The Arya Samaj was founded in the 19th Century C.E. by Swami
Dayanand Saraswati. It has and continues to be a reformist movement
in India and within Hindu-Dharma worldwide. It is NOT a separate religion
nor is it a sect within Hindu-Dharma. Its primary task is to reform
Hindu-Dharma, which has been corrupted by 500a of Moghal and 200a of British
The following issues are central but not exclusive to the Arya
Samaj's role within Hindu-Dharma.
The Use of Murti (idol) Worship:
The Arya Samaj "rejects [idolatry] entirely, not only as
a harmless error, but as a positive sin". This is so in that there
is only one God, but that God takes on an infinite number of forms.
According to this position, worship of God consists in 3 acts:
a) the first and foremost is to study the Vedas, with the motivation
to acquire knowledge of God.
b) the observance of Dharma (moral duty and action) as prescribed
by God in the Vedas.
c) worship of God by fire or the homa-sacrifice, this involves
the use of the Gayatri Mantra.
In addition to the rejection of murti worship, the Arya
Samaj rejects the avatars of Hindu-Dharma and of the Christian incarnation.
How is one follow in the footsteps of God (Jesus or Rama), we are simply human?
Most of all is the rejection of the harmful and factless stories of the Puranas
which perpetuates itself as the truth (i.e. the stories of Krishna having
thousands of Gopis as wives).
With respect to caste, it is the total rejection as it is now
known. This is the say. it is not a natural account of a human's life
nor as a truth from God. It is simply a means to organise society.
Caste is formed only by one's character and not by birth (see the story of
Stayakama in the Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka- Upanishads). How can
a coward be born as a Ksatriya or a person who has no knowledge of the Vedas
as a Brahman?
Swami Dayanand fought against the soul repression that caste
wrought upon the Indian people. As a result of repressive Mughal rule,
caste became solidified in order to protect Hindu-Dharma. Now, caste
totally needs to be changed and everyone must be treated equally and given
the right to study the from the Vedas. Hindus need to reject caste in all
The Vedas were created by God as prior to the creation of the
universe and given to the ancient rishis. It contains all the fixed
truths of the universe, the True Knowledge. Such laws are unchangeable
(i.e. Karma, Dharma and Physical laws), they are not of the changeable type
(i.e. this webpage has the colour 'x').
The problem that arises is that Vedic Sanskrit is radically
different from Classical and Epic Sanskrit, the result has been many misinterpretations
by Western scholars. For example, "Ashva" means "horse"
and "grain". Sacrifices which call for "Ashva" were
assumed to be for horses but the correct Vedic interpretation is that of "grain".
The point being is that Vedic Sanskrit must be read in respect to the Vedic
There are four other substantive claims that Swami Dayanand
makes regarding the Vedas:
a) In the matter of religion and in the spirit, the Western
mind has not reached either the depth or the heights commanded by the Ancient
b) In the matter of the social, the Indian solution aimed at
in ancient times are as good and sound and effective as those arrived at in
the West in modern times.
c) In philosophy, India has nothing to learn form the West.
d) In physical sciences, the West is far in advance of the Ancient
Indians. India has had its successes in this regard. In 500 B.C.E.,
the Indian surgeon Sustra performed cataract surgery for the first time in
the civilized world.
Caveats and Clarifications:
a) The Arya Samaj does not believe in the infallibility or immunity
from mistakes. To err is to be human.
b) The only appropriate forms of worship are that of the fire
c) The Arya Samaj believes in the Law of Karma.
This is the truth that "acts must follow by their consequences, that
the result of actions cannot be warded off or atoned by any means".
This is in connection with the theory of reincarnation.
d) The Arya Samaj does not believe in "Fate".
Those born in a lowly position are not condemned to live a life of despair.
It is the soul system that has degraded people to punish them for the positions
of the rich and powerful.
e) Everyone can make and unmake his or her destiny through the
Law of Karma.
f) The Vedas are infallible and expects every woman and man
to know them and to expound them for the benefits of others.
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When the Arya Samaj came into existence, the situation of women
were deplorable in India, regardless of religion. The prejudice against women
in obtaining an education represented an "induced state of ignorance".
This had no basis in ancient India. Women were both in
thought and process, in a very high position in society--higher than men in
many cases. According to the Laws of Manu (Manava Dharmashastra),
a mother is entitled to a thousand times greater respect, regard and reverence
than the father. Also, women were allowed to own property.
An explanation to the horrible condition of women can be found
with the Mughal rule in India. Islam treats its women as captives (i.e.
the practice of Purdah - the seclusion of the woman in the home). Since
they were the power in the country for a long time, their customs and rules
prevailed. Also, many Mughal rulers (i.e. Akbar, Babar and Auranzeb)
raped and abducted Hindu women to demoralise the people and to claim them
as a conquest. Thus, the practice of Sati originated with the
proud Rajputs in Rajasthan. Hindu women would kill themselves to avoid
being raped and forced to change their religion by the Mughals.