Introduction: During the mid-19th century, a slew of socio-religious organizations were founded in India to eradicate the evil practices of society at that time. Popular among them were organizations like the Brahma Samaj, Prarthana Samaj and Arya Samaj. The word Arya Samaj is comprised of two Hindi words: Arya, which means pure and Samaj which means society or organization or group. Thus the word Arya Samaj literally means pure organization. The Arya Samaj was founded by Swamy Dayanand Saraswathi on April 7th, 1875. It is a socio-religious organization aimed at eradicating the evil practices in society and preaching the Vedas.
During the mid-19th century, the organization fought social evils like a social stigma to inter-caste marriage, social stigma to widow re-marriage, untouchability based on caste, dowry system, child marriage and polygamy. Though very much reduced, these social evils are still prevalent today. The organization was founded in Mumbai in 1875 but is headquartered in Ajmer, Rajasthan today. During 1875, Swamy Dayanand Saraswathi also wrote the book called ‘Satyarth Prakash’ which means ‘Truth Exposition’. The book emphasized on living an austere life, the concept of ‘Brahmachari’ or an unmarried life and the teachings in the four Vedas.
Swamy Dayanand Saraswathi was very fond of the teachings in the four Vedas. He was originally known as Mul Shankar. He founded the Arya Samaj under the direction of his guru, a blind saint named Swamy Virjananda Saraswathi. The teachings or the beliefs of the Arya Samaj are as follows:
- There exists only one supreme God.
- The knowledge contained in the four Vedas is supreme and secondary to none.
- The Arya Samaj is opposed to idol worship.
- It lays emphasis on leading an austere life to attain salvation.
- The Arya Samaj believes that every person should take responsibility for his or her actions as it is one’s actions that decide one’s fate.
Swamy Dayanand Saraswathi raised the slogan “Go back to the Vedas” during the days of the British rule. He also coined in the word ‘Swaraj’ which means self-governance in Hindi. His teachings were endorsed by freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The greatest contribution of the Arya Samaj was in the field of education. After Swamy Dayanand Saraswathi’s death in 1883, his disciples split into two groups: the Liberal Group and the Orthodox Group. The Liberal Group as the name suggests were liberal in their views on religion and religious beliefs and imparted Vedic education to all castes in the society. The Liberal Group headed by Lala Hansraj and Lala Lajpat Rai, founded the ‘Dayanand Anglo Vedic Collage’ at Lahore. The Orthodox Group as the name suggests believed that the Vedic teachings should be imparted only to Hindus. The Orthodox Group under the leadership of Lala Munshi Ram founded the ‘Gurukul University’ at Haridwar.
Arya Samaj Mandirs at Rajasthan: Even to this day, inter-caste marriages and love marriages raise eyebrows in society. A lot of people are still opposed to these kinds of marriages. The Arya Samaj Mandirs conduct inter-caste marriages and love marriages and even support the couples in the wake of social opposition later on. Arya Samaj Mandirs are located at several places in Rajasthan namely: Barmer, Baran, Dausa, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Dhaulpur, Dungarpur, Madhopur, Nagaur, Bharatpur, Churu, Jalor, Ajmer, Karauli, Hanumangarh, Jhalawar, Sirohi, Bundi and Rajsamand. The Arya Samaj Mandirs are duly registered with the Registrar of Societies thus making them a legal entity in the eyes of the Law. Every couple is provided a ‘marriage certificate’ to make their marriage legal. This certificate helps people to get their visas in case marriage proof is required. The marriage ceremonies are conducted according to the Vedic tradition in the Hindi language. The marriage ceremonies are cost-effective and last only for a couple of hours. The Arya Samaj does not believe in lavish spending and unnecessary marriage procedures. The marriages are supervised by certified law experts. All the marriages conducted at Arya Samaj Mandirs have been successful so far with none of them resulting in divorce! To make the marriage legal or to provide their marriage certificate, the Arya Samaj Mandirs demand the following documents from the couples and their two witnesses:
- A government id cum address proof like Voter ID, Driving License, Ration Card, Passport, Bank Passbook or cheque book, Lease Deed or Rent Deed.
- For a divorced person, he/she has to provide the Certified Copy of Decree of Divorce.
- For a widow/widower, death certificate of the deceased spouse should be provided.
- Passport size photographs of the witnesses along with their ID and address proofs should be provided.
- Age proof of the couples and their witnesses like their PAN cards or Birth Certificates should be provided.
The Arya Samaj Mandirs believe that marriage is a union of two souls. Souls don’t belong to any religion or caste. Therefore marriages should not be obstructed citing religion, caste or skin color issues. The Arya Samaj Mandirs provide all the necessary facilities for marriage like the bride and groom’s traditional dresses, well-facilitated rooms, a priest to conduct the marriage, seating arrangements for guests, etcetera. The marriages are quick and cost-effective and all of them have been successful so far with none of the marriages, conducted at Arya Samaj Mandirs, resulting in a divorce.
Conclusion: Arya Samaj Mandirs have been endorsed by people belonging to all castes and religions in India. India needs more organizations like the Arya Samaj Mandirs to become a liberal and advanced society.