Dr.Vandana Arora

epgp books











Women , Education, Democracy

Political Ideas

Theory of state

Forms of State

Rule of Law

Function of Government

Araya Samaj

Education reform

Religious reform

Status of women




Self Assessment




Swami Dayanand was a great educationist, social reformer and also a cultural nationalist. He was a great soldier of light, a warrior in God’s world, a sculptor of men and institution. Dayanand Saraswati’s greatest contribution was the foundation of Arya Samaj which brought a revolution in the field of education and religion. Swami Dayananda Saraswati is one the most important reformers and spiritual forces India has known in recent times. The philosophy of Dayanand Saraswati can be known from his three famous contributions namely “Satyartha Prakash”, ”Veda Bhashya Bhumika” and and Veda Bhashya. Further the journal “Arya Patrika’ edited by him also reflects his thought. Swami Dayanand the great founder of Arya Samaj, occupies a unique position in the history of political ideas of modern India. When the educated young men of India were slavishly copying the superficial aspects of European civilization and were making agitation for transplanting the political institutions of England in Indian soil without paying any heed to the genius and culture of the Indian people, swami Dayanand boldly hurled India’s defiance against the social, cultural and political domination of the west. Swami Dayanand, the greatest apostle of the indo-Aryan culture and civilization also proved to be greatest exponent of the most advanced ideas in politics in India. He was against idol worship, caste system, ritualism, fatalism, infanticide, sale of grooms etc. he also stood for the liberation of women and upliftment of depressed class. Keeping in mind the supremacy of Vedas and Hindus, he opposed Islam and Christianity and advocated for Suddhi movement to reconvert the other sects to Hindu order. Dayanand expressed political ideas too when described theory of state, forms of Governments, three- cameral legislation, functions of Government, rule of Law etc.


KEYWORDS : Dayanand Saraswati, Brahmo Samaj, Swaraj, Arya Samaj, idol worship, gurukulas, purdahs, Vedic religion



  • To map the basic contour of the early nationalist response.
  • To analyze the socio-political thought of Dayananda Saraswati. To assess the early nationalist response




Swami Dayanand was a great educationist, social reformer and also a cultural nationalist. He was a great soldier of light, a warrior in God’s world, a sculptor of men and institution. Dayananda Saraswati’s greatest contribution was the foundation of Arya Samaj which brought a revolution in the field of education and religion. Swami Dayananda Saraswati is one the most important reformers and spiritual forces India has known in recent times. The dominant personality of Dayananda Saraswati had found extraordinary reflection in the virility of the Arya Samaj movement, and in almost every one of its adherents. The contribution of Arya Samaj in the field of education is commendable.


According to Dr. S. Radhakrishna,


“among the markers of modern India who had played an important role in the spiritual uplift of people and kindled the fire of patriotism, in me, among them Swami Dayananda has occupied the chief place.”




Dayanand was born in an orthodox Brahman family at Tankara in the Morvi state in Kathiawar in 1824 to Karsamji Tiwari who served as a priest in a Shiva temple. The childhood name of Dayanand was Mulasankar. Under the loving care of his father Dayananda had acquired proficiency in Veda, Sanskrit grammar and Sanskrit language from childhood. Like Gautama became Buddha after witnessing four ordinary scenes of life, Dayanand’s life style changed after a single incident. When he was fourteen years of age he kept fast on the Shivaratri day with the other members of the family. At night other members of the family after worshipping Shiva began to sleep but Mulaji remained vigilant. He saw a rat eating the offering made to Shiva by the Devotees. This incident led him to think that the idol of Shiva could not be real God. When the idol could not protect the offering made to it, it could never protect the whole world. He became convinced about the futility of idol worship. This experience aroused his conscience and Dayananda became a staunch crusader against the vices of Hinduism.


His father tried to involve him in family life through marriage with a view to put restriction on his independent mind. Dayananda was not willing to enter into the bondage of family life therefore he fled from his home and reached Mathura.


In 1861, at Mathura, Dayananda came in contact with Swami Brijananda. This contact is decisive point in his career. He became his disciple and studied the ancient religious literature, various mythological books and Sanskrit grammar text. The philosophical foundation of Dayananda took concrete shape at Mathura. He got knowledge and realization. Mulasankara became Dayananda Sarswati and by the instruction of his guru Vrijananda dedicated himself to spread the message of Veda and to fight against the conservative Hindu religion and wrong traditions.


Dayananda though had contact with Brahmo Samaj; they were not prepared to accept the supremacy of the Vedas and transmigration of soul. To fulfil the mission of his life, he founded Arya Samaj at Bombay on 10th April, 1875 and passed the rest of his life in establishing Arya Samaj branches at different places.


The reformative zeal of Dayananda irritated the orthodox Hindus. Dayananda stood firm and resolute in the face of criticisms. He died of food poisoning on 30th October, 1883.




On the question of reforms in the women, Dayanand was opposed to the evil practices of child marriage and enforced widowhood, which according to him did not have the sanction of vedas. The pitiable condition of child-widows in the society, which prohibited remarriage, evoked his deepest concern. He therefore, suggested ‘nigopa’ (a non-permanent co-habitation of widow:, and widowers) and later, even widow remarriage.


For the ‘prosperity of Aryavarta’ (India), Dayanand’s world view had a crucial place for education. An education based on moral and religious foundations and meant for all the four classes of men and women, was what Dayanand wanted. The burden of this education was, according to him, to be shouldered by the king or state. He stood for compulsory education. India’s awakening he thought, hinged on this factor. He was in favour of an educational system which would emphasize on grammar; philosophy, Vedas, sciences, medicine, music and art.


The political philosophy of Dayanand Saraswati has two central ideas-somewhat contradictory to each other. The first is the idea of an ‘Enlightened Monarchy’ — a concept that he borrowed from Manusmriti-that is, a monarchy thoroughly rooted in obedience to Dharma. The second, somewhat contradictory notion is that of elective representation i.e. democracy, though, there really is no contradiction since, in the Vedas, there are references to assembly and the election of the king. Stressing the principle of election, he interprets the king as a president of the assembly. Moreover, politics, for him, was inseparable from morality and he therefore argued strongly for the guidance of political leaders by spiritual leaders.


Dayanand extended his democratic elective principle into the functionjng and organizational structure of the Arya Samaj. He further visualized a’polity which would be the embodiment of decentralization-a vast commonwealth with the village as the unit.


The following are some of the principles out of the ten important principles of the Modern India : the Interface Arya Samaj (founded in 1875), which moulded a generation of freedom fighters, especially in northern lndia:


I) The source of pure knowledge is god.

2)   The link between Vedas as guardians of true knowledge and an Arya Samajist is inseparable. He must

assimilate its contents and make it popular among the people.

3)  Ethical justifications of actions are a must.

4)   The Arya Samaj is devoted to the idea of the emancipation of the world in all its aspects. 5) Rays of

knowledge must dispel the darkness of ignorance.

6)   One must leave enough for others. Man’s well-being can only be identified with the collective

development of his fellowmen.


Political Ideas:


The political ideas of Dayananda are as under:


Swami Dayanand was an idealist in politics and he found his inspiration from the study of Vedas. His method of interpreting the Vedas was quite different from the traditional method . He started with the age-long tradition that the Vedas contain truths which are universal in their application and which can stand the test of acute reason and searching science. The Indian tradition is that even sciences like medicine, mathematics, music, astronomy, politics and economics are based on Vedas.


Theory of state:


Swami Dayanand does not make any inquiry about the origin of the state. He concentrates his attention on the discussion of the character of a fully organized state with all its organs of administration. According to him, the state stands for the realization of the highest objects of life. The objective of state is not just to look to the secular and material welfare of the citizens but to promise the four fold objects of human life, namely religion, material prosperity, enjoyment and salvation. He wanted the state to direct its activities in such a way that these may be conducive to the securing of freedom from the bondage of the world.


The form of government:


Swami Dayanand is dead against the rule by one man. In his Satyartha Prakash he says that absolute power should not be entrusted to one man. An autocratic king never allows others to be equal to him. His own personality may over shadow that of others. He declares that an autocrat is sure to be partial in order to fulfil his own selfish ends. Swami Dayanand admitted the necessity of having a president for representing the unity of the state. The right of ruling the people is to be conferred by the people themselves. Dayanand fit in his theory of republicanism with the divine right of kingship theory, which is propounded by the dharma shastras. He observes that if the persons entrusted with state affairs are men of learning they would be able to secure great power for the state.


The Three Assemblies:


Swami Dayanand states “let the three assemblies harmoniously work together, and make good laws, and let all abide by those laws. Let them all be of one mind in affairs that promote the happiness of all”.


Swami Dayanand allows autonomy to educational and religious bodies. Normally the political or legislative assembly should not interfere with the decision arrived at the educational and religious assemblies. But the legislative assembly cannot hold itself totally aloof in educational and religious matters.


Rule of law:


Swami Dayanand held the law alone as the real king. He exhorts all to remember the teaching of the Vedic text which says “verily the just law alone is the true king, yes; the just law is the true religion.” He places the law above the king in a panegyric over the impersonal law he writes


“ the law alone is the true governor that maintains order among the people. The law alone is their protector. The law keeps awake whilst all the people are fast asleep, the wise, therefore, look upon the law alone as Dharma or Right. When rightly administrated the law makes all men happy but when administrated wrongly, without due consideration as to the requirements of justice it ruins the king. Rightly administrated law promotes the practice of virtue, acquisition of wealth and secures the attainment of the heart-felt desires of his people”.


Swami Dayanand does not like to provide even a separate set of judicial courts for the trials of king and other high officers. He upholds this dictum and elaborates it by stating that while the punishment inflicted on the king should be thousand times heavier than on an ordinary person.


Functions of government:


To swami Dayanand, government is the agent of the community. It has not only to provide security against internal and external dangers, but also to promote the highest aims of human life. He admits the need of allowing the citizens to hold private property. He believes in the inequality of division of wealth but at the same time apprehends that the rich might give trouble to the government.


He also laid great emphasis on the maintenance of a strong army. He describes that there is no other way of maintaining independence of the state than the raising up of a strong defensive force within the country.


The government according to him is the guardian and protector of those who are not able to earn their livelihood either because of old age and infirmity or because they are too young to take care of themselves, swami ji clearly mentions the case of the wife and minor children of the deceased officers who are entitled to the support of the government. If, however, any of them takes to vicious life, he or she should not receive any help.


Dayanand Saraswati & Arya Samaj


On 7 April, 1875 Dayanand Saraswati formed the Arya Samaj at Bombay. It was a Hindu reforms movement, meaning “society of the nobles”. The purpose of the Samaj was to move the Hindu religion away from the fictitious beliefs. ‘Krinvan to Vishvam Aryam” was the motto of the Samaj, which means, “Make this world noble”.


The ten tenets of the Arya Samaj are as follows:


  1. God is the source of all true knowledge and all that is known through knowledge.
  2. God is existent, intelligent and blissful. He is formless, omniscient, just, merciful, unborn, endless, unchangeable, beginning-less, unequalled, the support of all, the master of all, omnipresent, immanent, un-aging, immortal, fearless, eternal and holy, and the maker of all. He alone is worthy of being worshiped.
  3. The Vedas are the scriptures of all true knowledge. It is the paramount duty of all Aryas to read, teach, and recite them and to hear them being read.
  4.   One should always be ready to accept truth and to renounce untruth
  5. All acts should be performed in accordance with Dharma that is, after deliberating what is right and wrong.
  6. The prime object of the Arya Samaj is to do good to the world, that is, to promote physical, spiritual and social good of everyone.
  7. Our conduct towards all should be guided by love, righteousness and justice.
  8. We should dispel Avidya (ignorance) and promote Vidya (knowledge).
  9. No one should be content with promoting his/her good only; on the contrary, one should look for his/her good in promoting the good of all.
  10. One should regard oneself under restriction to follow the rules of society calculated to promote the wellbeing of all, while in following the rules of individual welfare all should be free.


These 10 founding principles of the Arya Samaj was the pillar on which Maharishi Dayanad sought to reform India and asked people to go back to the Vedas and its undiluted spiritual teaching. The Samaj directs its members to condemn ritualistic practices like idol worship, pilgrimage and bathing in holy rivers, animal sacrifice, offering in temples, sponsoring priesthood etc. The Samaj also encouraged followers to question existing beliefs and rituals instead of blindly follow them.


Upliftment of women


The Arya Samaj not only sought spiritual reorganisation of the Indian psyche, it also worked towards abolishing various evil social practices. Primary among these were widow remarriage and women education. The Samaj launched programs to support widow remarriage in the 1880s. Maharishi Dayanand also underlined the importance of educating the girl child and opposed child marriage. He proclaimed that an educated man needs an educated wife for the overall benefit of the society.


Shuddhi Movement


The Shuddhi Movement was introduced by Maharishi Dayanand to bring back the individuals to Hinduism who were either voluntarily or involuntarily converted to other religions like Islam or Christianity. Shuddhi or purification was imparted to those who sought their way back to Hinduism and the Samaj did an excellent work in penetrating the various strata of society, taking back the depressed classes into the folds of Hinduism.


Educational Reforms


Maharishi Dayanand was fully convinced that the lack of knowledge was the main culprit behind the adulteration of Hinduism. He set up a number of Gurukuls to teach his followers the knowledge of the Vedas and for them to spread the knowledge further. Inspired by his beliefs, teachings and ideas, his disciples established the Dayanand Anglo Vedic College Trust and Management Society, after his death in 1883. The first DAV High School was established at Lahore on June 1, 1886 with Lala Hans Raj as its headmaster.


Religious Reforms:


Although Dayanand immortalized the Vedas, however, he opposed idol worship. He raised voice against ritualistic religious practices. Those religious performances would lead to social, economic, political and religious degeneration of India. He also rejected the ideas contained in Indian mythology.


He denounced polytheism or worship of God in different forms. He emphasized that this polytheism had brought the division in Hindu society. Putting emphasis on monotheism and to devote oneself to the formless God, he wrote in the ‘Satyartha Prakash’ —


“ …. there is only one god with all those attributes generally ascribed to him by monotheists. He is the creator first of the Vedas, then of the world, hence the Vedas are eternal as compared with the world, but non-internal as compared with God.”


Thus, Dayanand brought uncompromising revolution in the field of religion. He told that inner purity is essential for spiritual development. Religion, to a great extent, was to regulate the body, mind and spirit of a man. So, religion, truth, purity, emancipation, law, moral conduct were synonymous to him.


Opposition to Caste System and Untouchability:


Dayanand spearheaded his crusade against caste system and untouchability. He reinterpreted the system of Varna mentioned in the Veda. It was meant for occupational purpose in the society. As per the doctrines of guna, karma and swabhava, the society was divided into different varnas like the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras with their respective occupation like worship, protecting the country, carrying on trade and commerce and to serve the other three castes. This occupation were inter-changeable. He emphasized the political need of this division of society. In his words, caste is—


“a political institution made by the rulers for the common good of the society and not a natural or religious distinction. It is not a natural distinction, for the four castes were not created by God as distinct species of men; but all men are of equal nature, of the same species, and brothers”.


In a similar vein, Dayanand denounced untouchability and labelled it as inhumane and unsocial. He cited the Vedas where the practice of untouchability was not at all present.


Status of Women: Upliftment of women


The Arya Samaj not only sought spiritual reorganisation of the Indian psyche, it also worked towards abolishing various evil social practices. Primary among these were widow remarriage and women education. The Samaj launched programs to support widow remarriage in the 1880s. Maharishi Dayanand also underlined the importance of educating the girl child and opposed child marriage. He proclaimed that an educated man needs an educated wife for the overall benefit of the society Dayanand championed the cause of women. Child marriage and Purdah system were the orders of the Hindu society. Women education was restricted and widow remarriage was not allowed. Dayanand protested against all these evils. He cited the high position of women during Vedic period. So, he argued in favour of the equal rights of women with men. He explained that an illiterate woman will be a liability to her husband, children and for the whole family. He emphasized on women education and created provisions for them to read in DAV schools and colleges.


He also asserted the right of women over property He opposed child marriage and argued in favour of legislation to stop this evil practice. He also condemned polygamy and polyandry.


His reforms, gave a moral boost to the women and helped in their upliftment.




In order to understand the present, one needs to know the past. The seeds of religious fundamentalism which Dayananda sowed more than a century ago is bearing abundant fruit in contemporary India in the form of aggressive Hindutva against the religious minorities of India, especially the Muslims and Christians, as evidenced by the innumerable acts of atrocities committed against them in recent years. Thus, the true face of Dayananda, which has so far been hidden beneath the mask of his being a frontline Hindu social reformer, now emerges as that of a Hindu fundamentalist and nationalist.


The ability of Dayananda’s philosophy of religion to aliment Hindu chauvinism even after a century, once again tells us most eloquently that, ideologies rule the world, and that an ideological aggression if not resisted in time, can lead to lasting tragic consequences. Therefore, the popular conception of Dayananda as a benign Hindu social reformer is only a half-truth. The other half is that the roots of contemporary Hindu fundamentalism and militancy against the minority religions, to a great extent, lie deep in the 19th century, especially in the religious philosophy of persons like Dayananda Saraswati. Therefore, the ideological link between Dayananda and the contemporary Hindutva, is too evident to go unnoticed.