Swami Dayanand Saraswati: Great reformer nation builder - Hindustan Times

Swami Dayanand Saraswati: Great reformer nation builder

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Feb 12, 2020 03:03 PM IST

This 19th century philosopher and reformer founded the Arya Samaj, a socio-cultural organization. His ideologies also resonated with the spirit of India’s freedom struggle.

An infant born on February 12, 1824 in Gujarat to Karshanji Lalji Tiwari and his wife Yashodabai, was named Mool Shankar. Brought up in a devout, affluent family, the boy became proficient in Sanskrit and imbibed the wisdom of Hindu scriptures, especially the Vedas. Gradually, certain incidents that occurred during his childhood, such as the death of his younger sister, made young Shankar contemplate on the larger meaning of life. At a time when his parents felt concerned by the unconventional questions, the latter decided to leave home as part of his search for the truth.

In April 1875, Dayanand established the Arya Samaj in Bombay.(ILLUSTRATION: Biswajit Debnath)
In April 1875, Dayanand established the Arya Samaj in Bombay.(ILLUSTRATION: Biswajit Debnath)

Quest for truth

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Leading his life as an ascetic from 1845 to 1869, he visited temples, met with sages and yogis, as well as spent time in Himalayan retreats as part of his quest for the “truth”. His efforts failed to yield any result till he reached Mathura, where he came across Swami Virajanand Dandeesha and became his disciple. The holy man advised the youngster to throw away all his books and to seek knowledge directly from the Vedas.

Under his guru’s guidance, Shankar took up the study of the Vedas and strived to spread the message of these holy books among the masses who, Swami Virajanand said, were entangled in meaningless rituals and had strayed far away from true knowledge.

When the time came for Mool Shankar to leave the ashram, Swami Virajanand bestowed on him the new name of Rishi (which means sage) Dayanand. The latter promised to his mentor that he would devote life to disseminate the teachings of the Vedas.


In April 1875, Dayanand established the Arya Samaj in Bombay. Formed with the motto Krinvanto Vishvam Aryam (Make this world noble), the socio-cultural movement aimed to reform society by raising awareness among people about Vedic knowledge.

Far from trying to for a new religion, Dayanand only aimed at re-establishing the teachings of the Vedas. He authored an estimated 60 books, the most important among them being Satyarth Prakash (meaning The Light of Truth), to spread knowledge among people about the principles of the Vedas and to promote qualities that he considered were truly divine.

Dayanand also strongly backed the granting of equal rights for all, emphasised the need for the social uplift of women and of the underprivileged sections. He also denounced superstitions and practices such as animal sacrifice. He was given the title of Maharishi and is considered one of the prominent makers of modern India.

Painful end

As an outspoken person, Dayanand strongly resisted social ills and outdated religious practices. In this process, he made enemies, many of whom also tried to harm him. He survived many such attempts till September 29, 1883, when his own cook, working at the behest of those inimical to the holy man, gave him a glass of poisoned milk. The Swami suffered in pain for a month before he died on October 30, 1883. The places Swami Dayanand visited during his lifetime were often changed culturally as a result.


1. The Arya Samaj, which was established by Swami Dayanand, is still very active in parts of the world such as the United States of America, Canada, Trinidad, Mexico, United Kingdom and Netherlands.

2. Swami Dayanand established Gurukuls where his followers learnt about the principles of the Vedas. After his death, his followers set up the Dayanand Anglo Vedic College Trust and Management Society. The first Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School was founded on June 1, 1886, with Lala Hansraj as the headmaster. The curriculum combined knowledge of the Vedas and contemporary English education.

3. Though Swami Dayanand was not directly involved in politics, Dayanand’s teachings found a lot of resonance with India’s freedom struggle. They also influenced and inspired a large number of freedom fighters such as Ram Prasad Bismil, Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh and Lala Lajpat Rai. Bhagat Singh was an alumnus of the Dayanand Anglo Vedic School in Lahore. His grandfather, Arjun Singh also followed Arya Samaj.

SOURCE: thefamouspeople.com, Wikipedia

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