200th birth anniversary of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati (February 2023)

जहां आज मृत्यु के मात्र 1-2 वर्ष के बाद ही जीवित रह पाना असंभव है, स्वामी दयानन्द सरस्वती आज, 200 वर्षों के पश्चात, भी विशाल जनसमुदाय के अंदर चेतना बन कर जीवित हैं। These are some of the thoughts India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared on this February 12th as he kicked off the year-long celebrations commemorating the 200th birth anniversary of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati. We will take this month as an opportunity to remember and seek inspiration from the life of a philosopher, social reformer. and a true Hindu ascetic (yogi, sanyasi, vairagi): Swami Dayanand Saraswati. The assignment for this month is to highlight those aspects of his life that impress and inspire us the most.

In the mid to late 1800’s, India was going through one of the darkest periods of our history. Values and teachings of Hinduism were buried under superstitious beliefs and practices. That was also a time when India was going through significant social, economic, and political changes. Swami Dayanand Saraswati, who was born in Gujarat, India, in 1824, was deeply concerned about the state of Hindu society and worked tirelessly throughout his life to address several key issues that were prevalent during his time.

In 1875, Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj, which was a socio-religious movement aimed at reforming Hinduism. “Socio-religious” is a term that refers to the intersection of social and religious issues, or the relationship between social and religious aspects of a society.

The Arya Samaj sought to promote the reform of Hinduism and to revive the Vedic tradition, which was seen as a purer form of Hinduism. The Arya Samaj rejected many of the social practices that were prevalent at the time, such as caste discrimination, child marriage, and the practice of sati. It also emphasized the need for education and the empowerment of women.

To truly appreciate Swami ji’s contribution, you can listen to the speech given by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month. It also outlines and emphasizes how Swami ji influenced the society towards its betterment, and how we are still benefiting from his contributions. Here are a few quotes/tweets from the speech:

  • “The service of the poor, backward and downtrodden is the first yagya for the country today”
  • “The path shown by Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati instills hope in crores of people”
  • “Evils that were falsely attributed to religion, Swami Ji removed them with the light of religion itself”
  • “Swami Ji revived the light of the Vedas in society”
  • “In the Amrit Kaal, the 200th birth anniversary of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati has come as a sacred inspiration”
  • “Today the country is confidently calling for pride in our heritage”
  • “With us, the first interpretation of religion is about Kartavya”

As a part of this month’s assignment, you can focus on the specific issues Swami Dayanand Saraswati addressed: such as caste system, child marriage, women’s plight, Religious superstitions, etc. Alternatively, you can pick some of quotes from the Prime Minister’s speech and expand on its meaning. Irrespective of how you decide to present your article, please portray a picture of India in mid nineteen century and contrast it with today’s India, highlighting the impact Swami ji’s initiatives made in shaping it.

As always, I am looking forward to listening to your insights and powerful article.

Harsh Mendiratta🙏🏼

PS: you can refer to January 2022 article titled “Arya Samaj and Swami Dayanand Saraswati” https://hawan.net/?p=956.