DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 21 Dayananda Saraswati (1824—1883)
Examine various social ideas of Dayananda Saraswati.
Dayananda Saraswati was a religious and social reformer. His major social and political ideas are as follows.
It was the feeling of Dayananda that self-government or national government was the best government. He said that even the best foreign government was worse than the worst national government. He, therefore, for the first time raised a voice and inspired a feeling among Indian multitudes that they struggle neither for dominion status nor for remaining in British Empire but in trying to get their Own national government. He opposed the ideas of the liberals who preached that. British rule in India was beneficiary both to the Indians and the Britishers. Whereas he argued it to be in favour of the rulers only.
Religion and Politics—closely related. Dayananda found a class relationship between politics artd religion and believed that all religious institutions experience close working relationship with political institutions, and they were expected to go together. He agreed with persons like Gopal Krishan Gokhale, M.G. Ranade and Dadabhai Naoroji, and believed that politics devoid of religion was farce.
His views about Monarchy. He favoured enlightened monarchy believing it to be the only institution which could lead the nation towards development and progress and prosperity. He maintained that the King is the person accepted by the society as a superior being and all must willingly give their obedience to him. He argued that only be when the King should be elected by the assembly of wise people considering him the most enlightened person. Dayananda wanted that a monarch should always be well informed and ready to provide the benefits of his ability to the people. Monarch, responsibility was to ensure peace but be regularly controlled by the spiritual -leaders with whom the King must remain in close co-peration. The spiritual leaders, on their behalf must ensure that monarch possessed high moral character, wisdom and intelligence.
Champion of Swadeshi goods. Swam! Dayananda strongly advocated‘Swadeshi’which was later preached by Mahatma Gandi. He differed with Surendra Nath Banerjee, for whom ‘Swadeshi meant adopting foreign goods to suit our national convenience’. Whereas Swami Dayanand pleaded that ‘Swadeshi’ meant using what was produced within the country and to make the nation struggle for self-sufficiency in the field of the forced scarcity.
His ideas about democratic set up. Democracy was the oldest institution of rule according to Dayananda. This he found from his studies of the Vedas and Manusmriti. Democracy prevailed in ancient India when she was at the height of glory. Democratic set up was the most suitable institution for India according to Dayananda. He, therefore, maintained that democratic institutions should be brought into our social and political set-up. He was less theoretical and more practical in this regard. We find that Arya Samaj, founded by him, was based on democratic principles in so much as all its office-bearers were supposed to be elected. He wrote in his Satyartha Prakash, “It means that no single individual should be invested with absolute power. The King who is President of the Assembly, and the Assembly itself should be interdependent on each other.”
High priority to education. For Swami Dayananda, the problem of education was not a social but political because without proper literacy, political institutions could not be developed in the right way, so he argued that there should be free but compulsory primary education arranged by the Government. He was not opposed to the idea if voluntary associations and institutions also came forward. But, he put it fixed to be mainly the responsibility of the Government and not of voluntary institutions. He argued that education should aim at building good citizens useful to the nation. In other words, he wanted education to have ‘ national in character. His system of education was based on the Gurukul system of education with the arrangement for educating the boys as well as girls.
Ideas about Government Authority and Its role in social reforms. Dayananda had very clear views about the control over the governmental and other related authorities. “He wanted that the Government and the authorities be controlled by three organs, these were Rajya Sabha, Dharma Sabha and Vidya Sabha. The Rajya Sabha was to act as the legislature consisting of persons having high degree of character. It was responsible for improving the living as well as moral standard of the people. This Sabha was also to enact laws and also ensure that decisions were properly implemented.
His concept of Brahmans applied on those who led a life of ‘real renunciation’ and ‘followed’ and understood Dharma in its pure sense. The Vidya Sabha was responsible for promoting education and to ensure that in educational field there was no double standard. The system of education was to see that students think in same term of mutual love and both the teachers and the pupils promote a spirit of nationalism and ‘brotherhood’. For attainment of this objective he believed in the concept of neighbourhood schools and was opposed to public schools.
‘Chakravarty’ Ruler and ‘World Empire’. Swami Dayananda had frequently referred to India’s being a ‘Chakravarty ruler’. Many people have interpreted him as an imperialist who believed in expansion. But this view is not a correct interpretation of Dayananda’s concept of‘Chakravarty ruler’. For him Chakravarity rule stood for a world Governmental system based on vedic teachings. He wanted that there should be a world empire based on spiritualism engaged in the promotion of moral development of the peeple. He believed in universal brotherhood and often clearified it through his writings and speeches. He also wished that there should be Vedic universalism ‘and no corner of the world should remain in darkness without the light of the teachings of Vedas’.
In conclusion it may be said that Swami Dayananda initiated renaissance in India and was responsible for bringing new face to Indian social and political philosophy. He opposed the idea that India’s fallen conditions could be upgraded by Britishers in India. It has been commented that, “The Sanyasi Dayanand gave freedom to the soul of the Hindus, as Luther did to the Europeans.”
According to Romain Rolland, “…how great an uplifter of the people he was in fact the most vigorous force of the immediate and present action in India at the moment of the rebirth and rewakening of the National consciousness. His Arya Samaj, whether he wished it or no, prepared the way in 1905 for the revolt of Bengal. He was one of the most ardent prophets of reconstruction and of national organisation. In field that it was he who kept the rigid.”
‘Dayananda was a bold prophet and a social reformer of very high order’. Discuss.
Examine Dayanand’s ideas of social reforms.
Swami Dayananda a social reformer and a religious thinker had unrivalled love for ancient Indian cutlure, civilization and glory. He had acquired a lot from the vedas and for him Vedic religion was the best in the world. Contrary to many other contemporary, liberals he was not under the influence of western culture. In fact, he had never been a student of English literature. He had his own personal experiences about the British way of living, thinking and behaving. if we discuss the Gandhi’s attitude towards the British, the things were different and besides this we find that Gandhiji was primary a politician and not a religious thinker, the level of Daynanda.
Gandhiji came forward to secure independence for India from the British yoke and abolish British imperialism. In fact, Gandhiji was a political thinker whereas Dayanand was religious reformer. For Gandhi politics was of primary consideration while for Dayananda it was religion. However, Mahatma Gandhi himself confessed that Swami Dayananda was his teacher in the sense that he had learnt much from his sayings and writings.
(1) Opposed to caste system. Swami Dayananda was against thet caste system that prevailed in India at that time. He clearly laid down that caste system in its present form was the creation of only a few selfish and vested custodians of society. Swami Dayananda suggested Varan Vibhajan based on the qualities of an individual rather than birth. This idea of anti-casteism was later propagated by Mahatma Gandhi in his drive against untouchability.
(2) Pride in India’s heritage. Swami Dayananda had felt that India’s past heritage was the richest and any nation could feel proud of that Gandhiji borrowed from Dayananda the idea that Indian people must realise what was best in them. He said temporary fall of India was only a passing phase of our times.
(3) Religions tolerance. Swrami Dayananda was a predominantly religious, man and a strong social reformer but not a politician at all. His emphasis on the study of the Vedas was deep-rooted. Gaddhiji borrowed from Swami this very idea which became integral part of his political activities. Gandhian theory of Ahimsa was based essentially on this principle.
(4) Basic social reforms. Swami Dayananda was a social reformer of high order. He touched each notorious evil of our Hindu society. In his attempt to cleanse the society he raised voice against child marriage and supported widow re-marriage. Mahatma Gandhi is indebted to Dayananda as he also devoted time to reforme our society. Gandhiji also wanted equal status for women and an evil free society.
Swami Dayananda put emphasis on necessity of educated citizens in nation-building. He wanted to make education system realistic enough to create a sense of equality among all. He laid it the responsibility of our educational institutions to produce young men who had the feeling of patriotism. He assigned supremacy to love for nation. In like manner, Gandhiji also wanted education to be widespread. He also sought that our pattern of education must suit our country and should promote equality and oneness. The educational system should be capable of taking a way from us a false sense of prestige which was introduced by the English system of education. Due to this reason, Gandhiji introduced at Wardha the basic system of education.
Swami Dayananda had an ambitious programme of commenting upon the philosophy of Vedas, Upanishads and Manusmriti. He wanted to inform the world, the ways the Vedas were original words of God, though this remained unfulfilled because of his early death. But whenever he got time from his other activities he write Satyartha Prakasha, the famous book on Hindusim and Vedic studies and the Hindus in general the Arya Samajists in particular draw inspiration from Satyarth Prakash.
Opposed to untouchability. Swami Dayananda was deadly against the evil system of casteism and untouchability. He never agreed with this system in any way. He openly condemned the practice of the system saying that it had no religious sanction but was an arrangement chalked out by certain selfish people to suit their ends. He suggested that caste system should be based on the functions of an individual rather than on birth as was the practice of that time. He, appreciated if caste system was based on psychological considerations and occupation. He said that it was the inherent right of every individual, to choose his profession but was disgusted to see that it was not the profession but birth which came to the forefront in the system.
Favoured widow re-marriage and opposed exploitation. Swami Dayananda favoured widow-re marriage. He was against the unnecessary bar on widow re-marriage. The views against widow remarriage had made the life of lakhs of widow quite miserable. He maintained that this institution was promoting moral degeneration as a consequence of which society was rapidly degenerating. Swami Dayananda, therefore, pleaded that there should be widow re-marriage and woman became widow not because of her fault but because God took away the life of her husband.
It was his firm belief of that Indian women were brave, intelligent and wise. According to him, it was a maker of historical record passed him. He as an impressive speaker and a keen and ready, wilted debator, who could overwhelm his opponents with a wealth of subtle arguments. At the same time, he was a man of strong, unflinching, almost dour character, a born leader, determined and self-assured to the extent of overbearingness. ‘
He had a clear and precise mind in which there ‘was nothing shadowy, vague or mystical. With Calvinistic explicitness, he defined the articles of his faith which admitted of no compromise. He possessed the rugged individuality of Martin Luther and made individual reason arbiter in the solution of all religious problems. His selection cf the author of divine scripture was from among the multitude of Hindu which sacred books was based upon his personal conviction. Again his choice of the dogmas and doctrines concerning the unity of God, the rejection of the plurality of the Hindu gods and the doctrines of metapsychosis and law of action (Karma), the relations of men, nature and God, were the result of a process of his own analysis and rationalisation, in which he was not guided by tradition or history.
He believed that the Hindu religion and the Vedas on which, it was based were eternal, unalterable, infalliable, divine. The vedic religion alone was true and universal. He held that the Aryans were the chosen people, the Vedas, the chosen gospel, and India the chosen land. All other religions were imperfect and it was the duty of the Arya Samaj to convert the followers of other religion to the Hindu faith. He provided the ‘Arya Samaj’ with a code of Social conduct and put the life blood in its activities.
Dayapanda, while discussing his political ideas had said, “It means that no single individual should be invested with absolute power. The king, who is the president of the Assembly, and the Assembly itself should be interdependent on each other. Both should be controlled by the people, who in their turn should be governed by the Assembly…When people become wicked and unjust, they are absolutely ruined. Let a nation, therefore, effect the most learned men as the member of Educational Assembly, the most devout men as members of Religious Assembly arid men of most praiseworthy character, as members of the Legislature (Political) Assembly and let their great men in it who possess most excellent qualities, is highly accomplished and become most honourable character, be made the Head or President of the Political Assembly. Let the three Assemblies harmoniously work together and make good laws, and let all abide by those laws. Let then all be of one mind in affairs that promotes the happiness of all. All men should subordinate themselves to the laws that are calculated to promote general well being: they should be free in matters relating to individual well-being”.
Dayananda Saraswati came into the scene, when Indian society had completely gone down and evils had complete control over our social set-up. Those, being treated as the custodians of our society were miserably orthodox and their ideas further brought degeneration.
The evils like that of casteism was in its worst form and it was the birth and not the worth which was the deciding factor for the social status of a man. Child marriage was frequent and widow re-marriage through legally permitted was practically taboo even the rational people in the society had surrendered before these evil systems. No social respect was shown to women and they were given a low social status. Majority of the people treated women as commodities and a creature fit to be subordinated and subjugated and this practice was prevalent mainly in the Hindu Society. Women were confined to live within the four walls of their homes. There was practically no provision for women education with the result that there existed illiteracy among women.
It was a period when Christian missionaries had came to this country with the objective of spreading Christianity. The rulers gave support to these missions and their programmes. Their way of describing their doctrines and explaining their religion was attractive and appealing to the common man. This had a particular effect on those who had been overlooked by our Hindu Society. These Christian missionaries laboured hard to justify superiority of their culture over Hinduism. Being scolded by Hinduism many of down-trodden and outcaste Indian were impressed by Christianity which very now had got its foundation well laid on the Indian soil.
The approach of influential section towards these social problems was disheartening. Most of the liberals affecting political life were under the influence of Western culture and civilization. These ‘outsiders’ preached that Indian culture and civilization stood best for their past, but for today the Indians ought to learn from the Western rules of life as well as thought
From the.political aspect also the country was passing through crucial time and the people enjoyed practically no rights. The British rule in India was praised by our liberal leaders and for them this rule was a blessing in disguise. These leaders vindicated the Britishers stay in India as rulers. Reacting to these maladies Dayanand had said, “Though I was born in Aryavrata (India.) and still live in it yet just as I do not depend the falsehood of religious prevailing in this country, but expose them fully……in like manner I deal with the religions of the other countries and their supporters. I treat the foreigners in the same way as my own countrymen so far as the elevation of the human race is concerned. It behaves all men to act likewise”.
Western system of education had no applied influence on Dayananda and he was not a student of English literature ; he had never gone to England and so he did not know about the Western style of life and thought. On him the most notable influence was those of the Vedas, about which he maintained that they were the original words of God. Moreover, it was after the study of the Vedas that he discovered solution to many of our social, economic and political problems. “Dayananda was a prophet of perfect Vedas. He proclaimed the revolutionary character of the four Vedic Samhitas and wanted to solve the problems of life in accordance with Vedic canons. He said that, Vedas contained external, pure and positive knowledge given to humanity at the primordial hour of creation. He claimed to find in the ancient code of Vedic wisdom the words of God himself and justified his rock like faith in the Vedas”. It was after the Vedic period that superficial outlook and artificiality took place in religion.
In addition to the influence of the Vedas, the Manusmriti written by Manu had also influenced him. He came to know through these books about Aryan religion. In addition to Vedas, Manusmriti Dayananda was influenced by his Guru Swami Virjananda.
In fact, Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati’s soal thought and religious beliefs are nothing but the combination of social thought and religious thoughts. According to him, sod t. is guided by religion and religious thoughts have to be the basis of social thought.
The social thoughts are founded on this very concept.