Swami Dayanand Saraswati

Swami Dayananda Saraswati (स्‍वामी दयानन्‍द सरस्‍वती) (February 12, 1824 - October 31, 1883) was an important Hindu religious scholar and the founder of the Arya Samaj, "Society of Nobles", a Hindu reform movement, founded in 1875.He was the first man who gave the call for Swarajay in 1876 which was later furthered by Lokmanya Tilak.

Swami Dayanand Saraswati was the first to proclaim India for Indians. Lokmanya Tilak also said that Swami Dayanand was the first who proclaimed Swarajya for Bharat i.e.India.

One of his notable disciples was Shyamji Krishan Verma who founded India House in London and guided other revolutionaries like Madam Cama, Veer Sawarkar, Lala Hardyal, Madan Lal Dhingra, Bhagat Singh and others. His other disciples were Swami Shradhanad, Lala Lajpat Rai and others who got their inspiration from his writings.

His book SATYARTH PRAKASH contributed to the freedom struggle by inspiring the freedom fighters. On the basis of these facts some believe that Swami Dayanand rightfully deserves to be called as Grandfather of the Indian Nation.

He was a sanyasi (ascetic) from his boyhood, and a scholar, who believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas.

Dayananda advocated the doctrine of karma, skepticism in dogma, and emphasised the ideals of brahmacharya (celibacy and devotion to God). The Theosophical Society and the Arya Samaj were united for a certain time under the name Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj.

Among Swami Dayananda's immense contributions is his championing of the equal rights of women - such as their right to education and reading of Indian scriptures - and his translation of the Vedas from Sanskrit to Hindi so that the common man may be able to read the Vedas. The Arya Samaj is rare in Hinduism in its acceptance of women as leaders in prayer meetings and preaching.

Early life
Dayananda was born in the village of Tankara near Morvi(Morbi) in the Kathiawar region of modern-day Gujarat, into a Brahmin family on February 12 in 1824. He was named Moolshankar and led a very comfortable early life, studying Sanskrit, the Vedas and other religious books so as to prepare himself for a future as a Hindu priest.

A number of incidents resulted in Dayananda questioning traditional beliefs of Hinduism and inquiring about God in early childhood. Still a young child on the night of Shivratri (literally: the night for God Shiva) when his family went to a temple for overnight worship, he stayed up waiting for God to appear to accept the offerings made to idol of God Shiva. While all else slept, Dayananda saw mice eating the offerings kept for the God. He was utterly surprised and wondered how a God, who cannot even protect his own "offerings", would protect humanity. He argued with his father that they should not be worshipping such a helpless God.

The deaths of his younger sister and his uncle from cholera, caused Dayananda to ponder over the meaning of life and death and he started asking questions, which worried his parents. His parents decided to marry him off in his early teens (common in 19th century India), but he decided marriage was not for him and ran away from home in 1846.

Search for knowledge
He was disillusioned with classical Hinduism and became a wandering monk. He learned Panini's Grammar to understand Sanskrit texts, and learnt from them that GOD can be seen. After wandering in search of GOD for over 2 decades, he found Swami Virjananda near Mathura who became his guru (gu: darkness; ru:light- i.e. one who makes you reach towards light from darkness). Swami Virjananda told him to throw away all his books, as he wanted Dayananda to start from a clean slate and learn directly from the Vedas, the oldest and foundational books. Dayananda stayed under Swami Virjananda's tutelage for two and a half years. After finishing his education, Virjananda asked him to spread the knowledge of the Vedas in society as his gurudakshina (tuition-dues). It is during his mission, Dayanand Saraswati gave the call #REDIRECT back to the vedas.

Dayanand's mission
Dayananda set about the difficult task with dedication despite attempts on his life. He traveled the country challenging religious scholars and priests of the day to discussions and won repeatedly on the strength of his arguments[5]. He believed that Hinduism has been corrupted by divergence from the founding principles of the Vedas and misled by the priesthood for the priests' self-aggrandisement. Hindu priests discouraged common folk from reading Vedic scriptures and encouraged rituals (such as bathing in the Ganges and feeding of priests on anniversaries) which Dayananda pronounced as superstitions or self-serving.

Far from borrowing concepts from other religions, as Raja Ram Mohan Roy had done, Swami Dayananda was quite critical of Islam and Christianity and also of the other Hindu faiths like Jainism, Buddhism and Idol Worshipping in Hinduism- as may be seen in his book Satyartha Prakash[6]. He was against what he considered to be the corruption of the pure faith in his own country. Unlike many other reform movements within Hinduism, the Arya Samaj's appeal was addressed not only to the educated few in India, but to the world as a whole as evidenced in the 6th principle of the Arya Samaj.

Arya Samaj is a rare stream in Hinduism that allows and encourages converts to Hinduism.

Dayananda’s concept of Dharma is succinctly set forth in his Beliefs and Disbeliefs. He said,

I accept as Dharma whatever is in full conformity with impartial justice, truthfulness and the like; that which is not opposed to the teachings of God as embodied in the Vedas. Whatever is not free from partiality and is unjust, partaking of untruth and the like, and opposed to the teachings of God as embodied in the Vedas - that I hold as adharma.

He had also said

He, who after careful thinking, is ever ready to accept truth and reject falsehood; who counts the happiness of others as he does that of his own self, him I call just.

Dayananda's Vedic message was to emphasize respect and reverence for other human beings, supported by the Vedic notion of the divine nature of the individual - divine because the body was the temple where the human essence (soul or "Atma") could possibly interface with the creator ("ParamAtma"). In the 10 principles of the Arya Samaj, he enshrined the idea that "All actions should be performed with the prime objective of benefitting mankind" as opposed to following dogmatic rituals or revering idols and symbols. In his own life, he interpreted Moksha to be a lower calling (due to its benefit to one individual) than the calling to emancipate others.

Dayananda's "back to the Vedas" message influenced many thinkers. Taking the cue from him, Sri Aurobindo decided to look for hidden psychological meanings in the Vedas. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. 1972.

The ideology presented in the works of Dayananda has been used to support the Hindutva movement of the 20th century. Ruthven (2007:108) regards his "elevation of the Vedas to the sum of human knowledge, along with his myth of the Aryavartic kings" as an instance of religious fundamentalism, but considers its consequences as nationalistic, since "Hindutva secularizes Hinduism by sacralizing the nation".

Arya Samaj
Swami Dayananda's creation, the Arya Samaj, is a unique contribution in Hinduism. The Arya Samaj unequivocally condemns idol-worship, animal sacrifices, ancestor worship, pilgrimages, priestcraft, offerings made in temples, the caste system, untouchability, child marriages and discrimination against women on the grounds that all these lacked Vedic sanction. The Arya Samaj discourages dogma and symbolism and encourages skepticism in beliefs that run contrary to common sense and logic. To many people, the Arya Samaj aims to be a "universal church" based on the authority of the Vedas.

Dayananda Saraswati wrote more than 60 works in all, including a 14 volume explanation of the six Vedangas, an incomplete commentary on the Ashtadhyayi (Panini's grammar), several small tracts on ethics and morality, Vedic rituals and sacraments and on criticism of rival doctrines (such as Advaita Vedanta). Some of his major works are Bhratnivaran, Sanskarvidhi, Ratnamala, Vedabhasya. The Paropakarini Sabha located in the Indian city of Ajmer was founded by the Swami himself to publish his works and Vedic texts.

  • Satyarth Prakash (Light of Truth - translated to English published in 1908
  • R̥gvedādi-bhāṣya-bhūmikā / An Introduction to the Commentary on the Vedas. ed. B. Ghasi Ram, Meerut (1925).
  • ed. New Book Society of India, Glorious Thoughts of Swami Dayananda (1966)
  • Autobiography, ed. Kripal Chandra Yadav, New Delhi : Manohar, 1978.
  • Yajurvēda bhāṣyam : Samskr̥tabhāṣyaṃ, Āndhraṭīkātātparyaṃ, Āṅglabhāvārthasahitaṅgā, ed. Mar̲r̲i Kr̥ṣṇāreḍḍi, Haidarābād : Vaidika Sāhitya Pracāra Samiti, 2005.
    Dayananda was poisoned in 1883 while a guest of the Maharaja of Jodhpur. On his deathbed, he forgave his poisoner, the Maharaja's cook, and actually gave him money to flee the king's wrath.He died on October 3o, 1883 at Ajmer during the evening of Diwali.