The Arya Samaj is a reform movement and religious/social organization which was formally established in Bombay in 1875 by Swami Dayananda Saraswathi (1824-1883). He was an adamant follower, exponent, and practitioner of the Vedas--the unadulterated Truth as handed down from Guru to disciple since the beginning of time. Swami Dayananda had absolutely no craving for worldly applause and was completely unconcerned and unperturbed by the censure of the superstitious, the ignorant, and the selfish. Swami Dayanada spoke the Truth and practiced it too. In 1863 he emerged preaching against idolatry and started Sanskrit classes.
In 1872 he came into cantact with Keshub Chandra Sen, a Brahmo reformer and other Brahmo leaders.It exerted a radical change in him which led him to turn from Sanskrit to the popular language Hindi for spreading his ideals. In 1875 he went to Bombay for preaching his ideals and there he enjoyed a warm support at the hands of great social reformer Mahadev Govind Ranah in the campaign against idolatry and other evil practices. In the same year he founded Arya Samaj in Bombay.
Two years later in 1877 he shifted the head quarters of the samaj to Lahore and carried on his activities. The word Arya means a noble human being--one who is thoughtful and charitable, who thinks good thoughts and does good actions--he or she is an Arya. The universal Arya Samaj (Vishwa Arya Samaj) is a gathering of such people.
Swami Dayanada founded Arya Samaj on two basic tenets. They were
He has explained these two principles in his book Satyartha Prakash that he published in 1874 from Allahabad.He held the Vedas only as the infallible authority of Hinduism. He believed that four Vedas are words of God. They are absolutely free from error and or an authority into themselves. They do not stand in need of any other book to uphold their authority. They comprise what is known as the Samhita.However he cautioned that they might be held authoritative only in so far as they conform to the teachings of the Vedas. If there is any passage in these works opposed to Vedic injunctions it can entirely be rejected.
He held Brahman as the most higher or paramatman the supreme spirit who permeates the whole universe; who is personification of sat-chit-ananda who is omniscient, formless, all pervading, unborn, infinite almighty who creates, sustains and dissolves the universe and who awards all souls the fruit of their deeds in accordance with the requirements of absolute justice. One can attain salvation through the worship of God.
There are three elements -stuti,prarthna and upasana stuti or glorification consists in praising the attributes and powers of God with a view in fixing them in our minds and cultivating love towards God.Prarthana is praying to God for the gift of the highest knowledge and other blessings.Upasana or communion consists in conforming to the Divine spirit in purity and holiness and in feeling the presence of the Deity in our heart through the practice of Yoga which enables us to have direct cognition of God. He believed that revitalization of the Hindu religion and society could be achieved by purifying the religion and uniting Hindu society. He believed that the purification of religion could be achieved by purging the religion of its impurities like polytheism and idolatry. So he attacked these two things and advocated a monotheism worship of the formless Brahman.
For uniting the Hindus and strengthening the society Swami Dayananda also started three movements -shuddi, sanghatan and education and geared the Arya Samaj to carry on these movements unceasingly. Shuddi is a ceremony by which the Non-Hindus the fallen, the outcastes, the converts and the externals were taken into the Hindu fold. By this ceremony the Arya Samaj not only invested the depressed classes and untouchables with the sacred thread and gave them equal status with other Hindus but also reclaimed many Hindus who were formerly converted to Islam and Christianity. The word sanghatan means union. Therefore it implies in the programme of the Arya Samaj the organization of Hindus for self-defence.
The Arya Samaj declared that no Hindu should take lying down the insults hurled against his religion by the preachers of other religion. The Hindu should cultivate a militant spirit and should take up the challenge. The Arya samaj embarked upon the programme of national education for the Hindus. Swami Dayananda emphasized the need for a national education throughout his career. In every place he visited he pleaded for the establishment of Sanskrit schools and the teaching of Vedas.
Swami Dayananda desired that Hindu society emerges as a moral society. So he preached that the Hindu should observe dharma in their life. Dharma is a practice of equitable justice together with that of truthfulness in word, deed and thought and like virtues as embodied in the Vedas. He believed in the doctrines of Karma and rebirth; stressed the old ideals of brahmacharya and sanyasa insisted on the efficacy of samskars and rite of upanayana and homa upheld the sanctity of the cow, condemned animal sacrifices, ancestor worship, pilgrimages, priest-craft, untouchability and child marriage as lacking Vedic sanction. After his death the leaders of the Arya Samaj accepted his sayings and teachings as the doctrines of Samaj and tried to spread the activities of the samaj all over the country.