanand Saraswati is well known all over the world as the founder of Arya Samaj, a man of great wisdom and intellect, a liberator and a reformer. Svamiji believed in the consecrated Vedas and thus his motto ” Back to the Vedas”. He was the one who introduced to us the popular greeting “Namaste” and he rejuvenated the Vedic ritual of agnihotra (fire sacrifice), which is now a vital part of the Hindu ceremonies. Another contribution was the promotion of Hindi as the national language of India. He was against many stigmas that affected the lives of Indians mainly the caste system and child marriage. He was the doctrine of truth and goodness.
According to Swami Dayanand “A Biography” by J. M Sharma (3), Swami Dayanand’s life can be divided into three parts: his years at home (1824-46); his wanderings and education (1846-63); and his years as a reformer (1863-83).
Moola Shankar was Dayanand’s original name; he was also called Dayaram. He acquired the name “Dayanand” when he entered sannyas (to renounce the worldly possessions, to forsake family ties and become a sadhu). Svami Dayanand even went through his funeral rites to end his old identity and assumed his new name and began a new life. He was also expected not to reveal his past life.
Moolshankar was born in 1824 in a small town called Tankara in the state of Gujarat. He was from an Audichya S
amavedi Brahmin (a caste whose primary duty was to take care of temples and religious obligations) family. Moolshankar was the eldest of five children. His education began at the tender age of five years and by age eight Moolshankar had mastered Devanagari script (which was used for Sanskrit) and was endowed with the sacred thread for beginning the studies of the Vedas. By the age of 14, he had gained knowledge of the Yajurveda and hymns from the other Vedas.
Moolshankar’s father, Karshan Ji was a devotee of Lord Shiva and wished for his son to follow in his footsteps. On the night of Maha-Shivaratri (the great night of Shiva), Moolshankar accompanied his father to the temple where all the devotees gathered in front of a Shiva idol to keep an all night vigil. One by one the devotees fell asleep except for Moolshankar who was taught that if you fall asleep on that particular night then the worshiper would not be merited for his devotion. In the calm of the night a few mice crept out of their holes and nibbled on the offerings that was left by the devotee at the Shiva idol. Some mice were even on the idol itself. Moolshankar watching all of this was very shocked and many questions flooded his mind. His father tried to explain that the idol was not God himself (thus the helplessness against the mice) it’s only a symbol of Shiva for the purpose of worshiping. Moolshankar could not understand why people had to worship an idol instead of God himself.
According to J.M Sharma ” Moolshankar’s experience was not new, but the way his thought process worked was unique. The defiling of the idol unleashed a flood of ideas. He could not reconcile the contradiction between the belief and the obvious. (The Arya Samaj now observes Shivaratri as the ‘night of enlightenment’. But it was actually the night of doubt. It is a doubt that leads one to the threshold of enlightenment.)”
Moolshankar spent the next two years learning “Nighantu (a glossary of Vedic words), the Nirukta (etymologies of Vedic words), the Purva-Mimamsa (an enquiry into the ritual portions of the Vedas), and the treatises on ceremonial and sacrificial rites”.
At age 22, Moolshakar left home in search of true knowledge, spiritual purity and moksha (liberation). He met many wise sages but was profoundly influenced by Swami Virajananda, a blind sage. However, it was Swami Virajananda’s guidance and teachings that Swami Dayanand found the answer to the perplexities of life.
Swami Dayanand was also involved in the fight for women’s education, he urged women to get marry after the age of 20 and he was against child marriage and the division of society on the basis of the caste system. He thought that India would be more unified if there were one common language, Hindi. Svami Dayanand presented his speeches only in Hindi even in his home state of Gujarat where the mother tongue is Gujarati. He chose to write all his books in Hindi also.
Swami Dayanand was a true patriot and loved his motherland, India, very much. He rejected many offers to go abroad and was a strong believer in educating and teaching the Vedas to his fellow countrymen. He believed “Once the lamp of wisdom is lighted here, its light is bound to spread towards the west too.”
After he studied the Vedas thoroughly, Swami Dayanand realized that there is only one God. And the Vedas are the only truth. In 1875, Swami Dayanand founded “Arya Samaj” and it was based on two principles: the influence of the Vedas conditioned by rationalism and utilitarianism. In India and all over the world millions of people were influenced by the teachings of Arya Samaj.
Amoung his many contributions to India and Arya Samaj, Swami Dayanand wrote a very important book called the ‘Satyartha Prakash’ (The Light of truth). This book is based solely on the Vedas. It contains fourteen chapters which teaches the true meaning of the Vedas.
On September 20, 1883, Swami Dayanand was poisoned by one of his cooks. Swami Dayanand seeked help from many doctors but no one could help him. A few days later the cook admitted to the crime and asked for pardon and Swami Dayanand being a man to such righteousness forgave the cook.
On October 30, 1883, Diwali Day, Swami Dayanand said the Gayatri mantra and it was said that ‘OM’ was the last word that came from his lips before he died.