The Gandhi-King Community

For Global Peace with Social Justice in a Sustainable Environment

Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Arya Samaj and Mahatma Gandhi

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar - Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Chairman and Director - Gandhi Cell - Runway Entertainment Limited, Mumbai

Chief Editor - Saty-Path




Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Arya Samaj and Mahatma Gandhi


 Swami Dayanand was an important Hindu religious scholar, reformer, and founder of the Arya Samaj. He was the first to give the call for Swarajya “India for Indians" in 1876, later taken up by Lokamanya Tilak. He worked towards reviving Vedic ideologies. Dayanand was born on 12 February 1824 in the town of Tankara near Morbi in the Kathiawar region of the princely state of Gujrat. When he was born, his mother Padiben didn't like the sight of him. She gave him to his father and said, “This is not my son” Since he was born under mul nakshatra, he was named ‘Moolshankar’. Mahatma Gandhi told, “In Western India we had Dayanand Saraswati. And the numerous reformist associations like the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj that have sprung up in India today are doubtless the result of Christian influence. Again, Madame Blavatsky came to India, told both Hindus and the Muslims of the evils of Western civilization and asked them to beware of becoming enamored of it.”1

Mahatma Gandhi told, “We owe respect to any cultured Indian who may arrive from India, and I would rather you gave a suitable reception from Indians representing all classes, but that can only be done if it is bereft of the religious element, and then those who are interested in the Arya Samaj teaching will have to see specially to it.”2 Swami Dayanand advocated the doctrine of karma and skepticism in dogma, and emphasized the ideals of celibacy and devotion to God. Among Maharishi Dayanand’s contributions are his promoting of the equal rights for women, such as the right to education and reading of Indian scriptures and his translation of the Vedas from Sanskrit into Hindi so that the common man might be able to read them. Mahatma Gandhi told, “Professor Parmanand, the distinguished scholar from the Anglo-Vedic College, has been in our midst now for a few weeks. He has delivered interesting discourses to crowded audiences. His mission seems to be to advance the teachings of the Arya Samaj, which is a body that has done most useful and practical work, apart from its religious doctrines. It has produced earnest patriots, a band of self-sacrificing teachers, and it has also done noble work in connection with the terrible earthquake that took place in India a few months back. The Professor who belongs to such a body of workers has a right to expect a warm welcome from Indians in South Africa. Indeed, we cannot have in our midst too many Indians of attainments and culture. The question, however, remains as to what we shall make of such men and what they will make of us. We confess that we are not yet ripe for a vigorous missionary enterprise on religious lines. The soil is hardly ready for such work. Not that each religion may not have its own exponent and custodian. The Arya Samaj does not represent any established orthodox religion of India. It takes nothing away from its credit when we mention that it is still a cult struggling for existence and catering for converts. It represents a reformation of Hinduism. We feel that Indians in South Africa are not ready to receive any doctrines of reformation. The needs of the Indians, so far as internal work is concerned, consist of education and as much of it of the right kind as can be had. We have always admitted that there is room for improvement in the Indian household. This is not to be attained without education of the hundreds of Indian youths who are almost totally neglected in this sub-continent. The best thing we venture to think that Professor Parmanand can do is to turn his attention to this phase of the question. It is a most practical and effective mode of exhibiting the strength, the purity and the usefulness of the Samaj he represents. We believe that to sufficiently educate Indian children in South Africa through paid teachers is well-nigh impossible. We want teachers of the highest qualifications, experience and culture even for primary education. We venture to present these views to Professor Parmanand and through him to the Arya Samaj and other like bodies in India, no matter of what denomination or religion, for their earnest consideration.”3

Mahatma Gandhi told, “You, Sir, belong to a band of self-sacrificing workers whom the Arya Samaj has given to India. You, in common with your fellow-workers, have given your lifetime to the cause of Religion and Education. We, therefore, feel honoured in honouring you. We hope that your brief visit to South Africa will result in the Arya Samaj deciding to send some self-sacrificing educationists to work among the Indians in South Africa. Proper education is one of the greatest wants of the Indian community in South Africa.”4 Mahatma Gandhi told, “Mr. Lajpat Rai, from the Punjab, is no less noble in mind. He is the recognized leader of the Punjab. He has been devoting his earnings and his energy to the promotion of the work of the Arya Samaj.”5 Mahatma Gandhi told, “I have studied the Gayatri. I like the words. I have also studied the book the Swamiji gave me. I have derived much benefit from its perusal. It makes me more inquisitive about the life of Swami Dayanand2. I see that the meaning given by Swami Dayanand to the Gayatri and several mantras of the Vajasaneya Upanishad is totally different from that given by the orthodox school now which meaning is correct? I do not know. I hesitate straightway to accept the revolutionary method of interpretation suggested by S. Dayanand. I would much like to learn all this through the Swamiji’s lips. I hope he will not leave before I am out, but if he does leave, will he kindly leave all the literature he can or send it from India? I should also like to know what the orthodox school has said about S. Dayanand’s teaching. Please thank the Swamiji for the handmade socks and gloves he has sent me. And get his address in India. Show the whole of this letter to the Swamiji and let me know what he says.”6

The deaths of his younger sister and his uncle from cholera caused Dayanand to ponder the meaning of life and death and he started asking questions which worried his parents. He was to be married in his early teens, as was common in nineteenth century India, but he decided marriage was not for him and in 1846 ran away from home. Mahatma Gandhi told, “Please take it that the opening ceremony which I was invited to perform has been performed this very moment. May the inmates of the temple imbibe its beauty? I hope those who come to worship here and the members and admirers of the Arya Samaj will acquire a fragrance that will endure even after this temple has come down some day. May it prosper and may its prosperity in turn ensure that of the devotees visiting it.”7

While still a young child, when his family went to a temple for overnight worship on the night of Maha Shivratri, he stayed up waiting for Lord Shiva to appear to accept the offerings made to his idol. While his family slept, Dayanand saw a mouse eating the offerings. He was utterly surprised and wondered how a God who cannot protect even his own offerings would protect humanity. He argued with his father that they should not be worshipping such a helpless God. Mahatma Gandhi told, “These three great speakers have acquired this power of eloquence not from their knowledge of English but from the love of their own language. Swami Dayanand did great service to Hindi not because he knew English but because he loved the Hindi language.”8

Mahatma Gandhi told, “I should have been here at two but I could not; kindly forgive me for that. I find myself in difficulties wherever I go. I have one or two days at my disposal and too many people to meet and too many places to see, with the result that I cannot always manage to be punctual. Nor can I deny myself to anyone. Yesterday, a subject was suggested to me for a speech, but I did not like to speak on it. It has again been suggested today. I shall, therefore, as desired, place before you what few ideas I can. We find everyone in India in a state of fear, so much so that a father and a son dare not speak frankly to each other. The reason for this, you will find, is that it has become difficult to speak the truth. One is always in doubt whether one’s words will please the other person or not. So long as this is our condition, we shall never be able to speak the truth. While this state of fear continues, we shall always remain backward and shall always be dogged by misery. From the prevalent atmosphere, it seems that the people are eager for something to be done. What is that something? Allow me to point out that we shall have to suffer whatever work we take up. In taking up any work, we must first decide on the course we want to follow and then go ahead fearlessly. We are afraid at the sight of a policeman. We feel afraid if it is but a station-master. Why this fear? It is there because we are afraid of speaking the truth. Though they are men in authority, they are in a way our servants, since their services are paid for from public revenues. Why, then, should we be afraid of those whom we have ourselves appointed? Only when people become fearless will they wipe out this charge of timidity. I would say that fear springs in a man from within, that no one puts the fear into him. If you stand by the side of a wild animal, like a tiger, utterly fearless, he will play with you; if you try to run away, he will kill you. If, for example, you run because of the barking of a dog, he will run after you, but he will play with you if you face him fearlessly. Government officers are in fact our servants. We should entertain no fear of them, though we should not behave rudely to them either. There must be courtesy even in dealing with servants. We should follow truth, and be fearless in doing so. A coward is himself afraid and fills others with fear. Such is the condition of affairs in families and communities. Where, then, shall we voice the demand for reform? Everyone who desires reform in his community only talks about the matter before others, saying: “Oh yes! There is need for such a reform, certainly. But you know what our community is like! The members would raise a storm.” To be afraid in this way and do nothing is no credit to one’s manliness. The other members of the community would not feel for our daughter as we do. I know the way caste affairs are managed; everywhere there is the same story. Parents remain in great fear for their daughters. Any reform that is necessary in this matter must be carried out. If that is not done, to what end do bodies like the Arya Samaj exist? The poet Akha has said; “Live as you will, Realize God anyhow, anyway.” We are to seek Hari1 through these activities. We cannot attain Him till we have realized the self. This country is ever in the forefront with words, but hindmost in action. This charge against our country must go, however. It was my experience in South Africa that people spoke with a profuse flow of words at meetings, declared themselves ready in their speeches even for imprisonment, but, when the testing time came, they made themselves scarce. A man is one person when Vishnu speaking and another when the time for action comes. Then, fear takes possession of his heart. Till you have driven out that fear, you will make no progress, material or spiritual. People in India will know real life only when they have shed all fear. The country has a population of three hundred million. Even if only a few of these come forward, they will give a lead to the rest. One good coin is of greater worth than millions of bad ones. With these words, I beg leave to resume my seat. I should tell you that I have yet another appointment elsewhere. Kindly give me leave, therefore, and go on with the rest of the programme.”9

Mahatma Gandhi told, “I had hoped to meet you all last week, but I went to Ahmadabad to see the Commissioner and then I had to go to Bombay to meet his superior, Mr. Carmichael. I could not, therefore, come earlier as I had hoped to. If Vallabhbhai and I have come here to Chikhodra and the neighbouring villages, where reigns the order of Dayanand Saraswati, it is not, certainly, to give you encouragement but to receive it ourselves from you, or, if I may say so, not to kindle fire in you but to receive some of that divine light from you. I am sure you will prove me right by holding out in this struggle till the very last. Dayanand Saraswati is among the foremost of the great spiritual teachers India has produced in the past. I hope that this and the surrounding villages, following as they do this great teacher, will resound with holy chants some the Vedas and also live their life as enjoined by the Vedas.”10

Mahatma Gandhi told, “I have often attended functions of this Samaj and moreover, I have recently returned from a pilgrimage to the land of the Arya Samaj. On this occasion, I should tell you frankly the views I have formed about the Arya Samaj; then, I would have attended this meeting to some purpose. I am not quite sure, but I think I said on the occasion of the first function of the Arya Samaj2 that Swami Dayanand Saraswati can be placed among the most prominent teachers of all the modern religious sects in India. This has been my conviction and it has grown stronger with experience. I know that, very likely, my words will not be fully understood by those here since the Arya Samaj is not as strong elsewhere as it is in the Punjab in the north. But, what with the various writings, sermons and speeches which I had the opportunity of studying while in South Africa, I can tell you this truth from my own experience. I shall tell you what experience has led me to believe. I have especially observed two defects in the present Arya Samaj movement. One of them is asahishnuta; in English it is described as intolerance. I do not go to the length of saying that this is found in the Arya Samaj alone, but certain it is that the Arya Samaj has allowed itself to be carried away by the prevailing wind. Propagating religion in a spirit of intolerance defeats its own purpose. The religion so propagated cannot endure for long. It is for dharma to counteract any trend which may do even the smallest harm to the people. I have never seen any good coming out of intolerance. Propagation of religion in such spirit is only an imitation of missionaries and takes the same form as their activities; with the result that propagation comes to be the be-all and end-all of dharma. This idea of propagation obtains among Muslims and Christians and intolerance has entered the Arya Samaj because it has adopted the same method. Sir Alfred Lyall writes in the book of his that real dharma spreads so silently that the people do not even know that it does. At present the Arya Samaj is just one of the many religious sects. If it is asked how religion can spread so silently, Nature gives the answer. Look at the wonder of Nature. Think of a tree. Can you observe its growth? You find your limbs growing without your ever bothering about them. Religion spreads in just the same manner. Real dharma has no place for intolerance. The excellences of such religion we shall not find elsewhere. No other religion has succeeded in keeping away from violence, remaining immune against it, as well as Hinduism has. Hatred is alien to its very spirit. Hinduism, too, has relied on the sword and has taken to fighting, but in other religions, these things have been carried to extremes. The other defect which I observed in the Samaj is lack of restraint on the tongue. These days the tongue is in greater use than the sword and, the way it is used, the wound it inflicts is more painful than that by a sword. I have often noticed in the sermons that the Samajists exercise no control over their tongue. Let everyone realize that we can never deny the truth. Think and reflect over the temper of the rishis and munis. You will see that they preached the truth with the utmost gentleness, without ever getting excited and with the purest feelings in their hearts. Even when, sometimes, they said unpalatable things, their words had sweetness and truth in them. The Samajists would do well to give up the method of propagation which obtains among Christians. It is not worth copying. I have not said this by way of criticism, but in a friendly spirit. I have expressed my opinion and no more.”11

Mahatma Gandhi told, “The Arya Samaj activity has used the middle class to contributing to political movements. The merchants of Amritsar can alone find the balance needed. There is certainly every reason for Amritsar to find the balance. But Jullundhar, Lyallpur, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Hafizabad are all places that can afford to pay handsomely. Lahore itself has many wealthy merchants, and, but for the unfortunate fact that we have no faith in ourselves, the Punjab can certainly share with Bombay the honour of making up the deficiency. At any rate let us hope that she will.”12 Mahatma Gandhi told, “Agra enters emphatic protest against strictures made by you regarding Arya Samaj, Rishi Dayanand, Swami Shraddhanandji, Satyarth Prakash and shuddhi movement, which it trusts have been made unconsciously because of lack of full acquaintance with Arya Samaj teachings.1 Respectfully prays you to reconsider your views and remove misgivings likely to be produced. I publish the telegram, as I am sure the Agra Samaj represents a considerable body of Arya Samaj opinion. All I can say in reply is that I have not written a single word in the reference to the Samaj or Rishi Dayanand or Swami Shraddhanandji without deep consideration. It was easy enough for me to suppress my opinion. But, consistently with truth, I could not do so when it became relevant. Hindu-Muslim tension is a grim reality. Removal of it is a stern national necessity. It cannot be brought about by ignoring or suppressing facts. Truth on such occasions must be told, no matter how unpalatable it may be. But I claim no infallibility. As yet I have seen nothing to revise my views. I cannot plead ignorance. I claim to have read Satyarth Prakash. I have the privilege of knowing Shraddhanandji intimately. My writing therefore is deliberate. But if any Arya Samajist can convince me that I have erred in any single particular, I shall gladly confess my error, apologize and withdraw the erroneous statement.”13

Mahatma Gandhi told, “A storm of indignation on the part of Arya Samajists is blowing against me. I have letters and telegrams of energetic protest against my references to the Samaj, its illustrious founder, Swami Shraddhanandji and the shuddhi movement. They are from Ghaziabad, Mutan, Delhi, Sukkur, Karachi, Jagraon, Secunderabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Allahabad, etc. I omit mention of individual letters. Probably all of them expect me to publish their protests; some have specially insisted upon my doing so. They will forgive me for not complying with their desire. The majority are worded after the fashion of the telegram I reproduced last week. All resent what they regard as an attack upon the Arya Samaj, the Satyarth Prakash, Rishi Dayanand, Swami Shraddhanandji and the shuddhi movement. I am sorry to have to say that my position still remains unaltered. I have read with careful attention the argumentative correspondence received by me. Those who have attributed my statement to my ignorance have done so probably to leave me an open door for a safe retreat. Unfortunately for me, I have left no such chance for myself. I cannot plead ignorance of the Satyarth Prakash or the general teachings of the Arya Samaj. I cannot even say that I might have been prejudiced against the Arya Samaj. On the contrary, I approached it with the greatest veneration. I had, as I still have, profound regard for the personal character of Rishi Dayanand. His brahmacharya was an object of emulation for me. His fearlessness commanded my admiration. And my provincialism, if I have any in me, was flattered by the fact of the Rishi being of the same little Kathiawar as myself. But I could not help myself. The conclusion I came to was in spite of me, and I published it only when its publication became relevant. Its suppression would have been a cowardly omission on my part. Instead of becoming enraged against me for an honest expression of opinion, I appeal to them to take my criticism in good part, examine it, try to convince me and pray for me if I cannot be convinced. Two letters have challenged me to substantiate my conclusion. It is a fair challenge and I hope before long to produce from the Satyarth Prakash passages in its support. My friends will not engage me in a religious discussion with them. I shall content myself with giving them the grounds of my opinion, So far as Swami Shraddhanandji is concerned, there is no question Of substantiating my opinion. My critics will oblige me by leaving him and me to ourselves. In spite of my opinion, I shall not quarrel with the Swamiji. Mine is the criticism of a friend. As for shuddhi, the critics in their blind fury have forgotten the qualification ‘as it is understood in Christianity or to a lesser extent in Islam’. This is quite different from saying that there is no proselytism in Hinduism. Hinduism has a way all its own of shuddhi. But if the Arya Samajists differ from me, they may still allow me to retain my opinion. If they will re-read the statement, they will discover that I have said that they have a perfect right to carry on their movement if they like. Toleration is not a coinciding of views. There should be toleration of one another’s views though they may be as poles asunder. Lastly I have not said that Arya Samajists or Mussalmans do kidnap women. I have said ‘I am told’. By repeating what I was told, I have given both the parties an opportunity of repudiating the charge. Was it not better that I should publish what was being said, so that the atmosphere might be cleared? Let me point out to my Arya Samaj friends that their protests betray want of toleration. Public men and public institutions cannot afford to be thin-skinned. They must stand criticism with good grace. And now for an appeal to them. They have almost all entered their protests. I do not mind them. I assure them that I share their sorrow. It pained me when I wrote my criticism. It pains me now to know that it has hurt them. But I am not their enemy. I claim to be their friend. Time will prove my friendship. They do not want to quarrel with anybody or any faith. That is what almost all have said in their letters. Let them take to heart the tribute I have paid to the Samaj, its founder and to Swami Shraddhanandji. I know the purifying work that the Arya Samaj has done. I know that it has laid its finger on many abuses that have soiled Hinduism. But no one can live on his capital. I want them to outlive the latter and extend the spirit of their reform. In spite of their denial, I repeat that their shuddhi propaganda savours of the Christian propaganda. I would like them to rise higher. If they will insist upon reform from within, it will tax all their energy and take up all their time. Let them Hinduism the Hindu if they believe with me that Arya Samaj is a part of Hinduism. If they consider it as distinct from Hinduism, I fear it will be a hard task for them to convert the Hindus. Let them ascertain where they stand. I have criticized because I want them to help the great national and religious movement that is now going on. The Samaj has a great future if it can outgrow what has appeared to me its narrowness. If the Samajists think there is no room for expansion, I shall feel sorry. I ask them, in that case, not to be irritated because I cannot see their liberalism. They should charitably overlook my blindness and patiently endeavour to remove it.”14

Mahatma Gandhi told, “Every Hindu should have nothing but respect for Rishi Dayanand’s life. Satyartha Prakash is disappointing but it is better not to search and find out why it is so. We should exalt the virtues of great men. We may take note of their imperfections, if any, but a devotee should not probe into their causes. I have deliberately decided not to give extracts from Satyartha Prakash. The person for whose sake I wished to give the extracts has already called on me. I showed him the extracts. If, further, I were to give the extracts in Navajivan, this great man would be maligned, and his virtues lost sight of and a controversy might start; hence I decided not to give them. I find the use of the word ‘Arya’ artificial. Whatever may be the origin of the word ‘Hindu’, it carries naturally that meaning which is forced into any other word.”15 He was against what he considered to be the corruption of the true and pure faith in his own country. Unlike many other reform movements of his times within Hinduism, the Arya Samaj's appeal was addressed not only to the educated few in India, but to the world as a whole as evidenced in the sixth principal of the Arya Samaj. In fact his teachings professed universalism for the all living beings and not for any particular sect, faith, community or nation.

Mahatma Gandhi told, “My remarks about the Arya Samaj and its great author and my references to him hurt him deeply; but our friendship was strong enough to bear the strain. He could not understand that it was possible to reconcile my general estimate of the Maharshi with the quality of forgiveness that he had in a boundless measure for personal injury. His devotion to the Maharshi was too great to brook any criticism of him or his teachings.”16 Mahatma Gandhi told, “We khadi workers make our collections in handkerchiefs, yours you would do in buckets. . . . If I have criticized the Arya Samaj, I am also anxious to give my tribute of praise for its work. And those who give hearty praise have a right to criticize too. Of all religious and political bodies that have come into being of late years the Arya Samaj has made probably the greatest contribution to bridge the gulf between the classes and the masses that had been widening ever since the advent of the British in India. No institution is perfect, and I could, if I would, point out some of the defects of the Gurukul. But there is no questioning the fact that it has rendered substantial service to the country. Whenever I see a Punjabi youth capable of reading and writing Devanagari, I immediately conclude that he must have had his training in one of the Gurukuls. They have done more than any other institutions in these parts to revivify Sanskrit learning and Aryan culture.”17

Mahatma Gandhi told, “I have stated my differences with the Arya Samaj and its doctrines. They abide. I have my differences about the conduct of Gurukul. But I am not blind to the services of the Arya Samaj and the necessity of Gurukuls. They have revivified religion, if they have also limited its growth. Every reform has that tendency in it. The wise sift the good from the bad and conserve what is good. The Gurukuls has much in it to conserve and those who would want it to be better than it is have but to prove their friendliness before they seek to introduce changes for its betterment. I have therefore no hesitation in identifying myself with the appeal for funds. There should be no delay or difficulty in making up the modest sum required.”18 Mahatma Gandhi told, “The Arya Samaj has accepted the service of Antyajas as their special field of work; it is, therefore, not at all surprising that this good doctor felt very happy in serving them. The workers in Wadhwan deserve commendation for giving priority to Antyajas. As for Lala Mathurdas, what commendation can I offer him? The account given in the following letter proves that the satisfaction he felt in serving others is his best reward.”19

Dayanand mission was not to start or set up any new religion but to tell the humankind for Universal Brotherhood through nobility as spelt out in Vedas. For that mission he founded Arya Samaj enunciating the Ten Universal Principles as a code for Universalism Krinvanto Vishwaryam meaning the whole world be an abode for Aryas. His next step was to take up the difficult task of reforming Hinduism with dedication despite multiple repeated attempts on his personal life. He traveled the country challenging religious scholars and priests to discussions and won repeatedly on the strength of his arguments based on his knowledge of Sanskrit and Vedas. He believed that Hinduism had been corrupted by divergence from the founding principles of the Vedas and that Hindus had been misled by the priesthood for the priests' self-aggrandizement. Hindu priests discouraged the laity from reading Vedic scriptures and encouraged rituals, such as bathing in the Ganga River and feeding of priests on anniversaries, which Dayanand pronounced as superstition or self-serving practices. By exhorting the nation to reject such superstitious notions, his aim was to educate the nation to go back to the Vedas. He wanted the people who followed Hinduism to go back to its roots and to follow the Vedic life, which he pointed out. He exhorted the Hindu nation to accept social reforms like the abolition of untouchability, Sati and Dowry Education of women, Swadeshi and importance of Cows for national prosperity as well as the adoption of Hindi as the national language for national integration. Through his daily life and practice of yoga and asanas, teachings, preachings, sermons and writings, he inspired the Hindu nation to aspire to Swarajya, nationalism, and spiritualism. He advocated the equal rights and respects to women and advocated the education of a girl child like the males.

Dayanand’s Vedic message was to emphasize respect and reverence for other human beings, supported by the Vedic notion of the divine nature of the individual divine because the body was the temple where the human essence had the possibility to interface with the creator. he enshrined the idea that "All actions should be performed with the prime objective of benefiting mankind", as opposed to following dogmatic rituals or revering idols and symbols. The first five principles speak of Truth and the other five of a society with nobility, civics, co living and disciplined life. In his own life, he interpreted moksha to be a lower calling than the calling to emancipate others. Mahatma Gandhi told, “It can be claimed that the Arya Samaj has made superhuman efforts in this director But those attempts are like a drop in the ocean so far as India is concerned. It is only when even mightier efforts are made that we shall be able to find the lost key to our ancient civilization.”20

Mahatma Gandhi told, “I go about calling myself a Sanatani Hindu. That nevertheless you regard me as an Arya Samajist only shows your generosity. Your love fills me with joy. I have great regard for the Arya Samaj. What is controversial in the Arya Samaj will be forgotten in the course of time, but its services and those of Rishi Dayanand to Hindu society will be ever remembered. The Rishi proclaimed to Hindu society the mantra of brahmacharya, insisted on spread of Hindu culture and underlined the importance of the study of the Vedas. This service of the Rishi cannot be forgotten. To be sure I don’t think much of his talk about Hinduism and the Arya Samaj being separate entities. In my opinion the Arya Samaj is a branch of Hinduism and every Arya Samajist is a Hindu. I will only say to the Arya Samajists: cultivate all the virtues that you claim for yourselves; practice them in your lives wherever you happen to be.”21 Mahatma Gandhi told, “The Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha deserve to be congratulated on the service they render to the Antyajas. I do whatever little I can wherever possible. I must admit, however, that because of differences in the manner in which the work is being done, very often I cannot offer my services. I do not crave to have a hand in all that is being done; I do not even have the capacity to participate in everything. I am aware of my own limitations, and I consider myself fortunate in doing whatever I can while keeping within these limits.”22

Arya Samaj allows and encourages converts to Hinduism. Dayanand’s concept of dharma is stated in the "Beliefs and Disbeliefs" section of Satyartha Prakash. Mahatma Gandhi told, “I cannot imagine a more effective means of honouring the memory of the great Swami Dayanand than by every Arya Samajist devoting his best energies to the cause of the Harijans during this wave of reform.”23 Impressed upon Mahatmaji that it was essential to counteract the propaganda started by the so-called sanatanist against the work of the removal of untouchability. There was no mention or sanction of so-called untouchability in the Vedas and other ancient scriptures of the Hindus. The criteria to determine the Chandalas, etc., as prescribed in Manu and other Smritis were in no way applicable to the present so-called ‘untouchables’, and Arya Samaj following in the footsteps of Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati had been propagating the message of equality among all human beings. In accordance with the mission of Maharshi Dayanand, Arya Samaj was doing the work of removal of untouchability for long, and with more vigour after the epic fast. The deputation showed its readiness to help the Guruvayur cause, and thanked Mahatmaji for fulfilling the mission of Swami Dayanand Saraswati.

Mahatma Gandhi told, “I was pained to see the published report of our interview1. I do not carry a copy of the Satyarthaprakash with me. I only said that there were several copies of it in the Ashram library. I did not ask for the books, but Mahadev did. When you offered your help to the temple-entry movement, I advised you not to interfere with it and you also accepted my advice. But the report suggests that I desired your help. The cause will suffer through such misrepresentations. I, therefore, consider it necessary that for the sake of truth and the cause you should immediately publish a correction to the report. I should like you to publish it as soon as you can. A false report can never help a cause, and it cannot but harm dharma. A correction, therefore, is desirable from every point of view.”24 Mahatma Gandhi told, “As to the third question, what I have said above makes it clear that the admission of Harijans to the Arya Samaj does not solve the difficulty. The hearts of millions of non-Arya Samajists will not be touched by the Harijans’ acceptance of the Arya Samaj. It is the ‘superior’ Hindu heart that has to melt. It is the whole of Hinduism that has to be purified and purged. What I am aiming at, what I hope the Servants of Untouchables Society is aiming at, is the greatest reform of the age. That it may take time to achieve it, does not much matter. The reform is assured, if there are reformers enough who will not be baffled by any difficulty and will not lower the flag on any account whatsoever. They will not, if the conviction has gone home that for Hinduism to live, untouchability has got to go.”25

Mahatma Gandhi told, “I agree that the Arya Samaj represents a type of militant Hinduism, but they never believed in the cult of the sword. The worst thing they are capable of is to ask you to become a Hindu if you went and spoke on their platform! G. I have never heard of the talk of Christianity being blotted out of India. The Arya Samaj is a community that asks its followers to go to the ends of the earth to preach Arya Dharma, but they have not yet done so. It has a firm foothold in the Punjab. Arya supremacy in the sense you dread is an inconceivable thing. The Hindus are really not the major community if you put the rest together. But why should I prolong the discussion? It is not a practical proposition at all.”26 Om is considered by the Arya Samaj to be the highest and most proper name of God.

Mahatma Gandhi told, “Shri Dharma Dev Shastri of Kanya Gurukul, Dehra Dun, and then Acharya Dev Sharma Abhaya of Gurukul Kangri have written to me to say that my reference in my article “Filth in Literature”1 to my daughter-in-law, who is studying in the Kanya Gurukul and who wrote to me about the filth she found in certain text-books prescribed for her examination, has been interpreted in some quarters to mean that the Arya Samaj authorities countenance such literature. Both the friends repudiate the suggestion in emphatic terms. Acharya Dev Sharma Abhaya tells me that the Gurukul authorities were so meticulous about the matter that even for the works of classical poets like Kalidas they insisted on expurgated editions being printed before they would allow their students to study even a celebrated classic like Shakuntala. What has, however, happened is that, of late, they have allowed their students to prepare for Sahitya Sammelan examinations which tolerate books containing unclean literature? I understand that the Gurukul authorities have brought the matter to the notice of the Sammelan management and asked them to withdraw the text-books which contain objectionable references. I hope that they will not rest satisfied till they have succeeded in their battle against unclean literature forming part of students’ text-books.”27

Mahatma Gandhi told, “I have to ask you to prolong your suspension if only for the simple and decisive reason that two bodies are offering civil disobedience for purposes wholly different from yours, however worthy their purpose may be. The Arya Samaj civil disobedience is purely religious in the sense that it is being offered for the vindication of the exercise of their religion. The Hindu Mahasabha is, I suppose, supporting the Arya Samaj. And, therefore, the struggle has assumed a communal colour. If you resume civil disobedience, it will be very difficult for you to retain your nationalistic character. You will expose yourselves to needless suspicion. Your methods too may not be identical with theirs. You will create an embarrassing situation without advancing your cause.”28

Mahatma Gandhi told, “It was a happy ending1 to the Arya Satyagraha. I have hitherto not written a word about this struggle. The matter seemed too delicate for public treatment by me. The country knows that I have a special way of dealing with things public or private. Some even call it quixotic. Thus my public silence over the Arya Satyagraha did not mean that I was not deeply interested in the struggle. I was keeping myself in touch2 with both the Arya Samaj leaders and the Muslim friends who could have anything to do with Hyderabad affairs. Of course I was acting in concert with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. My sympathies were with the Aryas so far as their demands were concerned. They seemed to me to be so simple and so elementary. But I was averse to their Satyagraha from my own standpoint which I had explained to them. I was, however, nonplussed when they suggested that it was no worse if it was no better than the Satyagraha I had led. They must not be expected, they added, to appreciate and follow my new method or requirements. I saw that I had no right to put any pressure upon them beyond that of reason. Then I was anxious not to embarrass H. E. H. the Nizam’s Government as long as I could help it. It is, therefore, a matter of great joy to me personally that the Arya struggle has ended in a friendly manner. Both the Nizam Government and the Arya Samaj deserve congratulations. Let me hope that the dignified statement issued by Shri Ghanshyam singh Gupta will receive from the Aryas the response it deserves. There is no doubt that much bitterness has been engendered during the struggle. If the Aryas act in the spirit of Shri Gupta’s appeal and the Nizam’s Government in the spirit of their own communiqué, the bitterness will die out and there never will be any occasion for resumption of the struggle so far as simple religious and cultural freedom is concerned.”29 Dayanand was subjected to many unsuccessful attempts on his life because of his efforts to reform the Hindu society such as killing dangerous snakes worshiped in temples across India. In 1883 Dayanand was invited by the Maharaja of Jodhpur to stay at his palace. The Maharaja was eager to become his disciple and learn his teachings. One day Dayanand went to the Maharaja's rest room and saw him with a dance girl named Nanhi Jan. Dayanand boldly asked the Maharaja to forsake the girl and all unethical acts and follow dharma like a true Aryan. Dayanand’s suggestion offended the dance girl and she decided to take revenge. She bribed Dayanand’s cook to poison him. At bedtime, the cook brought him a glass of milk containing poison and powdered glass. Dayanand drank the milk and went to sleep only to wake up later with a burning sensation. He immediately realized that he had been poisoned and attempted to purge his digestive system of the poisonous substance, but it was too late. The poison had already entered his bloodstream. Dayanand was bedridden and suffered excruciating pain. Many doctors came to treat him but all was in vain. His body was covered all over with large bleeding sores. On seeing Dayanand’s suffering the cook was overcome with unbearable guilt and remorse. He confessed his crime to Dayanand. On his deathbed, Dayanand forgave him and gave him a bag of money and told him to flee the kingdom lest he be found out and executed by the Maharaja's men.



  1. VOL. 4 : 23 MAY, 1904 - 4 NOVEMBER, 1905 246
  2. LETTER TO MAGHRAJ & MOODLEY; July 21, 1905
  3. Indian Opinion, 26-8-1905
  5. VOL. 5 : 6 NOVEMBER, 1905 - 3 NOVEMBER, 1906 5
  6. VOL. 9 : 23 JULY, 1908 - 4 AUGUST, 1909 319
  7. Gujarat Mitra ane Gujarat Darpan, 9-1-1916
  8. VOL. 16 : 1 SEPTEMBER, 1917 - 23 APRIL, 1918 72
  9. Gujarat Mitra ane Gujarat Darpan, 9-1-1916
  10. SPEECH AT CHIKHODRA; April 17, 1918
  11. Gujarati, 25-1-1920
  12. VOL. 23 : 6 APRIL, 1921 - 21 JULY, 1921 238
  13. VOL. 28 : 22 MAY, 1924 - 15AUGUST, 1924 89
  14. Young India, 12-6-1924
  15. VOL. 37 : 11 NOVEMBER, 1926 - 1 JANUARY, 1927 46
  16. VOL. 38 : 2 JANUARY, 1927 - 3 JUNE, 1927 15
  17. Young India, 31-3-1927
  18. Young India, 24-3-1927
  19. VOL. 39 : 4 JUNE, 1927 - 1 SEPTEMBER, 1927 117
  20. Navajivan, 21-10-1928
  21. Hindi Navajivan, 4-4-1929
  22. Navajivan, 28-7-1929
  23. The Hindu, 31-10-1932
  24. Mahadevbhaini Diary, Vol. II, pp. 355
  25. Harijan, 12-8-1933
  26. Harijan, 13-3-1937
  27. VOL. 74 : 9 SEPTEMBER, 1938 - 29 JANUARY, 1939 191
  28. Harijan, 18-2-1939
  29. VOL. 76 : 31 MAY, 1939 - 15 OCTOBER, 1939 232




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