Today, it will surprise many to know that under British rule, a saint had demanded Swaraj in the year 1876, much before Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He was Swami Dayanand. He was the father of India’s Independence movement. If we study the history of India’s independence movement, we could know that most of the leaders, patriots and revolutionaries of that period who sacrificed their lives for freedom, were influenced by the personality and teachings of Swami Dayanand. Among the Indian revolutionaries, Shyamji Krishna Verma, Swami Shraddhanand and Lala Lajpat Rai were his disciples and ardent devotees.
Even revolutionary patriots like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Gendalal Dixit, Swami Bhavani Dayal, Bhai Parmanand, Bhagat Singh, Ramprasad Bismil, Yashpal and Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi had imbibed patriotism from the Arya Samaj. Not only this, even Mahatma Gandhi was substantially influenced by Dayanand’s teachings and vision. The remarkable thing is that Mahatma Gandhi’s Guru Gopalakrishna Gokhale and Gokhale’s Guru Justice Govind Ranade were not only the ultimate disciples of Dayanand but also the distinguished office bearers of the Paropakarini Sabha founded by Dayanand.
According to Indravidya Vachaspati, after the revolution of 1857, the first name in the list of great men whom we can call the mental, social and cultural successors of that revolution is of Swami Dayanand Saraswati. It would not be an exaggeration to call Swami Dayanand the pioneer of neo-nationalism in politics. Even Anne Besant said that Dayanand was the first person who wrote that ‘India is for Indians’.
According to Lala Lajpat Rai, “Swami Dayanand donated my soul to me. I am indebted to him for being his ‘manasputra’. On reading the touching and heartfelt description of the plight of the country in Maharishi’s ‘Satyarth Prakash’ and experiencing Dayanand’s patriotic spirit, patriot and ardent follower of the Sanatan Dharma Madanmohan Malaviya’s eyes used to get filled with tears”. In light of all the above statements, it can be said that Dayanand has given inspiration and strength to the Indian freedom movement and revolutionaries through his nationalist ideology. His emergence as a champion of the Hindu’s and Indian Nation was at a time when Indian culture was beset by foreign influences. The educated class was forgetting its self-respect and ancient dignity due to the glare of Western civilisation. He dissolved this folly of Indians and taught them a beautiful lesson in nationalism.
Swami Dayanand was born on February 12, 1824 in Tankara in Morvi state of Kathiawar, Gujarat. Born in the Moola constellation Sagittarius, he was named Mool Shankar. Moolshankar left the normal household life in search of truth in the year 1846. Then, under Guru Virjanand, Mool Shankar studied Panini’s grammar, Patanjali-Yogasutra and Veda-Vedang. The Guru asked him to eradicate the ignorance of dissent and spread the light of Vedic religion with the light of Vedic Dharma as Dakshina to him. The result was that he made it his goal to rejuvenate the Hindu society of Aryavarta, regardless of the opposition and condemnation of anyone. Swami Dayanand’s biggest contribution was to empower and activate the Hindu people. He sent a message of regenerative power to the people who had remained weak from centuries of invasion. “Our existence is going to be erased from the land in the absence of strength,” he said. No one else had done empowerment of the society in India as that of Dayanand and Vivekananda.
Swami Dayanand was a strong supporter of education and wanted to spread it widely. He favoured proper education to women in the country. He considered women to be revered. Presenting the description of Atharvaveda, he said the girls should also follow the Brahmacharya and achieve education. He wanted the boys and girls to observe unbroken Brahmacharya in thought, words and action while performing a restrained life during their period of education. He wanted to impress English educated youth with the dignity of Indian languages. The use of Hindi language in his book ‘Satyarth Prakash’ suggests that he was the leader of public awakening and it was his programme to make the ancient ideals the wall of public life. He believed that one would automatically achieve social and political prosperity by having moral ideals. Thus, he was a strong supporter of temporal, moral and social emergence.
According to Maharishi Dayanand, the best goal of education is character-building. To achieve this objective, Gurukul Kangadi was established in the year 1902 on the banks of the Ganga near Haridwar. The character of the man is the sum of his various actions and desires, the sum of all the inclinations of his values. The way happiness and sorrow flow on his soul leave their imprint and their culture on him. The character of man is the fruit of the collection of these various impressions. We are the same as our thoughts are. Therefore, the character of the students is developed mainly in childhood and adolescence. The parents, guardians and teachers need to be fully alert in this regard. Swamiji asked to adopt the principle of simplicity in food, ethics, costumes and everywhere. He was of the opinion that there should be uniform food, clothes and accommodation for every student. This will be possible only when our standard of living is simple and pure. He has addressed the teachers and asked them to hold the above and said the Guru has to keep in his mind that knowledge of real religion is not possible without being alienated from wealth and worldly pleasures.
Paropakarini Sabha, formed in Meerut in 1880, was mainly tasked to print and publish the Vedas and Vedangas with proper interpretation. Aryma Samaj focussed on the protection of orphans, carrying out welfare activities and Vedic research
It is worth mentioning that famous German philosopher and educationist Herbert also considered the main goal of education as ‘ideal character building’. He has written in clear words that ‘the aim of education is to endow human beings with moral qualities. Morality is different from religiousness. Morality is the richness of human qualities. According to him, the essence of the sole and whole of education lies in morality. Herbert considers education as the basis for the development and refinement of qualities. His morality consists of the realisation of Satya, Shiva, Sundaram and Dharma.
Deputy Collector of Kashi, Raja Jayakrishnadas, met Swamiji (when Swamiji came to Kashi) in May 1874. In June 1874, Swami Dayanand started writing ‘Satyarth-Prakash’ to the Pandits. Shri Harvilas Sharda wrote life sketch of Rishi Dayanand in English, which he did in Allahabad. Swami Dayanand, who founded the Arya Samaj on April 7, 1875 in Mumbai, gave the slogan to return to the Vedas. He formed the basis of his philosophy of karma theory, rebirth, celibacy and renunciation while writing commentary on the Vedas. He considered untouchability against the Vedas and he has a major contribution in freeing the Hindu caste from the curse of untouchability. The first edition of ‘Satyarth-Prakash’ was printed in Kashi in the year 1875. By the time of Swamiji’s lifetime till Deepavali 1883 October 30 (Samvat 1940), only 11 Samullas of it were printed in the Vedic Press at Prayag. For this reason, the second edition came to light in December 1884. Among all his writings ‘Satyarth Prakash’ is the principal one. Reference of a total of 377 texts can be seen in this, in which evidence of 210 books are given. Examples of 1542 Veda Mantras or Shlokas are given in this book.
If a research scholar of today wants to write a text with such references from an up-to-date library of Sanskrit of a university where all the texts are available, it would take years, which was written by Rishi Dayanand in three months. This book gave birth to a new social outlook. Inspiration to study foreign languages as much as possible is there in the ‘Satyarth Prakash’, but it urges to give first place to his own language Sanskrit and Hindi.
Maharishi Dayananda accepted the Vedas and Upanishads, adopting only the ancient and his interpretation of the Upanishads. He followed his own method of interpretation. He formed the Arya Samaj and his primary purpose behind it was to define and organise the entire Indian society as a cultural unit. The Arya Samaj contributed much in increasing the nationalist thought stream as seen today. It mainly affected the states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Paropakarini Sabha was primarily founded in Meerut in 1880. Its original purpose was printing and publication of the Vedas and Vedangas by interpreting them. Propagation of religion, protection of orphans, and doing other public welfare activities have been taken as activities of Arya Samaj, along with the publication of books, doing of Vedic research and studies. Maharishi Dayanand started purification movement by inspiring people who had converted to other religions to return back to Hinduism. Under this movement, by purifying millions of Muslims and Christians, they made a comeback to the true Sanatan Vedic religion. It was started by Swami Shraddhanand on February 11, 1923 by establishing the Bharatiya Shuddhi Sabha.
(The writer is a member of the central team, Prajna Pravah)