Arya Samaj

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Arya Samaj

Arya Samaj is one of the most  powerful organization for socio-religious reforms India has ever seen. It took up rather a strong and militant policy towards many matters.

The Arya Samaj did not want to derive any inspiration from any other religion. They did not want to go out of Hinduism. They wanted to remain staunch Hindus while working for reform and revival of Hinduism.

The Arya Samaj aimed at three main objectives.

  1. It wanted to recover and revive the forgotten values of the Aryan culture.
  2. It wanted to inspire the Indians with the great Aryan ideals of the past.
  3. And, it wanted to re-establish, the greatness of India by fighting against internal weaknesses and external threats.

The Arya Samaj viewed with displeasure the spread of Christianity in India. It wanted to stop that process by reforming Hinduism from within.

The founder of the Arya Samaj was Swami Dayananda Saraswati. He was born in 1824. His father was a devotee of Siva. Young Dayananda got by heart the Vedas, and became a learned scholar in Sanskrit. His father taught him scriptures and trained him in methods of worship. But as he began to worship Gods, doubts appeared in his mind regarding the validity of that worship. At a young age, one day as he worshipped Lord Siva, a question came to his mind: ‘Is it possible that this idol that according to all accounts walk about eats, sleeps, drinks, holds a trident in his hand beats the drum and can pronounce curse on men, can be the great deity, the Mahadeva the Supreme Being?” He came to disbelieve idol as God. Many doubts made him restless. In search of answers, he became a Sannyasi at the age of 21.

Dayananda was a profound scholar. His study of the Vedas led him to believe that the Vedas contained the supreme truth. The descriptions of religion, as contained in the later Hindu scriptures, were imagination and, therefore, untrue. The Vedic religion was pure and real. It contained devotion to the One Formless God. That Omnipotent Creator revealed Himself in Nature, which the Vedas described. The ancient Aryans got divine knowledge from the Vedas and were far from absurd beliefs. The Vedic society was also the most natural society. It contained equal human beings, divided into four natural sections according to the nature of work, such as, worship, war, agriculture and trade and social service. There was no caste system and no untouchability. The women in the Vedic age enjoyed honor and freedom. They were far from the degrading conditions of the later periods.

Thus it appeared to Dayananda that the Vedic religion and society were the most natural and therefore the best. Through centuries of degeneration the ideals were lost. The revival of those ideals should be the revival of India. Therefore, Dayananda raised the slogan: ‘Back to the Vedas”.

With an aim to revive the Arya ideals, he founded the Arya Samaj. In 1875, it was established at Bombay (now Mumbai), and two years later, at Lahore. The duty of the Arya Samaj of Dayanand Saraswati was to preach absolute faith in God and in the Vedas. God is merciful, immortal, omnipotent, formless, omnipresent,  fearless, eternal and the maker and master of all.

The Vedas, according to him, are the scriptures of true knowledge. It is the first duty of the Aryas to read them, teach them, recite them, and hear them being read’.

Besides religious duty Dayananda also prescribed for the Arya Samaj a social duty. He wanted to purify and revitalize the Indian society. A great emphasis was laid on the development of body and physical stamina, of personal courage and vigor. With a sound body it was necessary to develop a superior mind through proper education. The gurukulas or educational institutions of the Vedic ideal were established. The most important of those institutions was at Kangri near Hardware. Enough attention was paid to develop the character of the pupils. Different subjects of sciences and arts were taught in Sanskrit or Hindi.

The Arya Samaj adopted a scheme of religious reforms. Idol worship, religious ceremonies, pujas and rituals were criticized as purposeless. Superstitions were exposed as unnecessary. As regards social reforms, the Arya Samaj tried to raise the status of the untouchable by bringing them to the rank of the caste Hindus.

Even it attempted to bring the non-Hindus into the Hindu society. Especially to those of the Hindus who had earlier left their religion and embraced Islam or Christianity, the Arya Samaj wanted to accept them back as Hindus. Among other social activities, institutions were established for the maintenance of orphans, widows, the distressed persons and the destitute. The society was taught to be more liberal, more philanthropic and more helpful.

After an active life, Dayananda Saraswati died in 1883. But the Arya Movement continued in full vigor. In western and northern India, the Arya Samaj drew much popular attention. To the educated, the Vedic ideals appeared sound. To the mass of people, the revival of ancient beliefs carried an appeal. At least, that was the condition in 19th century.

But, in course of time, the religious beliefs of the Arya Samaj began to lose validity. The Vedas did not appear as an absolute source of all knowledge. Nor was it possible to revive the Vedic systems in the present age. The Arya movement thus began to decline. Yet, its socio-educational programs served useful purpose for years to come.

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