Swami ji was born in Tankara, Gujarat in 1824 in a devoted Shivaaite family. His childhood name was Mool Shankar. At a young age of fourteen or fifteen, an incident known to all, took place in the temple when he was asked by his father to fast. He found that the idol of Lord Shiva was defenseless against rodents. An intense desire arose in his heart to look for real Shiva, real God. He left home, and was wondering all over the nation for many years. He met many different people, personalities and faces, only to find that none of these people could satisfy his curiosity. Finally, in 1860, he reached Mathura. For about two and a half years, he was a student of the blind sage, Swami Virjanand Ji. He studied vyakaran (grammar), including nirukt and other scriptures. Few incidences need be mentioned. One is: In his initil arrival there, when he knocked the door of Virjanand Ji's small hut, Virjanand Ji asked him "who are you" and Swami Ji replied, "this is exactly what I have come here for to find out." Swami Virjanand Ji asked Dayanand Ji, "what have you learned so far", and Swami Ji narrated all that he had learned. Upon hearing this, Virjanand ji asked his student to throw all of his books away into River Yamuna and start fresh on a clean slate. This is exactly what he did. During his stay with Virjanand Ji, since his guru was blind, occasionally he was irritable and used to beat him up. The story goes that upon one of these beatings, Swami Ji asked his guru, "I hope you are not getting hurt by beating me". And he actually massaged his hands and feet. This made Virjanand Ji feel very bad, and never beat him up again. In another incidence, while he was departing from Virjanand Ji at the end of his learning, he acquired a bowel of cloves from somewhere and wanted to give that as a gift of appreciation to Virjanand Ji. Virjanand Ji said, "This is not what I need. The nation and this world need a commitment of lifetime service from you." Swami Ji made a promise to his guru, and did follow through. Swami Ji toured the nation and met leaders of different religious groups – including Hindus, Christians and Muslims. He was committed and fearless. No one could intimidate or bribe him nor could any one take away his resolve to reform the society. His pakhand khandani pataka in the Haridwaar mela is known to all. Kashi Shastrarth and Delhi Darbaar were two other well-known incidences and meetings. In the April of 1875, he established the first Arya Samaj in Mumbai, followed by establishment of Arya Samaj in Lahore. The three famous books he wrote were Rigvedadi Bhashya Bhoomika, Satyarth Prakash, and Sanskaar Vidhi. His final fateful journey was to Jodhpur, where he was poisoned since he challenged the local ruler about his character and relationship with a prostitute. This level of morality by a ruler was unacceptable to Swami Ji. When swami ji found out that it was the cook Jagannaath who had mixed poison in his milk, he gave him money so that he could run away to Nepal and save his life from punishment by the ruler for his crime. Look at the greatness of our Swami ji.? It is quite sad that even such a great soul could not escape maliciousness and mistreatment in his final moments. Through bad treatments in the hands of cruel individuals, the day finally came when he sat down in the lotus position, on the evening of Deepawali, October 31, 1883, in Ajmer, Rajasthan, and allowed his soul to peacefully depart on its onward journey. All those who were present at that time were intensely moved; special among those was Gurudatt Vidyaarthi, who was sent as one to serve Swami Ji by the committee of Arya Samaj Lahore. The scene of total peace on the face of Swami Ji, when he should have been in complete pain, transformed Gurudhath Vidyaarthi to follow Swami Ji directions and he devoted rest of his life in moving the Arya Samaj in the forward direction. A poet once said:
Gine jaye mumkin hai sehrah ke zare
Samudra ki katare, falakh se sitare
Magar e dayaanand Swami aasanh tere
Gine jaye namumkin hein tere sare ke sare
Most of what can be said in this short presentation has already been said about guru Virjanad Ji when it relates to Swami Ji and his interaction with him. The most obvious attributes of his life was that he was blind yet still very bright, and that the guru of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, he was just skin and bones. He was born in 1778 in a village near Jallandhar in a Brahmin family. He became blind at the age of 5 yrs. due to small pox. His parents died at the age of 12. Since his brother did not treat him well, he left home and traveled and lived in different places in different capacities till he finally settled in Mathura. He died in 1868 at the age of 90.
He was born in 1854, in Talwan, district Jallandhar. His childhood name was Munshiraam. Since most of his education was in Kashi and Benares, he was a staunch believer in idol worship and of course Puranik. He used to go to Vishva-nath Shiva Temple on a daily basis before any meal of the day. An incidence happened when the queen of Rivaa went to visit the temple; no one else was allowed to go. He thought what kind of God is there where the access is denied. You can almost compare this incident to how Swami Ji reacted to when he noted that God was defenseless on the night of Shivaratri. Munshiraam's early life was full of luxury as his father was on the good side of British rulers and was in the police force. Something made his father send Munshiraam to a speech by Swami ji when he came to Bareli in 1879. This completely transformed Munshiraam Ji. He gave up all his bad habits and became a stanch disciple of Swami Ji. In 1881, Munshiraam Ji came to Lahore to study law and met leaders of various religious groups including Brahmasamaj. However he was not fully satisfied until he met the local leaders of arya samaj. He read Satyaarth Prakash multiple times. He was a coworker, co-attendee and co-leader of the Arya Samaj with Mahatma Hansraaj ji, Pundit Lekhraam, and Gurudatt Vidhyaarthi. Munshiraam Ji practiced law in Jallandhar. He also became the chief of Arya Samaj of Jallandhar, where he held satsangs, gave lectures, and was involved in shaastraarth, or dialogues. He was fearless and did not hesitate to make his point clear.
A thought came to his mind about establishing a Gurukul system of education and bring Vedic learning to its original glory. He got this approved by Arya Pratinidhi Sabha Punjab. He took a vow that unless he had collected a certain amount of money, he would not come back in his hometown and in a short time he was successful in his resolve. In 1902, the construction of this gurukul was started in Kaangaadi village near Haridwaar. This small institution eventually was granted a full university status in 1962 by university grant commission. Somewhere along the line, the British got suspicious of this seat of learning and since Mahatma Munshiraam Ji wanted no harm done to this institution he invited the Viceroy and Governor and made them aware of the truth that this was simply an institution of learning and had no politics intertwined in the system. Somewhere along the line, Munshiraam Ji took sanyaas and became Swami Shradhaanand Ji. When Gandhi Ji was touring India after his service in South Africa, he went to visit Swami Shradhaanand Ji. Swami Ji greeted Gandhi Ji, and said "Mahatma, please sit down." Upon hearing this, Swami Ji was told by Gandhi Ji that "I am not the real Mahatma; you are."
While leading a march in Delhi, on March 30, 1919, in Chaandani Chowk, the police were fully armed, pointed guns at Shradhaanand Ji, with the intention of shooting. But the commitment and glow on his face and fearless voice was so intense, that the police had no courage to fire at him. After Jaliyaa Walaa Bhaag massacre, he was the first one who was able to arrange public meetings in such a difficult atmosphere. He wanted freedom for India, but without any division. A talk of divisiveness such as in the lecture by Maulana Mohammed Ali was very painful and unacceptable to him. He wanted doors of Hindu Dharma wide open for reconversion back to Hindu dharma. Upliftment of so-called untouchables was one of his priorities. All of these resolves and actions or swami ji turned hard core Muslims against him. It must be noted that he was the only Hindu ever to recite Veda mantras in the beginning of his lecture in Jaama Mazjid and ending the talk with 'Om Shanti Shanti Shanti". While he was ill, he was killed on December 23, 1926 by a Muslim extremist. This day is commemorated in Delhi and other parts of the nations and world as Swami Shradhaanand Balidaan Divas.
Swami Shradhaanand had two sons and since he wanted to give a clear message that he had full faith in the newly established Gurukul Kaangadi, he admitted both his sons, Pundit Harishchandra Ji and younger son Professor Indra Vachaspathi, to the gurukul. Indra was born on When Indra was only two years old, his mother died. Professor Indra Vidhya Vachaspathi was the administrator in charge of gurukul in 1917 and managed the institution until 1960. He was married and had a son. He participated in the freedom movement and was imprisoned a few times. He wrote extensively, lectured greatly, and had an intense command on Sanskrit and at one point the Muslim League wanted to confiscate the Satyaartth Prakash. Professor Indra Vidhya Vachaspathi was one of the only people who successfully opposed that and was also a member of Rajya Sabha. He remained active until his death on the 22nd of August, 1960.
He was born in Mandvi – a town – in the province of Kaccha, Gujarat in a Vaishya family in 1857. He moved to Mumbai and was admitted to Wilson High School. Despite his admission he continued to study Sanskrit privately. Although his family was not rich, his drive was recognized as by a rich man who eventually became his father-in-law in 1875. This is the same year the first Arya Samaj was established in Mumbai. Later that year, Swami ji met Shyam ji and recognized his extraordinary capabilities. Swami ji asked Shyam ji to continue and intense study of Sanskrit. Shyam ji helped in the publication of the translation of the Vedas. In 1879, Shyam ji went to England to study law. He was regularly in touch – through letters – with Swami ji. After coming back to India, he – once again – returned to England in 1897. He was very active while living in England in fighting for self-rule. There, he established what became known as the "India House" – where young freedom fighters, such as Lala Hardayal, Champak Raman Pillai, Madame Kama, Sardar Singh Rana, and Veer Savarkar came in his contact and became his followers. He met Nehru ji while in Switzerland, and on May 31, 1930 he passed away in Switzerland. He strongly believed that the oppression of the Indian peoples is to be opposed. Despite having spent most of his life outside of India, he could give lectures in Sanskrit fluently, and he had a full command on "ashtadhyayee."
He was one of the most committed souls in Arya Samaj history. He was born in 1858 in a small village known as Sayyadpur district Jhelam. His father was Mehta Tara Singh – a Brahman. His childhood learning was in Farsi and Urdu – which were the two main languages at that time. He became a sergeant in the police force. However, he was far more interested in religion and spirituality. He studied the Gita regularly. His superior, a Muslim inspector of police, was quite upset with him and told him that he could not work for his religion while serving in the government. Instead of stopping the religious work, he submitted his resignation, which showed his commitment towards his mission. Somehwere along the line, he studied the teachings of Munshi Kanhaiya Lal Alakhdhari, whose ideas changed his thoughts. This was followed by his coming across the teachings of Swami Dayanand Saraswati. He established an Arya Samaj in Peshawar. He got the desire to learn more about Vedic dharma, and so he went to meet Swami ji while in Ajmer. All of Lekha Ram ji's curiosities were satisfied by Swami ji. From this point onward, he was constantly doing Veda prachaar, publishing, lecturing, touring the different parts of North India. He was so committed that he felt obliged to resign from his government job and make the spreading of the Vedic message his full priority. He did a lot of work in reconverting people who had either already converted to Islam or those who were intending to convert. After the departure of Swami ji in 1883, Arya Pratinidhi Sabha Punjab decided to collect all of Swami ji's literature and various proofs about Swami ji's life. This work took place under the leadership of none other than Pandit Lekha Ram ji. He traveled and interviewed anyone who had had any extensive interaction with Swami ji. Since he died at an early age in 1897, his work was not completed, and the chief of Arya Pratinidhi Sabha Punjab asked Pandit Atma Ram Amritsari to complete the biographical book about Swami ji. He had gotten married at the age of thirty-five, and he had a son. One day when he came home, his wife told him that his son was very sick and needed to be seen by a doctor. Pandit Ji told his wife that he was hungry, and he wanted to eat dinner before getting the doctor. While having dinner, he received a message that there was a large group of people who were going to be converting to Islam that evening. He left for that place in the middle of his dinner and prevented the conversion of that group. While there, he got a telegram that his only son had died. One of the chief qualities of Pandit Lekha Ram was that wherever he was needed, he went without caring about his own physical well being. He lectured, toured, and wrote extensively. There was one incidence that I would like to mention. He came to know that one Hindu was converting to another religion in a village near Patiala. He ran and jumped onto a moving train to get to that village. When that village was approaching and the train did not stop, he jumped out of the moving train. Despite his injuries, he pressed forward and achieved his goal of saving the Hindu man from converting. One day a fanatic stabbed him with a dagger, causing him to bleed. He was taken to the hospital but he did not survive. He died on the night of March 6, 1897. We bow down to this devoted human being who gave his life for the well-being and upliftment of humanity at large.
There were two camps in Arya Samaj. One believed in pure gurukul education while the other one believed in the integration of Vedic principles and practices along with modern day teachings. Swami Shraddhananda ji belong to the gurukul camp, and Mahatma Hans Raj belonged to the "modern" camp. Mahatma Hans Raj ji was responsible for stating what we have today as the largest educational system – second only to India's government schools – known as the DAV school system. Mahatma Hans Raj was born on April 19th, 1864 in the village Bajvada district Hoshiyarpur Punjab. His father died when Mahatma ji was twelve. His older brother – Bhai Lala Mulkh Raj – was now breadwinner of the family. His older brother gave up his education and worked in the post office, earning a small salary of just 60 rupees per month. With this meager salary, he put his younger brother through high school and college. In 1877, while Swami ji was touring and lecturing in the state of Punjab, Hans Raj ji became familiar with his teachings. When Hans Raj ji was only in ninth grade, he challenged his Christian teacher when he criticized Vedic civilization. We hope and wish that Arya Samaj produces such youths who can question the inappropriate comments made about Hindu dharma by their peers and even teachers in India as well as in the rest of the world. Hans Raj ji was a contemporary of Lala Lajpat Rai and Pandit Guru Datta. Lala ji became a member of Arya Samaj Lahore and the editor in chief of the Arya Samaj newspaper. Upon the death of Swami ji in 1883, a meeting of Arya Samaj Lahore was called as a tribute to his life and legacy. It was decided that the best way to commemorate Swami ji's contribution was to set up a university where Hindi, Sanskrit, and Vedic teachings be taught along with modern education including science and English. This institution was called Dayanand Anglo Vedic College – henceforth leading to the development of the DAV school system. He worked for the development and maintenance of the DAV system without salary for his entire life. His elder brother gave him half of his meager salary, which was enough to meet his and his family's day-to-day needs. There is one story that needs to be told about his honesty. One evening, he was sitting, writing something using a quill and ink (kalam & davaat). There was another kalam & davaat on the table which were rather ugly and old. A person came and told him that such a bad writing instrument was against the prestige of a principal. He replied, "The old one is mine, so I use it for my personal work. I cannot use the college material for my personal writing." Such was the height of his character. When his son Balraj was arrested by the British, he told him that if he truly was innocent, the government would free him. Mahatma ji provided service to victims of famine and earthquakes. When he was the chair person of an Arya Samaj meeting in Delhi, he talked about the upliftment of untouchables, re-conversion to Hindu dharma, and unity among Hindus. He died at the age of 74 in 1938.
From his life, one thing becomes very obvious: you don't necessarily need a long life to make a difference in this world. Hard work and perseverance were a couple of his utmost qualities. In a short lifespan of twenty six years, what he did in the fields of acquiring knowledge, writing, uniting Hindus, and spreading Vedic knowledge is second to none. Pandit ji was born on April 26, 1864 in Multan. After finishing high school, he went to college in Lahore. He became a member of Arya Samaj Multan in 1880. When the message reached Arya Samaj Lahore in 1883 that Swami ji was critically ill, this nineteen-year-old young man was sent to serve Swami ji in Ajmer. When he saw Swami ji live his last moments on that fateful evening of Dipawali, he had tears in his eyes when he saw that this great man was leaving his body with such peace and fearlessness. He resolved – then and there – that he would continue to spread the message of Arya Samaj for the rest of his life. He became an integral part of the DAV system, traveled extensively all over Northern India to collect funds for it, lectured on Vedic dharma, did tremendous social service, taught mathematics and science without salary in the DAV college. He had a full command on both Sanskrit and English. I hope we learn by his example that these two things are not mutually exclusive and that our gurukuls teach English with as much priority and importance as Sanskrit so that the Vedic message and yoga become truly international in their real sense. He wrote extensively on the different subjects including the Vedic system, philosophy, Upanishads, and teachings of Swami ji. He tried to explain words like "mitra" and "varun," that these may mean oxygen and nitrogen and source of water and life. He did not hesitate to counter the criticisms of Christian missionaries. His lectures and teachings were well-liked almost universally. He did not care at all about his own health. He apparently became very ill with tuberculosis and died on March 19, 1890. He has studied Satyartha Prakash eighteen times. There were articles in several newspapers giving homage to the untimely death of this great soul. There is a lot to learn from his life and even if we follow his ideals just a little bit, vedic dharma will flourish and world will be a better place.
He was a true nationalist and gave his life for the nation. He was born in a vaishya family on November 28 1865. He new Urdu well and read Namaj regularly and observed Ramadan. After high school, he finished FA and Law simultaneously. At the age of 17, he became a member of Arya Samaj Lahore. Mahatma Hansraj was his classmate and coworker in Arya Samaj Lahore. When DAV system was established after the death of Swami ji, he was active in it and collected funds for it as well. He started practicing law in 1885 in Hisar and Rohtak before moving to Lahore again. He became active in national congress movement in 1888. His coworkers were Gopal Krishna Gokhale with whom he traveled to England. From there he came to USA. He actually belonged to the aggressive camp and did not agree with some of Gandhi ji's ideas of peace. When he lectured in strong words to give strength to the freedom movement, he was deported to Burma but had to be released soon because of strong public uproar against his arrest. Him and Sardar Ajit singh received a warm welcome on their release from Burma. He actively participated in famine relief and earthquake relief and saved many hindus from conversion to Christianity. He was a prominent leader in Hindu Mahasabha. A group of British individuals called Saiman commission was sent to India to assess on the political situation. He was one of the main leaders demonstrating againt their presence in India. On Lahore railway station, while leading a group of protestors, he received heavy stick blows and succumbed to it a few days later on November 17 1928. He said that each blow on his body would act the nail on the british coffin in India. He wrote extensively. Some examples are: lives of Shri Krishna, Emperor Ashok, Shivaji, Dayanand, Gurudatt Vidyarthi. He also wrote on economics, arya samaj and his own biography.
This presentation will be incomplete without a tribute to the contributions of this great soul, who is lovingly called Devata Swaroop Bhai Parmanand. His most important contribution seems to be the spread of Arya Samaj outside India, saving a large segment of people from conversion. He was born in 1876 as a descendent of Brahmin Matidas who had sacrificed his life along with Guru Tegbahadur. Guru Govind Singh ji called that family Bhai and that tradition has persisted. After graduating from DAV college, he did his post graduation in history from Calcutta. He initially served at DAV college for a meager salary of 75 Rs per month. Subsequently he left for Ved Prachar ( spread of vedic tradition). He traveled first to Africa. There he met Mahatma Gandhi and became his life long friend. From there he went to England. There he met Vir Savarkar and other freedom fighters. He traveled to France and then to USA and British Gayana and back to USA. He returned back to India in 1914. He was arrested on February 22 1915 and was given life imprisonment and sent to Andman. I have seen his name on the list of prisoners in the cellular jail there. He was released in 1920 as a general amnesty. National College was opened in Lahore with the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi and Bhai Parmanand became the principal of this college. Sardar Bhagat Singh was the product of this college as well. He was active in Hindu Mahasabha and actively participated in the upliftment of under priviledged class of society. It is ironic that he could not enjoy the national freedom for a long time and died on December 8 1947. Let us work together and keep spreading the vedic tradition in the west.