A trip to Tankara, Gujarat, India came my way. I was invited to train the Vedic missionaries in the Art of Public Speaking. I accepted the invitation post haste. Tankara is the birth place of Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of the Arya Samaj. The small village, now, a township, is situated on a small meandering river named Demi. On its banks is a small temple of Lord Shiva. It was in this temple that a teenager experienced the Turning Point of his life and it eventually transformed him into a Renaissance Rishi. The event known as Bodh Parva or Night of Enlightenment brought about a religious revolution and changed the social fabric of the Indian society.
Long years ago I had traveled through the highest plateau of the world – Tibet. In the western Tibet I stood face to face with the black granite mountain jutting out from the yellowish background of sandstone hillocks. This Mount Kailash is the mythical abode of Lord Shiva and his divine consort Parvati. Unfortunately I did not see any movement or presence of Lord Shiva or Goddess Parvati on the Kailash Parvat. Possibly, they do not live there because SHIVA is the Vedic name of the Almighty and is in no way related to any individual god. Of course, many fellow travelers went ecstatic, as they said: ``we saw the Almighty – Shiva.’’ Indeed, theirs was a make believe world. Some psychologists call a phenomenon like this, hallucination of sorts. Fortunately for me, I did not suffer from a state of mind like that of the fellow travelers. I made up my mind in Tibet to go to Tankara and see for myself what the teenager Moolshankar had seen in the19th century India. Tibet to Tankara was a long haul. Nevertheless, I made it. I wanted to know how the adolescent Moolshankar was transformed into Swami Dayanand Saraswati sitting in that temple on the Mahashivratri night. Let us see it for ourselves.As I said a moment ago, Swami Dayanand Saraswati was born in Tankara, in Rajkot district of Kathiawar, now called Saurashtra in India, in 1824. He was named Moolshankar. The young precocious boy memorized the text of Yajurved and impressed teachers and taught alike. He was always keen to ask questions and find answers to many a jigsaw puzzle. The 13-year-old Moolshankar was exhorted by his father, Karsan ji to observe complete fast on the Mahashivratri and sit in the Shiv temple in the village and pray the whole night. An obedient son that he was, he did so. In the temple, just before midnight, when other devotees including his father had fallen asleep a small rat ascended the Shiv Linga and started eating all edibles kept there as an offering. The rat’s friends followed suit. Devotees were in deep slumber. But not young Moolshankar, who was fired by an ardent desire and his father’s exhortations to have a darshan of Lord Shiva at midnight.Obviously, he was in for a great shock to see the Shiv Linga being desecrated by lowly mice and the idol bearing the insult helplessly. Moolshankar woke up his father and apprised him of his nagging doubt about the idol being the Almighty. The father chided the son for his untimely and irrelevant inquisitiveness. The young body returned to his house where his mother served him a sumptuous meal to break the daylong fast. Young Moolshankar had made up his mind to go in quest of the real almighty, God as described in the Vedas. He talked to all knowledgeable persons around. Not much came out of it. However, the foundations of a great spiritual movement, later, known as the Arya Samaj had indeed been laid. Of course, the formal formation had to wait till 1875. The great quest had begun. The young lad left his parental home at the age of 22 when pressed to get married and abandon his spiritual quest. He carried a new name, Shuddha Chaitanya. Later he met a sanyasi Swami Poornanand Saraswati, a great Vedic scholar who initiated the young seeker of truth into the Sanyas Ashram. Thus was born an ascetic, Swami Dayanand Saraswati.We may recall some major and minor anecdotes of his life that go to show that he placed great reliance on the social unity of the masses. His aim was to unite the entire mankind into one religion – the Vedic Dharam. Swami Dayanand Sarswati advised all Arya Samajists to run their show in a democratic manner. On staurday, April 10th, 1875 when the 1st arya samaj was founded at Kakarwadi, Mumbai in India, the great swami was requested by the congregation to assume the presidentship but the Swami declined. He chose to be just a simple member. Swami Dayanand Saraswati pleaded for equality of human beings, both men and women, as propounded in the Vedas. He was against creating human idols or icons. Indeed he was nipping the problem of human worship in the bud.Swami Dayanand Saraswati was dead against entering into litigation to solve problems of social nature. He made a mention of it in his will twice; first at Meerut and later again in 1883 in Udaipur, Rajasthan. He advised all Aryas to sort out their personal and social as well as religious problems among themselves. Social solidarity should be achieved at all levels, said the Swami. He backed those Aryas against whom followers of other religions had filed legal cases just to harass them. Under his advice, monetary and legal support was given to writers, speakers and preachers of the Vedic Dharma to raise their morale high. The Swami succeeded immensely.Learning, speaking and writing in the Hindi language was Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s hobby. He saw Hindi as a common link language among all Indians, irrespective of their faith. The Swami was himself a Gujarati and as an adolescent spoke his mother tongue only. Of course, he had studied Sanskrit and wrote in Sanskrit extensively. But he promoted Hindi as a language of unity. All his treatises are written in the common man’s language. This indeed was a turning point in the linguistic history of India. Other national leaders followed suit later. The movement for Hindi had its effect among the Indians in foreign countries too. Hindi books are read by them and Hindi classes are organized in the Arya Samaj in foreign lands too. The Swami never wanted to be known as the founder of a mere sect that would cut away his followers from the vast society of the Hindus. He stressed that the ancient Vedic Dharma did not divide the society among sects and sub sects. He took pains to avoid the pitfalls that the Brahmos of Bengal could not avoid and separated themselves from the general social fabric. Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s efforts have paid rich dividends and the Arya Samajists have joined all movements for the unity and solidarity of the Indians in general and Hindus in particular. Let us take a look at his travels to preach and propagate the Vedic Dharma. Multan (now in Pakistan) in the north to Pune in the Deccan; Rajkot in the west to Kolkata in the east form the large canvass that he painted in the Vedic colours. Of course, there were many cities, towns in various other provinces in the British India and the princely India where he had hoisted the flag of Aum and given discourses to men and women who flocked to hear him in large numbers. The Swami started wearing long coat and Dhotis instead of only a loin cloth so that ladies did not fight shy of coming to his lectures to learn of the Ved Mantras. Indeed, he was never dogmatic. Many a time he traveled in great discomfort risking his life and limb but was determined to carry on with his mission. Of course, the Punjab became the citadel of the Arya Samaj after he founded his institution in 1877 in Lahore (now in Pakistan).It was in Lahore that the 10 principles of the Arya Samaj were enshrined and continue to guide the Arya Samaj till today. A turning point once again in the socio political history of India. In 1877 in Delhi many religious, cultural and political stalwarts had assembled. All the major ruling princes of India had come to attend the Delhi Durbar. Swami Dayanand Saraswati took advantage of this opportunity to bring about a unity of principles for conduct of righteousness among the followers of all major religions of the world. He invited Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, a Muslim scholar and later founder of the Aligarh Muslim University, Reverend Father Scott of the Protestant Christian Church, prominent Brahmos of Bengal and stalwarts among Sanatani Hindus to sit together and iron out all differences that led to divisions in society. It was indeed a lofty ideal. His efforts made a good beginning. The Swami started with a bang but unfortunately the entire effort ended with a whimper. The people did not agree on the entity called God and how human beings should draw inspiration from him. Further, the non Hindus were not prepared to accept the Vedas as divine revelation. The plan fell apart. Let us now travel to Rajputana, the present day Rajasthan. It was here that Swami Dayanand Saraswati met with a measure of success in reforming the princes. His Highness Maharana Sajjan Singhji, the ruling prince of the state of Mewar became Swami’s devoted disciple. The maharana studied Sanskrit and Manusmiriti at the feet of the Rishi. He reformed the education system and brought it in tune with the Vedic Standards. The ruler performed daily havan in his palace. Indeed, it was going great guns for the Arya Samaj in Mewar. His Highness Sir Nahar Singh Varma of Shahpura went a step forward. He even accepted the Presidentship of the Parop karini Sabha to carry forward the mission of the Swami. However, it was in Jodhpur that a conspiracy was hatched by the forces enemical to the propagation of pristine Vedic Dharma to poison the Swami. They got him. After suffering from the after effects of that deadly poison for a month and a day the great Rishi of modern India breathed his last on October 30, 1883 at Ajmer.It was the evening of Diwali and indeed a turning point. The Swami let his soul leave his body and in the worldly sense the lamp of his life was extinguished but in the spiritual sense he lighted millions of lamps to lead men and women from darkness unto light.
BY BRIGADIER CHITRANJAN SAWANT, VSM