Maharishi Dayanand : The Founder of Arya Samaj
Maharishi Dayanand was born in village Tankara in Gujarat State in 1824. His first name was Mool Shankar. His father’s name was Karsanji Tiwari and mother’s Amritbai. When Moolshankar was 14 years old, his father, a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, took him to a temple on Shivratri day. Moolshankar was aware of the nightlong fast on this day and its great significance; he therefore kept awake for the whole night, even after his father had gone to sleep. He saw that a mouse, perched on idol (Shiva Linga), was biting off the sweets put over it. He found that the Lord was unable to remove the mouse from over him. The question rose in his mind- why was the idol of Shiva helpless? The Puranas tell numerous stories about Lord Shiva, destroying the rakshasas with his trident, yet he couldn’t save himself from a mere mouse. When he himself could not find an answer to his question, he woke up his father and asked him about it. The father too could not provide a satisfactory answer. From that day Moolshankar lost his faith in the worship of idols (Moorti Puja) and decided in his heart that he will not rest till he was able to realize the true God.
Maharishi Dayanand’s Guru (teacher) was Swami Virjanand ji. He studied the Vedas and other scriptures under him. Swami Virjanand asked him to devote all his life for the spread of Vedic ideology. He specially instructed him to work for the removal of all non-Vedic practices rampant in society. He established various Arya Samajs to spread the teachings of Veda. He died on 30th October 1883.
For the well being of humanity, Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj on April 10, 1875 at Kakadwadi in Bombay (Mumbai) India. The first chairman of that Kakadwadi Arya Samaj was Shri Girdharlal Dayaldas Kothari. The first secretary was Panachand Anand ji.
According to the well known Sanskrit dictionaries such as Shabda Kalpadrum, the word Arya refers to virtues, culture or a reliable and noble person. Samaj refers to a society. Therefore, Arya Samaj means a noble society. The term Arya is, thus, not used to denote a particular religion or caste.
Elucidating the meaning of various mantras of Rigveda, Maharishi Dayanand ji pointed out that the term Arya applies only to those who are intelligent, noble in thought, speech, deeds and who engage in the propagation of the ancient Vedic religion (Dharma) in order to eradicate ignorance and wickedness. The ultimate wish of Maharishi Dayanand was that the eternal knowledge of the Vedas be reinstated in the society. It is for this course that he established the Arya Samaj.
The Arya Samaj and its philosophy
Arya Samaj is not a religion. Although its philosophy is based on the Vedas, the main scriptures of Hinduism; Arya Samaj is a reform movement whose ultimate aim is to re-establish nobility in society. It believes that the four Vedas are the sources of all true knowledge. The motto of the Arya Samaj taken from the Vedas is “Krinvanto Vishwamaryam”- Make all men Arya (noble and cultured). This is pointed out in the third principle of Arya Samaj, that the Vedas are the books of all true knowledge. To read and understand them is the supreme duty of all Aryas.
The literature of Arya Samaj
The Arya Samaj has got thousands of books of Vedic knowledge written by Vedic scholars to educate people. Aryas must read the books written by Maharishi Dayanand in order to understand the Vedas and vedic Dharma. He wrote books like, the Satyartha Prakash, Rigvedadi Bhashya Bhumika, Sanskar Vidhi, Panch Mahayajna Vidhi, Gokarunanidhi, Aryabhivinaya, Aryoddeshmala and Upadesh Manjari (his fourteen sermons in Puna).
The pioneers of Arya Samaj
There is a large number of scholars and people who laid down their lives for the course of Arya Samaj. Among them are: Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Shraddhanand , Pandit Lekhram, Mahashaya Rajpal, Pandit Ramchandra Dehalvi, Mahatma Narayan Swami, Mahatma Anand Swami, Pandit Gurudatta Vidyarthi, Pandit Chamupati M.A.