Swami Dayanand Saraswati, originally called Mul Shankar, was born in Gujarat in 1824. He believed in monotheism and discouraged idol worship, social inequalities and child marriage.
Dayanand encouraged women’s education and widow remarriage.
Great social reformers like M G Ranade, Vidyasagar and Keshab Chandra Sen helped Dayanand to establish the Arya Samaj in Bombay in 1875. Membership of the Samaj was open to all castes. The Arya Samaj aroused cultural and national pride among the people. It also carried out social work like famine relief, and ran orphanages and widow homes. The Samaj produced leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai and Lala Hansraj.
Dayanand popularised the slogan “Go back to the Vedas”. He began the Shuddhi Movement to reconvert Hindus who had converted to other religions. He published his writings mostly in Hindi so as to reach out to the common people. In 1877,
Satyarth Prakash, containing the essence of his teachings, was published in Varanasi. Dayanand Saraswati died in 1883.
In 1886, Dayanand’s followers, led by Lala Hansraj, established the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) School at Lahore. Soon, a number of DAV schools and colleges were set up at various places. The education imparted at these institutions combined traditional Indian learning with Western scientific studies.
However, differences over the education policy caused a split in the Arya Samaj. In 1902, the more orthodox members established a gurukul at Haridwar, modelled on the gurukuls of the Vedic period.