A native of Gujarat, Swami Dayanand Saraswati opposed many oppressed practices of Hindu tradition and insisted upon going back to the Vedas. He worked for abolishing several social stigmas such as child marriage and Casteism.
He not only helped society get rid of a myriad of orthodox practices, but also built the social structure for future reforms in India.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj (An Organization) on April 7, 1875 in Mumbai, with the aim to promote noble ideas, which are universally true for all mankind. The Arya Samaj advocates peaceful and progressive human living. Swami used Arya Samaj as a platform to launch his campaign against social evils that were prevalent in Hindu society at that time.
Let’s take a look below, at some major reforms introduced by him:
Most of the Indians in 19th century were poor and no health services were within their reach. Introduction of games such as Hath Pehchan (hand recognition), Chun Chunav (choices) combined the benefits of physical and mental exercise. It helped boost concentration level among children. Arya Samaj provided useful instructions on elementary rules of health and how an individual can remain hygienic.
This unique ritual known as Shuddhi was performed on those Hindus, who were converted to other religion against their will. Reconversion to Hindu religion was made possible by a purificatory ceremonial process through this ritual.
Later, followers of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, in particular, Swami Shraddhanand, worked extensively throughout North India to boast the efforts through Sangathan (consolidation) movement of Hinduism. The movement soon became popular and was carried out throughout India.
Arya Samaj worked for the cause of women education through schools by the early 1890s. In addition to that, Swami Dayanand Saraswati encouraged the remarriage of widows and raised his voice against this social stigma. The organization launched societies to support and practice such marriages. As a result, remarriage of virgin widows was accepted by most of the Punjabi Hindus in late 19th century.
Arya Samaj under the leadership of Swami Dayanand Saraswati opposed the practice of child marriage. This objective was achieved through the opening of new schools and making society aware about the benefits of education system. Can you imagine kids as young as 10-12 years getting married? Yes, that’s what happened some hundred years ago in India. It was bad.
Dayanand said that ‘an educated man needs an educated wife’. This message slowly found its roots in the society and child marriage was started to be considered as an evil.
Dayanand made his first attempt on social reforms by establishment of gurukuls or Vedic schools. These schools were highly focused on Vedic values and culture to its students. This initiative represented the first practical application of Swami’s vision of social reforms. In place of idol worship, students were introduced with the concept of Sandhya (Swadhyaya: here, student’s sitting together forming a group shares their daily thoughts) every evening. This introduced a social regeneration in terms of Vedic culture in India. Swami, through schools wanted to abolish hereditary and uplift the masses by means of education. DAV Schools were result of this reform.