UPSC Exam Preparation: This Day in History – Feb 12

12 February 1824

Birth of Dayananda Saraswati


What happened?

Social and religious reformer Swami Dayananda Saraswati was born on 12 February 1824 at Tankara, Gujarat.

Biography

  • Born Mul Shankar Tiwari, Dayananda was a prolific reformer of the Hindu religion.
  • He was born into a well-to-do family to a tax collector named Karshanji Tiwari and his wife Amrutbai.
  • He learnt Sanskrit and the Vedas in his childhood.
  • He started pondering over the meaning of life after his sister and uncle died. Engaged to be married in his teens, Mul Shankar decided he wanted to lead an ascetic life and ran away from home.
  • He spent 25 years as a wandering ascetic and travelled to the Himalayas and other religious places in northern India. He was seeking the truth about life, and gave up all material goods in this spiritual pursuit.
  • He also started practicing Yoga during this time. His teacher in all things spiritual was Virajanand Dandeesha.
  • Dayananda understood that Hinduism had strayed away from its roots and had become tainted. He decided that to restore the true religion, it was needed to go back to the Vedas. He promised his Guru that he would strive hard to reinstate the position of the Vedas to its rightful honoured place in the Hindu religion and way of life.
  • He preached against the giving of donations to priests. He also challenged established scholars and won debates against them through the strength of the Vedas. He was staunchly against rituals and superstitions.
  • He extolled spiritualism and nationalism, and appealed to the people to fight for Swarajya.
  • He also exhorted the importance of cows for the prosperity of the nation, and encouraged the adoption of Hindi for national integration.
  • He stressed on the importance of education of all children and preached respect and equal rights for women.
  • He founded the Arya Samaj on April 7, 1875. Through this reform movement, he stressed on One God and rejected idol worship. He also advocated against the extolled position of priests in Hinduism.
  • He also established Vedic schools for the education of girls and boys of all castes. The students of these schools were given free books, clothing, lodging and food, and were taught the Vedas and other ancient scriptures.
  • Arya Samaj was also involved in Shuddhi ceremonies to reconvert people who had converted from Hinduism to other faiths.
  • They also worked for the protection of widows and other social work like providing victims to victims of natural or manmade calamities.
  • He wrote many books. His major contribution is the Satyartha Prakash. Other books include the Sanskarvidhi, Rigved Bhashyam, etc.
  • People he inspired include Shyamji Krishna Varma, MG Ranade, VD Savarkar, Lala Hardyal, Madan Lal Dhingra, Bhagat Singh and many others. He was also admired by Swami Vivekananda, Subhash Chandra Bose, Bipin Chandra Pal, Vallabhbhai Patel, Romain Rolland, etc.
  • According to S Radhakrishnan, some reforms included in the Indian Constitution were influenced by Dayananda.
  • Dayananda was poisoned during his stay at the palace of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Jaswant Singh II. He succumbed to the injury suffered at Ajmer, where he was sent for better treatment on 26th October 1883. He was 59.
Also on this day

1742: Birth of Nana Phadnavis, statesman of the Maratha Empire during the Peshwa administration. 1794: Death of Mahadaji Shinde, Maratha ruler of Gwalior, who was instrumental in resurrecting Maratha Empire in northern India. 1871: Birth of Charles Freer Andrews, social reformer and close friend of Mahatma Gandhi.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.