Arya Samaj History: Social Reforms and Vedic Monotheism
A study of Arya Samaj History remonstrates for social reforms and presence of one god theory in Hinduism. Social ills like caste discrimination and widow marriages are rebuked and attempts are made to abolish them in Arya Samaj.
The Arya Samaj movement is known for propagating education in India, abolishing child marriages, widow marriages and converting back the Hindus who have migrated to religions like Christianity and Islam.
When was Arya Samaj Founded?
The Arya Samaj was founded in the year 1875 on 7th April in Bombay by Swami Dayanand Saraswati. A study of Arya Samaj history connotes that Swami Dayanand Saraswati was a great scholar of Vedas, who have translated written many books on it in Hindi so that general public can read and understand it.
Swami Dayanand preached Vedas as a source of all kinds of knowledge and said that they are infallible. He advocated for one god theory and stressed upon the fact that all Hindu gods and goddesses are merely different faces of the same god i.e. one god.
Arya Samaj was founded as a social reform movement. It is not a religion but a sect of Hindu religion.
Arya Samaj History and Its Mission
In Sanskrit, the meaning of ‘Arya Samaj’ is a ‘Noble Society’. Arya Samaj was formed as a social reform movement to promote and instill humane values and practices. It stresses upon the infallible authority of Vedas as a fountain of all sorts of wisdom and knowledge. A study of Arya Samaj history will apprise you various works done by Arya Samaj movement for the upliftment of the society.
Arya Samaj believes in Vedic monotheism i.e. the theory of one god and propounds that different Hindu gods are just a different facets of the same god. It rejects worshiping idols.
The primary mission of the Arya Samaj is to promote education in society and eradicate ignorance. It stresses upon abolishing injustice and poverty from the society. It is guided by the preachings of Vedas, the Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sam-Veda, and Atharva-Veda.
Arya Samaj believes in the presence of one god by the name of ‘Ohm’ and pronounces him to be omnipresent and omniscient. It says the god is merciful, just and source of wisdom and bliss.
Arya Samaj is the largest provider of education in India, right from pre-schooling to Post-graduate levels. There are many societies and NGOs working under the umbrella of Arya Samaj who are dedicated to this cause of spreading knowledge among the people.
Growth of Arya Samaj
Swami Dayanand Saraswati after formation of Arya Samaj, toured large parts of India, particularly the Rajasthan, Gujarat, central India and Punjab and established units and Kendras of Arya Samaj. Accumulating people with knowledge and urge to reform the society was a great task for him during those times.
The opposition meted to the movement from the orthodox society was the main hindrance to its growth and propagation. Arya Samaj history confirms to these facts.
The Arya Samaj opposed caste distinction, social inequalities, and child marriages. It supported widow marriages in the society. It believed that there was only one God who must be worshipped in a form of spirit and idols.
Arya Samaj established a network of schools, colleges, and institutions by the name of Gurukuls particularly in the areas Swamiji toured initially so that people could be enlighted from ignorance. These schools were used to promote the philosophy and objective of Arya Samaj.
Both boys and girls were encouraged to obtain ‘Gyan’ or the knowledge in these Gurukul Vedic Schools, which provided education based upon ancient Vedic principles. This was an attempt to liberate Hindus from the clutches of English patterned education in India which were imposed by the British.
Arya Samaj emboldened to reconvert people who have left Hinduism and accepted other religions. The specific Vedic procedures by the name of ‘Shuddhi’ were employed to bring back such people to Hinduism.
Arya Samaj empathized to read ‘Satyarth Prakash‘ a book devoted to the cause and principles of Arya Samaj. They encouraged Sandhya Pujanam, Havan, chant mantras, sing bhajan-kirtan and work for the cow protection.
What was the Impact of Arya Samaj on Society?
In the north, the Arya Samaj played a very vital and assertive role in the upliftment of Jats as a community. There was a cultural and political mobilization of Jats for their emergence as an assertive community.
The Arya Samaj history pronounces that it worked as a charitable organization mainly devoted to the cause of upliftment of womenfolk, their education, and their rights. Remarriages of widows were encouraged.
Recitation of ‘Gayatri Mantra’ as a ritual, meditation and Havan is at the core of the cultural performance of Samaj. Such practices spread across Northern India as a core practice of individual life.
Social Reformative Works of Arya Samaj
The very foundation of the Arya Samaj was made to reform the society of its various ills and evils. In this aspect, Arya Samaj has rendered a very valuable service to the Hindu Society.
Arya Samaj played a very important role in abolishing caste discrimination in society. It allowed any members of society to perform Gayatri Pujas and chant Mantras which were the monopoly of Brahmins of that time. It supported members of other community to read Vedas.
Arya Samaj very vigorously pursued the objective of eradicating untouchability from the society. In our Hindu caste system, certain members of groups were pronounced as untouchable and they were not allowed to mix with other members. Even they were not allowed to take water from the same source and mix in the social gatherings. Arya Samaj attempted to abolish such evils in the society.
There were many other evils prevalent at those times which were broken by the Arya Samaj. Child marriages, Polygamies, Purdah System, Sati Pratha and Exclusion of Women from Education were very common and widely prevalent. Arya Samaj took initiative to stop such evils in the society and advocated for women education and inter-caste marriages.
A study of Arya Samaj history affirms that not only did it stood for the above realism but it also promoted the use of “Swadeshi” by discarding foreign goods in the society. It advocated the increased use of Hindi and Sanskrit as a mode of reading, writing and study.
The Arya Samaj has been a pioneer in spreading knowledge and education in India. It established D.A.V (Dayanand Anglo Vedic) Schools and Colleges throughout India to impart education and propagate ancient Hindu values. These institutions are perhaps the best example of learning through the scientific approach and religious value system.
Principles of Arya Samaj
The study of Arya Samaj history verifies ten basic principles of Arya Samaj over which it was founded and which they practices. They are enumerated in brief as follows:-
- 1. The Vedas are the ultimate source of all knowledge and intellects.
- 2. Our all action should conform with righteousness i.e. Dharma.
- 3. We should always accept the TRUTH and dispel the UNTRUTH.
- 4. Knowledge should always be promoted and Ignorance should be discarded.
- 5. The welfare of others should be always encouraged and practiced.
- 6. God is a spirit and not an idol. Idol worshiping should be discarded. God is one and all other forms are merely its different facets. Arya Samaj preludes that God should be known and worshiped by the name ‘Ohm’. God is formless, blissful and omnipresent.
- 7. Always doing good for the whole world and people’s welfare should be the objective of Arya Samaj.
- 8. Everyone should be treated with compassion, love, and fairness.
- 9. Discrimination on the basis of caste and creed in all forms should be discarded.
- 10. Everyone should be bound by social rules and regulations and promotion of individual welfare should be the prime concern.
Arya Samaj basically has worked with an objective to recover and revive the forgotten values of the Aryan culture, to inspire people to be proud of our great heritage and the past and to re-establish ourselves by fighting our internal weakness and the external aggressions.
Adoption of religious reforms was a means to update ourselves to the true realities and in confirmation of modern practices.
Lately, in India, various practices of Arya Samaj has lost its credentials, validity, and teachings. Though the practices of Vedas are on the decline, the contributions made by the Arya Samaj in the upliftment of the society can never be forgotten as a most phenomenal works of that period.