Achievements: Founded Arya Samaj and established gurukuls to
impart vedic education.
Dayanand Saraswati was one of the most radical socio-religious
reformers in the history of India. Swami Dayanand Saraswati was the
founder of Arya Samaj and propagated egalitarian approach of the Vedas
at a time when widespread casteism was prevalent in the society.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati's original name was Mool Shankar Tiwari.
He was born in 1824 in Tankara, Gujarat in a rich family of Brahmins.
As a child Dayanand was brought up under the strictest Brahmin rule, and
at the age of eight was invested with the Sacred Thread (Upanayna). When
he was fourteen his father took him to the temple on the occasion of Shivaratri.
Dayanand had to fast and keep awake the whole night in obedience to Lord
Shiva. In the night he saw a rat nibbling the offerings to the God and
running over Shiva's body. He tried to find out from elders why this "God
Almighty" could not defend himself against the menace of a petty
mice, for which he was rebuked. This incident shattered Daya Nand Saraswati's
faith in the idol worship and thereafter he refused to participate in
the religious rites for the rest of his life.
At the age of nineteen Dayanand Saraswati ran away from home to escape
from a forced marriage. He was caught and imprisoned. He fled again in1845.
For fifteen years he wandered all over the country in the search of a
guru. In 1860, he found his guru and mentor Swami Virjanand Saraswati
at Mathura. He was blind. Dayanand Saraswati underwent rigorous training
under Swami Virjanand Saraswati. Virjanand Saraswati gave him the name
Dayanand and as gurudakshina extracted promise from Dayanand that he would
devote his life for revival of Hinduism.
Dayanand Saraswati undertook a tour of the entire county, made fiery
speeches condemning the caste system, idolatry, and child marriages. He
advocated the ideal age for a girl to be between 16 and 24, and for men
between 25 and 40. Dayanand Saraswati was the first leader in the field
of theology who welcomed the advances of sciences and technology. To
him, the Vedas as the source book contain the seed of science, and to
him, the Vedas advocate the philosophy of dynamic realism.
Dayanand Saraswati founded Arya Samaj in Mumbai in 1875 to promote social
service. Arya Samaj, postulates in principle equal justice for all men
and all nations, together with equality of the sexes. It repudiates a
hereditary caste system, and only recognizes professions or guilds, suitable
to the complementary aptitudes of men in society. He gave new interpretations
to reform the stagnant Hindu thought through his book "Satyaprakash"
(The Light of Truth). He profusely quoted the vedas and other religious texts to insist that
salvation was not the only motto of a Hindu or Arya, as was believed.
To lead a fruitful worldly life, working for a noble cause was important,
and he preached that salvation was possible through social service.
Due to his radical thought, Swami Dayanand had acquired enemies from
all spheres of life. On the occasion of Deepavali in 1883, he was a
guest of the maharaja of Jodhpur. The king was a womanizer and Dayanand
advised the king to lead a righteous life as a ruler, upsetting a
mistress by the name of Nanhi Jan. That night Swami Dayanand was
poisoned during the festival meal. Swami Dayanand Saraswati breathed his
last chanting "Om".