Swami Dayanand Saraswati, whose death anniversary falls this week (October 30, 1883), deserves attention from all Indians. If Mahatma Gandhi is “Father of the Nation”, Swamiji has been called “The Grandfather of the Nation” by no less than a Speaker of our Parliament 1; President Radhakrishnan termed him the “Maker of Modern India”; Swami Vivekananda was inclined to place him alongside Kabir, Nanak and Chaitanya for ensuring Hindus weren’t wiped out in their own homeland 2. A man as towering as Adi Sankaracharya himself 3; he is credited to have laid the real foundation of modern independent India 4; who went farther than “Brahmo Samaj and even Ramakrishna Mission,” as per se Romain Rolland 5. To Sri Aurobindo, he’s been “A Soldier of Light” to the land we call Bharat or India 6.
A piece is hardly enough to encompass a man who needs a shelf-full of books to do justice to him. He believed in ancient Vedas and not Vedanta; was a Hindu without Hinduism. He wanted the living beings of this land to return to roots of Vedas and side-step Upanishads, Puranas, Idolatry and was critical of Brahmins for not disseminating Vedas’ profundity to masses. Such a man can’t be expected to be reverential to Islam or Christianity and he wasn’t. In no way, it implied religious intolerance—rather he wanted the entire humanity to drink from this fountain of eternal wisdom called Vedas. The greatest of all Sanskrit scholars, Swamiji chose to reach out to masses in their own language of Hindi with his magnum opus, Satyarth Prakash (The Light of Truth).
So reams could be written and hours be spent in marvelling how a young boy ran away from his home at 14, never to return or see his family again, spending a quarter of a century as a wandering ascetic, and devoting his entire celibate life in uplifting widows, untouchables and orphans and regenerating the Hindu society. He was the first to give call for Swaraj in 1876, “India for Indians,” which was later taken up by Lokmanya Tilak and a good half-century later by Gandhi-Nehru. To this day, the presence of Arya Samaj in our neighbourhood remind us of him; as do scores of DAV Schools and Colleges which dot most towns and cities of India. Not to forget the admirable Gurukul Kangri in Haridwar.
It is one of history’s painful irony that two men who lit the light of India’s renaissance, Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Mahatma Gandhi, now stand at cross-purpose, even hostile to each other’s philosophy, in the annals of time. Both were born in the state of Kathiawar in Gujarat; the year 1869 which saw the birth of Mahatma Gandhi was also a seminal year in Swamiji’s life when he won over hundreds of learned Pundits in a historic debate in the holy city of Kashi, Banares.
First, it’s no help if we pigeon-hole these two giants in social, religious or political boxes. Those who try to run down Arya Samaj for its unswerving loyalty to Vedas, are worth being reminded that a few of the greatest Indians in freedom struggle like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh, Veer Savarkar, Madanlal Dhingra and Ram Prasad Bismal were shaped by Arya Samaj philosophy. Men like Swami Shraddhanand and Bhai Parmanand were martyred and Swami Dayanand himself was poisoned.
In 1912, a special committee under the chairmanship of Nehru, surveyed all the jails of the country and reported that 70% of its inmates were Arya Samajis. In 1931, that figure rose to 80%. The great historian K.M. Pannikar credited 80% of all freedom-fighters as being inspired by Arya Samaj.
This fervour wasn’t limited to India. In England, Shyamji Krishna Varma began India Home Rule Society in 1905. Another organization with similar aim and objective, namely Ghadar Party was floated in United States by Har Dayal. Sohan Lal Pathak breathed revolutionary fire from Burma in 1915 7.
This all flowed from Swami Dayanand’s philosophy of overturning the alien rule. He recognized the influence of education in regeneration of the Hindu race. The clarion call emanated from DAV College of Lahore and the Gurukul Kangri and between 1886-1918, the Arya Samaj ran over 500 educational institutions throughout India. Long before Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Swamiji had said: “It should be made a penal offence to keep a child at home after that (5-8 years) age.”
All these institutions included the idea of Swadeshi in their curriculum. He mobilized Rajas and Maharajas in this regard. Under his influence, the Maharaja of Jodhpur and all his officials began using hand-spun and hand-woven clothes. All adopted Khadi produced in Marwar. All of these were independent of any governmental assistance. Significantly, military training was made compulsory. One of his critic Valentine Chirol said: “…the whole drift of Dayananda’s teachings is far less to reform Hinduism than to range it into active resistance to the alien influence which threatened, in his opinion, to denationalize it 8.”
By the advent of Mahatama Gandhi in India in 1915, Arya Samaj had become big enough a threat for the British government to ban any of its followers from entering the “precincts of its regimental barracks.” No Arya Samaji was to be enlisted in the army. Swamiji had long gone by then, having been poisoned in 1883 by communal forces but Arya Samaj brooked no stopping.
Gandhi was an early recipient of Arya Samaj’s largesse when he received funds for his struggle against apartheid in South Africa and wrote a personal letter of thanks to its head, Mahatma Munshi Ram. Thereafter students of Phoenix Ashram came to India and stayed several months in the Gurukul. Gandhi himself paid a visit to Gurukul when he arrived on his first visit in 1915. It was here that Mahatma Munshi Ram called Gandhi a Mahatma, a title that Gandhi unsparingly used thereafter in public life. Two years later, Mahatma Munshi Ram took sanyas as “Swami Shraddhanand Saraswati” in 1917.
When Gandhi was praised for his Satyagraha in South Africa, he was quick to respond: “I am worthy of teaching anybody but I yearn to learn myself from anyone who is servant of his country.” He had marvelled at Swami Dayanand Saraswati and his body of work in a mere 11 years. On meeting Swami Shraddhanand in India, Gandhi described him as having a stature as tall as a mountain 9.
In the spirit of those times, Swami Shradanand soon joined Congress, moved by Gandhi’s call that “dharmic aims alone can transform the political field, (leading to pure and true amelioration of India 10 .” Alongside, he infused a new life in Hindu Sangathan, known these days as Hindu Maha Sabha.
No sooner had Swami Shradanand joined Congress, he began seeing the futility of his decision. Ironically, his biggest heart-ache came on the matter of Untouchability. Swami Shraddanand was convinced that seven crores of Indians can’t be allowed to stay out of freedom struggle only because they were Untouchables. He feared they were ready pickings for Christian missionaries. Despite Gandhi’s avowed stance against Untouchability, he received no support from Congress on the matter. His proposals were rejected by Congress in its 1920 Calcutta session. Swamiji was aghast to see Gandhi was more into his non-violent, non-cooperation creed and completely immersed in making the Khilafat Movement a success 11.
Gandhi was completely taken in by his mission to forge a Hindu-Muslim unity. Gandhi’s support to Khilafat Movement, a movement to restore Ottoman Sultan and Caliphate in faraway Turkey—in order to gain Muslim support—and the subsequent Moplah riots in which thousands of Hindus were butchered and about which the apostle of non-violence never offered any criticism, stung Swami Shradhanand. He also found to his dismay that Gandhi was forming committee on various issues and then taking arbitrary decisions. He lamented: “I thought it would be a misfortune if Mahatmaji would be obliged to sever his connection with the oldest political movement (Arya Samaj) in India.”
Gandhi meanwhile had begun to distance himself from Arya Samaj. A flashpoint must have come in 1923 when Swami Shradanand became the president of the Bhartiya Hindu Shuddhi Sabha, created with an aim of reconverting Muslims, specifically Malkana Rajputs in the western United Province. For Arya Samaj has always believed that most minorities of India, whether Muslim or Christian or any other minority, were converts out of Hindu fold. And this it expressly aimed to stop, fearing for such continuance would play havoc for Hindu’s existence in the future.
Soon enough, Gandhi began criticizing Arya Samaj in no uncertain terms. On May 29, 1925, Gandhi wrote in Young India: “Swami Shraddhanandji…his speeches are often irritating…he inherits the traditions of the Arya Samaj 12.”
Gandhi didn’t spare even Swami Dayanand and his magnum opus, Satyarth Prakash. “I have profound respect for Dayanand Saraswatiji…But he made his Hinduism narrow. I have read Satyarth Prakash, the Arya Samaj Bible. It’s a disappointing book from a reformer so great.”
In our times, Arya Samaj is losing its steam primarily for it doesn’t have leaders of stature of Swami Dayanand Saraswati and a few others. Its offices and compounds are now turning into “baraat ghars.” A great movement is dying out. The educational institutions, fashioned by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, though are doing fine.
This is a reprint from NewsBred.
Guha, already a book old on Gandhi–“Gandhi before India”– will have his second one on the man next year. Apparently, the cottage industry on Gandhi is a useful tool for self advancement and setting up the political agenda in this country.
Guha’s peg is the recent reference of Amit Shah where the BJP president had called Gandhi the “Chatur Baniya.” This has Guha in an outrage even though he himself reminded readers of “residue of Bania upbringing” in Gandhi in his book.
Guha’s entire premise is built on the assertion that Gandhi didn’t differentiate between castes and he repeatedly asked Hindus to “disregard matters of caste in where they lived…”
Gandhi is larger than life to most Indians. That doesn’t mean he is above examination. A Hindu mind isn’t shy of evaluating his own Gods. There is no reason a Mahatma be exempt from such a scrutiny. Gandhi himself would’ve approved of such “experiments with truth.”
So let’s examine if Gandhi didn’t differentiate between castes. In his over two decades of stay in South Africa, Gandhi didn’t think Black Africans were worth his time. In 1893, he wrote to the Natal parliament saying that Indians were better “than savages of the Natives of Africa.” He supported more taxes on impoverished African people and turned a blind eye to the brutality of the Empire on Africans. He termed them “kaffirs” an extremely offensive racist slur.
No less than Gandhi’s grandson and his biographer, Rajmohan Gandhi, has acknowledged that Gandhi was “prejudiced about South African blacks.” Historian Patrick French wrote in 2013 that “Gandhi’s blanking of Africans is the black hole at the heart of his saintly mythology.” Today a large number of Africans view Gandhi as a racist vis-a-vis Black Africans. A revision in his stature is already underway. Last year his statue was banished from Ghana University in Accra after massive protests by professors over his racist stance.
Guha of course would hide such facts from our view. Closer home, one would be interested to find out Guha’s opinion on Gandhi’s role in the Khilafat Movement (1919-1924). Most of us don’t know about it as a sanitized history is propagated by Left-Liberal combine in whose company Guha clearly is comfortable.
At the end of the World War I in 1919, Ottoman Turkey lay beaten by the Allied forces. Their pretensions of being Caliphs of the Islamic world was in ruins. It got the hackles up of Muslim leaders in India. They formed a committee to force the British government to restore the Sultan. This in brief is known as the Khilafat Movement.
Gandhi and the Congress launched the non-cooperation movement in support of the Khilafat demand. It clearly was a quid pro quo move. Gandhi, in return, got the Muslim support. It helped him become the biggest political actor of the Indian stage. (Bal Gangadhar Tilak had died on August 1, 1920). Gandhi justified his move thus:
“I would gladly ask for the postponement of the Swaraj activity if we could advance the interest of the Khilafat.” So Swaraj, which meant self-rule, became a subordinate action compared to restoration of Caliphate in a faraway land!!! It never occurred to Mahatma how the natives would make sense of such a sympathy for the Muslim cause which had nothing to do with India’s reality.
Mohammad Ali, a prominent leader of the Khilafat movement, went further: “If the Afghans invaded India to wage holy war, the Indian Muhammadans are not only bound to join them but also to fight the Hindus if they refuse to cooperate with them.”
This clearly was not respect-all-castes approach. And what was Gandhi’s reaction to this all? He supported Mohammad Ali for being true to his religion! So much for caste-free politics and the spirit of nationalism. Over to Gandhi:
“I claim that with us both the Khilafat is the central fact, with the Maulana Mohammad Ali because it is his religion, with me because, in laying down my life for the Khilafat, I ensure the safety of the cow, that is my religion, from the knife of the Mussalman.”
Let’s leave cow for the moment as it is a more sensitive subject than Mahatma these days. It must be mentioned though that Gandhi diverted a substantial sum of money from the Tilak Swaraj Fund to the Khilafat movement.
Gandhi’s support for Khilafat led to Mopla Rebellion of 1921. (Moplas are a Muslim sect of Malabar in Kerala). Murder and rapine followed the failure of Khilafat. It soon became a full-scale rebellion. Civil authorities caved in and army had to be summoned. Khilafat flags were hoisted on police stations and government offices. It took seven months to put it down completely.
Guha’s subtle message is that all religions are the same. Hindus must not make any distinctions vis-à-vis Islam, Christianity and other religions. And by inference, Ahimsa, the cornerstone of Gandhi’s philosophy, must be internalized.
But religious distinctions are there for all to see. Hindus don’t follow one book like Koran or Bible. They don’t have one God like Islam and Christianity. There is no prophet or messenger who stands between the God and humanity. There is no central religious authority like Pope to them.
Every time you open a newspaper, you read a piece by Guha, Sagarika Ghose and their ilks who appeal to the pacifist image of Hindus. Their method to neutralize the majority is simple: beat them with the creeds of Mahatma and shame them on the untouchability ills of Hindu society. Hemmed in by such imagery, India hasn’t responded to million cuts which aggressive neighbours inflict on it regularly. Bleed India to death is this creed. The Break-India plot must be thwarted with rigour and alertness for the forces have shifted gears.
My first instinct on reading this Times of India (29.1.2017) headline was that the likes of Romilla Thapar and Irfan Habib have been pressed into service by that bird of the same feather, the English Mainstream Media. The actual piece though relies on the evidence of two Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) historians and one from Delhi University.
First thing first. The reporter could’ve asked 10 different historians and would have arrived at a completely different conclusion if she had chosen so. That’s the first bias, the report is not balanced which is the first lesson a journalist is taught but probably this one was given a licence to be illiterate.
I need to dwell on Romilla Thapar and Irfan Habib as my reflex reaction for these two Left-Congress promoted, pampered and fattened historians for decades peddled the lie that Saraswati River never existed and that Aryans indeed drove the original inhabitants of our land into southern India on whom the title of “Dravidian” was affixed. The Aryans gave us Sanskrit language and Vedic literature which we ignorant believed to be indigenous. Both claims have been proved to be bogus. There has been no evidence of Aryan invasion in India, our genealogy has been shown to be unbroken for 8,000 years, Or for instance this matter of Ashoka’s remorse after Kalinga War is humbug. This is THE real history. But if you go to interpreters like Thapar and Habib, or for that matter these illiterate AMU scholars and DU professors, you surely would arrive at the bogus confirmation of your own agenda..
This brings us to the history bit. We all know history is written by the conquerors. You write what you want to be read. You hide what you want to hide. That’s the method every historian adopts. Surely, our despicable English mainstream media does. India treats its history not as “Itihasa.” It’s always people’s history, not kings. That’s why you don’t find any king’s burial in Mohanjodaro or Harappa or for that matter in Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi, Hanumangarh etc.
“Itihasa” as History is an affix West stamped on us in order to hijack and distort our cultural heritage. In India, Itihasa is never removed from oral traditions. It relies more on “smriti” (memory) and “shruti “(oral) traditions, not on written documents. It’s because our Rishis and Yogis understood that history will always be victim of misrepresentation. That’s why Hinduism has never relied on historical timelines which is central to Islam, Christianity and Judaism—all Abrahamic religions. Our Rishis and Yogis relied on smriti and shruti. India has always relied on oral traditions, not on written traditions which West employs less to document but more to twist and manipulate to their own ends. History is never for masses to understand in West. They are subjected to State control. That’s why you have so many historical societies in West. Trust me, the history that reaches us is mostly fraud.
History must never be treated in literal sense. Certainly not in written manner. Those tales which are passed on orally, through shruti, are far more reliable chronicles than the documents which paid historians and propagandists like English mainstream media indulges in. In such descriptions, 100 years from now on, the deaths of Akhlaq and Rohith would duly find mention in history but the deaths of BJP workers in Kerala, Karnataka or in West Bengal would go completely unreported. That’s history for you.
So in that sense, the reporter’s attempt to say Padmavati is not history is right. By another logic, those who say that Padmavati is real history are also right. It’s defenders could “historically” claim that Khilji’s lust for Hindu queens is an unassailable fact. Khilji fell for Queen Kamala Devi of Gujarat and the daughter of King Ramachandra of Devagiri. Even Amir Khusro, the court poet of Khilji, in his Khazain-ul-Fatuh, makes a covert allusion to Padmavati episode.
This illiterate reporter states that Allauddin Khilji was India’s most able administrator. She probably hasn’t read of the 20,000 boy-slaves Khilji kept in his harem. She probably hasn’t heard of Jazia Tax or thousands of temples Khilji destroyed. Or Khilji and Malik Kafur dalliance. She chose what good Khilji did. She ignored what was equally true but didn’t suit her agnda.That’s history for you. She says that the “Padmavati episode” was used to demonize Islamic empires. “Demonize” Islamic empire? So were they paragons of virtue? Isn’t this assertion scandalous?
Only one question to this reporter is enough to put her in spot: If Padmavati is a legend that Hindus have fostered how come they could do it as a subject race? Isn’t it possible that they relied on “smriti” and “shruti.” And hence no written records. Could it be that the chroniclers of Islamic rulers never allowed any written record of that period to survive? The fact that Padmavati has survived in the cultural memory of this land is enough to treat as “sacred” No need to affix it with the burden of “Itihasa” or history.