Rise of Arya Samaj

Many reform movements arose in colonial India. One of them, Arya Samaj, is often characterised as a revivalist movement, which wanted to bring back glory of Vedas. Arya Samaj Movement, which played a crucial role in changing socio-economic mindset of Indians, was founded by Dayananda Saraswati. Born in Gujarat in 1824, he gained expertise over Vedic literature and Indian philosophy by living as an ascetic for many years. He organised Arya Samaj in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1875.

Swami Dayananda gave utmost importance to the Vedas, believing that they were the fountainhead of all knowledge and contained essence of Hinduism. For him, they were as important to Indians as Bible was for Christians. He preached his philosophy in journal - Satyartha Prakasha. Untouchability and casteism was not included in Vedas. Renegades were to go through process of Shuddhi and re-enter the religion. Women’s liberation and education was advocated by Swami Dayananda, while polygamy and child marriage were opposed.

Arya Samaj Movement rapidly spread to Northern India, Punjab and Gujarat. Dayananda’s teachings affected Hindus of all classes, and helped them gain self-respect and confidence. It influenced leaders like Pandit Guru Dutt, Lala Hansraj and Lala Lajpat Rai. Many Anglo-Vedic Schools were set up by Arya Samajists in India. Some scholars believe Arya Samaj propagated rise of extremism in Indian politics, although this is refuted by other historians.

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