Brief Historic glimpse of Arya Samaj Nairobi
Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati appeared at the time when Bharat (India) had forgotten its path of Vedic tradition, Dharma and pride under the rim of sword of the Muslim and Christian invaders.
Having studied the Vedas and all Vedic literature under guidance of his Guru (teacher) Swami Virjanand ji, He travelled and tried to find the main cause of wreak of India. He wanted to reinstate the lost Vedic Dharma into the society that had governed the whole world till the era of Mahabharat. For this course, he established the Arya Samaj so that the Vedic Dharma could be prevailed. During his life time, almost 85 Arya Samajs had been founded in various states of India. Maharishi Dayanand spent most of his time in Utter Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan and inspired people for propagation of Vedic Dharma. He established the Arya Samaj in Lahore (today in Pakistan) as a centre in North of India. Its success inspired people tremendously and He set up various Arya Samajs and education centers. The biggest DAV education institution was established in Punjab as a monument of Maharishi Dayanand by Mahatma Hansraj ji. At that time, the whole Punjab state became greatly influenced by the philosophy and activities of Arya Samaj. Thousands of people got initiated in Arya Samaj movement.
Establishment of Arya Samaj Nairobi
About forty –five religious minded persons assembled on 5th July, 1903 at the residence of Shri Jai Gopalji, on River Road and held consultations for establishing Arya Samaj. Shri Inder Singh Kent and Shri Badri Nath and others delivered speeches on the occasion, explaining the importance of Arya Samaj and prohibition of the use of liquor. Convinced by their discourses, thirty –nine gentlemen offered themselves to become members of the Arya Samaj. In this manner Arya Samaj was officially formed in Nairobi ( East Africa) for the first time. The names of persons who became members of Arya Samaj Nairobi in 1903 including Shri Badri Nath, Lala Mathura Das, Pt. Baisakhi Ram Bhardwaj, Shri Bihari Lal, Shri Wazir Chand, Shri Amar Nath, Shri Jai Gopal, Shri Lakshman Das, Shri Mool Chand, Shri Ram Ratan, and others are worth mentioning.
Following members from amongst them were elected members of the Antrang Sabha of the first Arya Samaj of East Africa-
The number of Arya Samaj members rose from thirty nine to sixty two just in a year (August 1904), under the chairmanship of Shri Inder Singh Kent, even when the number of Indians was not too large. It was decided on 10th July 1903 to affiliate Arya Samaj Nairobi to the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, Punjab.
Initially, the Weekly Satsang and meetings were held at the residence of the members, as they had no property at that time. This was the golden era of the Arya Samaj movement. The Arya brethren of East Africa were very enthusiastic during those days, similar to their counter parts in Punjab, who were going through radical changes aroused by the teachings of Swami Dayanand. Every Arya member acted as the preacher of the Vedic religion and was prepared to do anything for Arya Samaj.
When it became difficult to hold meetings at the residences due to the rising number of members of the Arya Samaj, it was decided in a meeting of Antrang Sabha held on 2nd November 1904, to purchase one acre of land for constructing a building for the Arya Samaj.
In the meeting held on 30th July, 1904, it was decided to hold the first annual session of the Arya Samaj Nairobi on August 6-7, 1904.
On December 6, 1904 recitation of devotional songs (Bhajans), religious sermons and prayers were held in front of the shop of Shri Wazir Chand Contractor, situated on River Road. Chairman Shri Inder Singh Kent delivered an encouraging and inspiring lecture on ‘Arya Samaj and its principles’ on this occasion. On 7th August, Sunday, annual report was presented after the morning ‘Havan’ and Shri Shalig Ram Sharma delivered an enlightening lecture on the topics ‘Varsnashram, Sanskar and Female–education at this function. This annual function (Jalsa) became a popular and annual event for the Hindu public.
Laying the foundation of Arya Samaj Temple –The Arya brethren promised to donate half of their one–month’s salary, when an appeal was made for funds for the construction of Arya Samaj –temple–building . A piece of land measuring 56’X54’ was purchased on Queensway Street (now Mama Ngina Street), next to Barclays Bank, Queensway House when arrangement for funds was made and the foundation was laid on it for a big building on Sunday 11th September,1904.
A photo of Maharishi Dayanand, some currency notes and some Vedic hymns were placed in the foundation. Initially, the building was constructed on land measuring 30’X28’ only due to paucity of funds. The building made of iron sheets was constructed within two months and the opening ceremony of the building (Bhavan Pravesh) was performed on 6th November 1904. A public feast was given without any discrimination on that day. Sunday Satsangs have been regularly held thereafter over the last 100 years.
Members of Arya Samaj continued their efforts to construct a permanent building to replace the temporary one. They collected thousands of Rupees for this purpose. As a result, Shri Sampat Rao Gaikewad, brother of the King of Baroda, performed second foundation laying ceremony on 6th November 1912. The construction of this building was completed by 1916. This was the best building in Nairobi at that time. A rest house consisting of eight rooms was constructed near tha gate in 1928. Smt. Ishwar Kaur, wife of Shri Ganeshi Lal, performed the foundation laying ceremony of this building. The co –operation of Shri Ganeshi Lal and Shri Munshi Lal was appreciable in the construction of this building. This huge building was large enough to accommodate more than six hundred persons at a time. Thirteen rooms were constructed to accommodate the visitors. The expenses of building the Yajnashala were met from the donation given by Shri Moolji Jetha.
A library and a reading room were also there in this building, which housed a collection of good quality literature, and almost all the newspapers and magazines of Arya Samaj were available.
The members of Arya Samaj of those days were very enthusiastic and hard –working. They made every effort to enroll more members and to ensure their attendance at the meetings. They promptly enrolled a new member to replace any member who went back to India. Special importance was given to the conduct of the members. Any member found wanting in this respect was made to study good literature. If he showed no improvement in his conduct, his membership was terminated. The differences between the members were resolved in the Antrang Sabha.
The entire Arya Samaj Nairobi acted as one big family in this manner. A Nyayopasabha (conciliation cell) was also organized in 1910 to resolve mutual disputes.
The work of Arya Samaj was continuously expanding. Members were organized in small groups to conduct the work in proper manner and to collect funds. Each group worked under the leadership of a Nayak. The number of members had risen to more than on hundred by June 1905. the second annual conference of the Arya Samaj was held in the first week of August 1905 with great pomp and enthusiasm.
Shri Nanji Bhai Kalidas Mehta: a true disciple of Maharishi Dayanand
Shri Nanji Bhai Kalidas Mehta was a great philanthropist and open handed businessman. He donated millions of rupees and land in East African countries for the establishment of Arya Samajs and Vedic schools. Arya Samaj Nairobi has always been grateful to him for his generosity.
In 1928, Arya Samaj Nairobi decided to found “Brahamcharya Ashram (Vedic boarding school)” and started it in a rented house on 23rd December 1929. Shri Nanji Kalidas Mehta donated his 6 Acre land in Parklands for the Ashram. He also donated 6000/= shillings for the room and later on 10000/= shillings for a big hall in the Ashram.
In 1936, he donated 17000/= shillings for Kanya Paathshala (Girls school). In 1949, he put foundation stone of the three stories building in Paathshala at Ngara. The expenditure of the building was five thousands shillings only. Therefore, the contribution of Nanji Bhai Kalidas Mehta in establishing Arya Samajs and its relating institutions has been incomparable.
Arya Samaj Nairobi
Arya Samaj Nairobi has been the center of all the activities of the Arya Samaj. It is located in the Third-forth Avenue Parklands. The land for this Samaj was donated by Rajratna Shri Nanji Bhai Kalidas Mehta. Originally one building, Shradhanand Brahamcharya Ashram existed on this land. Later on, Mohinder Pal Hall was constructed in 1965. After some time, a third huge building was constructed on this land, which is dedicated to Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati ji and known as Maharishi Dayanand Bhavan. The Yajnashala ( Prayer room) is perhaps one of the most magnificent Yajnashalas in the world.
Education centers of Arya Samaj Nairobi
The first school “Arya Kanya Pathshala” (Arya Girls’ Senior School) was established in 1910 at the residence of an Arya member Shri Wazirchand ji. Pandit Mathura Prasad was the first teacher of this school.
Today, Arya Samaj Nairobi owns various schools- Arya Primary School, Arya Kindergarten, Arya Girls’ Secondary School, Arya Boys’ Secondary School, and Parklands Arya Girls’ High School.
Arya Samaj Dispensary
The first dispensary by Arya Samaj was founded on 21st July, 1961as Dayanand free dispensary, which was later known as the Arya Samaj Dispensary. This dispensary was built to provide good treatment to the less fortunate at a nominal cost. With members, Shri K. N. Seth (convener), Shri Mahinder Pal Chodha, Shri O. P. Garg, Shri J. J. Khosla, Shri J. K. Chatrath, Shri Y. P. Vohra and Shri Balraj Kapila, a sub committee was formed.
The new dispensary was officially inaugurated on 2nd August 2006 by Dr. S. P. Bhasin’s eldest son Dr. Rajesh Bhasin at Ngara under the development committee. Dr. S. P. Bhasin donated 3 million Shillings in memory of his wife Mrs. Kanta Bhasin.
‘Vedic House’ is situated on Mama Ngina Street at one end and Kaunda Street at the rear end, a commercial area of Nairobi city. This building has seven storeys. The affairs and operations of the whole movable and immovable property of Arya Samaj Nairobi, including Parklands campus, South ‘C’ and Vedic House etc. were dealt with and conducted from there but now all administrative offices of Arya Samaj Nairobi have been shifted to Parklands complex. Vedic House can be called the life-line of Arya Samaj Nairobi. It provides sustenance to Arya Samaj temples, schools and dispensary and enables to carry out multifaceted charitable activities.
Subdivisions of Arya Samaj Nairobi
1. Arya Samaj South ‘C’: Arya Samaj South ‘C’ is a branch of Arya Samaj Nairobi. It is located in South ‘C’. The building of the Samaj had become ready by 12th March 1969. Before the completion of Maharishi Dayanand Hall in 3rd Parklands, South ‘C’ Arya Samaj had been the centre of all activities of Arya Samaj Nairobi. Even today, The Arya Samaj South ‘C’ organizes all religious and social activities.
Arya Stri Samaj: Arya Stri Samaj was formed on 17th February, 1918 in Arya Samaj Bhavan (now Vedic House). Smt. Mathura Devi was the first chairperson and Smt. Chanan Devi was the first secretary of the Arya Stri Samaj Nairobi. It has always given its whole hearted cooperation in the social welfare work, functions and conferences etc. of the Arya Samaj. All the Vedic festivals like Dipawali, Vijaya Dashmi, Sitashtami and others are celebrated passionately by the Arya Stri Samaj.Arya Stree Samaj runs 2 schools with very competent standards.
Arya Veerangana dal: Arya Veerangana Dal has also been a part of Arya Stri Samaj. It was set up in order to create good Sanskaras (virtues) among the girls. It was formed in 1947.
Vagvardhani Sabha (Aryan Young Women’s Association): Vagvardhani Sabha was formed by Pt. Satya Deva Vedalankar and Pt. Arya Muni Varma (Ex-Principal Arya Girls School) in 1946. Unfortunately, this organization only lasted approximately for three years. Smt. Sarla Bedi again re-established the Vagvardhani Sabha upon the urging of Smt. Shanti Devi Sharma. The aim of establishing the Sabha was to make the Arya young women capable of delivering lectures on different topics.
Arya Veer Dal: Arya Veer Dal was formed by Arya Samaj Nairobi. Its aim was to make the youth follow the principles of Arya Samaj.
6. Arya Krida Sangh (Aryan Club): Aryan club was formed in 1942. Shri Lahori Ram had initiated its formation besides giving financial. Its objective was to create interest among the youth for physical training. But, due to lack of funds it became stagnant. In 1955, once again Pandit Brahm Dev Bhardwaj, Sahadev Malhotra and Dharam Prakash Ahluwalia activated it under the banner of Arya Veer Dal, which in 1957 was known as Aryan Club.
Aryan Youth: The Aryan Youth was formed in 1980. Its objective is to provide for overall development of our youngsters in all fields- religious, educational and social. Aryan youth organizes its own programs Viz. Picnics, sports days, eye camps and various other medical camps.Arya Baal Sabha:
It was first started in 1983 during the chairmanship of Shri M.K.Bhalla at South C where Hindi was taught and religious education was provided by Smt. Geeta Bhalla, Bal Sabha was again re-established on 7th March 1998. In the beginning, three honorary teachers, named Smt. Sushila Sachadeva, Smt. Subodh Sharma and Smt. Raj Taneja and Smt. Urmila Bedi volunteered their services.