Dayanand Saraswati (12 February 1824 – 30 October 1883)He is well known as the founder of the Arya Samaj. He was a profound scholar of the Vedic lore and Sanskrit language. He was the first to give the call for Swarajya as "India for Indians" – in 1876, later taken up by Lokmanya Tilak.
Denouncing the idolatry and ritualistic worship prevalent in Hinduism at the time, he worked towards reviving Vedic ideologies. Subsequently the philosopher and President of India, S. Radhakrishnan, called him one of the "makers of Modern India," as did Sri Aurobindo.
Disciples who were influenced by and followed him included Madam Cama, Pandit Guru Dutt Vidyarthi, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Lala Hardayal, Madan Lal Dhingra,Ram Prasad Bismil, Bhagat Singh, Mahadev Govind Ranade Swami Shraddhanand, Mahatma Hansraj, Lala Lajpat Rai and others.
One of his most influential works is the book Satyarth Prakash, which contributed to the Indian independence movement. He was a sanyasi (ascetic) from boyhood, and a scholar, who believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas.
Among Maharshi Dayananda's contributions are his promoting of the equal rights for women, such as the right to education and reading of Indian scriptures, and his intuitive commentary on the Vedas from Vedic Sanskrit in Sanskrit as well as Hindi so that the common man might be able to read them. Dayanand was the first to give the word of Swadeshi long before Mahatma Gandhi.
Dayanand Saraswati was born on 10, February, 1824 in Tankara, near Morvi in the Kathiawad region (now Rajkot district of Gujarat). His original name was Mool Shankar. His father's name was Karshanji Lalji Tiwari and mother's name was Yashodabai.
A tax collector, his father was a rich, prosperous and influential person. He was the head of an eminent Brahmin family of the village. On the occasion of Shivratri, Dayanand had to sit awake the whole night in obedience to Lord Shiva.
One such night, he saw a mouse eating the offerings to the God and running over the idol's body. After seeing this, he questioned himself, if the God could not defend himself against a little mouse then how could he be the savior of the massive world.
The deaths of his younger sister and his uncle from cholera caused Dayananda to ponder the meaning of life and death and he started asking questions which worried his parents. He was to be married in his early teens, as was common in nineteenth-century India, but he decided marriage was not for him and in 1846 ran away from home.
Dayananda Sarasvati spent nearly twenty-five years, from 1845 to 1869, as a wandering ascetic, searching for religious truth. An ascetic is someone who gives up material goods and lives a life of self-denial, devoted to spiritual matters. He lived in jungles, in retreats in the Himalayan Mountains, and at a number of pilgrimage sites in northern India. During these years Dayananda Sarasvati practiced various forms of yoga.
Dayananda mission was not to start or set up any new religion but to tell the humankind for Universal Brotherhood through nobility as spelt out in Vedas. For that mission he founded Arya Samaj enunciating the Ten Universal Principles as a code for Universalism Krinvanto Vishwaryam meaning the whole world be an abode for Nobles (Aryas).
He traveled the country challenging religious scholars and priests to discussions and won repeatedly on the strength of his arguments based on his knowledge of Sanskrit and Vedas. He believed that Hinduism had been corrupted by divergence from the founding principles of the Vedas and that Hindus had been misled by the priesthood for the priests' self-aggrandizement. Hindu priests discouraged thelaity from reading Vedic scriptures and encouraged rituals, such as bathing in the Ganges River and feeding of priests on anniversaries, which Dayananda pronounced as superstitions or self-serving practices. By exhorting the nation to reject such superstitious notions, his aim was to educate the nation to Go back to the Vedas.
He exhorted the Hindu nation to accept social reforms like the abolition of untouchability, sati, and dowry, Education of women, Swadeshi and importance of Cows for national prosperity as well as the adoption of Hindi as the national language for national integration.
Through his daily life and practice of yoga and asanas, teachings, preachings, sermons and writings, he inspired the nation to aspire to Swarajya (self governance), nationalism, and spiritualism. He advocated the equal rights and respects to women and advocated the education of a girl child like the males.
Swami Dayanand did logical, scientific and critical analyses of all faiths i.e. Christianity & Islam as well as of other Indian faiths like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. In addition to denouncingidolatry in Hinduism, as may be seen in his book Satyarth Prakash.
He also said:"He, who after careful thinking, is ever ready to accept truth and reject falsehood; who counts the happiness of others as he does that of his own self, him I call just."
— Satyarth Prakash
Dayananda's Vedic message was to emphasize respect and reverence for other human beings, supported by the Vedic notion of the divine nature of the individual–divine because the body was the temple where the human essence (soul or "atma") had the possibility to interface with the creator ("Paramatma"). Dayananda's "back to the Vedas" message influenced many thinkers and philosophers the world over.
"A man of spirit has passed away from India. Pandit Dayananda Saraswati is gone, the irrepressible, energetic reformer, whose mighty voice and passionate eloquence for the last few years raised thousands of people in India from, lethargic, indifference and stupor into active patriotism is no more." – Col Henry Steel Olcott.
"Swami Dayananda Saraswati is certainly one of the most powerful personalities who has shaped modern India and is responsible for its moral regeneration and religious revival". – Subhas Chandra Bose.