Those who were influenced by and followed Dayananda included Madam Cama, Pandit Lekh Ram, Swami Shradhanand, Pandit Guru Dutt Vidyarthi,Shyam Krishan Verma (who established India House in England for Freedom fighters) Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Lala Hardayal, Madan Lal Dhingra, Ram Prasad Bismil, Mahadev Govind Ranade Swami Shraddhanand, Mahatma Hansraj, Lala Lajpat Rai and others. One of his most influential works is the book Satyarth Prakash, which contributed to the Indian independence movement. He was a sanyasi (ascetic) from boyhood, and a scholar, who believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas.
Maharshi Dayananda advocated the doctrine of Karma (Karmasiddhanta in Hinduism) and Reincarnation (Punarjanma in Hinduism). He emphasized the Vedic ideals of brahmacharya (celibacy) and devotion to God. The Theosophical Society and the Arya Samaj were united from 1878 to 1882, becoming the Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj. Among Maharshi Dayananda’s contributions are his promoting of the equal rights for women, such as the right to education and reading of Indian scriptures, and his intuitive commentary on the Vedas from Vedic Sanskrit in Sanskrit as well as Hindi so that the common man might be able to read them. Dayanand was the first to give the word of Swadeshi and Harijan to the dalits and Pariahs(Outcastes)
Dayananda Saraswati was born on 12 February in 1824 in a Brahmin family in Tankara, near Morbi in the Kathiawad region (now Rajkot district of Gujarat). His original name was Mool Shankar because he was born in Dhanu Rashi and Mool Nakshatra. His birthday is celebrated in Falguna Krishna Dashami tithi (the 10th day of waning moon in the month of Purnimanta Falguna). He belonged to Mool Nakshatra and his birth tithi was Purnimanta Falguna Krishna Dashami then his birth date should be Tuesday, 24 February 1824 according to astrological calculations. His father’s name was Karshanji Lalji Tiwari and mother’s name was Yashodabai. Theirs was a Brahmin family. A tax collector, his father was a rich, prosperous and influential person. He was the head of an eminent Brahmin family of the village. When Mool Shankar was eight years old, Yajnopavita Sanskara, or the investiture with thread of the “twice-born” were performed. His father was a follower of Shiva and taught Dayananda Saraswati the ways to impress the Lord. Dayananda was also told the importance of keeping fasts. On the occasion of Shivratri, Dayananda had to sit awake the whole night in obedience to Lord Shiva. One such night, he saw a mouse eating the offerings to the God and running over the idol’s body. After seeing this, he questioned himself, if the God could not defend himself against a little mouse then how could he be the savior of the massive world.
Since he was born under Mool Nakshatra, he was named “Moolshankar”, and led a comfortable early life, studying Sanskrit, the Vedas and other religious texts to prepare himself for a future as a Hindu priest
The deaths of his younger sister and his uncle from cholera caused Dayananda to ponder the meaning of life and death and he started asking questions which worried his parents. He was to be married in his early teens, as was common in nineteenth-century India, but he decided marriage was not for him and in 1846 ran away from home.
Dayananda Saraswati spent nearly twenty-five years, from 1845 to 1869, as a wandering ascetic, searching for religious truth. An ascetic is someone who gives up material goods and lives a life of self-denial, devoted to spiritual matters. He lived in jungles, in retreats in the Himalayan Mountains, and at a number of pilgrimage sites in northern India. During these years Dayananda Sarasvati practiced various forms of yoga. He became a disciple, or follower, of a well-known religious teacher, Virajanand Dandeesha (sometimes spelled Birajananda). Virajanand believed that Hinduism had strayed from its historical roots and that many of its practices had become impure. Dayananda Sarasvati promised Virajanand that he would devote his life to restoring the rightful place of the Vedas in the Hindu faith
Dayanand’s mission was not to start or set up any new religion but to ask humankind for Universal Brotherhood through nobility as spelt out in Vedas. For that mission he founded Arya Samaj enunciating the Ten Universal Principles as a code for Universalism Krinvanto Vishwaryam meaning the whole world be an abode for Nobles (Aryas). His next step was to take up the difficult task of reforming Hinduism with dedication despite multiple repeated attempts on his personal life. He traveled the country challenging religious scholars and priests to discussions and won repeatedly on the strength of his arguments based on his knowledge of Sanskrit and Vedas He believed that Hinduism had been corrupted by divergence from the founding principles of the Vedas and that Hindus had been misled by the priesthood for the priests’ self-aggrandizement. Hindu priests discouraged the laity from reading Vedic scriptures and encouraged rituals, such as bathing in the Ganges River and feeding of priests on anniversaries, which Dayananda pronounced as superstitions or self-serving practices. By exhorting the nation to reject such superstitious notions, his aim was to educate the nation to Go back to the Vedas. He wanted the people who followed Hinduism to go back to its roots and to follow the Vedic life, which he pointed out. He exhorted the Hindu nation to accept social reforms, including the importance of Cows for national prosperity as well as the adoption of Hindi as the national language for national integration. Through his daily life and practice of yoga and asanas, teachings, preaching, sermons and writings, he inspired the Hindu nation to aspire to Swarajya (self governance), nationalism, and spiritualism. He advocated the equal rights and respects to women and advocated the education of a girl child like the males.
Swami Dayanand did logical, scientific and critical analyses of faiths i.e. Christianity & Islam as well as of other Indian faiths like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. In addition to discouraging idolatry in Hinduism, as may be seen in his book Satyarth Prakash He was against what he considered to be the corruption of the true and pure faith in his own country. Unlike many other reform movements of his times within Hinduism, the Arya Samaj’s appeal was addressed not only to the educated few in India, but to the world as a whole as evidenced in the sixth principle of the Arya Samaj. In fact his teachings professed universalism for the all living beings and not for any particular sect, faith, community or nation.
Arya Samaj allows and encourages converts to Hinduism. Dayananda’s concept of dharma is stated in the “Beliefs and Disbeliefs” section of Satyartha Prakash. He said:
“I accept as Dharma whatever is in full conformity with impartial justice, truthfulness and the like; that which is not opposed to the teachings of God as embodied in the Vedas. Whatever is not free from partiality and is unjust, partaking of untruth and the like, and opposed to the teachings of God as embodied in the Vedas—that I hold as adharma.”
“He, who after careful thinking, is ever ready to accept truth and reject falsehood; who counts the happiness of others as he does that of his own self, him I call just.”
Dayananda’s Vedic message was to emphasize respect and reverence for other human beings, supported by the Vedic notion of the divine nature of the individual–divine because the body was the temple where the human essence (soul or “atma”) had the possibility to interface with the creator (“Paramatma”). In the ten principles of the Arya Samaj, he enshrined the idea that “All actions should be performed with the prime objective of benefiting mankind”, as opposed to following dogmatic rituals or revering idols and symbols. The first five principles speak of Truth and the other five of a society with nobility, civics, co-living and disciplined life. In his own life, he interpreted moksha to be a lower calling (due to its benefit to one individual) than the calling to emancipate others.
Dayananda’s “back to the Vedas” message influenced many thinkers and philosophers the world over.
Dayanand is noted to have been active since he was 14, by this time he was able to recite religious verses and teach about them. He is highly applauded for taking parts in religious debates. His debates were attended by relatively high amount of public.
One of the remarkable debate occurred on 22 October 1869 in Varanasi, where he had won a debate against 27 scholars and about 12 expert pandits. The debate was attended by over 50,000 people. The main topic was “Do the Vedas uphold deity worship?”
Swami Dayananda’s creations, the Arya Samaj, unequivocally condemns practices of different religions and communities that are noted to be prevalent, such as idol worship, animal sacrifice, pilgrimages, priest craft, offerings made in temples, the castes, child marriages, meat eating and discrimination against women on the grounds that all these lacked Hinduism of that time. The Arya Samaj discourages dogma and symbolism and encourages skepticism in beliefs that run contrary to common sense and logic.
He severely criticized the practice of superstitions like sorcery, astrology which are prevalent in India. here are some quotes from his famous book Sathyarth Prakash,
“They should also counsel then against all things that lead to superstition, and are opposed to true religion and science, so that they may never give credence to such imaginary things as ghosts(Bhuts) and spirits (Preta).”
“All alchemists, magicians, sorcerers, wizards, spiritists, etc. are cheats and all their practices should be looked upon as nothing but downright fraud. Young people should be well counseled against all these frauds, in their very childhood, so that they may not suffer through being duped by any unprincipled person.”
On Astrology, he wrote,
when these ignorant people go to an astrologer and say ” O Sir! What is wrong with this person’? He replies “The sun and other stars are maleficent to him. If you were to perform a propitiatory ceremony, or have magic formulas chanted, or prayers said, or specific acts of charity done, he will recover. Otherwise I should not be surprised, even if he were to lose his life after a long period of suffering.”
Inquirer – Well, Mr. Astrologer, you know, the sun and other stars are but inanimate things like this earth of ours. They can do nothing but give light, heat, etc. Do you take them for conscious being possessed of human passions, of pleasure and anger, that when offended, bring on pain and misery, and when propitiated, bestow happiness on human beings?
Astrologer – Is it not through the influence of stars, then, that some people are rich and others poor, some are rulers, whilst other are their subjects?
Inq. – No, that part of it which comprises Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, etc., and which goes by the name of Astronomy is true; but the other part that treats of the influence of stars on human beings and their actions and goes by the name of Astrology is all false.
He makes a clear distinction between jyotisha shaastra and astrology and calls astrology as fraud.
“Thereafter, they should thoroughly study the Jyotisha Shaastra – which includes Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Geography, Geology and astronomy in two years. They should also have practical training in these Sciences, learn the proper handling of instruments, master their mechanism, and know how to use them. But they should regard Astrology – which treats of the influence of stars and constellation on the destinies of man, of auspiciousness and nonauspiciousness of time, of horoscopes, etc. – as a fraud, and never learn or teach any books on this subject.
Dayanand Saraswati is noted to have thoroughly studied about religions other than Hinduism, such as Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Sikhism, and others. He has described these religions in the chapters of his book Satyarth Prakash. However his analysis seemed critical to some, in its nature, while to some he presented perfect understanding.
He regarded Guru Nanak as “not much literate who was quite ignorant about the Vedas, Sanskrit, the Shashtras- otherwise, according to Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Guru Nanak wouldn’t be mistaken with words. A Sikh wrote a response, to which Dayanand Saraswati answered that his opinion had undergone a change after having visited the Punjab, and the remarks about Sikhism would be deleted in the subsequent edition of his work. However, these remarks were never removed after the untimely death of Dayanand Saraswati, and later editions of Satyarth Prakash were even more critical of Sikhism.
He further pointed that followers of Sikhism are to be blamed for making up stories that Guru Nanak possessed miraculous powers and met Gods. He slammed Guru Gobind Singh, and other Gurus to have been “invented fictitious stories”, although he also recognized Guru Gobind Singh to be “indeed a very brave man
He regarded Jainism as “a most dreadful religion”, he writes that Jains were intolerant and hostile towards the non-Jains.
Dayananda was subjected to many unsuccessful attempts on his life.
According to his supporters, he was poisoned on few occasions, but due to his regular practice of Hatha Yoga he would succeed to throw out the poison. One story tells that he was once attacked by some proponents of Islam, and tried to drown him to river. Although Dayanand would drag these attackers into river instead and release when they would be near to fully drowned.
In 1883,Dayananda was invited by the Maharaja of Jodhpur to stay at his palace. The Maharaja was eager to become his disciple and learn his teachings. One day Dayananda went to the Maharaja’s rest room and saw him with a dance-girl named Nanhi Jaan. Dayananda boldly asked the Maharaja to forsake the girl and all unethical acts and follow dharma like a true Aryan. Dayananda’s suggestion offended the dance-girl and she decided to take revenge She bribed Dayananda’s cook and asked him to mix pieces of glasses in his milk and give it to Dayanand. On 29 September 1883 while he still was the royal guest of Jaswant Singh II, the cook brought him a glass of milk containing pieces of glasses at bedtime. Dayananda drank the milk and went to sleep and as he drank the milk he knew that it had been mixed with glasses. He immediately realized that his nerves and veins were cut. Dayananda was bedridden and suffered excruciating pain. Maharaja quickly arranged doctor’s services for him. However, by the time doctors arrived, his condition got worse and had bleeding sores. On seeing Dayananda’s suffering the cook overcame with unbearable guilt and remorse. He confessed his crime to Dayananda. On his deathbed, Dayananda forgave him and gave him a bag of money and told him to flee the kingdom lest he be found out and executed by the Maharaja’s men Later Maharaja arranged for Swamiji to be sent to Mount Abu upon advice of Residency, however, after staying some time in Abu, Swamji was sent to Ajmer for better medical care on 26 October 1883.There was no improvement in his health and he died on the morning of 30 October 1883 at 6:00 am, chanting mantras. The day coincided with Hindu festival of Diwali.
Notable for influencing the freedom movement of India, his views and writings have been used by different writers. Shyamji Krishna Varma, who founded India House in London and guided other revolutionaries was influenced by him. Others who were influenced by him included Subhas Chandra Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, Madam Cama, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Lala Hardayal, Madan Lal Dhingra, Ram Prasad Bismil, Mahadev Govind Ranade, Swami Shraddhanand, S. Satyamurti, Pandit Lekh Ram, Mahatma Hansraj, Rajiv Dixit and others.
He had notable influence on Bhagat Singh.Singh, after finishing his primary schools, he had joined the Dayanand Anglo Vedic Middle school, of Mohan Lal road, in Lahore.Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, on Shivratri day, on 24 February 1964, said about him:-
Swami Dayananda ranked highest among the makers of modern India. He had worked tirelessly for the political, religious and cultural emancipation of the country. He was guided by reason, taking Hinduism back to the Vedic foundations. He had tried to reform society with a clean sweep, which was again need today. Some of the reforms introduced in the Indian Constitution had been inspired by his teachings
Industrialist Nanji Kalidas Mehta built the Maharshi Dayanand Science College and donated it to the Education Society of Porbandar and named it after Swami Dayanand Saraswati, to keep people alive of memory of great saint of India.
It has been noted, that he had branches across the country within his period. The places Dayanand had visited in his life were remarked to have been culturally changed. Jodhpur had adopted Hindi as main language, and later the present day Rajasthan adopted the as same. Other admirers included Swami VivekanandaRamakrishna, Bipin Chandra Pal, Vallabhbhai Patel,Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Romain Rolland, regarded him as one of the remarkable and unique figure.
American Spiritualist Andrew Jackson Davis described Dayanand’s influence on him, he called Dayanand a “Son of God”, and applauded him for restoring the status of the Nation.Sten Konow, a Swedish scholar noted that Dayanand Saraswati revived the historicity of India, and discovered the very less known about the Indian society.
Others who were notably influenced by him, includes Ninian Smart, Benjamin Walker among others.
Dayananda Saraswati wrote more than 60 works in all, including a 16 volume explanation of the six Vedangas, an incomplete commentary on the Ashtadhyayi (Panini’s grammar), several small tracts on ethics and morality, Vedic rituals and sacraments and on analysis of rival doctrines (such as Advaita Vedanta, Islam and Christianity). Some of his major works are Satyarth Prakash, Sanskarvidhi, RigvedadiBhashyaBhumika, Rigved Bhashyamand Yajurved Bhashyam. The Paropakarini Sabha located in the Indian city of Ajmer was founded by the Swami himself to publish and preach his works and Vedic texts.