What is Arya Samaj?
Arya Samaj is a spiritual movement based on the original Hindu scriptures, The Vedas. Arya Samaj in Sanskrit, means the “Society of the Noble”. They believe in one supreme God, called OM.
Who founded Arya Samaj and when?
Arya Samaj is an orthodox reform movement, founded in Mumbai, by Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati on 10th April 1875. He was a philosopher & social reformist.
What was the aim of Arya Samaj?
Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati established Vedic schools which taught Vedic values, culture & the principles of life. At its time, it was an alternative form of education to the British. Vedic schools had strict discipline & were first established in Farrukhabad, Mirzapur, Aligargh and Varanasi. All students received free meals, lodging, clothing & books & studied the Vedas.
What is the Arya Samaj against?
They do not believe in Prophet, mediator, saviour, or avatars (incarnations).
Arya Samaj does not allow:
- worship of sculpted deities
- any temple offerings
All prayers are performed using Vedic mantras.
How did Dayanand Saraswati contribute to our society?
Dayananda insisted on lecturing in Hindi rather than the original Sanskrit, which reached a much larger audience.
His spiritual lectures were published in his book, called, Satyarth Prakash (The light of truth) in 1875.
They were motivational talks to uplift the morale of the Hindus, who were being forcibly converted into Christianity & Islam.
Dayanand was assassinated in 1883 by Abdul Rashid.
The Arya Samaj continued to grow, especially in Punjab. The early leaders of the Samaj were Pandit Lekhram (1858 – 1897) and Swami Shraddhanand (1856 – 1926).
During this time, there was increased hostility between Hindus & Muslims as Shraddanand led the Shuddi movement, the aim of which was to bring Hindus who had converted to other religions, back to Hinduism.
They uphold the basic Hindu principles:
- Karma (the result of past deeds)
- Samsara (process of death & rebirth)
- Samskaras (individual impressions created through actions)
- Sanctity of the cow
In the early 1900s, the Samaj campaigned:
- Against caste discrimination
- For widow remarriage
- For women’s education
“Veda” in sanskrit means knowledge.
Hindus believe that at the beginning of creation, The Supreme God gave the learned 4 Rishis the knowledge of the four Vedas:
The Vedas teach how:
- to live in peace within themselves
- respect our surrounding environment
- respect the universe
There are a total number of 20,379 Mantras in these 4 texts which cover all topics including
- Science, which was discovered many centuries later by the west.
- Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati believed that over the course of time, humanity had lost the basic Vedic principles of Hinduism.
- He re-iterated the principles for inner peace. To do all things which are beneficial to human beings, animals & environment.
What are the principles of Arya Samaj?
He wrote ten principles of Arya Samaj:
- God is the primary source of all true knowledge and all that is known by its means.
- God is truth-consciousness: formless, omnipotent, unborn, infinite, unchangeable, incomparable, omnipresent, internal, imperishable, immortal, eternal, holy, and creator of the universe. God alone deserves worship.
- Vedas are the scripture of all true knowledge. It is the duty of all Aryan to read, teach & recite them to others.
- All human beings should only accept the truth and give up untruth.
- All our actions should be according to the principles of Dharma, after differentiating right from wrong.
- The prime object of Arya Samaj is to do good to the whole world, achieve physical, spiritual & social prosperity for all.
- All human beings ought to be treated with love, justice and according to their respective positions.
- We should all promote knowledge & dispel ignorance.
- One should not be content with one’s own prosperity only, but should consider the prosperity of all as his own prosperity
- All human beings should abide by the rules concerning for the welfare for all. In matters that affect him/her alone he/she is free to exercise his/her human rights.
How can one get connected to God, according to Arya Samaj?
Every human being can get connected to our Almighty God through:
- describing the qualities of God
- prayers to God
- get closer to God by reciting mantras from The Vedas
The Gayatri Mantra is the holiest mantra & offerings to the Almighty is done through Vedic fire, called “havan”, which can be performed by a priest, called Acharya or Panditji or on your own. A small donation is made by the host, called Yajman to the priest.
Who comes under Arya Samaj?
Anyone can become a member of Arya Samaj, irrespective of sex, caste, race,or country.
The British colonial government in the early part of 20th century viewed the Samaj as a political body & people supporting the Arya Samaj were dismissed from Government service.
Later the Hindu Nationalist group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) grew, with support from the Arya Samaj of Punjab, in opposition to the Muslim groups & the Singh Sabha.
In Gujarat, Arya Samaj became less powerful as many joined Mahatama Gandhi in 1915, however, they played role in provoking communal antagonism in Gujarat.
The Arya Samaj community has built missions, orphanages, schools, colleges &
and homes for widows throughout the world.