Social Ideals and Aims
It’s Social Basis – The social ideals of the AS are the ideals of the ancient Rishis of India. They are based on, the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, the equality of sexes, absolute justice and fair play between men and men, nations and nations. Equal opportunities for all according to their nature, karma and merit, love and charity towards all.
The Caste System – While the caste system has been an important cause of the downfall of the Hindus, as a social and national organism it averted complete disruption and total annihilation. It saved the Hindus from getting converted to Islam, Christianity at various points of time in Indian history.
The AS repudiates caste by birth, considers separation by men based on the system as inhuman. Having said that, it realizes that by birth all men cannot be equal and would have different physical powers, intellectual and mental facilities, degrees of moral and spiritual development, environments and heredity also play their roles in making a man what he is at birth or in life.
The AS believes in providing equal opportunities to all, men and women, to acquire knowledge and technical skills in an area that suits their mind, temperament. The AS believes in following the Vedic system where there was not a system of caste by birth but based on the qualifications, virtues of individuals. Manu says “Persons, born in one caste may change into a higher, or, by the opposite of self-denial, by self-indulgence, and selfishness, may descend into a lower. The pure, upward-aspiring, gentle-speaking, the free from pride, who live like Brahmans and other twice-born castes continually-even such Shudras shall attain those higher castes”.
Those who trace the caste system back to the Vedas rely on Rig-Veda, x, 90,II, which literally means, “Brahmans are the head of mankind, Kshatriyas are made his arms, Vaishyas are what are his arms and Shudras are made his feet”. Brahmans who posses knowledge are called the brain of mankind, Kshatriyas posses strength, thus called, are made his arms, the Vaishyas being traders are required to move from place to place, are thus spoken off as the thighs of human society and Shudras who are unfit for higher duties become the feet of human society.
This was a division of mankind based on the division of labor and not on birth but merits. The names of non-Brahmans who have been raised to the level of Brahmanhood in ancient India are –
1. Vyasa, founder of Vedanta philosophy and reputed author of Mahabharata, who was the son of a seafaring woman.
2. Vishwamitra, a Kshatriya by birth.
3. Parashara, the author of a code of laws bearing his name, who was the son of a Chandal woman.
4. Aitareya, son of a Shudra woman, the author of the Brahmana and Upanishad of that name.
There are others too, I have taken the more familiar names only. One of the greatest services rendered by the AS was its championing the cause, rights of the depressed and untouchables. They were admitted into the AS on an equal level with persons of higher castes.
Relations between Sexes – It must be admitted that when the Arya Samaj came into being the state of Hindu women was deplorable. Thks to the effort of government education and agencies like the AS esp. in Punjab, Agra and Oundh, there was a great change in the way in which men perceived women.
The AS appealed to the ancient Hindu ideals of womanhood and to the teachings of the ancient Hindu religion in the matter of relations between man and woman. In ancient India, women were placed on the same footing as men. Girls received education. The marriage age was 25 for boys and 16 for girls. Both enjoyed equal freedom on the choice of choosing their life partner. Hindu women as mothers, wives, sisters occupied a higher position than their counterparts had in Christian Europe before the 19th century. According to Manu she is entitled to a thousand times more respect and reverence than the father. She was in supreme control of the house including finances. The rights of a mother widow, daughter to property are recognized.
Bottom line D wanted the people of that age to treat their women with respect and as an equal. If you like to know reasons for deterioration in the condition of the Indian women, please go to History and read the essay A Tribute to the Indian Women. Briefly it would be sufficient to say that the fall in her status started with the first foreign invasion by the Greeks in 326 BC and reached its zenith during Muslim rule.
The AS opposed child marriage. Thus not only did D attempt to reform Hindu society with his call Back to the Vedas but he also undertook social reform aimed at removing a number of social evils that had crept into our society over the last two thousand years.