The great social reformist
Swami Dayananda Saraswati
1824 - 1883
Swami Dayananda Saraswati initiated the social reformation movement in North India. He was a great Hindu reformer, who pinned his faith on the infallibility of the Vedas. His motto was "Back to the Vedas" He condemned the caste system, child marriage and various other maladies afflicting the Hindu culture. He carried on a ceaseless propaganda against superstitions and idol worship. He founded a vigorous organization known as "the Arya Samaj"
Swami Dayananda Saraswati was born in 1824 in a Gujarati Brahmin family, whose original name was Moola Shankar. His Sanskrit education began at the age of 5. Dayananda in his childhood left his father`s house and became an ascetic. He was deeply influenced by Swami Virajananda, a blind sage. Through the guidance of Swami Virajananda, Dayananda found the answer to perplexities of life.
Dayananda acquired thorough knowledge of the Vedas. He realized that there is only one God and Veda in only truth. Dayananda disregarded other Hindu scriptures like the Puranas. He condemned the caste system, child marriage and various other maladies, which were weakening the vitals of the Hindu Society.
According to him:
"The Destiny of India lay in the revival of the Vedic religion"
He found that the Vedic Hinduism was free from the degrading evils. His motto was "Back to the Vedas"
Dayananda`s ideas and philosophy are contained in his work "Satyartha Prakash" In this book he critically examined and compared various religion. The "Shuddhi Movement", started by Dayananda had a healing effect on the ailing Hindu Society. This movement brought back those Hindus who had been converted to Christianity or Islam. This movement, initiated by Dayananda generated national pride among the people.
Swami Dayananda founded the "Arya Samaj" in 1875. It was based on two principles, entirely on the authority of the Vedas conditioned by rationalism and utilitarianism. The preaching of this Samaj spread fast and reached the masses. The Arya Samaj was instrumental in establishing Anglo-Vedic Schools and Colleges all over the country. A chain of educational institutions were established by the Arya Samaj, brought about a happy blending of scientific approach of the West and Spiritual philosophy of the East.
The Arya Samaj also remained in the forefront of political movement and produced leader of the eminence of Lala Lajpat Rai, Pandit Guru Dutt and others Dayananda`s political slogan was "India for Indians".
When Dayananda was the honoured guest of Jodhpur Maharaja, he denounced the Maharaja`s living with a concubine. It is believed that the concubine managed to mix poison in his food. Dayananda died with the words of the Gayatri hymn on his lips "Thy will be done".
(S. Mitra in Resurgent India. .P. 171)
Swami Dayananda`s teachings and his spiritual philosophy made the people conscious and brought them closer to each other. It developed a feeling of oneness and resulted into awakening nationalism among them.