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Arya Samaj

Arya Samaj
Arya Performing Agnihotra
Motto "कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्"
Civilise the world !
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Founder Dayananda Saraswati
Type Religious organization
Legal status Foundation
Purpose Educational, Religious studies, Spirituality, Social Reforms
Headquarters Delhi, India

28°22′N 77°08′E / 28.36°N 77.13°E / 28.36; 77.13Coordinates: 28°22′N 77°08′E / 28.36°N 77.13°E / 28.36; 77.13{{#coordinates:28.36|N|77.13|E||||| |primary |name=

Area served
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Leader आचार्य हनुमतप्रसाद उपाध्याय जी
Main organ
सार्वदेशिक आर्य प्रतिनिधि सभा – sārvadēśika ārya pratinidhi sabhā
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Formerly called
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Arya Samaj (Sanskrit ārya samāja आर्य समाज "Noble Society") is a Hindu reform movement founded by Swami Dayananda on 7 April 1875.[1] He was a sannyasi who promoted the Vedas. Dayananda emphasised the ideals of brahmacharya (chastity).


The term Arya here refers to noble and does not have its origins in the Indo-Aryan Migration theory.

Arya Samaj Core Belief

File:O3m AryaSamaj.PNG
ओ३म् O3m (Aum), considered by the Arya Samaj to be the highest and most proper name of God.

The Principal Core Belief of the Samaj are as follows:

  • The belief in only One Supreme Almighty or creator known by name AUM (as mentioned in 40.17 Yajur Veda)
  • Infallible Authority of Vedas,
  • Rejection of idol worship
  • Equality of all human beings.
  • Empowerment of Women

This movement started in response to growing sects in Hinduism and the opportunistic influences of the British on India.


Arya Samaj was formally established in Bombay at 10 April 1875 by Dayanand Saraswati.[2] The group found most of its support in Punjab.


Vedic schools

Between 1869 and 1873, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a native of Gujarat from the Kathiawar region, made his first attempt at reform in India. This attempt took the form of the establishment of "Vedic Schools" or "Gurukuls" which put an emphasis on Vedic values, culture, and religion or satya sanatan Dharma to its students including boys and girls separately. The first was established at Farrukhabad in 1869, with 50 students enrolled in its first year. This initial success led to the founding of four additional gurukuls in rapid succession at Mirzapur (1870), Kasganj (1870), Chhalesar (Aligarh) (1870) and Varanasi (1873) in Uttar Pradesh.

The Vedic Schools represented the first practical application of Dayanand’s vision of religious and social reform. They enjoyed a mixed reception. On the one hand, students were not allowed to perform traditional idol worship (murti puja in Hindi) at the school, and were instead expected to perform sandhya (a form of meditative prayer using vedic mantras from the Vedas) and participate in agnihotra twice daily. Disciplinary action was swift and not infrequently severe. On the other hand, all meals, lodging, clothing and books were given to the students free of charge, and the study of Sanskrit was opened to non-Brahmins. The most noteworthy feature of the Schools was that only those texts which accepted the authority of the Vedas were to be taught. This was critical for the spiritual and social regeneration of Vedic culture in India.

The Vedic Schools soon ran into difficulties. Dayanand had trouble finding qualified teachers who agreed with his views on religious reform, and there existed a paucity of textbooks which he considered suitable for instruction in Vedic culture. Funding was sporadic, attendance fluctuated considerably, and tangible results in the way of noteworthy student achievement were not forthcoming.

Consequentially, some of the schools were forced to close shortly after opening. As early as 1874, it had become clear to Dayanand that, without a wide and solid base of support among the public, setting up schools with the goal of imparting a Vedic education would prove to be an impossible task. He therefore decided to invest the greater part of his resources in the formulation and propagation of his ideology of reform. Deprived of the full attention of Dayanand, the Gurukul/Vedic School system collapsed and the last of the schools (Farrukhabad) was closed down in 1876.

Adi Brahmo Samaj

While traveling (1872–1873), Dayanand came to know of several of the pro-Western Indian intellectuals of the age, including Navin Chandra Roy, Rajnarayan Basu, Debendranath Tagore and Hemendranath Tagore all of whom were actively involved in the Brahmo Samaj. This reform organization, founded in 1828, held many views similar to those of Dayanand in matters both religious (e.g., a belief in monotheism and the eternality of the soul) and social (e.g., the need to abolish the hereditary caste or varna system and uplift the masses through education). Debendranath Tagore had written a book entitled Brahmo Dharma, which serves as a manual of religion and ethics to the members of that society, and Dayanand had read it while in Calcutta.

Although Dayanand was persuaded on more than one occasion to join the Brahmo Samaj, there existed points of contention which he could not overlook, the most important being the position of the Vedas. Dayanand held the Vedas to be divine revelation, and refused to accept any suggestions to the contrary. Despite this difference of opinion, however, it seems that the members of the Brahmo Samaj parted with Dayanand on good terms, the former having publicly praised the latter’s visit to Calcutta in several journals.

The Light of Truth Lecture Series

Dayanand made several changes in his approach to the work of reforming Hindu society after having visited Calcutta. The most significant of these changes was that he began lecturing in Hindi. Prior to his tour of Bengal, he had always held his discourses and debates in Sanskrit. While this gained him a certain degree of respect among both the learned and the common people, it prevented him from spreading his message to the broader masses. The change to Hindi allowed him to attract increasingly larger following, and as a result his ideas of reform began to circulate among the lower classes of society as well.

After hearing some of Dayanand's speeches delivered in Hindi at Varanasi, Raj Jaikishen Das, a native government official there, suggested that Dayanand publish his ideas in a book so that they might be distributed among the public. Witnessing the slow collapse of the gurukuls/Vedic Schools due to a lack of a clear statement of purpose and the resultant flagging public support, Dayanand recognized the potential contained in Das's suggestion and took immediate action.

From June to September 1874, Dayanand dictated a comprehensive series of lectures to his scribe, Pundit Bhimsen Sharma, which dealt with his views and beliefs regarding a wide range of subjects including God, the Vedas, Dharma, the soul, science, philosophy, child rearing, education, government and the possible future of both India and the world. The resulting manuscript was published under the title Satyarth Prakash or The Light of Meaning of Truth in 1875 at Varanasi. This voluminous work would prove to play a central role in the establishment and later growth of the organization which would come to be known as the Arya Samaj.

New Samaj

While the manuscript of the "Satyarth Prakash" was being edited at Varanasi, Dayanand received an invitation to travel to Bombay in order to conduct a debate with some representatives of the Vallabhacharya sect. Dayanand arrived in Bombay on 20 October 1874. The debate, though greatly publicized, never materialized. Nonetheless, two members of the Prarthana Samaj approached Dayanand and invited him to deliver a few lectures at one of their gatherings, which were received with appreciation by all those present. The members of the Prarthana Samaj of Bombay recognized in Dayanand, an individual in possession of the knowledge and skills necessary for promoting their aims, the greatest and most comprehensive of which being the general uplift of Hindu society at large and its protection from what they perceived to be the advancing threat of Christian and Muslim efforts to convert Hindus.

After his having spent over a month at Bombay, 60 new-found students of Dayanand – among them, prominent members of the Prarthana Samaj – proposed the notion of founding a "New Samaj" with Dayanand’s ideas serving as its spiritual and intellectual basis.

Ahmedabad Debates

After having received a personal invitation from Gopalrao Hari Deshmukh, Dayanand left Bombay and traveled to Ahmedabad, Gujarat, arriving on 11 December 1874. Once there, he conducted a debate with local pundits on the issue of Vedic authority, and emerged victorious. It is reported that the formation of a Samaj and the founding of a Vedic School at Ahmedabad were proposed following the success of the debate, yet not enough support for such a venture could be mustered.

Rajkot Arya Samaj

On an invitation from Hargovind Das Dvarkadas, the secretary of the local Prarthana Samaj, Dayanand traveled to Rajkot, Gujarat, arriving on 31 December 1874. Instead of delivering his standard program of lectures, he allowed members of the audience to choose the topics they would like to have him discourse upon. A total of eight topics were chosen, and Dayanand delivered impromptu lectures on all of them to the satisfaction of all present. Gifts were bestowed upon him as tokens of gratitude for his masterly orations, and it was announced that the Rajkot Prarthana Samaj was henceforth dissolved and was ready to be reorganized as a new Samaj under the auspices of Dayanand. After much deliberation he chose the name ‘Arya Samaj’ or ‘Society of Nobles’. Dayanand drafted a list of 28 rules and regulations for the Rajkot Arya Samaj, which he later had printed for distribution. On his way back to Bombay, Dayanand stopped off in Ahmedabad and related the news of Rajkot, Gujarat, distributing copies of the rules and regulations to those present. A meeting was held on 27 January 1875 to discuss the proposal of forming an Arya Samaj there, yet no conclusive decision was reached. Unwilling to wait for the deliberations to come to an end, Dayanand continued on his way to Bombay.

While traveling, he received word that the still fragile Rajkot Arya Samaj had involved itself in some political dispute that resulted in a government warning issued against it and its members. Thus, the collapse of the just established society was already looming large.

Bombay Arya Samaj

File:Arya Samaj R.V. Russell 1916.PNG
"A meeting of the Arya Samāj for investing boys with the sacred thread" from R. V. Russell's 1916 The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India--Volume I.

Dayanand reached Bombay on 29 January 1875, and immediately the appeal to establish an Arya Samaj there was renewed. However, he did not want a protracted debate to ensue as had occurred at Ahmedabad, bringing with it the possibility of endless deliberations. Thus, a membership drive was initiated which would circumvent the need for discussions. Within a short time, 100 individuals enrolled themselves as prospective members.

On 7 April 1875, the Bombay Arya Samaj was officially established. The membership amounted to 100 persons, including Dayanand. The members appealed to him that he should serve as either the President or the Guru of the Samaj, but he refused, requesting instead that he be listed as a regular member. From there onwards Arya Samaj Sect steadily grew in numbers.

Arya Samaj After Dayanand Saraswati

Dayanand died in 1883. Arya Samaj grew after his death mainly in Punjab. Early leaders of the Samaj were Pandit Lekh Ram and Lala Munshi Ram (known as Swami Shraddhanand after his Sanyas). The activities and the opposition Arya Samaj encountered in Punjab was credited with the formation of the rival Sikh dominated Singh Sabha, the forerunner of the Akali Dal.[3] Some authors also claim that the activities of Samaj led to increased antagonism between Muslims and Hindus.[4] Shraddhanand led the Shuddhi movement that worked towards bringing Converted Hindus back into the fold.[5]

The Samaj split into two in Punjab after 1893 on the question of eating meat. The group that refrained from meat was called the Mahatma group and the one favoring consumption of meat as the "Cultured Pary".[6]

During the early part of the 20th century, the Samaj or organizations inspired by it such as Jat Pat Todak Mandal were active in campaigning against the . Other activities the samaj engaged in was that of widow remarriage and women's education[7]

During the early parts of the 20th century, the Samaj established chapters in British colonies where there was a sizeable Indian diaspora such as South Africa and Guyana. Prominent Indian Nationalists such as Lala Lajpat Rai belonged to Arya Samaj and were active in propagating the message of Samaj.[8]

Pandit Lekh Ram and Arya Samaj in Punjab

Arya Samaj was and is an important sect amongst Hindu Punjabis. Pandit Lekh Ram (1858 – 6 March 1897) was an important Arya Samaj Hindu leader. He is famous for his encounters with the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. He also wrote a book in falsification of Ahmad's Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya and named it Takzeeb e Barahin Ahmadiyya (A falsification of the Barahin e Ahmadiyya). He was assassinated on March 6, 1897. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community claim that this was in accordance with the prophecies of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.[9][10]

Contemporary Arya Samaj

Today, temples set up by Arya Samaj are found all over India. The organization also has played an important role in spread of education through its network of schools known by name of Dayanand Anglo Vedic (DAV) schools in India.

Arya Samaj around the world

The Samaj is also present in countries such as Guyana, Australia,[11] South Africa,[12] Kenya,[13] Mauritius[14] and other countries where a significant Hindu diaspora is present. Immigrants to Canada from East Africa and the Caribbean countries respectively form separate Arya Samaj communities in many Canadian cities including Toronto.[15] Most major metropolitan areas of United States have chapters of Arya Samaj.[16]

Humanitarian efforts

Arya Samaj is notable for its donation. After the 1905 Kangra earthquake, large amount of donations had been made by Arya Samaj in relatively small period, which was largely appreciated by the afflicted population. Other humanitarian missions of the organization included the support for women's right to vote, protection for widows, etc.[17]

See also

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  1. Hastings, James; John A. Selbie (Ed.) (2003). Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Part 3. Kessinger Publishing. p. 57. ISBN 0-7661-3671-X. 
  3. Jones, Kenneth W. (May 1973). "Ham Hindū Nahīn*: Arya Sikh Relations, 1877–1905". The Journal of Asian Studies 32 (03): 457–475. doi:10.2307/2052684. 
  4. Barrier, Norman (May 1967). "The Arya Samaj and Congress Politics in the Punjab, 1894–1908". The Journal of Asian Studies 26 (03): 363–379. doi:10.2307/2051414. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  5. Nair, Neeti (2011). CHANGING HOMELANDS: HINDU POLITICS AND THE PARTITION OF INDIA. New Delhi: Permanent Black. p. 53. 
  6. "Punjab". Imperial Gazetteer of India 20: 291. 1909. Retrieved 2 October 2014. 
  7. Kishwar, Madhu (April 26, 1986). "Arya Samaj and Women's Education: Kanya Mahavidyalaya, Jalandhar". Economic and Political Weekly 21 (17): 9. doi:10.2307/4375593. 
  8. Rai, L. L. (1915). The Arya Samaj: An Account of its Aims, Doctrine and Activities, with a Biographical Sketch of the Founder. London: Longman. ISBN 978-81-85047-77-5. 
  9. Pandit Lekh Ram (1858-1897)
  10. Ian Talbot writes : "Relations grew particularly bad between the Aryas and the Muslims. Serious violence broke out in 1897 when Pandit Lekh Ram was assassinated. Lekh Ram's greatest influence was in the north-west of Punjab. He had in fact joined the Peshawar Arya Samaj in 1880 and rose to prominence first as a missionary and then as editor of the Arya Gazette. At first he had limited his attacks to the Ahmadi movement of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, but he increasingly attacked orthodox Muslims as well. His pamphlet, Risala-i-Jihad ya'ri Din-i-Muhammad ki Bunyad (A Treatise on waging holy war, or the foundation of the Muhammadan Religion) caused a considerable outcry, when it was published in 1892. Until his murder by a Muslim five years later, Lekh Ram continued to stir up animosity by his vituperative writings." (Punjab and the Raj, 1849–1947", p. 72–73) Ian Talbot.
  11. Arya Samaj Queensland
  12. Lal, Vinay; Goolam Vahed (2013). "Hinduism in South Africa: Caste, Ethnicity, and Invented Traditions, 1860-Present" (PDF). J Sociology Soc Anth 4 (1-2): 1–15. 
  13. Ombongi, Kenneth Samson (1993). Hindu socio-religious organizations in Kenya: a case study of Arya Samaj, 1903-1978. University of Nairobi. 
  14. Eisenlohr, Patrick. Little India: Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-520-24879-3. 
  15. Coward, Harold (1999). Hindus in Canada, The Third National Metropolis Conference (PDF). Vancouver, Canada: Vancouver Center of Excellence. p. 8. 
  16. "Arya Pratinidhi Sabha America". Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  17. Punjab, the Crucial Decade, by Subash Chander Sharma, p. 133

Further reading

  • Pt. Chamupati, M.A., Ten Commandments of Arya Samaj, New Delhi: D.A.V. Publications (2001)
  • J.T.F. Jordens, Dayanada Saraswati, Delhi: Oxford University Press (1978).
  • Lajpat Rai, The Arya Samaj: An Account of its Aims, Doctrine and Activities, with a Biographical Sketch of the Founder, D.A.V. College Managing Committee, New Delhi (1915), ISBN 978-81-85047-77-5.
  • Lajpat Rai, A History of the Arya Samaj, (Rep.) New Delhi (1993), ISBN 81-215-0578-X
  • M. Ruthven, Fundamentalism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, USA (2007), ISBN 978-0-19-921270-5.
  • J.M. Sharma, Swami Dayanand: A Biography, USB Publishers Distributors Ltd., India (1998), ISBN 81-7476-212-4.
  • Rajender Sethi, "Rashtra Pitamah Swami Dayanand Saraswati" published by M R Sethi Educational Trust Chandigarh
  • The Origin, Scope and Mission of the Arya Samaj, by Ganga Prasad Upadhyaya. Published by Arya Samaj, 1954.
  • The Arya Samaj: , by Vaidyanath Shastri. Published by Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, 1967.
  • The Arya Samaj and Indian Nationalism, 1875–1920, by Dhanpati Pandey. Published by S. Chand, 1972.
  • A Critical Study of the Contribution of the Arya Samaj to Indian Education, by Saraswati Shantipriya Pandit. Published by Sarvadeshik Arya, Pratinidhi Sabha, 1975.
  • Arya Samaj and Indians Abroad, by Nardev Vedalankar, Manohar Somera. Published by Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, 1975.
  • The Arya Samaj: Hindu Without Hinduism, by D. Vable. Published by Vikas, 1983. ISBN 0-7069-2131-3.
  • Social Movements and Social Change: A Study of Arya Samaj and Untouchables in Punjab, by Satish Kumar Sharma. Published by B.R. Publishing, 1985.
  • Arya Samaj and the Freedom Movement: 1875–1918, by Kripal Chandra Yadav, Krishan Singh Arya. Manohar Publications, 1988. ISBN 81-85054-42-8.
  • Arya Samaj Movement in India, 1875–1947, by Gulshan Swarup Saxena. Published by Commonwealth Publishers, 1990. ISBN 81-7169-045-9.
  • Rashtra Pitamah Swami Dayanand Saraswati by Rajender Sethi, published by M R Sethi Educational Trust Chandigarh
  • Hinduism Today by R. M. Chopra, 2009.
  • Aryasamaj Ke Stambh', Aryasamaj ke Stambh by Arya Samaj Jamnagar, Divyang Pandya.

External links