Dayananda Saraswati (February 12, 1824 – October 31, 1883) was an important Hindu religious scholar and the founder of the Arya Samaj, “Society of Nobles”, a Hindu reform movement, founded in 1875. Arya samaj founded by him produced 79% of the freedom fighters who were responsible for the independence of India. He was a sanyasi (renunciate) from his boyhood, and a scholar, who believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas. Dayananda advocated the doctrine of karma, skepticism in dogma, and emphasised the ideals of brahmacharya (celibacy and devotion to God). The Theosophical Society and the Arya Samaj were united for a certain time under the name Theosophical Society of the Arya Samaj. His original name was Mool Shankar. He was born in 1824 in Tankara, Gujarat. His father was a devotee of Lord Shiva. When Mool Shankar was 14 years old, on a Shivaratri night, he witnessed mice desecrating the idol of Lord Shiva and realized the fallacy of the prevailing concept of religion. He left home to search for true God. Along the way, he got initiated into an order of sanyasis (ascetics) who gave him the name Dayanand. He travelled far and wide in his quest for God eventually finding his way to Swami Virjanand in Mathura. He learnt the Vedas and other scriptures from Swami Virjanand, and as per his guru’s instructions went out to preach the teachings throughout the country. Swami Dayanand resolved to awaken India and the Hindu society. He introduced many positive reforms, among them the abolition of Sati Pratha, child marriage, dowry, untouchability in the prevalent caste system, and introduction of women’s education. He firmly believed that the yoke of the British Empire had to go. He emphasized the concept of nationhood by introducing the word Swarajya (self rule) for the first time and a need for one national language. In his famous book, Satyartha Prakash (The Light of Truth), he sought to dispel rituals, dogmas and superstitions among all Indians.
On April 10, 1875, Swami Dayananda established the Arya Samaj as a permanent organization to continue to educate the Hindus of their rich heritage and to reform the social structure within India, largely through the spread of education, especially that of women.
With his missionary work, Swami Dayananda made numerous enemies among people who preferred the status quo. Many attempts were made to harm him. Finally, on 30th October, 1883 on the evening of Diwali, he succumbed to poisoning by his faithful servant. With a recitation of the Mantras (hymns) from the Vedas and the words, “O Lord, if such is Thy will, let it be done,” he breathed his last. However, his work has been continued by the members of Arya Samaj, and has been extended beyond the borders of India into other countries. One of Swami Dayanand’s major arguments for going back to the Vedas was that, in his own words ” the four Vedas, the repositories of knowledge & religious truth, are the Word of God. They are absolutely free of error, & the Supreme & independent authority “. The four Vedas are; Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, & Atharva Veda. To spread awareness of his movement and to revitalize Vedic knowledge, Swami Dayanand published many religious books. These include; Satyartha Prakash (The light of Truth), the Rig-Veda, Bhasyya- Bhoomika, and Sanskar Vidhi.