Swami Dayananda Saraswati as a Hindu Fundamentalist and Nationalist

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Written by Dr. J. Kuruvachira


A background to Swami Dayananda Saraswati (1824-1883) 1

  1. The ideological foundations of Dayananda Saraswati 2

1.1 The exclusive truth of the Vedic Religion  3
1.2 Plurality of religions is unnecessary  4
1.3 Religions other than the Vedic faith are false  5
1.4 Other religions may contain elements of truth  6
1.5 Criticism of popular Hinduism   7
1.6 Jainism is the most dreadful religion  7
1.7 Islam is the religion of the uncivilised and the ignorant 8
1.8 Christianity is a religion of the book  9
1.8.1 Christianity is a degraded religion  10
1.8.2 The God of the Bible is wicked  10
1.8.3 The Bible contains statements that offend reason  11
1.8.4 The Bible contains immoral and cruel stories  12
1.8.5 The Bible can never be the Word of God  12
1.8.6 Jesus Christ was a savage and a hoax  13
1.8.7 Christianity is a religion of fools and barbarians  14

  1. Dayananda’s militant attitude towards other religions 14

2.1 Polemical style of writing  15
2.2 All non-Vedic religions should disappear 16
2.3 Misrepresentation of other religious  17
3 ‘Satyartha Prakash the most disappointing book’ 18

  1. Practice of shuddhi (re-conversion) as a weapon against Christianity and Islam 19
  2. Dayananda performs shuddhi (re-conversion) ceremony 20
  3. Arya Samaj as an organised proselytising religion 20
  4. Dayananda as a Hindu nationalist 21
  5. Dayananda’s ideology and Hindutva 22

8.1. The link between Dayananda’s philosophy and Hindutva  22
8.2. Attempts to impose Vedic culture  23
8.3 Attempt to impose Vedic model of education  24
8.4. Intolerance towards religious minorities  24
8.5. Revival of the practice of re-conversion  25
8.6. The campaign of maligning by Voice of India  25

  1. Dayananda as the ‘father’ of modern Hindu fundamentalism 26

Conclusion  28

A background to Swami Dayananda Saraswati (1824-1883)

The aim of this article is to present the salient features of Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s (1824-1883) religious philosophy, which is characterised by religious fundamentalism, anti-other attitude and militancy. In Dayananda we have the first stirrings of Hindu fundamentalism in modern India. Unfortunately, this aspect often goes camouflaged under the aura of his greatness as a champion of Hinduism and a social reformer.
Anyone familiar with the ‘Indian Renaissance’ of the 19th century will immediately be reminded of the ‘luminous’ figure of Swami Dayananda Saraswati the Hindu social reformer and the founder of the Arya Samaj (‘Noble Society’). He is considered as the ‘first Hindu’ in the nineteenth century to study and discuss Other religions (i.e. non-Vedic faiths). In fact, some twenty years prior to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, in which Swami Vivekananda participated, Dayananda organised a conference in Delhi and invited representatives from all religions. In this, he was well ahead of the other thinkers of the time[1].
Dayananda (originally known as Mulasankar) was born in a Brahmin family at Tankara, in Gujarat in 1824, and was raised up as an orthodox Saivite. He spent fifteen years as a wandering monk in search of personal salvation. In 1860 he met Swami Vrijananda of Mathura, a great Vedic scholar and grammarian who became his teacher and mentor. It was Swami Vrijananda who drew the attention of his pupil to the degenerated state of Hinduism. In addition, he implanted in him a great veneration for the ancient Vedas as the true source of pure Hinduism. For the rest of his life Dayananda taught in almost all parts of India on the exclusive truth of the Vedas. He also founded the Arya Samaj in 1875, which loomed large on the intellectual and social scene of late nineteenth century Northern India[2].
Dayananda authored numerous books, tracts and pamphlets[3]. However, it is above all in his Satyartha Prakash (The Light of Truth, 1875, 1884)[4] – considered as his magnum opus – that he expounds ‘systematically’ and with extraordinary clarity his fully developed philosophy of religion. Other important writings of Dayananda include, Rigvedadi Bhasya Bhumika (Introduction to the Commentary on the Vedas)[5] and Rishi Dayananda Saraswati ke Patra aur Vijnapan (A Collection of Letters and Notes Written by Dayananda)[6].

1. The ideological foundations of Dayananda Saraswati

In order to understand the attitude of Dayananda Saraswati towards other religions, it is necessary that we examine his ideological foundations. Dayananda emphatically affirmed that the Vedic religion is the only true faith revealed by God. This view is so central to his religious philosophy that one cannot understand his attitude towards other religions without it.
Satyartha Prakash first appeared in 1875 in Hindi. It consisted of eleven chapters and in the first ten a complete statement of his ideas on various subjects are presented. The eleventh chapter which runs to a quarter of the book, is devoted to a critique of Hinduism, dealing with idol worship, miracles, pilgrimages, holy men, sects, Puranas, etc. Towards the end of his life he thoroughly revised this edition and added three more chapters dealing with Carvaka, Buddhism and Jainism which are religions of Indian origin, and Christianity and Islam which, according to him, are foreign faiths. This edition was published in 1884, though its proof reading was finished before Dayananda’s death in 1883. A comparative study of the two editions revels that Dayananda radically changed some of his earlier ideas during the last years of his life[7]. Thus the revised edition contains more ‘systematic’ and fully developed ideas than the previous one with a criticism of all the major religions of India. This is also the work accepted by the Arya Samaj as the authorised edition.
Dayananda in his writings makes five outstanding claims that determine his attitude towards other religions: i) the Vedic Religion alone is true and infallible and it is revealed by God[8]; ii) the Vedic Religion alone existed in the whole world and all believed in it till 5000 years ago[9]; iii) all the extant religions of the world originated in India and are derived from the Vedas[10]; iv) all knowledge including all sciences spread to other countries from India, first to Egypt, then to Greece from there to Europe and finally to America and other countries[11]; v) the Aryans were the sovereign rulers of the whole earth till the Mahabharata war and they professed the Vedic Religion[12].

1.1 The exclusive truth of the Vedic Religion

Dayananda starts from the premise that God is the eternal source of all knowledge and He reveals it to man through the Vedas and had He not revealed, there would have been no knowledge[13]. According to him, the Vedas give general teachings meant for all mankind[14]. This led him to maintain that, in the Vedas alone and not in any other work has God revealed the truth. Hence he claimed that what the Vedas expound are the truth and nothing but the truth[15]. Since the Vedas alone are the supreme authority in ascertaining true religion whatever is enjoined by the Vedas is to be considered to be right, while whatever is condemned by them is to be wrong. He says: “nothing should be accepted which is against the Vedas”[16]. He also argues that the Vedic revelation is synchronous with man’s first appearance on earth so that the Vedas becomes the first book of humanity[17]. The consequence was that he made the Vedas the standard of reference for all truth, both religious and otherwise. Thus for Dayananda, the Vedas contain religious truth as well as every form of truth, even scientific truths[18]. Later, Aurobindo Ghose commenting on this, not only agreed with Dayananda but also argued that the latter had rather understated than overstated the depth and range of the Vedic wisdom[19].
Dayananda further argued that the Vedas are also infallible and that they are absolutely free from error[20]. Truth and knowledge, wherever they are found, are derived from the Vedas. He says: “It is to be borne in mind that wherever and whatever truth is to be found it has proceeded from the Vedas and all untruth has its origin outside them and has not proceeded from God”[21]. He also stated that the Vedas are eternal just as God is eternal[22]. This amounts to maintaining that there can be only one true religion, and that religion is the one that is based on and derived from the Vedas. In other words, Dayananda was affirming the exclusive truth of the Vedic religion.
Dayananda then set out to provide proofs for the truth of the Vedic faith. First, the Vedas consistently proclaim pure monotheism, which alone can rationally be sustained. In the Vedas there are not many gods but one God. The multitude of names signify not different Divine beings, but different aspects of one Supreme Being[23]. Second, the truth of the Vedic faith is that, it is the most rational religion because in it there is nothing that offends reason. In a letter to Colonel Olcott, Dayananda affirms that the true religion is expounded in that eternal Vedas practiced by the wise in conformity with reason[24]. Third, the Vedic Religion is the true religion because morality lies at the very basis of it. According to Dayananda, there is nothing in the Vedas that offends morality. In reality, righteous conduct consists in rejecting all that is opposed to the Vedas, and in practicing whatever has been enjoined by them[25]. Fourth, the Vedic Religion is the true religion because it is universal. It is meant for all time – past, present and future ― for all places, and for all people[26]. H.Coward notes: “Dayananda made Hinduism a religion of the book by adopting the Protestant principle of sola scriptura [only scripture] and applying it to the Vedas[27]. Dayananda also maintained that Sanskrit is the language in which the Vedas are revealed. Sanskrit belongs to no country but is the source of all languages and all peoples[28].

1.2 Plurality of religions is unnecessary

Dayananda was one of the Hindu thinkers of the 19th century who paid serious attention to the problem of the relationship between different religions. He maintained that in essence, there are only four main non-Vedic or ‘Other’ religions, namely, Pauranikas, Christians, Jains and Moslims. These cover all sects[29]. According to J.T.F. Jordens, Dayananda began to think of Hinduism in relation to other religions only after his visit to Calcutta in 1873 where he met the leaders of the Brahma Samaj who were much influenced by the teachings of Christianity and Islam, and this led him to consider Hinduism in a wider context of these religions[30].
Dayananda bewailed the plurality of religions because of their mutual hatred and strife. According to him, often, he who is prejudiced try to prove that his untruth is truth while the truth of his opponent is untruth[31]. He believed that in the midst of conflicting truth-claims of religions, it is the duty of everyone to discover and to embrace what is true and reject what is false[32]. Hence he dedicated much energy to the study of other religions both through discussion with their teachers and by studying them from the original sources.
It has been argued by many that it is necessary to have a plurality of religions because people differ in their nature, temperament, character and level of spirituality. Therefore, there is need for a diversity of religions, because there can never be one religion that suits the needs of all mankind. But Dayananda was not convinced of this argument. He also rejected another popular view that all religions are good and therefore, it is not proper to criticise any one of them[33]. According to him, they contain untruth and falsity[34]. Hence, for Dayananda, there was no need for a plurality of religions because only one among the many religions can be true, and for him, the one true faith is the Vedic Religion[35]. Therefore, diversity of religions is unnecessary as they are products of ignorance and false beliefs[36]

1.3 Religions other than the Vedic faith are false

In maintaining that the Vedic Religion alone is true, Dayananda is emphatically asserting that all other religions are false. In his Satyartha Prakash he often refers to them as ‘false beliefs’[37]. When the Aryans gave up the Vedic literature which alone could help people to distinguish between truth and untruth, ignorance prevailed and many anti-Vedic religions, cults and sects sprang up[38]. He argued that, the founders and teachers of them, even if they knew the truth, did not teach it, because they feared that they would lose their followers and their means of livelihood. The religious teachers who do not advocate the Vedic faith are hypocrites, defrauders and tricksters. He says: “All these cults are an outcome of ignorance and antagonistic to learning. They mislead the foolish, low and uncivilised people into their net to serve their own ends”[39]. Thus Dayananda considered all religions, except the Vedic faith, as false. He observes: “there ought to be only one right religion [.…] We have been all along emphasising this point”[40].
Dayananda claims that there was a time in the ancient past since the beginning of the world when only one religion prevailed in the world, and that was the Vedic Religion. This religion was taught everywhere in the world and all firmly believed in it. As a result, peace and happiness reigned everywhere. But this state of perfect harmony was disrupted 5000 years ago when the Great War of the Mahabharata broke out in which most of the learned men, sages and seers were killed. As a consequence, the study of the Vedas and other true sciences disappeared, the light of knowledge grew dim, and with it the dissemination of Vedic Religion also came to an end[41]. Thus in the place of the true religion of the Vedas, many false religions came into being.

1.4 Other religions may contain elements of truth

If all non-Vedic religions are false and products of ignorance, there arises the question whether there is any truth at all in them. Dayananda admitted that some religions contain elements of truth. In fact on certain occasions he says that he accepts whatever is true in all religions[42]. In the introduction to the Satyartha Prakash he admits that there are undoubtedly many learned men among the followers of every religion[43]. There are also certain universal truths found in all religions. These truths are those in which they all agree with each other, and in whatever they differ with each other is false and therefore they are to be rejected[44].
However, a reading of the Satyartha Prakash as a whole gives us a different picture. Even though there may be elements of truth in other religions, that does not make them worthy of acceptance, for two reasons: first, whatever truth is found in them is derived from the Vedas. Dayananda says: “Wherever and whatever truth is to be found has proceeded from the Vedas”[45]. It follows then that, since there is the totality of truth in the Vedas there is no need to follow any other religion which may have only elements of truth. Therefore, whoever sincerely seeks the truth, must embrace the Vedic Religion[46]. Secondly, the truth that is found in other religions is mixed with untruths, like the best food mixed with poison. Hence they are to be rejected[47].

1.5 Criticism of popular Hinduism

One of the major concerns of Dayananda was to regenerate Hinduism by purifying it from such corrupted beliefs and practices as polytheism, idolatry, animal sacrifices, priestly privilege of the Brahmins, worship of popular deities, long pilgrimages, ritual ablutions, etc. He argued that the Puranas and the Tantras and other ‘new scriptures which supported and encouraged such beliefs are to be abandoned[48]. So he rejected these texts as concocted by hypocritical and selfish priests to deceive the ignorant masses. Chapter XI of the Satyartha Prakash is particularly dedicated to a critical analysis of the sects and cults of Hinduism[49].
Dayananda insisted that the study of the Vedas should be open to all, including Shudras, and not just to the Brahmins alone[50]. He argued that nobody becomes a Brahmin simply because he is born of Brahmin parents[51]. If God revealed the Vedas only for them, then He is to be regarded as partial and prejudiced and this would imperil God’s justice[52]. Therefore, he advocated that God has revealed the Vedas for all and that all men and women – i.e. the whole mankind – have a right to study them[53].

  1. S Daniel opines that Dayananda’s harsh condemnation of Hinduism was aimed at its regeneration for which he urged the Hindus to ‘go back to the Vedas’[54].


1.6 Jainism is the most dreadful religion

In Chapter XII of Satyartha Prakash Dayananda treats Carvacas, Buddhists and Jains as typical anti-Vedic religions[55] and the atheistic cults of India[56]. However, it is against Jainism that he directed much of his criticism. According to Dayananda, the Jains were prejudiced against and hostile towards the non-Jains. He argued that there is no religion which enjoins so much hostility towards people belonging to other faiths as Jainism[57]. He also called Jainism the most dreadful religion, the founders and followers of which are in dense ignorance. Even their Tirthankaras were ignorant and their teachers were devoid of knowledge. He says: “Your Tirthankaras had no conception of truth, otherwise they would not have written such nonsense. As are your teachers so are your disciples”[58]. Further, the Jaina scriptures are full of stories that delude people[59].
In this way, Dayananda presented the Jains as biased, perverse, ignorant and enemies of truth and upright living. He says: “all Jaina saints, family men and Tirthankaras including [… are] given to prostitution, adultery, theft and other evils [….] He who will associate with them will get same sort of evils in his heart also”[60]; “Therefore we say that the Jains are drowned in the hell of condemnative [sic] and religious bigotry”[61].

1.7 Islam is the religion of the uncivilised and the ignorant

Dayananda conceived Islam as a real threat to the existence of Hinduism and dedicated much space in discussing it[62]. He considered Islam as the religion of the uncivilised and the ignorant and wondered how the ancient people of Arabia accepted a religion of the kind[63]. According to Dayananda, the Quoran (Koran) is the product of a mind destitute of all knowledge of God. He says: “Quoran is not made by God. It might have been written by some deceitful and fraudulent person”[64]. He further argued that the Quoran causes rebellion and destroys peace[65]. It is full of errors, distortions and contains all untruth, and even the little truth it contains is distorted[66] and therefore it is to be considered as a great hoax[67]. He also held that Mohammed was not a pious man[68] but a quarrelsome[69], immoral and self indulgent person[70]. Further, the God of Islam incites the prophet and the Muslims to fight against non-Muslims[71].
Therefore, Dayananda concluded that he who believes that the Quoran is revealed, that Mohammad is a prophet, and that Mohammadan God to be omniscient, just and merciful would be a perfect idiot. He says: “this book [Quoran] is neither God’s revelation nor the work of any learned man, nor a book of knowledge”[72]; “the Quoran, the Quoranic God and the Moselms are full of bigotry and ignorance”[73]; “the noble qualities of justice, mercy, etc. remain at a distance from the God of Moslems”[74]. Therefore, it is not true that the believers of the Quoran are on the right path[75]. In addition, all through its history Islam has been intolerant of followers of other religions[76]. Thus, Dayananda maintained that, Islam is a false religion which does harm to mankind, and therefore, it is to be rejected and the Vedic faith is to be accepted by all[77].

1.8 Christianity is a religion of the book

Sumit Sarkar says that the polemics with the most far-reaching and long lasting consequences against non-Vedic religions was undoubtedly launched by Dayananda in Chapter XIII of Satyartha Prakash where he deals with Christianity[78].
Dayananda treated Christianity as a religion of the book – the ‘religion of the Bible’[79]. Hence his study of the Christian religion was confined exclusively to the Bible. His conviction was that, the claims of Christianity stand or fall with the Bible because the Christians believe that it is the revealed Word of God. If it is proved that the Bible is not the Word of God, then the whole foundation of Christianity as a religion collapses. Therefore, the main concern of Dayananda was to show that the Bible is not the Word of God but a human composition and that it combines many things that need to be condemned.

1.8.1 Christianity is a degraded religion

Since 1880s Dayananda was seriously engaged in combating Christianity. He used methods like, street debates, re-conversion ceremony (shuddhi), publication of tracts and pamphlets. He sent members of his Arya Samaj (samajits) to organise fairs against the preaching of the Christian missionaries. Thus a battle of words went on between both sides especially through their publications in the form of tracts and pamphlets, the contents of which often sunk to the level of insults, calumny and maligning the other. For example, Dayananda writes: “It appears that Mary conceived through some man, and either he or somebody else gave it out that the conception was through God”[80]; “Hullo Jesus! What science told you that stars will fall.[…] Had Jesus a little education he would have known that the stars are worlds and cannot fall down”[81]; “Marriages are performed in the paradise of the Christians. It was there that God celebrated the marriage of Jesus Christ. Let us ask who were his father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law etc?”[82]. Dayananda wrote that the appellation ‘Pope’ means those persons who are hypocrites and accomplish their selfish ends by cheating others[83] and that the Popes get themselves and their feet worshipped[84].
Dayananda also attacked Christianity by identifying it with the West, by attempting to refute its claims of religious, moral and cultural superiority, and by asserting the religious and the cultural degradation of Christianity and the superiority of the Vedas.

1.8.2 The God of the Bible is wicked

Dayananda argued that the God of the Bible is unjust[85], cruel[86], jealous[87], a flesh-eater[88], destitute of mercy[89], malicious[90] and an ignorant savage[91]. He is temperamental, emotional and subject to passions. He is jealous, immoral and limited by space and time. He is also responsible for innumerable evil deeds. He says: “The God of Christians behaves exactly like a man”[92]. Therefore, Dayananda concludes that such a being can never be considered as God and he is not even equal to a learned yogin[93]. Commenting on Gen. 30, 22-23 which says that God ‘opened’ the womb of Rachel who was barren he says cynically: “Well done! O God of Christians! What a great surgeon you are! What instruments or medicines did you use in opening the wombs of women?”[94].
Dayananda further stated that the God of the Bible is not omniscient, for had he been so, he would not have created Satan because he would have known that Satan would tempt man to commit sin[95]. Again, had he been an all-knowing being, he would have known Abel’s death without inquiring from Cain, ‘Where is thy brother?’[96]. Further, if he had been omniscient he would have been able to find out all about the firmness of Abraham’s faith without tempting him to sacrifice his son Isaac[97].

1.8.3 The Bible contains statements that offend reason

Dayananda claimed that the Bible contains statements that offend reason, logic, science and laws of nature. He rejected such beliefs as the birth of Jesus from a virgin, his resurrection from the dead, etc., as impossible and opposed to the laws of nature[98]. He also condemned all miracles of Jesus as superstitions, irrational, impossible and a hoax[99].
According to Dayananda, the Bible displays a crude ignorance of scientific knowledge[100]. He argued that self-contradictory statements abound in the Bible. For example, while it is said in many places in the Bible that sins will be forgiven, it also says that each one will be rewarded or punished according to one’s deeds[101]. He contested that sin can never be forgiven because it will imperil God’s justice, and His justice demands that each person should receive the reward or punishment according to his or her deeds. Again, the belief that a person will be punished or rewarded eternally cannot be logically sustained because the finite action of finite souls cannot produce infinite results[102].

1.8.4 The Bible contains immoral and cruel stories

Dayananda argued that the Bible contains many stories and precepts that are immoral and cruel. Some of the stories that are morally repulsive and give licence to immorality and cruelty are, the visit of God to Sarah making her to conceive[103], Mary’s conception by the Holy Spirit[104], the killing of the first born in Egypt[105], accounts of animal sacrifice and beef-eating[106] and the like. The doctrine of the remission of sin through repentance, which besides being irrational, is also unjust as it encourages people to commit sin, because if repentance absolves one from sin, nobody would be afraid of committing sin and thus there would be an increase in sinfulness in the world[107]. Belief in immaculate conception could lead to loss of control over women, and any virgin who happened to conceive can claim that she conceived through God.
Dayananda alleged that Christianity taught not only sacrifice in the Old Testament but also cannibalism in the New Testament. For example, the Christians eat and drink the body and blood of Christ imagining all the time that their bread and their drink are the flesh and the blood of Christ, respectively, and they call it the ‘Lord’s supper’[108].

1.8.5 The Bible can never be the Word of God

The conclusion that Dayananda arrived at after his so-called study of the Bible was that, it cannot be the Word of God because it is full of absurdities, and its authors are ignorant savages. He says: “Therefore, your Bible is not God-revealed”[109]; “the Bible is a human composition and not a revelation of God”[110]; “Their Bible has many things which are condemnable. […] With the exception of a few things all else is untrue. As the contact of falsehood makes the truth also impure, similarly the Bible is also not acceptable”[111].
It is evident that Dayananda misinterprets Christianity and the Christian teachings. He does not really enter into the spirit of the Bible. He makes a literal reading of it and is prejudiced by his a priori assumptions. He also resorts to the study of Christianity exclusively from the Bible since he judges Bible alone to be the source of the Christian faith[112], and is convinced that Christianity stands or falls with the Bible[113]. Thus Dayananda carefully chose biblical passages in order to present a demonic Christianity.

1.8.6 Jesus Christ was a savage and a hoax

According to Dayananda, Jesus Christ was one who talked nonsense like a wild savage[114], destitute of knowledge and understanding. P.S. Daniel observes: “The term ‘barbarous’ or ‘savage’ is repeatedly used over twenty-five times applying them to Christians, their God and their scriptures (the Bible)”[115]. Dayananda spoke of the ignorance and foolishness of Jesus Christ and argued that Jesus was not a seer, that he was not even an enlightened person. He says: “Had Jesus got even a little education, he should not have said such nonsense. […] The presence of Jesus was a great thing in a country of uneducated savages”[116]. He then claimed that Mary the mother of Jesus was not a chaste woman[117] and that the Bible abounded in absurdities and therefore could be the work of an enlightened man. All Christian missionaries say that Jesus was a very calm and peace loving person. But in reality he was a hot-tempered persons destitute of knowledge and who behaved like a wild savage[118]. This shows that Jesus was neither the son of God, nor had he any miraculous powers[119]. He did not possess the power to forgive sins[120]. The righteous people do not stand in need of any mediator like Jesus[121]. Jesus came to spread discord which is going on everywhere in the world[122]. Therefore, it is evident that the hoax of Christ’s being the Son of God, the knower of the past and the future, the forgiver of sin, has been set up falsely by his disciples. In reality, he was a very ordinary ignorant man, neither learned nor a yogi[123]. He was a mere carpenter’s son, living in a wild and poor country.

1.8.7 Christianity is a religion of fools and barbarians

Dayananda’s so-called study of Christianity lead him to condemn Christianity as a shallow, barbarous, false and foreign religion, believed only by fools and barbarians. He presented all the prophets of the Christians from Moses onwards as uncivilised and devoid of culture[124]. He spoke of the ‘trap’ and ‘mesh’ of the Christian religion and the ‘net’ of the Christian missionaries, and asked everybody to escape it[125]. He then went on to claim that only wild savages believed in Jesus and his only achievements are dissentions and discords[126].
The Christians are educated to a great extent. But political considerations and obstinacy do not allow them to forsake their hollow religion and be open to the Vedic faith[127]. Dayananda states: “the Bible is not God-revealed, nor its God good, nor its followers religious”[128]. Therefore he exhorts the Christians: “Hear O Christians, it is high time that you should leave this wild religion and accept the Vedic faith”[129].
Benjamin Walker remarks that, in spite of Dayananda’s vigorous denunciation of Christianity, he borrowed many ideas from it. The foundation of such organisations as the Arya Tract Society, Women’s Arya Samaj, Young Men’s Arya Samaj, the Vedic Salvation Army, and his schools, colleges, orphanages , widows’ homes and relief centres were due to direct Christian inspiration. Besides, the Arya Samaja rites include Sunday worship, the reading, preaching and teaching of the Vedas[130].

2. Dayananda’s militant attitude towards other religions

Dayananda was a militant Hindu who could not tolerate any religion other than the Vedic. With him tolerance gave way to militancy. In 1877-1878 he visited Punjab and there he discovered for himself the threat Hinduism was facing from the proselytising activities of the Christian missionaries and Muslim teachers, and this made him denounce these religions[131]. G.S.Saxena says: “The views of Swami Dayananda were radical and militant”[132]. P.S. Daniel observes that if Dayananda was militant, it was, to certain extent because he had two militant religions to counteract, namely, Christianity and Islam[133].
Lala Lajpat Rai acknowledged the militant nature of the Arya Samaj which Dayananda founded. He says: “The Arya Samaj is militant, not only externally ― i.e., in its attitude towards other religions ― but it is equally militant internally”[134]. M.G.Chitkara, says: “Dayananda carried war into the opponents camp and was the first, after centuries of abject passivity, to take offensive against the Christian Missionaries and others”[135]. The aggressive attitude of Dayananda gave a new self-confidence to the Hindus and acted as a bulwark against the proselytising activities of the Christian missionaries and the Muslims[136].
Dayananda’s militant response to non-Vedic religions had already produced a most dangerous effect in India. It had increased the hostility between the Hindus (Arya Samajists) and other religious communities ever since its foundation. Dayananda’s method of attacking other religions through polemic literature, public lectures, educational institutions, proselytisation through re-conversion (shuddhi) became strong weapons in the hands of Arya Samajists. This was one of the important factors which led to the outbreak especially of Hindu-Muslim communal riots that continued to recur in many parts of India[137].

2.1 Polemical style of writing

Dayananda wrote extensively in the form of books, pamphlets, tracts and letters but most of them were polemic in nature. In fact a part of his Satyartha Prakash was banned for a time in some parts of India because of its fundamentalist and militant nature. Romain Rolland says that Dayananda “thundered against all forms of thought other than his own, the only true one”[138]. A.L. Basham says that Hinduism took offensive for the first time for centuries in Dayananda. He was also a mighty fighter in the cause of the ‘Church’ he founded and made fierce polemic speeches against its opponents[139].
Commenting on the writings of Dayananda, H.Coward notes that his reading of the texts of other religions was always more polemic than scholarly in style. Passages would be selected for criticism where points of logical inconstancy or moral weakness could be shown. Much of this was motivated towards the winning of public debates or private theological discussions, rather than the ideal of dispassionate search for truth[140]. P.S. Daniel corroborates Coward’s view when he affirms that Dayananda’s sole aim seems to have been to vanquish the opponents in arguments, and the means he adopted to achieve this end, whether fair or foul, were of a matter of no concern to him[141].
In spite of this, Dayananda had the audacity to state that the aim of his writings on religions was not to hurt the susceptibilities of others or to condemn falsely anyone, but to further the cause of truth and eradicate error and thus contribute to the elevation of human race and to enable all human beings to sift truth from falsehood. He also claimed that he accepted whatever is true and good in every religion[142]. However, his attitude towards other religions betrayed the denial of these noble sentiments. In fact, as J.T.F. Jordens has rightly remarked, Dayananda’s views are strongly condemnatory, predominantly negative and positively intolerant and aggressive. He says that there is quite a lot of sarcastic bitterness in his criticism of other religions[143].

2.2 All non-Vedic religions should disappear

Dayananda maintained that all non-Vedic religions that are found in the world are products of muddled intellects[144]. But the Vedic Religion is the only true religion and therefore all other religions are ‘false beliefs’ which should be refuted and rejected[145]. Thus he speaks of the snares of the Jains, Christians and Moslems[146]. Besides, the existence of diversity of religions only leads to hostilities and strife which greatly increases sufferings in the world[147]. Humanity can expect no progress unless everybody followed the same Vedic Religion because it is the religion of light, culture and righteousness, which will give true happiness to the entire humanity. Therefore, the salvation of the world consists in rejecting all the false religions and accepting the one true religion as revealed in the Vedas, and consequently all the false faiths must disappear. In a letter to Colonel Olcott he wrote: “We pray the Lord that by his grace and the effort of men one day all these religions may disappear, and that in the midst of all people may be established the one true religion which throughout the tradition has been preserved by the Aryans”[148].
Therefore, Dayananda considered it his mission to replace all the religions, including certain forms of Hinduism, with the pure Vedic Religion. In fact, he looked forward to a future in which all the existing religions will vanish from the world and the Vedic Religion alone will reign supreme.

2.3 Misrepresentation of other religious

In the introduction to Satyartha Prakash, Dayananda presented four concrete principles that are to be taken into account in interpreting other religions. They are: a) akanksa which demands the interpreter to enter into the spirit of the speaker or author; b) yogyata which means fitness or compatibility of a word and the meaning it signifies so that it gives rationality to the text; c) asatti which demands that a text be taken in its total context; d) tatparya which insists in giving the same meaning to the words which was intended by the user or speaker[149]. P.S. Daniel notes that, when Dayananda interpreted other religions and their sacred texts he totally ignored these rules, which he himself had recommended. He took the scriptures in their most literal sense, ignoring the context and the spirit in which they are written[150]. Benjamin Walker commenting on Dayananda’s Vedic religion notes that his interpretation of the Vedas was largely fanciful and often forcibly adapted to suit his preconceptions, and as he knew no English his inspiration was derived mainly from indigenous sources[151].
It is an accepted fact that religious ideas are expressed in symbols and myths. Hence, in interpreting religious texts or ideas, one needs to go beyond the words, symbols and myths and seek their deeper meaning, through proper hermeneutics. But Dayananda took the mythical and symbolic expressions found in the scriptures of other religions in their literal sense, making no effort to grasp their hidden meanings. Jordens says: “Dayananda was hampered in his theological thinking by his complete inability to grasp the value and meaning of myth and symbols in the elucidation of the sacred. To him only pure rationality was acceptable in the realm of theology”[152].
P.S.Daniel says that, more often in Dayananda’s criticism of other religions and the interpretation of their scriptures, it was not rationality that guided him, but malice and spite[153]. Coward observes that although Dayananda possessed a laudable desire to study other religions, and though he commendably went to great lengths to work on primary texts, his a priori assumptions frequently prevented him from understanding them[154]. F.K. Khan Durrani says that Dayananda’s arguments degenerated into wholesale abuse[155]. He further notes that for Dayananda a thing is right if it is found in the Vedas. But if it is discovered in the Quoran or in the religious scriptures of some other religions, it is objectionable and false. Hence what Dayananda really seeks is victory and not truth[156]. J.N. Farquhar characterises much of Dayananda’s writings on other religions as ‘stinging taunts’[157].

3 ‘Satyartha Prakash the most disappointing book’

Perhaps the most virulent criticism against Dayananda’s fundamentalist ideology came from Mahatma Gandhi. The latter, after reading the Dayananda’s Satyartha Prakash in 1942 in Yerwada Prison, wrote in Young India: “I have read Satyartha Prakash, the Arya Samaj Bible. Friends sent me three copies of it whilst I was resting in the Yarwada Jail. I have not read a more disappointing book from a reformer so great. He has claimed to stand for truth and nothing else. But he has unconsciously misrepresented Jainism, Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism itself. One having even a cursory acquaintance with these faiths could easily discover the errors into which the great reformer was betrayed”[158]. Gandhi then pointed out that one’s respect for Dayananda would have been greater if he had not written such a book as Satyartha Prakash, especially the chapters on other religions. The comments of Gandhi invited strong protests from the Arya Samajists to which Gandhi responded saying that there was not a single word in his comments that was written without deep consideration and that his writings are therefore deliberate[159].
It is also to be recalled that the Sindh government banned chapter XIV of Satyartha Prakash which deals with Islam because it promotes feelings of enmity and hatred between people. The government order particularly specified that the author of Satyartha Prakash ridiculed some of the religious beliefs of Muslims, misrepresented and reviled the teachings of the Quoran, attacked and belittled the authority of the Prophet Mohammad and that the book contained matters calculated to hurt the susceptibilities of Muslims[160].

4. Practice of shuddhi (re-conversion) as a weapon against Christianity and Islam

Dayananda was greatly threatened by the activities of proselytisation by Christian missionaries and Muslim teachers. He said: “Do you not see that before your very eyes fraudulent cults are increasing and many men are embracing Christianity and Islam”[161]. In order to counteract it, besides employing the usual methods of public lectures and writings condemning these religions, he also introduced a new weapon called shuddhi or the re-conversion ceremony. K.W. Jones says: “shuddhi, [is] a ceremony of purification which was employed to return those who had been lost to Hinduism through Christian or Islamic conversion”[162].
Shuddhi was an ancient Hindu concept referring to the quality of purity necessary for the proper performance of religious rites and social duties. By extension, the term signified the rite by which pollution is removed and ritual purity is restored for performing religious rituals. Traditionally, it was also used for the re-admittance of Hindus who had fallen from caste fellowship, consciously or unconsciously. Initially orthodox Hindu rituals were used in shuddhi ceremony[163].
However, the credit goes to Dayananda for extending the ancient practice of shuddhi to reconvert to the Vedic faith those Hindus who embraced other religions, especially Islam and Christianity. Later, he also used it to convert non-Hindus to Vedic faith, thus making Hinduism both a propagating religion and a converting religion[164]. Dayananda found in shuddhi something appropriate for the specific Christian challenge to Hinduism which he started in Punjab and which in the course of time became a considerable movement in the entire Gangetic plains[165].
Thus shuddhi became a forceful response to the so-called converting activity of Christianity and Islam, for the recovery of lapsed Hindus, converting people to Hinduism, and raising the status of low-castes including the untouchables. He also used it as a powerful technique to reform Hinduism from within.

5. Dayananda performs shuddhi (re-conversion) ceremony

Dayananda himself took the lead to reconvert Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. In 1877, during his visit to Punjab, at Ludhiana he gave a lecture on shuddhi and prevented the conversion of a certain Brahmin called Ramsharan, a teacher at the Christian mission school. In Amritsar about forty students who were strongly attracted to Christianity were persuaded by Dayananda to abandon the idea. At Jullandhar he himself performed the re-conversion of a Christian. He was also actively involved in the re-conversion to Hinduism of several other Christians[166]. Dayananda’s denunciation of Christianity and Islam was in full swing during and after his visit to Punjab (1877-1878), where Hindus felt the threat of Christianity and Islam most acutely[167].

6. Arya Samaj as an organised proselytising religion

The founding of the Arya Samaj in 1875 was the concrete response of Dayananda to the problem of religious pluralism. Jordens notes that, it was the most important and far-reaching decision taken by Dayananda because it planted his message and his reform firmly in the soil of North India[168]. It was to become a movement on the vanguard of the Hindu response to the challenges of other religions in the 20th century. Sir Herbert Risley observes that the Arya Samaj was bitterly opposed to Christianity and laid itself out not merely to counteract the efforts of missionaries but to reconvert to Hinduism persons of high castes who had become Christians[169].
Dayananda stated at the end of the Satyartha Prakash that the sole aim of his life is to help to put an end to this mutual wrangling of different religions and to bring all men into the fold of one religion, namely, the Vedic[170]. It was with this goal that he founded the Arya Samaj, the duty of which was to recall India to the forsaken Vedic path[171]. Dayananda, in his will, left his property to a society called Paropakarani Sabha to be used for the preaching and teaching of the Vedic Dharma by initiating a body of preachers to be sent across India and outside so that truth may be accepted and falsehood may be rejected[172]. In this way, he made the Vedic religion a preaching religion (pracaraka dharma) and a propagating religion. Dayananda says: “christianity (sic), Islam and Jainism are on the increase while Vedic people are deteriorating. But they do not open their eyes. […] You cannot protect your homes and convert people from other religions”[173]. Thus, as P.S.Daniel says, what he advocated was not co-existence of different religions on the basis of mutual respect but the acceptance of one religion by all[174]. In this way, the Arya Samaj became an organised proselytising religion, like Islam and Christianity, and it also aspired to convert the whole world to its faith through constructive propaganda. Jones notes: “Proselytisation then became a major activity of the Arya Samaj”[175].
Fearing that the Christian missionaries would convert Hindus through their schools, Dayananda also established schools operated by the Arya Samaj. The raising of the status of the low castes through shuddhi ceremony was another method he employed against the challenges of Christianity. Dayananda also preached cow-protection and founded the famous Cow Protection Association.

7. Dayananda as a Hindu nationalist

Dayananda was not only a religious leader and social reformer, but also a political thinker. He derived his nationalist ideas from the originality of his own understanding of Indian culture and without any direct influence of Western thought. He noted that a nation is a people that is conscious of its historical identity, cultural uniqueness, common language, common territory and claim to self rule; Dayananda’s concepts of nationalism met all these requirements and he arrived at it about 1875, a decade before even the Indian National Congress was founded. Though the Arya Samaj is not a political organisation, in the strict sense, it has a political philosophy of its own. It is a national movement in the Indian context because it has a definite approach in all matters affecting the lives of the people and the country – religious, social, educational, cultural and political. Among the aims of Arya Samaj we read: “Its [Arya Samaj’s] prosperity and future depends upon the reconciliation of Hinduism with that greater ism – Indian Nationalism”[176]. C.Jaffrelot notes that although the Arya Samaj was not a proponent of Hindu nationalism, it was a militant organisation from which Hindu nationalism would emerge[177]. He affirms: “its (Arya Samaj’s) ideological characteristics were such that it became one of the first crucibles of Hindu nationalism”[178]; “The Arya Samaj represents the militant strand from which, in particular, Hindu nationalism would spring forth”[179]. Jordens observes that Dayananda developed an aggressive nationalism especially in his later years[180].

8. Dayananda’s ideology and Hindutva

An ideology can be considered to have succeeded when new generations of people begin to talk that language. Though more than a century has passed since Dayananda’s death, his religious philosophy continues to inspire a great portion of the Hindu intelligentsia in India. The unprecedented rise of militant Hindutva since the late 1980s is a proof of it.

8.1. The link between Dayananda’s philosophy and Hindutva

There is an ideological link between Dayananda’s religious fundamentalism and the present day Hindutva. Dayananda was perhaps the first in modern times to politicise Hindu religion. Through the interpretation of the Vedas he politicised Hinduism in a subtle way and to a degree no other Indian thinker had done before him. He attempted to justify that Hindu culture was to be the natural and the necessary basis of the nationalism. Dayananda considered the Vedic Dharma as the exclusively and absolutely true faith and therefore superior to all others. Hence he gave a clarion call to all the Hindus to ‘return to the Vedas’. He says: “The prosperity of a country depends upon the fulfillment (sic) of certain conditions, such as the study of the Vedas and the Vedic literature, due observance of the rules of the four Ashramas, Brahmacharya etc.”[181]. He also spoke of a Golden Age in which the Aryans of the Vedic era are presented as the chosen people to whom God revealed perfect knowledge of the Veda[182]. Again, Dayananda also considered India as the land of Aryans and that Indians were Aryans. We read in Satyartha Prakash: “Now we shall examine the merits and demerits of the religion professed by the Aryas or people of the country of the Aryavartta [India]. In the whole world there is no country like India. […] For this reason did the Aryas come to this land and settle here in the beginning of the universe”[183]. He also used the term Aryavartta for India[184], Indraprashta for Modern Delhi[185], Prayaga for Allahabad[186] and Avantikak for Ujjain[187]. Here it may be noted that one of the agendas of the Hindutva ideologues of today is to restore some of these ancient names.
Dayananda proposed Sanskrit as the common language of India and made attempts to revive it, though later abandoned it for Hindi. He projected Christianity and Islam as ‘alien faiths’[188] or ‘faiths of other countries’[189], and Carvacas, Buddhism and Jainism as ‘cults of India’[190].

8.2. Attempts to impose Vedic culture

Among the hardline Hindutva ideologues of India, we perceive a systematic attempt to resurrect the Vedic culture under the name of the ‘study of the Vedic Culture’ and Vedic sciences and assert the superiority of the Aryan race by imposing on the nation the ideology of Hindutva. For instance, there is a strong tendency among the Hindutva ideologues to present the Vedic civilisation as the foundation not only of Indian civilisation but also of the world civilisation, serious efforts are being made to impose Vedic studies in school and university education – we can recall here the systematic efforts in this direction by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the University Grants Commission (UGC) when the former BJP-led NDA government was in power in New Delhi. In the name of bringing the so-called ‘real history’ to people, distortion of Indian history is being done by Hindutva historians. For example, they present the Aryans as the indigenous people of India, declare that the Aryan invasion is a myth, argue that the Vedic people and the Harappans were identical and that the authors of the Vedas were the builders of the Harappan civilization[191].
Symbolic gestures can have not only local but also global significance. Dayananda’s call of ‘back to the Vedas’ is heard overseas as well. The American-born David Frawley (who became Vamadeva Shastri) may be considered as a ‘personification’ itself of ‘return to the Vedas’. Frawley claims that he became a Hindu by studying the Vedas: He notes: “In my case I simply didn’t build bridge to the East, I crossed over them and left them far behind. I immersed my being in the soul of the East so completely that I almost ceased to be a Westerner, not only in my thoughts but also in my instincts. I moved from a Western intellectual rationality to a deeper cosmic rationality born of the Vedic insight[192]. Frawley also has written many articles and books which can be considered as a continuation of the mission of Dayananda to bring people to the Vedic faith. Another example of a Westerner who responded to the call to ‘return to the Vedas’ is Ishwar Sharan ― originally a Canadian Christian ― who took his Vedic initiation at Prayaga in 1977. Today, through his writings he wages an ideological battle against Christianity, his former religion.

8.3 Attempt to impose Vedic model of education

In October 1998 in a conference of the Education Ministers and secretaries of States organised by the former Union Human Resource Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi, the ‘experts’ from the All India Conference of the Vidya Bharati recommended, among other things, that Vedas and Upanisads should be incorporated into the basic curricula of education and that Sanskrit learning should be made obligatory for students between Standard II to X[193]. In a seminar conducted in 2003 on ‘Indianisation of education-reforms and restructuring’, it was observed that the Vedic model of education was the only solution to elevate the level of standard of Indian education. The seminar also dealt at length with Vedic civilisation. Those who participated in the seminar include well-known personalities like the former Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, the RSS leader K.S.Sudarshan and the former NCERT director J.S. Rajput[194] – all of them acknowledged Hindutva hardliners of contemporary India. Thus, once again what we find is people responding to the ‘call’ of Dayananda to ‘return to the Vedas’.

8.4. Intolerance towards religious minorities

Again, the ‘war’ which Dayananda declared against the Muslims and Christians continues to be waged without any respite even today. Even after a century, the main targets of attack continue to be practically the same, and the reverberations of the ‘war drums’ are heard not only in the media and in the streets but also in the Indian parliament. The only difference is that the bulk of the ‘artillery’ and ‘ammunition’ for the war are carried to the battlefield, not by Arya Samajists but by the Hindutva brigade of the RSS, VHP, BJP, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, and other affiliates of the Sangh Parivar, and the Hindutva stalwarts.

8.5. Revival of the practice of re-conversion

Dayananda engaged in polemics against all the religions extant in the India of his time, and his Satyartha Prakash continues to remain as a notorious monument to religious intolerance. Many practical methods employed by the Hindutva ideologues today to combat the religious minorities of India find their inspiration in Dayananda. For example, the practice of re-conversion (shuddhi) ceremonies, cow protection movement, proselytisation by Hindu volunteers, introduction of the so-called ‘Freedom of Religion Bill’ to prevent conversion, the view that India is the fountainhead of all culture, concept of India as a Hindu nation from time immemorial, publication of polemical and provocative writings in the form of tracts and pamphlets, gross misinterpretation of the dogmas and beliefs of other religions, superficial study of their scriptures and citing them out of context in order to spite and to malign, ridiculing their divinities and saints, the projection of Hindutva as the ‘one religion for all’ Indians, and so on, have their ideological as well as methodological inspiration in Dayananda and in the Arya Samaj he founded.

8.6. The campaign of maligning by Voice of India

The Voice of India publications, New Delhi, which is one of the principal mouthpieces of the Hindutva today, seems to imitate the method adopted by Dayananda a century ago in his Satyartha Prakash. In fact, the Voice of India regularly publishes books, pamphlets and monographs of highly inflammatory nature against other religions, especially Islam, Christianity and the secular ideologies of India. Although the scholarship of many of these publications is questionable, they have a wide circulation both in India and abroad. Judging from the nature of their literature, the ultimate purpose of Voice of India seems to be ― just as it was in the case of Dayananda ― to impress, indoctrinate, misrepresent, malign, fabricate stories, politicise religion and play on the emotions of the masses against the minority religions and secularists of India, in order to win the battle against their opponents, using any means, fair or foul.
Dayananda’s style of engaging in polemics and hurling insults against religious minorities is being imitated by several contemporary Hindutva ideologues. Authors like Arun Shourie (see his Missionaries in India,1994; Worshiping False God’s,1994; Harvesting Our Souls, 2000), Sita Ram Goel (see his Jesus Christ: An Artifice for Aggression 1994; Catholic Ashrams: Sanyasins or Swindlers,1994; History of Hindu Christian Encounters, 1996; Genesis and Growth of Nehruism, 1993; The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India,1994), Ram Swarup (see his Hindu View of Christianity and Islam, 1992; On Hinduism Reviews and Reflections, 2000), Ishwar Sharan (see his The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple,1995), David Frawley (see his Arise Arjuna. Hinduism in the Modern World, 1995), Koenraad Elst (see his Psychology of Prophetism. A Secular Look at the Bible, 1993; Negationism in India. Concealing the Record of Islam, 1993) are among the outstanding disciples of Dayananda in this field. A critical reading of their writings reveals that, in essence, their discourses are hardly different from that of Dayananda in his Satyartha Prakash. In other words, all these are subtle ways of responding to the call of Dayananda to ‘return to the Vedas’, to assert the Vedic faith and the superiority of the Aryan race. Therefore, we may rightly maintain that much of the inspiration for the present-day Hindutva writers is derived from Dayananda, either directly or indirectly. In this way Dayananda continues to aliment Hindutva.
However, it is paradoxical that the same Hindutva ideologues who are so strongly under the ideological spell of Dayananda, have conveniently avoided being influenced by the social reforms initiated by him, such as, repudiation of traditional caste system, untouchability, Brahmanic domination of Indian culture, discrimination against women and low castes and attempts to reform the Hindu religion from such evils as polytheism, idolatry, superstitious rituals, exploitation of the ignorant masses, etc.

9. Dayananda as the ‘father’ of modern Hindu fundamentalism

As we have already seen, Dayananda upholds the view that the Vedic Religion alone is the absolute truth and that it is superior to all other faiths. As the Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion), it is for all time and all peoples. He says: “The Sanatan Dharma or Eternal Religion is that set of universal doctrines which belong to all countries and all men, which were accepted in the past, are being accepted in the present, and shall be accepted in future by everybody and which it is impossible for anybody to go against”[195]. He affirms again: “All men, should, therefore, accept this firmly established doctrine [of the Vedic revelation]. They should accept none else”[196]. What is implied is that all religions other than the Vedic are false and products of ignorance, worthy to be obliterated from the face of the earth. He says: “One who disrespects the Veda or the scriptures written by master-minds in agreement with the Vedas, is an anti-Vedic heretic and should be turned out of the nation, society and country[197]. Dayananda’s religious intolerance of other faiths is evident in this statement. Here we may quote the words of Meera Nanda who says: “Hinduism refuses to grant other faiths their distinctiveness and difference, even as it proclaims its great ‘tolerance’. Hinduism’s tolerance is a mere disguise for its narcissistic obsession with its own greatness”[198].
Arya Samaj began as a defensive organisation of the Hindus. But soon it became an offensive one against people of other faiths. The Samaj also launched programmes to convert followers of other religions to the Hindu faith[199]. To counter the proselytising activities of Christian missionaries it borrowed many organisational techniques from them. It sponsored missionary activities to convert Muslims and Christians and performed ceremonies to raise outcast Hindus to the twice-born status[200]. The shuddhi (re-conversion) programme of the Arya Samaj is now being pursued as an aggressive agenda of the Sangh Parivar.
D.D. Pattanaik says that history of modern Hindu nationalist thought begins with Swami Dayananda Saraswati. He advocated rejuvenation of Hinduism as India’s national religion on the doctrine of Vedic infallibility, as the foundation of Hindu society and Hindu nation. Thus Dayananda spoke of nationalism in religious terms, and laid down the foundations for neo-Hindu nationalism[201]. Pattanaik even places him next to Adi Sankara. He says: “Next to Adi Sankaracharya, Dayananda was the greatest and foremost to check onslaught on Hinduism and its genuine scriptures”[202].
In the saffronised NCERT school textbook of Social Sciences for Class IX, Dayananda is presented as a great patriot because his slogan was ‘back to the Vedas’ and he instilled in people a pride in the ideals of swadeshi[203]. However, it may be more correct to call him a patriot of Hindu rashtra and a champion of Vedic religion than a true patriot. It has been said that many terrorists and extremists were inspired by the Arya Samaj he founded[204]. His ideas have also influenced the militant Hindu Mahasabha[205] and the Jana Sangh[206].
Thus, ultimately, what Dayananda propounds is a single culture, single religion and a single identity ― namely the Vedic. The glorification of the Vedic culture amounts to the glorification of Hinduism and the ethnic pride of Aryans. For example, he says: “Just as there is one God there should be one religion of all people [the Vedic]”[207]; “From the dawn of creation up to a little before five thousand years ago, the Aryas were the sole overlords of the whole world”[208]; “It is very difficult to make any progress without common faith, common interests […] and common feeling[209].
From the above, it is not difficult to see that Dayananda advocated for India the theory of one religion, one race and one culture. Here, we are reminded of Adolf Hitler’s concept of ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Führer (One nation, one people, one leader!). Such an ideology demonstrates Dayananda’s callous insensitivity towards people of other faiths, his religious intolerance, and his intention to crusade against religious freedom. Because of his inability to accept religious pluralism, what he advocates in reality is a clash of religions, and consequently, religious fundamentalism and militancy. Subash Anand says: “Dayananda’s weakness was a fundamentalist reading of his religious tradition”[210].
Thus Dayananda’s religious philosophy hardly contributes anything to inter-religious dialogue or understanding of civilisations or peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths. His exclusive religion of the Vedas is a danger for the secularist and the pluralistic framework of India. Therefore, we may rightly claim that his ‘anti-other’ philosophy qualifies him to be the ‘father’ of the modern Hindu fundamentalism, not only because of the nature of his views but also due to the extent of their influence on contemporary India. In fact, after an analysis of Dayananda’s religious thought Ninian Smart affirms that Dayananda was in a stronger sense than Ram Mohan Roy a fundamentalist, and an early nationalist, and the Arya Samaj he founded had some influence on the militant Hindu Mahasabha movement[211].


In order to understand the present, one needs to know the past. The seeds of religious fundamentalism which Dayananda sowed more than a century ago is bearing abundant fruit in contemporary India in the form of aggressive Hindutva against the religious minorities of India, especially the Muslims and Christians, as evidenced by the innumerable acts of atrocities committed against them in recent years. Thus, the true face of Dayananda, which has so far been hidden beneath the mask of his being a frontline Hindu social reformer, now emerges as that of a Hindu fundamentalist and nationalist.
The ability of Dayananda’s philosophy of religion to aliment Hindu chauvinism even after a century, once again tells us most eloquently that, ideologies rule the world, and that an ideological aggression if not resisted in time, can lead to lasting tragic consequences. Therefore, the popular conception of Dayananda as a benign Hindu social reformer is only a half-truth. The other half is that the roots of contemporary Hindu fundamentalism and militancy against the minority religions, to a great extent, lie deep in the 19th century, especially in the religious philosophy of persons like Dayananda Saraswati. Therefore, the ideological link between Dayananda and the contemporary Hindutva, is too evident to go unnoticed.

[1] See A. SHARMA, “Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Vedic Authority”, 188.
[2] See D.SARASWATI, Autobiography, 11-45,67-83.
[3] For a list of his works see D.SARASWATI, Autobiography, 84-89. See also J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati, 345-347.
[4] The first edition of Satyartha Prakash was published in 1875 followed by an enlarged second edition in 1884. We refer to the English translation of the latter edition by Ganga Prasad Upadhyaya entitled The Light of Truth, Allahabad, 1956.
[5] We refer to the edition by Ghasi Ram (1925).
[6] We refer to the edition by Y.Mimamshak (1955).
[7] See J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati, 92-126; 249-269.
[8] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 283-284,288,849.
[9] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 385.
[10] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 385,387-388.
[11] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 284,391.
[12] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 385,387-389.
[13] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 281,288.
[14] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 508.
[15] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 551-552.
[16] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 446.
[17] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 283. See also D.SARASWATI, The Ten Commandments, 41-42.
[18] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 292; ID., Rigvedadi Bhasya Bhumika, 46,47,136.
[19] See AUROBINDO, India’s Rebirth, 117-118.
[20] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 849.
[21] D.SARASWATI, Rigvedadi Bhasya Bhumika, 76.
[22] See D.SARASWATI, Rigvedadi Bhasya Bhumika, 49; ID., Satyartha Prakash, 287.
[23] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 12.
[24] The letter is reproduced in J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati, 209.
[25] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 446.
[26] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 846.
[27] H.COWARD, “Dayananda’s Approach to Other Religions”, 267.
[28] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 283,285.
[29] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 385,556.
[30] See J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati, 78-98; D.SARASWATI, Autobiography, 74-75.
[31] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 2-3.
[32] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 3.
[33] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 555-556.
[34] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 2-5,7-9.
[35] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 385,555,581.
[36] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 5.
[37] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 5,8,385..
[38] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 581.
[39] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 559.
[40] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 555.
[41] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 385.
[42] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 9,848.
[43] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 3.
[44] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 3,4.
[45] D.SARASWATI, Rigvedadi Bhasya Bhumika, 76).
[46] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 846.
[47] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 551.
[48] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 5.
[49] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 387-580.
[50] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 80.
[51] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 394.
[52] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 80.
[53] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 846.
[54] See P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 100.
[55] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 385,581.
[56] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 583.
[57] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 638,639,640.
[58] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 622-623.
[59] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 674.
[60] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 656.
[61] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 648.
[62] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 761-845.
[63] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 822.
[64] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 797.
[65] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 814,843.
[66] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 828,843.
[67] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 800.
[68] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 785.
[69] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 787.
[70] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 822,835.
[71] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 836.
[72] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 843.
[73] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 785.
[74] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 798.
[75] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 824.
[76] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 780.
[77] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 789.
[78] S.SARKAR, Beyond Nationalist Frames, 229.
[79] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 683.
[80] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 723.
[81] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 734.
[82] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 756.
[83] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 395.
[84] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 397.
[85] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 694,755.
[86] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 712.
[87] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 694.
[88] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 695,702.
[89] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 699,712.
[90] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 700.
[91] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 715.
[92] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 695.
[93] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 697.
[94] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 708.
[95] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 693.
[96] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 696.
[97] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 705.
[98] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 722,726,742.
[99] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 723,729,735,738.
[100] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 692,734.
[101] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 729-730.
[102] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 553.
[103] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 704.
[104] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 722-723.
[105] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 712,720.
[106] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 715-717.
[107] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 552-553.
[108] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 736,751.
[109] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 688.
[110] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 695.
[111] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 769.
[112] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 682,760.
[113] See J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati, 267.
[114] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 731,734,736.
[115] P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 93.
[116] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 731.
[117] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 722-723.
[118] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 734.
[119] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 723.
[120] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 730.
[121] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 728.
[122] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 728-729.
[123] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 736-737.
[124] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 700,711.
[125] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 724.
[126] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 742.
[127] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 734.
[128] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 718.
[129] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 717.
[130] See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol.1, 271.
[131] See Rishi Dayananda Saraswati, 438,446.
[132] G.S.SAXENA, Arya Samaj Movement in India 1875-1947, 27.
[133] See P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 103.
[134] L.L.RAI, The Arya Samaj, 172.
[135] M.G.CHITKARA, Hindutva, 75.
[136] See N.K.DEVARAJA, Hinduism and Modern Age, 104; CHAMUPATI, “The Arya Samaja, 636.
[137] For details of such religious conflicts see K.W.JONES, Arya Dharma: Hindu Consciousness in the 19th Century, 19-20;39-47;120-153;186-223; ID., “The Arya Samaj in British India”, 33-52.
[138] R.ROLLAND, The Prophets of the New India, 100.
[139] A.L.BASHAM, “Hinduism”, 249.
[140] See H.COWARD, “Dayananda’s Approach to Other Religions”, 273.
[141] See P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 96.
[142] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 3,4,846-847.
[143] See J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati, 267.
[144] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 385.
[145] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 8,385.
[146] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 395.
[147] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 386.
[148] The letter as reproduced in J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati. 209. (Emphasis added).
[149] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 8-9.
[150] See P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 94.
[151] See B.WALKER, Hindu World, vol. 1, 270.
[152] J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati, 277.
[153] See P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 96.
[154] See H.COWARD, “Dayananda’s Approach to Other Religions”, 265,267,272,273.
[155] See F.K.K. DURRANI, Swami Dayananda, 160-167.
[156] See F.K.K. DURRANI, Swami Dayananda, 142-144.
[157] See J.N.FARQUHAR, Modern Religious Movements in India, 122.
[158] The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 24, 145. (Emphasis added).
[159] See, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 24, 180-181,228-229.
[160] See P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 116 note 186.
[161] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 565.
[162] K.W.JONES, “Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s Vision”, 283.
[163] See P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 103-104.
[164] See P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 88,104.
[165] See J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati. 170-171.
[166] See J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati, 170.
[167] See K.W.JONES, Arya Dharma, 8-20.
[168] See J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati. 127.
[169] See H.RISLEY, The Peoples of Indian, 244-245 as cited in L.L.Rai, The Arya Samaj, 162.
[170] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 846.
[171] See H.D. GRISWOLD, “Arya Samaja”, 59.
[172] See DAYANANDA, Autobiography, 90-95.
[173] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 565. (Emphasis added).
[174] See P.S.DANIEL, Hindu Response, 88.
[175] K.W.JONES, “Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s Vision”, 282
[176] L.L.RAI, The Arya Samaj, 183.
[177] See C.JAFFRELOT, The Hindu Nationalist Movement, 14,17.
[178] C.JAFFRELOT, The Hindu Nationalist Movement, 17.
[179] C.JAFFRELOT, The Hindu Nationalist Movement, 14.
[180] See J.T.F.JORDENS, Dayananda Sarasvati. 268.
[181] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 566.
[182] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 385,387-391.
[183] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 387.
[184] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 386,387,548,569,581,846,
[185] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 570,572,573,576, 577,579,580.
[186] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 574,580.
[187] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 575.
[188] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 548.
[189] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 4.
[190] See D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 2,583.
[191] See M.PINGLE, “Bring Real History of the Country before People”, 14.
[192] D.FRAWLEY, How I became a Hindu, 7. (Emphasis added).
[193] See A.PUPSHPARAJAN, “A Secular Critique of Hindutva”, 241.
[194] See Organiser, 5 January, 2003,17.
[195] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 846.
[196] D.SARASWATI, Rigvedadi Bhasya Bhumika, 31.
[197] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 79. (Emphasis added).
[198] M.NANDA, “Postmodernism, Hindu Nationalism” Part I, 81.
[199] D.D.PATTANAIK, Hindu Nationalism, vol. 2, 12.
[200] W. K. ANDERSEN – S. D. DAMLE, The Brotherhood in Saffron, 18.
[201] D.D.PATTANAIK, Hindu Nationalism, vol.2, 8.
[202] D.D.PATTANAIK, Hindu Nationalism, vol.2, 12. It may be recalled here that E.M.S. Namboodiripad had described Adi Sankara as the symbol of degradation of India. See S.CHANDRASEKHAR, “Sanskrit Varsity in Kerala”, 4.
[203] B.S.PARAKH (ed.), Contemporary India, 22.
[204] D.D.PATTANAIK, Hindu Nationalism, vol.2, 13.
[205] See N.SMART, World Philosophies, 316.
[206] P.C.SWAIN, Bharatiya Janata Party, 61.
[207] From the letter to Colonel Olcott reproduced in J.T.F.Jordens, Dayananda Sarasvati. 209. (Emphasis added).
[208] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 387.(Emphasis added);“
[209] D.SARASWATI, Satyartha Prakash, 375. (Emphasis added).
[210] S.ANAND “The Emergence of Hindutva”, 1 97.
[211] See N.SMART, World Philosophies, 315-316.

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