Arya Samaj


Arya Samaj
(est. 1875)
   The Arya Samaj, formerly known as Arya Pra-tinidhi Sabha, is a reformist Hindu sect founded in 1875 in Mumbai by Mul Shankara (1824–83). It aims to synthesize ancient orthodox ritual practice with modern anticaste and universalistic principles.
   Shankara was born a Brahmin and was edu-cated into orthodox Brahminism in Gujarat state. In 1948 he renounced ordinary life and took vows of a SANNYASI in the Saraswati Dandi Order of Yogis. As Dayananda Saraswati, his name given at initiation, he wandered all of India for 12 years, finally taking residence in Mathura to study the VEDAS under the scholar Varajananda. Dayananda understood the Vedas to teach gender equal-ity and rejection of caste, a message that clearly opposed the orthodoxy of the day. The movement grew among liberal, educated Indians and became strong in the state of Punjab, where it remains important.
   The Arya Samaj seeks to restore the central-ity of the Vedas to Hinduism and to reject much of Hinduism’s SANATANA DHARMA (eternal way), including worship of images and PUJA (traditional rituals). The society teaches 10 basic principles: (1) The source of all that is true is God. (2) God is a single, eternal, fully conscious being. (3) All true knowledge is contained in the Vedas. (4) All people should be prepared to accept truth. (5) All acts should be performed with righteousness and duty. (6) The movement should promote physical, spiritual, and social progress for all humans. (7) All relations among humans should be guided by love and justice. (8) Knowledge and realization should be provided for all people. (9) The move-ment should work for the uplift of all, not only personal development. (10) All members should be devoted to the social good.
   The Arya Samaj sponsors the Purohit Acad-emy to train students in philosophy and in the repetition of Sanskrit MANTRAS. After training, practitioners are certified by the academy to per-form traditional rituals and marriages.
   With its message of social reform and the universalization of spiritual truth, the Arya Samaj has proselytized since its inception and has become an important element of the Indian DIASPORA around the world, including North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Aus-tralia, and Oceania. Prominent countries in the Indian diaspora all have multiple worship cen-ters, although membership numbers are difficult to estimate.
   Further reading: Shiv Kumar Gupta, Arya Samaj and the Raj, 1875–1920 (New Delhi: Gitanjali, 1991); Lala Lajpat Rai, The Arya Samaj: An Account of Its Origin, Doctrines, and Activities (New Delhi: Reliance, 1991); S. S. Yoginder, “The Fitna of Irtidad: Muslim Missionary Response to the Shuddhi of Arya Samaj in Early Twen-tieth Century India,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 17, no. 1 (1997): 65–83.

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.


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