Arya Samaj and its contributions in the field of Education
Members of the Vedic Pratinidhi Sabha and Arya Samaj of Australia, invited guests and friends, a very good evening to you all.
Prior to commencing my talk on the topic of “Arya Samaj and its contributions in the field of Education”, I would like to make an attempt to define Education. After consulting several dictionaries and the internet, I thought that the following definition fits this criteria the best:
“Education is the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the power of reasoning and judgement, and generally of preparing of oneself or others for mature life”
This definition fits in very well with the great revolution that took place in India in the mid to late 19th century initiated by Swami Dayanand Saraswati.
Swami Dayanand in the 1860’s and 70’s thought (and rightly so) that the best way of educating the then Hindu society about the truth, the vedic values, the Indian culture and tradition, was to establish vedic schools.
The first such school was established in 1869 in “Faroukhabad” with an enrolment of 50 students. Seeing the success of this establishment, very quickly 4 more vedic schools were founded in rapid succession with many more to follow. Some of the activities that were programmed into daily teaching curriculum included:
· The denunciation of “Murti Pooja” and the practicing of “Sandhya”
· The participation in “Agnihotra” twice a week, and
· The teaching of sunskrit.
Children of all castes were welcome and enrolled. The teaching of sunskrit (which was confined to “Brahmins” only) was opened to everyone. The most noteworthy feature of the vedic schools was that Vedas was recognised to be “THE PUSTAK” and the basis of all teachings. Those texts that were based on idol worship, false belief and witch craft were denounced. This formed the basis of Education in vedic schools.
Thousands of schools have since been established throughout the world that teach vedic knowledge embedded in the Country’s/State’s curriculum.
So- What compelled Swami Dayanand to establish/form Arya Samaj Movement?
· Swami Dayanand saw the degraded and debased condition of Hindus in India
· Millions of people were weak and disjointed.
· Almost anyone could create a culture, a faith and a religion of their own.
· People felt helpless, hopeless and ignorant.
· The very few who were rich were parasites, proud and lived in luxury while over 95% of the population lived below poverty line.
As a result, What has Swami Dayanand and Arya Samaj been able to achieve?
There are several achievements, but I have chosen three that I think are worth a mention this evening.
1. Untouchability – This practice did not go very well with Swamiji. Seeing the treatment of Dalits, the Outcastes or the Untouchables by the so called upper class of the time, action had to be taken. These groups of people were not allowed to enter temples, homes of Brahmins, fetch water from common wells and their children were not allowed to study in village schools or mix around with other children.
· Swami Dayanand was the first person to declare equal rights for all- right to education, right to reciting vedic mantras, right to inter-dining, right for marriage, and right to fetch water from common well.
· One of Swamiji’s accomplices, Swami Shradhanand, spent all his life in the upliftment of the lower class.
· The caste inequality was even taken up by “Mahatma Gandhi” and the Congress party during the freedom movement and the push for independence- Dalits being renamed HARIJANS or the people of God.
2. Caste System- the sunskrit word for caste is Varna or Jaat, which means a group of people having a special social rank.
· The Varna or Jaat system existed for thousands of years, the four being: SUDRAS – workers/working class, VAISHYAS – business people, KSHUTRIYAS- rulers and warriors and BRAHMINS – educators.
· According to the Vedas, all of these are inter-linked and function in close cooperation. One without the rest becomes dis-functional. Mantras from Vedas convey the message that
We pray to god to let all live together, eat together, enjoy together, pray and progress together, fight the evil together and work for global peace together.
We are all equal and colour or country makes no difference.
There is no thing as master race or caste- all are equal.
We all exist because of each other.
3. Status of women
· During pre-vedic era, women were not allowed to study Vedas, they were not even allowed to recite mantras, except during marriage-“maa bahene jo bhojan tayaar karte hain, wo hum sub kha sukte hain, bucche paida kur sakte hain, unki palan poshan kur sukte hain magar wo mantra nahi seekh sukti, doosro ko vedic shiksha nahi de sukti- ye bilkul galat baat hai.
· During Mogul rule, polygamy was a norm with Muslims. Women suffered further degradation. Muslims picked up women at will and kept them as their slaves, including sex slaves. Parents started marrying their daughters at early age. Helpless Hindus started believing that having a girl at birth was a curse.
· These atrocities did not go very well with Swamiji and the Arya Samajis.
· As a result, several Kanya Pathshalas were built to educate women with the aim to give them equal rights and uplift their status.
· For the first time in India, a “Kanya Mahavidhyalay” (a tertiary institution) was opened in 1896 and the most important point to note here is that- the students of this institution included a mixture of unmarried, married and widowed women. Over 500 institutions- girls’ school, gurukuls, orphanages, industrial school, and widow shelter houses have since been opened.
Indian women are indebted to Swamiji and Arya Samaj
One can ladies and gentlemen, go on and on talking about the good deeds and structures that have been put in place by Arya Samaj, through Swami Dayanands’ teachings and principles, and its impact on the people of Indian origin.
I shall, however, conclude now by saying that, as a whole, Arya Samaj has made one of the greatest impacts on modern Hinduism.
· Today, although caste system is not totally eradicated, Arya Samaj has made a great impact towards educating the general Indian population that it does not have a place in Indian society. The Indian government has even outlawed the practicing of caste system.
· Women are being treated equally and have equal rights throughout the world.
· India and Hindus are much better educated in the field of religion and culture.
Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes my presentation for this evening.
Presenter: Devendra Bisram
Occasion: Vedic Pratinidhi Sabha and Arya Samaj of Australia Sthapna Diwas – 2013
Date: 24th of March, 2013-03-25
Venue: Parramatta Scout Hall