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The man who rewrote religion

Swami Dayanand Saraswati's concept of God was formless, reachable by meditation.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2007 16:03 IST

This incident is about 140 years old. In a town on the border of West Bengal and Bihar, a man was taking two buffaloes along, when another man, a sage, was struck by the sight of the colour-smeared cattle. He was stunned to hear the man say that he was taking those buffaloes to offer his deity and in return the deity would grant him a son.

The questioner asked, “Who advised you to do this?” “It is written in the Vedas and I was told this by my Guru who is a great Vedic scholar,” replied the man. The questioner met this guru and wanted him to produce the Vedic text which sanctioned animal sacrifice. But the 'guru' couldn't even read, let alone understand the meaning of Sanskrit hymns.

This was the condition of our society when Swami Dayanand Saraswati after acquiring knowledge of the Vedas under the tutelage of Swami Virjanand, started his crusade against those, who in the name of religion were fooling the illiterate masses. He proved how scripture was being practiced diametrically opposed to the true interpretation of the Vedas. He trampled underfoot the orthodoxy that prohibited the study of the Vedas by women and Dalits and said all human beings had the right to study the Vedas, which transcended caste, faith and geography.

To him 'Arya' was not a caste but a man of superior principles and character and the Arya Samaj he founded was “the assembly of good people”. His concept of God was formless, reachable by meditation.

Dayanand Saraswati was equally bold in his crusade to improve the condition of women, deplorable in India at that time. He placed before people that the Vedas sanctioned the most exalted status to women at home and in society and women had as much right to education and a place in the judiciary, legislative assemblies, and state's administration as men. He opposed child marriage and sati and upheld widow-remarriage and a woman's right to choose her partner. This was his birth anniversary month.