Teachings of Arya Samaj

Educational Work

The eighth of the Ten principles of the Arya Samaj points out to the Arya that he should endeavor to diffuse knowledge and dispel ignorance. In Punjab and the United Provinces the Samaj have done excellent work ahead of the missionary effort. No single organization could claim to have as many schools for boys and girls as the Samaj. For the boy’s education there were two types of colleges, one affiliated with the Government University and other independent of official control.

Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College at Lahore – The aim of this educational institution is briefly referred to as “It will be conceded by all right-thinking minds that to secure the best advantages of education, it is necessary to make it national in tone and character. The rush of foreign ideas has no doubt, the effect of enlightening and improving thousand minds. But foreign education has produced a schism in society that is truly deplorable. The reaction towards national education is asserting itself everywhere and the demand for the study of national literature is growing.

Thus we have to make a provision for the efficient study of the national language and literature, and to carefully initiate the youthful mind into habits and modes of life consistent with the national spirit and character. Influenced by these considerations we propose to establish an educational institution, which will supply the shortcomings of the existing systems and combine their advantages. The aim would be spread knowledge of moral and spiritual truths by insisting on the study of classical Sanskrit, to assist in the formation of sound and energetic habits by a regulated mode of living, to encourage sound acquaintance of with English literature”.

While D’s death did caste a deep gloom over his followers, it created a desire for expressing gratitude by some permanent commemoration of the great man. The movement foe giving practical shape to the movement for the study of the Vedas and classical Sanskrit literature could no longer be postponed. It inspired his followers to set up the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic Colleges, schools, Gurukuls.

The Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College
1. To establish in Punjab an Anglo-Vedic college to encourage, improve and enforce the study of Hindu literature.
2. To encourage and enforce the study of classical Sanskrit and of the Vedas.
3. To encourage and enforce the study of English literature, sciences, both theoretical and applied.
4. To provide means for giving Technical education in so far as it was not inconsistent with the objects referred to above.

The first D.A.V. would never have happened had it not been for the efforts of Lala Hansraj. It was due to his efforts that the first Dayanand Anglo-Vedic High School, Lahore was opened on Ist June 1886. It owed nothing to the government and was entirely funded out of public contributions. Here English education was to be offered under the protective coloring of Indian cultural tradition. It attempted to make Western education safe by harnessing both its scientific quest as well as liberal leanings to the service of the community. Under Lala Hansraj who remained its principle for 28 years “it became the foremost agency for planting a sturdy and independent nationalism in Punjab”.

Another notable person that we cannot afford to forget is Lala Munshi Ram, the founder of the Gurukula at Kangri. It is impossible to think of the Samaj without these two names. By 1914, the Samaj had the largest number of institutions in Northern India and probably the second largest in the country.

The Gurukula – another college was established by the vegetarian section of the Samaj. A section of the Samaj felt that that the already established D.A.V. institutions did not come up to the Vedic education ideals hence they felt the need for an educational system with high proficiency in Vedic Sanskrit and character building on Vedic lines. Established in 1902, the objectives of the scheme are –

Its aim is the reviving of the ancient system of Brahmacharya, of rejuvenating and resuscitating ancient Indian philosophy and literature, of building up Hindi literature, of producing preachers of the Vedic religion etc. Quoting Mr Myron Phelps of America on the objects of the Gurukula “Our model is the Great University of Ancient India, such as that of Taxila near Rawalpindi”. The missionaries and the Muslims tried their best to poison the years of the Govt. on the activities of the Gurukula but fortunately the then Lft-Governor of the province, Sir James Meston, visited the Gurukula and gave it a clean chit. In fact so impressed was he that he laid the foundation stone of a sister institution at Mathura, where he paid a high tribute to Lala Munshi Ram.

Besides these two colleges, the Arya Samaj has founded a large number of boy’s schools, Primary and Secondary, Gurukulas and Patchalas. For the girls the Samaj maintains a large number of schools and colleges. One of them is the Kanyamahavidyala at Jullundar. My mother studied there, she tells me it was a beautiful school with hostels for the girls too. It was founded by Lala Deva Raja of Jullunder.

While I have not managed to get an exhaustive list, some of the educational institutions of Higher Learning under D.A.V. College Trust are – D.A.V. Colleges at Amritsar, Jullundar, Ambala, Chnadigarh, Abohar, Sholpaur, Batala, Hans Raj College in Delhi, D.A.V. College for Women at Yamunanagar, Dayanand Ayur-Vedic College in Jullundar, Dayanand Polytechnic in Amritsar. Am sure there are many more. There are four Arya Vidya Mandir schools in Mumbai run by the Arya Samajis there.

The Arya Samaj and its impact on Contemporary India in the 19th century Chap10

Before studying the impact of the Samaj on contemporary India it would be useful to have a chronological outline of its founder, his ministry and development of the Samaj after his death.

Swami Dayanand was born in 1824, left home when he was 22, became a Sanyasi in 1848, sat at the feet of Swami Virjanand from 1860 to 1863, wandered round the country for twelve years, 1869 is when he took the orthodox Brahmans of Banaras, thereafter to found the Arya Samaj on 10/4/1875. The principles of the Samaj were redefined at Lahore in 1877, D died in 1883 when he was under sixty. His commentary on the Rig and Yajur Vedas are monumental so was his Introduction to the Commentary on the Vedas.

He spoke in Sanskrit till 1874 i.e. when he gave his first sermon in Hindi at Kashi. Well read in Sanskrit he claimed that he accepted as truth nothing that was not backed by the Vedas as he understood them. When he said Back to the Vedas, he meant the Vedic text, not the medieval commentaries thereon. Like orthodox Hindus he accepted ultimate salvation as the objective to be attained. He declared service, physical, moral and spiritual uplift of others as the motivating rule of life.

He accepted the doctrine of rebirth but said it was the responsibility of the better off to do justice to their less fortunate brothers. He denounced all claims based on custom and status alone. He accepted the four castes but to him caste represented an occupational group. He would not concede that women had a lower status in society.

This led to his emphasis on the place of knowledge in human affairs. Propagation of knowledge he exalted into a cardinal principle. To him the Vedas embodied all knowledge that there was to grasp. He invited all men to seek truth on their own and not to take ready-made beliefs from the priestly class. He set up pathsalas and schools during his life- time.

His cry Back to the Vedas was accompanied by a restatement of India’s past. He unearthed the duties of rulers as enunciated in Manu and supplemented them with the Sabhas and Assemblies that he claimed to discover functioning in the good old days. Against the current belief about India'’ sordid past, he delved deep into literature and painted a golden age when woodcutters has corrected the mistakes in diction of the rulers. For the first time after the Western assault on India, he gave educated Hindus some cause to be proud of their past.

He insisted on the superiority of practice over belief and devotion. He acknowledged the validity of mystic experience and had much to say about Yoga and Samadhi. Like the Bhagwadgita he seemed to assert that the place of a Bhakti or a Yogi in society depended on what he did for it. To him becoming a good man was more important than being a devotee. His good man seemed to drive inspiration because of his faith in God, belief in wisdom. By expounding the Vedic religion in Hindi he reduced the needs for Pandits who maintained their importance by knowing Sanskrit.

His followers were lay-men held together by the Ten Principles of the Samaj, fired by his spirit of service and self-sacrifice, sworn to a crusade against superstition and apathy towards the ills which contemporary society suffered. His followers rejected image worship, did not believe in astrology. He proclaimed his belief in the eternal nature of three verities of God, the individual, soul and matter. Every man was left, with God’s grace, to find out the truth for himself with such help as he could enlist. He also dealt a blow to predeterminism. Men had become content to see themselves as playthings of fate.

D did not discard rituals altogether although he cut it down to size. The Samaj did build temples but they could be used as schoolrooms or as assembly halls. The sixteen Samskaras that cover a man’s life were not very elaborate affairs. The ceremonies were devoid of any mysteries, no vicious beings were propitiated. All ceremonies except that at death include prayers through Vedic hyms and performance of Havan.

His mission took strong roots in Punjab, U.P., Rajasthan and parts of Bihar and Hyderabad state. The Arya Samajis does not have the power to authorize sanctions against individual or ex-communicate him.

The impact of the Samaj may be now be summarized as follows.
1. Community worship every week brought men together more frequently. In the governing councils, men elected met on equal terms and resolved problems. These bodies were to sworn to positive action and self-motivated. Here that peculiarly English virtue of working through committees was cultivated as now here else.
2. These bodies were action minded. They did not meet to gossip but to evolve plans that met the challenge of their times. Educational institutions were managed, famine relief organized rehabilitate victims of natural calamities. Lala Hansraj was probably the first Indian to devote himself to a cause in 1886. The work of community development without much help from the state was undertaken from the Samaj long before the word had become a current coin.
3. All its activities needed funds. The Samaj started canalizing funds for common organized efforts. Hindus and non-Hindus donated for its causes.
4. It set up educational facilities in Punjab, U.P. and Hyderabad. The establishment of the D.A.V. College at Lahore became a college in 1889, triggered off an educational movement in the North. It also proved that knowledge of English and Western sciences could be safely imparted to Indians without wither making them Christians or making them hypocrites.
5. Another result was that the Samaj acquired some control over the syllabus of school education to be imparted and a very big place in its direction. NonSamajis who passed out of its institutions were deeply impacted by what the Arya Samaj stood for.
6. Dayanand’s presentation of India’s past made the Samaj a revivalist body. He inspired millions to believe that the Golden age could be recaptured. During Muslim rule Hindus did maintain an air of superiority but with the advent of Western onslaught the Hindus were defenseless against the smashing blows to their religion, culture and beliefs. We took the current Western claim to its monopoly of civilized inheritance at face value. D’s interpretation of the Vedas was a mighty challenge to Western scholarship. Indian scholars began unfolding the mysteries of Indian culture. They were inspired to begin with a self-confidence that had been lacking in the past.
7. D had declared that a good government was no substitute for self-governance. D raised the voice of Swaraj long before the Indian National Congress adopted it. The first generation of Arya Samaji leaders were civil servants and a prince or two. To them D gave inspirations that Indians could rule over their country again. All Arya Samajis were 100 % patriots and adopted Swadeshi long before the boycott movement.
8. Research work done by D and inspired by him was successfully used in a vital political controversy that erupted in the 20th century. When the Brits set about its newly declared goal of setting up responsible govt in India, an eminent historian Vincent Smith rushed to prove that the attempt to set up self-governing institutions in India was bound to fail as being alien to it. Sir Shankaran Nair, a member of the Governor-General-in-Council disagreed on the basis of Kashi Prashad Jayaswal’s Hindu Polity written to expand D’s hints on the places of the Sabhas in ancient India.
9. The impact of the Arya Samaj is to be seen in the adoption of Hindi as a language of administration in Rajputana and U.P. D wrote all his works in Hindi or Sanskrit. Under the East India Company Urdu had come to be adopted as the language of administration for reasons I do not know. Under the persuasion of Sir Pratap Singh, several states of Rajputana were convinced to adopt Hindi script for official work. It came to be adopted as an alternative medium of administration in U.P. early in the 20th century. The Arya Samaji schools tried to make it popular.
10. The present preoccupation of the govt with the welfare of the harijans has its roots in the work that the Samaj started for the betterment of the untouchables long ago. The Samajis made it a part of their religious duty to look after their welfare. In fact when the educational, social services were thrust on the Arya Samajis in Baroda that Dr Ambedkar was sent on a scholarship to England by the Gaikwad of Baroda.
11. Unlike most Hindu organizations, the Samaj welcomed back into the Hindu fold Christian and Muslim converts. This was greatly resented by the Muslims and Christians alike for which the Samaj had to pay with lives of two of its leaders.
12. The Arya Samajis were accused of being intolerant. When the Arya Samajis asserted that Hinduism could not mean anything to any man, but only what the Vedas said, they were accused of a claiming a monopoly truth. It was forgotten that this was exactly what every reformist movement and religious leader had done within or outside India. The Arya Samajis backed by the knowledge of the Vedas as enunciated by D hurled arguments not blows at their opponents.
13. When Sir Fazal Hussain embarked upon his campaigning of debasing administration by extending communal representation from legislature to services, educational institutions, it was an Arya Samaji who presented their case before the sub-committee of the Congress committee.
14. Ignoring their advice of those who had made Satyagraha their own weapon, the Arya Samaj launched a successful Satyagraha against the Nizam of Hyderabad in 1939 in protest against the State of Hyderabad which had put a ban on their preachers and congregations. No less than 12,000 Satyagrahis, including many orthodox Hindus took part, court arrested, and more than twenty died in jail. The Nizam accepted their demands and the Satyagraha movement was withdrawn. The movement delivered such a shattering blow to his prestige from which he was never able to recover, in the eyes of his subjects.
15. So also the Samaj braved great danger in Malabar to bring back over 2,000 Hindus who had been forcibly converted to Islam by the rebellious Moplahs. Still more important was the reconversion of more than 30,000 Malkhana Rajputs in the villages of Rajputana and U.P.
16. In 1944 the Muslim ministry of Sind proscribed under the Defence of India Act, the Sindhi translation of Satyarth Prakash. The Arya Samajis started a Satyagraha on 14 June 1947 and publicly carried the book for seven days. As the govt took no action, the order became a dead letter.
17. Points 13 to 16 and references above indicate that the Arya Samaj brought about militancy in Hinduism, something that was missing for centuries. Is it not ironical that a number of Bollywood’s Punjabis who as Arya Samajis seem to so meekly give into the dictates of the Karachi based Underworld. Where has that spirit of Militancy, pride in our religion gone?
18. Unlike the Brahmo – Prarthana Samajas, the Arya Samajis never cut themselves aloof from the main stream of Hindu thought. D never claimed to be a Guru, founder of a new religion. His was a humble role of a lifter of a veil who uncovers what was always there but had laid hidden.

Have tried my best to do justice to what was one of the most important religious movements in North India in the 19th century. Please forgive me for any errors, am willing to stand corrected.

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