|Swami Dayanand Saraswati|
The Arya Samaj was founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati at Bombay in 1875. Born in Kathiawar in Gujarat, Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824-83) was a scholar, a patriot, a social reformer and a revivalist. He believed the Vedas were the source of true knowledge. His motto was “Back to the Vedas”. He was against idol worship, child marriage and the caste system based on birth. He encouraged intercaste marriages and widow remarriage. He started the Suddhi movement to bring back those Hindus who had converted to other religions to its fold. He wrote the book Satyartha Prakash which contains his ideas.
Read Also: Dayananda Saraswati
The Arya Samaj, though founded in Bombay, became very powerful in Punjab and spread its influence to other parts of India. It has contributed very much to the spread of education. The first Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) School was founded in 1886 at Lahore. Many more schools came up in other parts of India in later years. The Arya Samaj had also spread nationalism. Hundreds of Arya Samaj patriots, including Lala Lajpat Rai, took part in the Indian freedom struggle.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati was named Mul Shankara by his parents. He left home at an early age and wandered across the country in search of knowledge and answers to his spiritual questions.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati believed in the existence of only One Supreme Reality which should be worshipped in spirit not form. He said that all knowledge was contained in the Vedas and the social problems of India could be solved but studying the Vedas. He also started the Shuddhi Movement to reconvert those Hindus who had been converted to other religions.
The good work of Swami Dayanand Saraswati was carried on by his followers. Lala Hansraj set up the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic School at Lahore. Soon, this school developed into a famous college. Children were taught in English and Hindi by modern methods. Some disciple founded the Gurukul at Hardwar. A number of DAV educational institutions were established to provide modern education. Thus, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries AD, the Arya Samaj became an important organization for religious and social reforms.