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.
The fresh violence against Hindus in West Bengal calls for the collective conscience of this country.
DALALS (Damn Left and Lutyens Scribes), as expected, first ignored and then dumbed it down to the fabricated Governor-Chief Minister spat.
Political parties such as Congress, Communists and regional heavyweights, avoided mention of any atrocity against the Hindus. Rahul Gandhi trained his eyes and concern on PM’s silence on China.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), flogged everyday as the face of a communalist Saffron, haven’t uttered a word in anger. (So next time they are termed bigots, use this instance to shut the pseudo-sikulars up).
But then what’s new?
No less than 600 temples were destroyed in Bangladesh in 1992. Thousands of Hindus were killed and raped; paraded naked on the streets of Bhola town, shops looted, deities desecrated.
There was little outrage in media or from any State.
In Pakistan, among the near 300 temples destroyed, the demolition of one was personally supervised by a minister in Lahore. Dozens of Hindus were murdered.
The collective silence of the world was deafening.
The exodus of Kashmiri Pundits is a reality. A community uprooted and displaced still carries psychological and financial scars.
But don’t expect it to shake the conscience of this country’s intelligentsia or media.
The partition of 1947 created a Muslim state in Pakistan and afforded them the “freedom.” But the Hindus “haven’t been recognized as a nation or a state nor a control over their own homeland,” as Abhas Chatterjee, author of The Concept of Hindu Nation, mentioned.
If any Jew is treated unfairly in any part of the world, the State of Israel, as their representative, loses no time in raising the issue. Contrast this with the case of Sunil Wadhera, a Hindu who died in an accident in Saudi Arabia a few years ago. As against a policy of compensation of 6-7 lakh dinars offered to a Muslim, Wadhera was extended only 17,000 dinars. Reason, he was a Kafir. “The value of his life was no more than a paltry sum,” wrote Abhas Chatterjee “What’s significant is that even against such an inhuman, outrageous affront, there was no State which could raise its voice on behalf of the Hindu.”
What had upset the discerners was that India, which all along had supported the Arab cause in Palestine, didn’t take up Wadhera’s matter with the Saudi government.
As scholar Dr. Koenraad Elst says: “The Hindu death toll in post-Independence riots in East Bengal already outnumbers the Muslim death toll in Hindu-Muslim clashes in the whole of South Asia by far.” Yet you would hardly find this mentioned in any discourse in mainstream media and academia.
In the East Bengal genocide of 1971, the main victims of Pakistan army’s brutality were Hindus (and this doesn’t include Bengalis). That genocide of millions outnumbers all other massacres in Partition and post-Partition by a mile. Yet, all governments, be it in India, South Asia or West, discourage any discourse on it. (But the unfortunate killing of a missionary such as Graham Staines or the cow vigilantism by a fringe is drummed up again and again as a proof of reactionary Hindus).
India’s Constitution has nothing recognizably Hindu about it. India’s Constitution was but an adapted version of the British Government of India Act of 1935. It was decreed by a ruling class of Indians who were largely lawyers of Western moorings.
The preamble of the Indian Constitution talks of justice, equality and liberty—all of them are Western notions, a byproduct of the French Revolution. Where’s Swami Vivekananda’s cry of Dharma and spirituality, renunciation and service, tolerance and harmony?, as Chatterjee observed.
The first thing Colonizers do is to make Colonies appear inferior to them, particularly in the matter of their culture. The first set of India’s ruling class more or less continued the depressing trend: a trend where everything connected with the essence of the land was derided as worthless. Observe the contempt of this anglicized set of DALALS today on the basic ethos of this land and you would have your answer.
Till Modi came, only Lal Bahadur Shastri and PV Narasimha Rao could be said to be practicing Hindus among the Prime Ministers; not the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty or VP Singh even though they never abandoned Hinduism.
The list of Hindus’ grievances are many: From the Nehru-Liaquat Pact of 1950 which stops India from taking up the maltreatment of Hindus in Pakistan; to the prickly Article 30 of the Constitution; to the issue of Conversion; and to the matter of control over temple management; to name just a few, the majority in this country is increasingly mindful of being ignored by all and sundry.
The violence against Hindus in West Bengal (and Kerala) and the deafening silence of every stakeholder who claims to have interest of India at heart, is a historical fact. Hindus can’t understand why Ram Navmi is “communal” and “Muharram” a religious festival in certain parts of this country.
The last word of this piece must belong to Chatterjee alone. “We are still a subjugated, enslaved nation. Nehruvian Secularists are not our own people…We have to liberate our motherland from their stranglehold and earn our freedom.”