BRIGADIER CHITRANJAN SAWANT, VSM
A trip to Tankara, Gujarat, India came my way. I was invited to train
the Vedic missionaries in the Art of Public Speaking. I accepted the invitation
post haste. Tankara is the birth place of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder
of the Arya Samaj. The small village, now, a township, is situated on
a small meandering river named Demi. On its banks is a small temple of
Lord Shiva. It was in this temple that a teenager experienced the Turning
Point of his life and it eventually transformed him into a Renaissance
Rishi. The event known as Bodh Parva or Night of Enlightenment brought
about a religious revolution and changed the social fabric of the Indian
Long years ago I had traveled through the highest plateau of the world
Tibet. In the western Tibet I stood face to face with the black
granite mountain jutting out from the yellowish background of sandstone
hillocks. This Mount Kailash is the mythical abode of Lord Shiva and his
divine consort Parvati. Unfortunately I did not see any movement or presence
of Lord Shiva or Goddess Parvati on the Kailash Parvat. Possibly, they
do not live there because SHIVA is the Vedic name of the Almighty and
is in no way related to any individual god. Of course, many fellow travelers
went ecstatic, as they said: ``we saw the Almighty Shiva.
Indeed, theirs was a make believe world. Some psychologists call a phenomenon
like this, hallucination of sorts. Fortunately for me, I did not suffer
from a state of mind like that of the fellow travelers.
I made up my mind in Tibet to go to Tankara and see for myself what the
teenager Moolshankar had seen in the19th century India. Tibet to Tankara
was a long haul. Nevertheless, I made it. I wanted to know how the adolescent
Moolshankar was transformed into Swami Dayanand Saraswati sitting in that
temple on the Mahashivratri night. Let us see it for ourselves.
As I said a moment ago, Swami Dayanand Saraswati was born in Tankara,
in Rajkot district of Kathiawar, now called Saurashtra in India, in 1824.
He was named Moolshankar. The young precocious boy memorized the text
of Yajurved and impressed teachers and taught alike. He was always keen
to ask questions and find answers to many a jigsaw puzzle.
The 13-year-old Moolshankar was exhorted by his father, Karsan ji to observe
complete fast on the Mahashivratri and sit in the Shiv temple in the village
and pray the whole night. An obedient son that he was, he did so. In the
temple, just before midnight, when other devotees including his father
had fallen asleep a small rat ascended the Shiv Linga and started eating
all edibles kept there as an offering. The rats friends followed
Devotees were in deep slumber. But not young Moolshankar, who was fired
by an ardent desire and his fathers exhortations to have a darshan
of Lord Shiva at midnight.
Obviously, he was in for a great shock to see the Shiv Linga being desecrated
by lowly mice and the idol bearing the insult helplessly. Moolshankar
woke up his father and apprised him of his nagging doubt about the idol
being the Almighty. The father chided the son for his untimely and irrelevant
inquisitiveness. The young body returned to his house where his mother
served him a sumptuous meal to break the daylong fast.
Young Moolshankar had made up his mind to go in quest of the real almighty,
God as described in the Vedas. He talked to all knowledgeable persons
around. Not much came out of it. However, the foundations of a great spiritual
movement, later, known as the Arya Samaj had indeed been laid. Of course,
the formal formation had to wait till 1875.
The great quest had begun. The young lad left his parental home at the
age of 22 when pressed to get married and abandon his spiritual quest.
He carried a new name, Shuddha Chaitanya. Later he met a sanyasi Swami
Poornanand Saraswati, a great Vedic scholar who initiated the young seeker
of truth into the Sanyas Ashram. Thus was born an ascetic, Swami Dayanand
We may recall some major and minor anecdotes of his life that go to show
that he placed great reliance on the social unity of the masses. His aim
was to unite the entire mankind into one religion the Vedic Dharam.
Swami Dayanand Sarswati advised all Arya Samajists to run their show in
a democratic manner. On staurday, April 10th, 1875 when the 1st arya samaj
was founded at Kakarwadi, Mumbai in India, the great swami was requested
by the congregation to assume the presidentship but the Swami declined.
He chose to be just a simple member. Swami Dayanand Saraswati pleaded
for equality of human beings, both men and women, as propounded in the
Vedas. He was against creating human idols or icons. Indeed he was nipping
the problem of human worship in the bud.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati was dead against entering into litigation to
solve problems of social nature. He made a mention of it in his will twice;
first at Meerut and later again in 1883 in Udaipur, Rajasthan. He advised
all Aryas to sort out their personal and social as well as religious problems
Social solidarity should be achieved at all levels, said the Swami. He
backed those Aryas against whom followers of other religions had filed
legal cases just to harass them. Under his advice, monetary and legal
support was given to writers, speakers and preachers of the Vedic Dharma
to raise their morale high. The Swami succeeded immensely.
Learning, speaking and writing in the Hindi language was Swami Dayanand
Saraswatis hobby. He saw Hindi as a common link language among all
Indians, irrespective of their faith. The Swami was himself a Gujarati
and as an adolescent spoke his mother tongue only. Of course, he had studied
Sanskrit and wrote in Sanskrit extensively. But he promoted Hindi as a
language of unity. All his treatises are written in the common mans
language. This indeed was a turning point in the linguistic history of
India. Other national leaders followed suit later. The movement for Hindi
had its effect among the Indians in foreign countries too. Hindi books
are read by them and Hindi classes are organized in the Arya Samaj in
foreign lands too.
The Swami never wanted to be known as the founder of a mere sect that
would cut away his followers from the vast society of the Hindus. He stressed
that the ancient Vedic Dharma did not divide the society among sects and
sub sects. He took pains to avoid the pitfalls that the Brahmos of Bengal
could not avoid and separated themselves from the general social fabric.
Swami Dayanand Saraswatis efforts have paid rich dividends and the
Arya Samajists have joined all movements for the unity and solidarity
of the Indians in general and Hindus in particular.
Let us take a look at his travels to preach and propagate the Vedic Dharma.
Multan (now in Pakistan) in the north to Pune in the Deccan; Rajkot in
the west to Kolkata in the east form the large canvass that he painted
in the Vedic colours. Of course, there were many cities, towns in various
other provinces in the British India and the princely India where he had
hoisted the flag of Aum and given discourses to men and women who flocked
to hear him in large numbers. The Swami started wearing long coat and
Dhotis instead of only a loin cloth so that ladies did not fight shy of
coming to his lectures to learn of the Ved Mantras. Indeed, he was never
Many a time he traveled in great discomfort risking his life and limb
but was determined to carry on with his mission. Of course, the Punjab
became the citadel of the Arya Samaj after he founded his institution
in 1877 in Lahore (now in Pakistan).
It was in Lahore that the 10 principles of the Arya Samaj were enshrined
and continue to guide the Arya Samaj till today. A turning point once
again in the socio political history of India. In 1877 in Delhi many religious,
cultural and political stalwarts had assembled. All the major ruling princes
of India had come to attend the Delhi Durbar. Swami Dayanand Saraswati
took advantage of this opportunity to bring about a unity of principles
for conduct of righteousness among the followers of all major religions
of the world. He invited Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, a Muslim scholar and later
founder of the Aligarh Muslim University, Reverend Father Scott of the
Protestant Christian Church, prominent Brahmos of Bengal and stalwarts
among Sanatani Hindus to sit together and iron out all differences that
led to divisions in society. It was indeed a lofty ideal. His efforts
made a good beginning. The Swami started with a bang but unfortunately
the entire effort ended with a whimper. The people did not agree on the
entity called God and how human beings should draw inspiration from him.
Further, the non Hindus were not prepared to accept the Vedas as divine
revelation. The plan fell apart.
Let us now travel to Rajputana, the present day Rajasthan. It was here
that Swami Dayanand Saraswati met with a measure of success in reforming
the princes. His Highness Maharana Sajjan Singhji, the ruling prince of
the state of Mewar became Swamis devoted disciple. The maharana
studied Sanskrit and Manusmiriti at the feet of the Rishi. He reformed
the education system and brought it in tune with the Vedic Standards.
The ruler performed daily havan in his palace. Indeed, it was going great
guns for the Arya Samaj in Mewar. His Highness Sir Nahar Singh Varma of
Shahpura went a step forward. He even accepted the Presidentship of the
Parop karini Sabha to carry forward the mission of the Swami.
However, it was in Jodhpur that a conspiracy was hatched by the forces
enemical to the propagation of pristine Vedic Dharma to poison the Swami.
They got him. After suffering from the after effects of that deadly poison
for a month and a day the great Rishi of modern India breathed his last
on October 30, 1883 at Ajmer.It was the evening of Diwali and indeed a
turning point. The Swami let his soul leave his body and in the worldly
sense the lamp of his life was extinguished but in the spiritual sense
he lighted millions of lamps to lead men and women from darkness unto
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