Arya Samaj

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Arya Samaj
Arya Samaj.png
Arya Performing Agnihotra
Motto "कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्"
Make the world noble !
Formation 10 April 1875 (142 years ago) (1875-04-10)
Bombay (Now Mumbai), Bombay presidency, British India
Founder Dayananda Saraswati
Type Religious organisation
Legal status Foundation
Purpose Educational, Religious studies, Spirituality, Social Reforms
Headquarters Ajmer, Rajasthan, India
Coordinates 26°27′00″N 74°38′24″E / 26.4499°N 74.6399°E / 26.4499; 74.6399Coordinates: 26°27′00″N 74°38′24″E / 26.4499°N 74.6399°E / 26.4499; 74.6399
Area served
Official language
Main organ
श्रीमती परोपकारिणी सभा – Shreemati Paropkarini Sabha[1]

Arya Samaj (Sanskrit: ārya samāja आर्य समाज "Noble Society" Hindi: आर्य समाज, Bengali: আর্য সমাজ, Punjabi: ਆਰੀਆ ਸਮਾਜ, Gujarati: આર્ય સમાજ) is an Indian Hindu reform movement that promotes values and practices based on the belief in the infallible authority of the Vedas. The samaj was founded by the sannyasi (ascetic) Dayananda Saraswati on 7 April 1875.[2] Members of the Arya Samaj believe in one God and reject the worship of idols.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India in his book, The Discovery of India credits Arya Samaj in introducing proselytization in Hinduism[3]


The Arya Samaj was established in Bombay on 7 April 1875 by Dayananda Saraswati (born "Mool Shankar" in Kathiawar, Gujarat 1824 – died Ajmer, 1883)[4]

An alternative date for the foundation of the samaj is 24 June 1877 because it was then, in Lahore when the samaj became more than just a regional movement based in Punjab.[5]

Vedic schools

Between 1869 and 1873, Saraswati began his efforts to reform orthodox Hinduism in India. He established Gurukul (Vedic schools) which emphasised Vedic values, culture, Satya (virtue) and Sanatana Dharma (the essence of living). The schools gave separate educations to boys and girls based on ancient Vedic principles. The Vedic school system was also to relieve Indians from the pattern of a British education.[6]

The first Vedic school was established at Farrukhabad in 1869.[7] Fifty students were enrolled in its first year. This success led to the founding of schools at Mirzapur (1870), Kasganj (1870), Chhalesar (Aligarh) (1870) and Varanasi (1873).

At the schools, students received all meals, lodging, clothing and books free of charge. Discipline was strict. Students were not allowed to perform murti puja (worship of sculpted stone idols). Rather, they performed Sandhyavandanam (meditative prayer using Vedic mantras with divine sound) and agnihotra (making a heated milk offering twice daily).

The study of Sanskrit scriptural texts which accepted the authority of the Vedas were taught. They included the Vedas, Upanishads, Aranyaka, Kashika, Nirukta, Mahabhasya, Ashtadhyayi, Darshanas. The teaching was open to girls and to children who were not of the Brahmins class.

Dayanand had difficulty finding qualified teachers who agreed with his views on religious reform. There were few textbooks which he considered suitable. Funding was sporadic, attendance fluctuated and students did not achieve desired standards and so some schools closed soon after opening. The last remaining school at Farrukhabad closed in 1876.

Adi Brahmo Samaj

In 1872 and 1873, Dayanand travelled and came to know some pro-Western Indian intellectuals including Navin Chandra Roy, Rajnarayan Basu, Debendranath Tagore and Hemendranath Tagore who were actively involved in the Brahmo Samaj. This reform organization, founded in 1828, held many views similar to those of Dayanand. The organisation promoted monotheism and the eternality of the soul; and the abolishment of the hereditary caste or varna system and uplifting people through education. Dayanand disagreed with the Brahmo Samaj about the proper position of the Vedas. Dayanand strongly held the Vedas to be divine revelation.

"The Light of Truth" lecture series

After visiting Calcutta, Dayanand's work changed. He began lecturing in Hindi rather than in Sanskrit. Although Sanskrit garnered respect, in Hindi, Dayanand reached a much larger audience. His ideas of reform began to reach the poorest people.

In Varanasi, after hearing Dayanand speak, a local government official called Jaikishen Das encouraged Dayanand to publish a book about his ideas. From June to September 1874, Dayanand dictated a series of lectures to his scribe, Bhimsen Sharma. The lectures recorded Dayanand's views on a wide range of subjects. They were published in 1875 in Varanasi with the title Satyarth Prakash ("the light of truth").

New samaj

While his manuscript for Satyarth Prakash was being edited in Varanasi, Dayanand received an invitation to travel to Bombay. There, he was to debate representatives of the Vallabhacharya sect. On 20 October, 1874, Dayanand arrived in Bombay. The debate, though well publicized, never took place. Nonetheless, two members of the Prarthana Samaj approached Dayanand and invited him to speak at one of their gatherings. He did so and was well received. They recognized Dayanand's desire to uplift the Hindu community and protect Hindus from the pressures to convert to Christianity or Islam. Dayanand spent over one month in Bombay and attracted sixty people to his cause. They proposed founding a new samaj with Dayanand's ideas as its spiritual and intellectual basis.

Ahmedabad debates

On 11 December 1874, Dayanand arrived in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on the invitation of Gopal Hari Deshmukh. There, he debated with interested parties.

Rajkot Arya Samaj

On 31 December, 1874, Dayanand arrived in Rajkot, Gujarat, on the invitation of Hargovind Das Dvarkadas, the secretary of the local Prarthana Samaj. He invited topics of discourse from the audience and spoke on eight. Again, Dayanand was well received and the Rajkot group elected to join his cause. The Samaj was renamed Arya Samaj (Society of Nobles). Dayanand published a list of twenty-eight rules and regulations for the followers. After leaving Rajkot, Dayanand went to Ahmedabad but his audience at a meeting on 27 January, 1875, did not elect to form a new Arya Samaj. Meanwhile, the Rajkot group had become in a political row.

Bombay Arya Samaj

A meeting of the Arya Samāj for investing boys with the sacred thread[8]

On his return to Bombay, Dayanand began a membership drive for a local Arya samaj and received one hundred enrolees. On 7 April 1875, the Bombay Arya Samaj was established. Dayanand himself enrolled as a member rather than the leader of the Bombay group. The samaj began to grow.

After Dayanand

Dayanand died in 1883. The Arya Samaj continued to grow, especially in Punjab. The early leaders of the samaj were Pandit Lekh Ram (1858 – 1897) and Swami Shraddhanand (Mahatma Munshi Ram Vij) (1856 – 1926). In Punjab, the Arya Samaj was opposed by the Sikh dominated Singh Sabha, the forerunner of the Akali Dal.[9]

Some authors claim that the activities of the Samaj led to increased antagonism between Muslims and Hindus.[10] Shraddhanand led the Shuddhi movement that aimed to bring Hindus who had converted to other religions back to Hinduism. [11]

In 1893, the Arya Samaj members of Punjab were divided on the question of vegetarianism. The group that refrained from eating meat were called the "Mahatma" group and the other group, the "Cultured Party".[12]

In the early 1900s, the samaj (or organizations inspired by it such as Jat Pat Todak Mandal) campaigned against caste discrimination.[13] They also campaigned for widow remarriage and women's education.[14] The samaj also established chapters in British colonies with an Indian diaspora such as South Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.[15]

Prominent Indian Nationalists such as Lala Lajpat Rai belonged to Arya Samaj and were active in its campaigning.[16]The British colonial government in the early part of 20th century viewed the Samaj as a political body.Some samajist in government service were dismissed for belonging to the samaj[17]

In the 1930s, when the Hindu Nationalist group, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh grew in prominence in Northern India, they found support in the Arya Samaj of Punjab. [18]

Pandit Lekh Ram and Arya Samaj in Punjab

Pandit Lekh Ram (1858 – 1897) was an Arya Samaj leader who was a contemporary of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835 – 1908), the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Ram contested Ahmad's text, Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya in a work entitled Takzeeb e Barahin Ahmadiyya ("A falsification of the Barahin e Ahmadiyya"). Ram was assassinated on 6 March 1897. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community claimed that this was in accordance with the prophecies of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.[19]

Ian Talbot of the University of Southampton wrote, "Relations grew particularly bad between the Aryas and the Muslims. Serious violence broke out in 1897 when Pandit Lekh Ram was assassinated. Lekh Ram's greatest influence was in the north-west of Punjab. He had in fact joined the Peshawar Arya Samaj in 1880 and rose to prominence first as a missionary and then as editor of the Arya Gazette. At first he had limited his attacks to the Ahmadi movement of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, but he increasingly attacked orthodox Muslims as well. His pamphlet, Risala-i-Jihad ya'ri Din-i-Muhammad ki Bunyad (A treatise on waging holy war, or the foundation of the Muhammadan Religion) caused a considerable outcry, when it was published in 1892. Until his murder by a Muslim[citation needed] five years later, Lekh Ram continued to stir up animosity by his vituperative writings."[20]

Arya Samaj in Gujarat

The Arya Samaj of Gujarat members were missionaries from Punjab who had been encouraged to move to Gujarat to carry out educational work amongst the untouchable castes by the maharaja, Sayajirao Gaekwad III. The Gujarat samaj opened orphanages. In 1915, the samaj lost its following to Mahatma Gandhi.[21]

Reconversion in Malabar

In 1921, during a rebellion by the Muslim Moplah community of Malabar Indian newspapers reported that a number of Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam. The Arya Samaj extended its efforts to the region to reconvert these people back to Hinduism through Shuddhi ceremonies. [22]:p.141–152

Language issue

Arya Samaj promoted the use of Hindi in Punjab and discouraged the use of Punjabi. This was a serious point of difference between the Sikhs, represented by the Shiromani Akali Dal group and the Arya Samaj. The difference was marked during the period immediately following the independence of India and the time of the Punjabi Suba movement (demand for a Punjabi speaking state).[23][24][25]

Humanitarian efforts

Arya Samaj was a charitable organisation. For example, donations were made to victims of the 1905 Kangra earthquake. The samaj campaigned for women's right to vote, and for the protection of widows.[26]

Contemporary Arya Samaj

Arya Samaj in India

Arya Samaj schools and temples are still found in India. Some are authorised to conduct weddings. The samaj is associated with the Dayanand Anglo Vedic (DAV) schools which number over two hundred.[27]

The former Indian prime minister Charan Singh, as a young man, was a member of Arya Samaj in Ghaziabad.

A branch of Arya Samaj was established inf 2015 in Angul district in the state of Odisha[28]

Arya Samaj around the world

Arya Samaj is active in countries including Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Australia,[29] South Africa,[30] Kenya,[31] Mauritius[32] and other countries where a significant Hindu diaspora is present.

Immigrants to Canada from East Africa and the Caribbean countries form Arya Samaj for their communities in many Canadian cities including Toronto.[33] Most major metropolitan areas of United States have chapters of Arya Samaj.[34]

Core beliefs

ओ३म् O3m (Aum), considered by the Arya Samaj to be the highest and most proper name of God.

Members of the Arya Samaj believe in one almighty creator known as Aum who is mentioned in the Yajur Veda (40:17). They believe the Vedas is an infallible authority. The Arya Samaj members reject other Hindu religious texts because they are not "revealed" works. For instance, they believe books like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are legends of historical figures, which secondarily have been used as reference to supreme beings and avatars. The members of Arya Samaj reject other scriptural works such as the Bible, and the Quran. They reject the worship of idols. The Arya Samaj promotes the equality of all human beings and the empowerment of women.


The Arya Samaj members recite the Gayatri Mantra[35] , meditation and make offering to the holy fire '('havan)[36]. The havan can be performed without a priest in acts of personal worship. Members celebrate Holi (the start of spring) and Diwali (a harvest festival and the victory of good over evil).

Some members of the Arya Samaj are lacto-vegetarian and in general, the eating of beef is avoided. The cow is viewed with respect for its contribution to Indian civilization.

After a death, Arya samaji will often conduct a havan and collect the ashes on the fourth day.[37]


Diya with one wick.
Diya with two wicks, pointing in each direction (N, W, S, E).

The Arya Samaj celebration of Diwali is typified by the celebration in Suriname. The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. A vegetarian fast is kept. The Gayatri mantra is spoken while oil lamps are lit. One Diya lamp, which is of a larger size has two wicks crossed to produce four lights, one in each direction and is lit first. The smaller lamp has one wick. The recitation of the Gayatri mantra occurs in front of a fire altar lit with sandalwood. A lamp is kept in every room except the bathroom and restroom. More lamps can be lit, which can be placed arbitrarily in the yard, living room and so on.[38]


Holi is celebrated as the conclusion of winter and the start of spring to sow the land and hope for a good harvest. This day is marked by colors and song (Chautal). It does not require specific prayer or fasting, however some people keep a vegetarian fast on this day. The Arya Samaj does not associate Holi with a particular deity such as Vishnu or Shiva and in comparison to some interpretations of the festival, the Arya Samaj version in more sober and is as per the 4 Vedas.[39][40]

See also


  1. ^ Shvikarpathra Paropkarini Sabha website. Accessed 3 February 2017.
  2. ^ Hastings J. and Selbi J. (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Kessinger 2003 part 3. p. 57. ISBN 0-7661-3671-X
  3. ^ Thursby, G. R. (1975). Hindu-Muslim relations in British India : a study of controversy, conflict, and communal movements in northern India 1923–1928. Leiden: Brill. p. 3. ISBN 9789004043800. 
  4. ^ E News Aryasamaj website 2 March 2010. Accessed 3 February 2017
  5. ^ Dayanand Saraswati Himalaya publishing documents.
  6. ^ Sharma R. N and Sharma R. K. Problems of Education in India Atlantic 2006 p. 356 ISBN 817156612X
  7. ^ Saxena G. S. Arya Samaj movement in India, 1875–1947 Commonwealth publishers 1990 p. 47
  8. ^ Russell R. V. The Tribes and Castes of the Central Provinces of India 1916 vol. 1
  9. ^ Jones K. W. Ham Hindū Nahīn*: Arya Sikh Relations, 1877–1905 The Journal of Asian Studies May 1973 32:3 p. 457 – 475. JSTOR 2052684
  10. ^ Barrier N. The Arya Samaj and Congress Politics in the Punjab, 1894–1908 The Journal of Asian Studies May 1967 26:3 p. 363 – 379. doi:10.2307/2051414 JSTOR 2051414 Accessed 1 October 2014.
  11. ^ Nair N. Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India Permanent Black, New Delhi 2011 p. 53 ISBN 9780674057791
  12. ^ "Punjab" Imperial Gazetteer of India 1909. vol. 20 p. 291. Accessed 2 October 2014.
  13. ^ Rajivlochan M. Coping with Exclusions the Non-Political Way in Judge P. S. Mapping Social Exclusion in India: Caste, Religion and Borderlands Cambridge University Press 2014 p. 82 – 83. ISBN 1107056098
  14. ^ Kishwar M. "Arya Samaj and Women's Education: Kanya Mahavidyalaya, Jalandhar" Economic and Political Weekly 26 April 1986. 21:17 p. 9 JSTOR 4375593 doi:10.2307/4375593 doi broken 3 February 2017.
  15. ^ Vertovec S. The Hindu Diaspora: Comparative Patterns Routledge, London 2000 first edition p. 29, 54 and 69. ISBN 9780415238939.
  16. ^ Rai L. L. The Arya Samaj: an Account of its Aims, Doctrine and Activities, with a Biographical Sketch of the Founder Longman, London 1915. ISBN 978-81-85047-77-5
  17. ^ Kumar, Raj (editor) (2004). Essays on social reform movements. New Delhi: Discovery Pub. House. pp. 2–4. ISBN 9788171417926. 
  18. ^ Jaffrelot C. The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics: 1925 to the 1990s Penguin Books, New Delhi 1999. p. 67 and 68. ISBN 9780140246025.
  19. ^ Pandit Lekh Ram (1858–1897) Quern organisation website. Accessed 3 February 2017
  20. ^ Talbot I. Punjab and the Raj, 1849–1947 Riverdale, 1988. p. 72 and 73. ISBN 0913215287
  21. ^ Hardiman D. Purifying the nation, the Arya Samaj in Gujarat 1895–1930 Indian Economic and Social History Review 2000. 44:1 p. 41 – 65.
  22. ^ Thursby G. R. Hindu-Muslim relations in British India : a study of controversy, conflict, and communal movements in northern India 1923–1928 Brill, Leiden, 1975. ISBN 9789004043800
  23. ^ Lamba K. G. Dynamics of Punjabi Suba Movement Deep and Deep 1999. p. 90 ISBN 9788176291293 Accessed 3 February 2017.
  24. ^ Chopra R. Love Is The Ultimate Winner Partridge, India 2013. p. 9072. ISBN 9781482800050 Accessed 3 February 2017.
  25. ^ Grewal J. S. The Sikhs of the Punjab Cambridge University Press 1998. p. 187 ISBN 9780521637640 Accessed 3 February 2017.
  26. ^ Sharma S. C. Punjab, the Crucial Decade Atlantic 1987. p. 133.
  27. ^ Arya Samaj Arya Samaj website.
  28. ^
  29. ^ Arya Samaj Queensland website. Accessed 3 February 2017.
  30. ^ Lal V. and Vahed G. Hinduism in South Africa: Caste, Ethnicity, and Invented Traditions, 1860–Present J Sociology Soc Anth 2013. 4:1–2 p. 1 – 15.
  31. ^ Ombongi K. S. Hindu socio-religious organizations in Kenya: a case study of Arya Samaj, 1903–1978 University of Nairobi 1993.
  32. ^ Eisenlohr P. Little India: Diaspora, Time, and Ethnolinguistic Belonging in Hindu Mauritius University of California Press, Berkeley, California 2006. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-520-24879-3
  33. ^ Coward H. Hindus in Canada, the Third National Metropolis Conference Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis 1999.
  34. ^ Arya Pratinidhi Sabha America Arya Samaj website. Accessed 30 December 2013.
  35. ^ Naidoo T. The Arya Samaj movement in South Africa Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1992 first edition. p.30 and 71. ISBN 8120807693
  36. ^ Morgan, Kenneth W. (Editor); Sharma, D.S.; et al. (1987). The Religion of the Hindus (Reprint. ed.). Delhi: M. Banarsidass. p. 199. ISBN 978-8120803879. Retrieved 26 July 2017. 
  37. ^ Firth S. Dying, death and bereavement in a British Hindu community Peeters, Leuven 1997. p. 89. ISBN 9789068319767
  38. ^ Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in 19th-Century Punjab Paperback – January 1, 2006Jones, Kenneth W. (1976). Arya dharm : Hindu consciousness in 19th-century Punjab. New Delhi: Manohar. ISBN 978-8173047091. Retrieved 30 November 2016. 
  39. ^ Dalal R. The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths Penguin Books India, 2010. p. 148 ISBN 0143415174
  40. ^ Jones K. W. Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in 19th-century Punjab University of California Press, 1976. p. 95. ISBN 0520029208

Further reading

  • Chamupati M. A. (2001) Ten Commandments of Arya Samaj New Delhi: D.A.V. Publications.
  • Jordens J. T. F. (1978) Dayanada Saraswati Oxford University Press, Delhi.
  • Madhu Kishwar, "The Daughters of Aryavarta: Women in the Arya Samaj movement, Punjab." Chapter in Women in Colonial India; Essays on Survival, Work and the State, edited by J. Krishnamurthy, Oxford University Press, 1989.
  • Rai L. (1915) The Arya Samaj: an Account of its Aims, Doctrine and Activities, with a Biographical Sketch of the Founder D.A.V. College Managing Committee, New Delhi ISBN 978-81-85047-77-5.
  • Rai L. (1993) A History of the Arya Samaj New Delhi ISBN 81-215-0578-X.
  • Ruthven M. (2007) Fundamentalism: a Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-921270-5.
  • Sharma J. M. (1998) Swami Dayanand: a Biography USB, India ISBN 81-7476-212-4.
  • Sethi R. "Rashtra Pitamah Swami Dayanand Saraswati" M R Sethi Educational Trust, Chandigarh.
  • Upadhyaya G. P. (1954) The Origin, Scope and Mission of the Arya Samaj Arya Samaj.
  • Shastri V. (1967) The Arya Samaj Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha.
  • Pandey D. (1972) The Arya Samaj and Indian Nationalism, 1875–1920 S. Chand.
  • Pandit S. (1975) A Critical Study of the Contribution of the Arya Samaj to Indian Education Sarvadeshik Arya, Pratinidhi Sabha.
  • Vedalanker N. and Somera M. (1975) Arya Samaj and Indians Abroad Sarvadeshik Arya Pratinidhi Sabha.
  • Vable D. (1983) The Arya Samaj: Hindu Without Hinduism VikasISBN 0-7069-2131-3.
  • Sharma S. K. (1985) Social Movements and Social Change: a Study of Arya Samaj and Untouchables in Punjab B.R. Publishing.
  • Yadav K. C. and Arya K. S. (1988) Arya Samaj and the Freedom Movement: 1875–1918 Manohar Publications. ISBN 81-85054-42-8.
  • Saxena G. S. (1990) Arya Samaj Movement in India, 1875–1947 Commonwealth Publishers. ISBN 81-7169-045-9.
  • Sethi R. (2009) Rashtra Pitamah, Swami Dayanand Saraswati M R Sethi Educational Trust, Chandigarh
  • Chopra R. M. (2009) Hinduism Today
  • Jamnager A. S. and Pandya D. Aryasamaj Ke Stambh A. S. Jamnager's website.
  • Jones K. Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in 19th-Century Punjab
  • Dayananda, S., & Bharadwaja, C. (1932). Light of truth, or, An English translation of the Satyartha prakasha: The well-known work of Swami Dayananda Saraswati. Madras: Arya Samaj.
  • Swami Shraddhananda, . (1926). Hindu sangathan: Saviour of the dying race. Delhi: Shraddhananda.
  • Swami Śraddhānanda, . (1984). Inside the Congress: A collection of 26 articles. New Delhi: Dayanand Sansthan.

External links

  • Official website
  • Aryasamaj Jamnagar
  • Arya Samaj India
  • Arya/ Pratinidhi Sabha, America
  • Arya/ Arya Samaj Delhi
  • Arya Samaj Pandit for Puja Services

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