Arya Samaj – Society of Nobles

Arya Samaj – Society of Nobles

Arya Samaj is composed of two words, Arya and Samaj means its a Samaj (Society) of Aryas. Arya is a Sanskrit word that denotes several positive qualities. In general, it means noble, honorable, broad-minded, religious, hard worker, etc. The simple and precise English for Arya Samaj is ‘Nobel Society‘, a society of good and honorable people.

According to Swami Dayanand Saraswati the founder of Arya Samaj, Arya is a person who is truthful, righteous, has worthy conduct, and similar other moral qualities. His aim was not to find a new religion but to re-establish the teachings of the ancient Vedas. As he said in Satyarth Prakash, he wanted the true development of humankind by the acceptance of the Supreme truth and rejection of falsehood through analytical thinking.

It can be said that the reforms of Arya Samaj are of great significance and have made huge impacts on contemporary Hindu society. The Arya Samaj has become a major acculturative movement with its purified Hinduism. He gave a new interpretation to the yagna and other rituals mentioned in the Vedas. The main purpose of the havan was to clean the atmosphere.

He said that the Hindu religion has been kind in theoretical and pragmatic terms. The Vedas themselves do not claim their superiority. Therefore, Hinduism treated tolerance towards all religions. The Islam and the Christian religion respectively refer to the Quran and the Bible as the only holy text. They follow the same religion as the path for beatification. The Hindu religion proved weakened because of its generosity. It was unable to fight against Islam and Christianity. Hence Swamiji provided fanaticism to the Hindu religion. And the Arya Samaj soldier was called Hindutva.

The Arya Samaj tried to re-establish Hinduism on the basis of the Vedas. It is called the Revivalist Movement. The Arya Samaj movement was inspired by its own fundamental principles. It was not inspired by any external elements. At that time, only Brahman can study the Vedas. Swami Dayanand gave the right to all the other caste to study and interpret Vedas. Arya Samaj worked for equality and religious fanaticism. It worked for the improvement of religious, social, educational, and political fields in India. Its work cannot be compared to any religious reform movements.

Vedic schools

Between 1869 and 1873, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, a native of Gujarat, 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 to its students. 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 schools in rapid succession at Mirzapur (1870), Kasganj (1870), Chhalesar(Aligarh) (1870), and Varanasi (1873).

The Vedic Schools represented the first practical application of Swami 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 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.

Adi Brahmo Samaj

While traveling (1872–1873), Swami 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 Swami 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 Swami Dayanand had read it while in Calcutta.

Although Swami Dayanand was persuaded on more than one occasion to join the Brahmo Samaj, there existed points of contention that the Swami could not overlook, the most important being the position of the Vedas. Swami Dayanand held the Vedas to be a 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 Swami Dayanand on good terms, the former having publicly praised the latter’s visit to Calcutta in several journals.

The Light of Truth

Swami 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, the Swami 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 an 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 Swami Dayanand’s speeches delivered in Hindi at Varanasi, Raj Jaikishen Das, a native government official there, suggested that the swami 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, Swami Dayanand recognized the potential contained in Das’s suggestion and took immediate action.

The first attempt at a “New Samaj”

While the manuscript of the “Satyarth Prakash“{the holy book of Arya samaj} was being edited at Varanasi, Swami 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 Swami 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 Swami Dayanand an individual in possession of the knowledge and skills necessary for promoting their aims, the greatest and most comprehensive of which is 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.

Second attempt at Ahmedabad

After having received a personal invitation from Gopalrao Hari Deshmukh, Swami 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 victoriously. 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.

Initial success at Rajkot

On an invitation from Hargovind Das Dvarkadas, the secretary of the local Prarthana Samaj, Swami 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 Swami Dayanand delivered impromptu lectures on all of them to the satisfaction of all present.

Gifts were bestowed upon the swami 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 Swami Dayanand. The swami, after much deliberation, chose the name ‘Arya Samaj’ or ‘Society of Nobles’. Swami Dayanand drafted a list of 28 rules and regulations for the Rajkot Arya Samaj, which he later had printed for distribution.

The setback at Ahmedabad On his way back to Bombay, Swami 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, Swami Dayanand continued on his way to Bombay.

Lasting success at Bombay

Swami Dayanand reached Bombay on 29 January 1875, and immediately the appeal to establish an Arya Samaj there was renewed. However, the swami 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 Swami Dayanand. The members appealed to the swami that he should serve as either the President or the Guru of the Samaj, but he kindly refused, and instead requested that he be listed as a regular member.

After Dayanand Saraswati

Dayanand was assassinated in 1883, but Arya Samaj continued to grow. Arya Samaj grew after his death mainly in Punjab. Early leaders of the Arya 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 were credited with the formation of the rival Sikh-dominated Singh Sabha, the forerunner of the Akali Dal.

The Arya 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 the consumption of meat as the “Cultured Pary”.

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

Mission and Vision of Arya Samaj

In the Indian political movement, the Arya Samaj produced numerous leaders like Shraddhananda, Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh, Veer Savarkar, Madanlal Dhingra, Ram Parsad Bimal, Bhai Parmahand, etc., who gave their lives as martyrs to be sacrificed at the altar of the country.

Arya Samaj basically has worked with an objective to recover and revive the forgotten values of the Aryan culture, to inspire people to be proud of our great heritage and the past, and to re-establish ourselves by fighting our internal weakness and the external aggressions.

Adoption of religious reforms was a means to update ourselves to the true realities and in confirmation of modern practices.

In the north, the Arya Samaj played a very vital and assertive role in the upliftment of Jats as a community. There was a cultural and political mobilization of Jats for their emergence as an assertive community.

The Arya Samaj history pronounces that it worked as a charitable organization mainly devoted to the cause of upliftment of womenfolk, their education, and their rights. Remarriages of widows were encouraged.

Recitation of ‘Gayatri Mantra’ as a ritual, meditation, and Havan is at the core of the cultural performance of Samaj. Such practices spread across Northern India as a core practice of individual life.

Lately, in India, various practices of Arya Samaj have lost their credentials, validity, and teachings. Though the practices of Vedas are on the decline, the contributions made by the Arya Samaj in the upliftment of society can never be forgotten as the most phenomenal works of that period.

Today the Arya Samaj has several thousand centers worldwide ( It’s largest following in India is in the west and north, where they run many schools. They have been effective in ministry among Indians of the diaspora, with a significant presence in South Africa, Kenya, Trinidad, Fiji, Mauritius, and the USA.

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Simmi Kamboj

Simmi Kamboj is the Founder and Administrator of Ritiriwaz, your one-stop guide to Indian Culture and Tradition. She had a passion for writing about India's lifestyle, culture, tradition, travel, and is trying to cover all Indian Cultural aspects of Daily Life.