Maharishi Dayanand and Mahatma Gandhi both were born and brought up in Gujarat and spoke Gujarati as their mother tongue. Precisely speaking the two stalwarts were from Kathiawar in Saurashtra where the vagaries of Nature and limited rainfall make the sons of the soil tough and sturdy. Both were born in and nourished by the princely states where their fathers had found employment and cultivated their culture without acquiring an imprint of princely high brow. Both the great men took to mixing with masses like fish takes to water. The influence of the Hindu Dharma was so deeply etched on their body, mind and soul that other proselytizing religions of the middle-East was kept at arms’s length by both. Indeed the deep chasm within the Hindu Dharm did not leave them unaffected. Maharishi Dayanand, as balak Moolshankar, was brought up as a Shaiv, whereas Mahatma Gandhi clung to the Vaishnav traditions through and through. The inward impact of the two strong religious traditions was indeed so noticeable in the outer manifestation of their personalities.
PARTING OF WAYS COMMENCED CULTURALLY
DAYANAND was born in 1824 and GANDHI in 1869; thus the former was forty five years senior to latter. Indeed a lot of time in between had passed by and much water had flown down the Sabarmati river in between. After Gandhi’s arrival in this world, Dayanand lived on for a mere fourteen years before he breathed his last. Apparently there was no time and no opportunity for an interaction directly between the two great men who changed the religious, social and political set up of their beloved Bharat. The direct and indirect impact of their personality left no one untouched or unaffected. Dayanand always called a spade a spade irrespective of the fact whether the man in conversation with him was a king or a commoner. Once His Highness, the Maharana of Udaipur offered the Mahantship of the Ekling Mandir, to which is big State was dedicated, provided Dayanand gave up his criticism of the idol worship and advocated only the stuti of Nirakar Ishwar. Dayanand took umbrage and minced no words in retorting “ Maharana, I can run across your principality in one go but if I disobey Ishwar and obey you, where will I go to hide myself?” The wise ruler understood the import and dropped the subject.
Gandhi, on the other hand, sent across an unpleasant message in a pleasant mode without causing an upheaval in the social set up. Once Gandhi was addressing a crowd of the Indian settlers in South Africa when the local administration decided to disperse the assembly in the town hall and trooped in to do so. Before the British officers of the Police and their constables could carry out the dispersal orders, Gandhi said that now his mission was over and that the assembly must sing “God Save the King”, the national anthem. The police officers and constables had no choice but to stand to attention and sing their national anthem. Thus it was Gandhi’s spiritual strength that he could overwhelm his adversaries with his mild manners. Those who came to scoff, remained to pray.
BOTH WERE VOTARIES OF AHINSA
Dayanand was a follower and a preacher of the Vedic Dharm that advises its followers to carry and wield BAJRA to fight against and annihilate the enemy and his army. Gandhi, of course, believed in non-violence as a Vaishanavite and loved to sing the line “ vaishnav jana to tene kahiye peer parayee jaane re” and one who can realize the pain and suffering of others will never indulge in violence. Gandhi loved the principle of non-violence and would practice it even if it cost him his life. So steadfast was he in observing the principle of non-violence.
Dayanand too advocated the philosophy of Non-violence. Writes the Rishivar in the Satyarth Prakash while discussing the Ten principles of Dharma as defined by Manu Maharaj, how he wished AHINSA was also included as the eleventh principle of DHARMA. Here I must hasten to add that the concept of Ahinsa of Dayanand meant that a strong man must not voluntarily torment a weak man and cause violence. Thus Dayanand’s Non-violence did not give an immunity to an enemy that had intruded to destroy our Dharma, our home and hearth. Gandhi, on the other hand believed in a kind of non-violence that was absolute. Dayanand and Gandhi both advocated observance of AHINSA but their definitions differed. Nevertheless, non-violence continued to be on their agenda throughout.
DAYANAND DRUMMED SELF RULE
Dayanand wrote the first edition of the Satyarth Prakash, his magnum opus in 1874 and published it in 1875. Dayanand had the moral courage to write in the eighth chapter of his aforesaid book about throwing off the foreign yoke and establishing self rule thus: ( let me quote word for word in original in Hindi)
“ koi kitna hi kare parantu jo swadeshi rajya hota hai, who sarvopari uttam hota hai. ….. apne aur paraye ka pakshapat shunya, praja par mata-pita saman kripa, nyaya aur daya ke sath- videshiyon ka rajya bhi purna sukhdayak nahin hai.”
When Dayanand wrote these lines as a freedom fighter and it was the heyday of the British Empire where the word “sunset” was unheard of, Gandhi used to roam about the streets of Saurashtra in his night undergarments. Irrespective of the consequences, Dayanand wrote regarding self rule and exhorted his newly elected members of the Arya Samaj executive committee to be as fearless as the Yajurveda advises them to be. The Ved mantra on the state of Fearlessness to be cultivated by all Aryas is quoted again in the Shanti Karanam of the Daily Havan procedure. Thus two birds would be killed with one stone: even Vaishyas will become bold like Kshatriyas and the Arya Samaj would face the British boldly without fear or favour. Without making it public, Dayanand was once again experimenting with the theory of MANTRA MOTIVATION. INDEED IT WAS A GRAND SUCCESS.
The British Rule used to deal with “ freedom-fighter elements” in society firmly and separated them from the rest of the masses. Life Imprisonment meant exiling the freedom-fighter to the Andaman and Nicobar islands and that in effect meant the rank and file not coming in touch with the Satyagrahis or the men and women who insisted on following the path of principles; path of TRUTH and Ahinsa.
The situation was grim but the freedom fighters were a determined lot prepared to make a sacrifice of life and limbs. India, that is Bharat was on the path of progress leading to its destination – the FREEDOM from FOREIGN YOKE. Much before volunteers of the Indian National Congress came forward, it was the Arya Samaj that had lighted the Lamp of Freedom and removed the darkness of slavery to a foreign power. Thanks to Dayanand and his Satyarth Prakash, the awakening was on the horizon. Before long the word, SWATANTRATA WAS ON EVERY LIP AND EVERY PHYSICAL MOVEMENT WAS TO OUST THE FOREIGN RULERS AND FINALLY EVERY MENTAL MOVE WAS TO BID GOOD BUY TO THE FOREIGN RULERS AND USHER IN A RULE BY INDIANS, FOR INDIANS AND OF INDIANS.
On going through the writings of Mahatma Gandhi I find that his views about the Arya Samaj were magnanimous when he was in South Africa. Of course, the Arya Samaj, under the leadership of Parmanand Ji had done yeoman’s service to promoting the Hindu Dharm and Vedic sanskriti among the Indian youth living in that far off foreign land. I would like to quote Gandhi Ji’s words that I borrowed from an article written by Dr Yadav and entitled SWAMI DAYANAND ARYA SAMAJ AND Mahatma Gandhi. The piece runs thus:
Mahatma Gandhi told, “You, Sir, belong to a band of self-sacrificing workers whom the Arya Samaj has given to India. You, in common with your fellow-workers, have given your lifetime to the cause of Religion and Education. We, therefore, feel honoured in honouring you. We hope that your brief visit to South Africa will result in the Arya Samaj deciding to send some self-sacrificing educationists to work among the Indians in South Africa. Proper education is one of the greatest wants of the Indian community in South Africa.”4 Mahatma Gandhi told, “Mr. Lajpat Rai, from the Punjab, is no less noble in mind. He is the recognized leader of the Punjab. He has been devoting his earnings and his energy to the promotion of the work of the Arya Samaj.”5 Mahatma Gandhi told, “I have studied the Gayatri. I like the words. I have also studied the book the Swamiji gave me. I have derived much benefit from its perusal. It makes me more inquisitive about the life of Swami Dayanand2. I see that the meaning given by Swami Dayanand to the Gayatri and several mantras of the Vajasaneya Upanishad is totally different from that given by the orthodox school now which meaning is correct? I do not know. I hesitate straightway to accept the revolutionary method of interpretation suggested by S. Dayanand.”
Later in life Mahatma Gandhi, as a political leader and as a crusader of the Hindu-Muslim unity to gain SWARAJ became extremely critical of the thought process of the Arya Samaj and its leaders. He could not tolerate Arya Samaj proselytizing like the Christian missionaries and converting Muslims and Christians to the Vedic Dharm. Perhaps he found the edifice of religious unity that he was building like a castle in the air crumbling under the attack of the Arya Samaj pracharaks who minced no words in calling a spade a spade.
TRUTH was the main plank of both Maharishi Dayanand and Mahatma Gandhi . The former went whole hog in preaching and practicing Truth. The latter perhaps had political expediency in mind and his ultimate goal, namely independence of India was always the be all and the end all. No wonder Maharishi Dayanand made TRUTH the base of Five out of TEN Principles of the Arya Samaj formulated in Lahore in 1877. The Rishivar never deviated from the Truth, come what may. I shall not commit blasphemy by saying or even remotely indicating that Mahatma Gandhi deviated from the Truth. Nevertheless, I shall be failing in my duty if I do not point out that he was more critical of the Arya samaj in particular and Hindu elements in the Congress than he ever was of Muslims or Christians.
Gandhiji spearheaded the movement in India to restore Caliphate and the Sultan of Turkey after the World War I, just to please the Muslim clientele of his. If it was NOT a deviation from the Truth, from the ground realities of life, what else would be. The Muslims of Turkey were too happy to say good bye to their religious and temporal head and usher in a real secular social and political order under Mustafa Kamal Attaturk but Gandhiji closed his eyes to the grassroots Truth in Turkey. Let us rest the case here for the time being.
SWAMI SHRADDHANAND’S SHUDDHI MOVEMENT
As a devout believer in the Vedic Dharm, Swami Shraddhanand Ji had launched a successful movement of SHUDDHI to bring back to the Vedic dharm those men and women who had strayed away and had been forcibly converted to Islam or allured by love of lucre to convert to Christianity. He had the support of Pundit Madan Mohan Malviya and Maharana of Udaipur in toto. However, this was N ANTHEMA TO Mahatma Gandhi but he had never raised a voice in protest when Muslims revolting against the British rule in Malabar had attacked the Hindu houses, adducted and raped their women and converted the weak kneed to Islam. So, why did Mahatma Gandhi’s conscience prick now, if one may ask.
Maharishi Dayanand’s disciples and Mahatma Gandhi were now on the war path, the bugles were sounded and the distant drums could be heard far and wide. Mahatma Gandhi wrote articles in self defence that Yogendra Yadav, a Gandhian scholar, has quoted to convince a modern reader that the Mahatma was impartial and if anything, he had lovingly mentioned time and again that both he and Swami Dayanand Saraswati were from that tiny part of India called Katiawar. Let us see what the Mahatma had to say warding off the VAJRA-LIKE ATTACKS OF THE OFFENDED ARYAS :
Mahatma Gandhi told, “A storm of indignation on the part of Arya Samajists is blowing against me. I have letters and telegrams of energetic protest against my references to the Samaj, its illustrious founder, Swami Shraddhanandji and the shuddhi movement. They are from Ghaziabad, Mutan, Delhi, Sukkur, Karachi, Jagraon, Secunderabad, Lahore, Sialkot, Allahabad, etc. I omit mention of individual letters. Probably all of them expect me to publish their protests; some have specially insisted upon my doing so. They will forgive me for not complying with their desire. The majority are worded after the fashion of the telegram I reproduced last week. All resent what they regard as an attack upon the Arya Samaj, the Satyarth Prakash, Rishi Dayanand, Swami Shraddhanandji and the shuddhi movement. I am sorry to have to say that my position still remains unaltered. I have read with careful attention the argumentative correspondence received by me. Those who have attributed my statement to my ignorance have done so probably to leave me an open door for a safe retreat. Unfortunately for me, I have left no such chance for myself. I cannot plead ignorance of the Satyarth Prakash or the general teachings of the Arya Samaj. I cannot even say that I might have been prejudiced against the Arya Samaj. On the contrary, I approached it with the greatest veneration. I had, as I still have, profound regard for the personal character of Rishi Dayanand. His brahmacharya was an object of emulation for me. His fearlessness commanded my admiration. And my provincialism, if I have any in me, was flattered by the fact of the Rishi being of the same little Kathiawar as myself. But I could not help myself. The conclusion I came to was in spite of me, and I published it only when its publication became relevant. Its suppression would have been a cowardly omission on my part. Instead of becoming enraged against me for an honest expression of opinion, I appeal to them to take my criticism in good part, examine it, try to convince me and pray for me if I cannot be convinced. Two letters have challenged me to substantiate my conclusion. It is a fair challenge and I hope before long to produce from the Satyarth Prakash passages in its support. My friends will not engage me in a religious discussion with them. I shall content myself with giving them the grounds of my opinion, So far as Swami Shraddhanandji is concerned, there is no question Of substantiating my opinion. My critics will oblige me by leaving him and me to ourselves. In spite of my opinion, I shall not quarrel with the Swamiji. Mine is the criticism of a friend. As for shuddhi, the critics in their blind fury have forgotten the qualification ‘as it is understood in Christianity or to a lesser extent in Islam’. This is quite different from saying that there is no proselytism in Hinduism. Hinduism has a way all its own of shuddhi. But if the Arya Samajists differ from me, they may still allow me to retain my opinion. If they will re-read the statement, they will discover that I have said that they have a perfect right to carry on their movement if they like. Toleration is not a coinciding of views. There should be toleration of one another’s views though they may be as poles asunder. Lastly I have not said that Arya Samajists or Mussalmans do kidnap women. I have said ‘I am told’. By repeating what I was told, I have given both the parties an opportunity of repudiating the charge. Was it not better that I should publish what was being said, so that the atmosphere might be cleared? Let me point out to my Arya Samaj friends that their protests betray want of toleration. Public men and public institutions cannot afford to be thin-skinned. They must stand criticism with good grace. And now for an appeal to them. They have almost all entered their protests. I do not mind them. I assure them that I share their sorrow. It pained me when I wrote my criticism. It pains me now to know that it has hurt them. But I am not their enemy. I claim to be their friend. Time will prove my friendship. They do not want to quarrel with anybody or any faith. That is what almost all have said in their letters. Let them take to heart the tribute I have paid to the Samaj, its founder and to Swami Shraddhanandji. I know the purifying work that the Arya Samaj has done. I know that it has laid its finger on many abuses that have soiled Hinduism. But no one can live on his capital. I want them to outlive the latter and extend the spirit of their reform. In spite of their denial, I repeat that their shuddhi propaganda savours of the Christian propaganda. I would like them to rise higher. If they will insist upon reform from within, it will tax all their energy and take up all their time. Let them Hinduism the Hindu if they believe with me that Arya Samaj is a part of Hinduism. If they consider it as distinct from Hinduism, I fear it will be a hard task for them to convert the Hindus. Let them ascertain where they stand. I have criticized because I want them to help the great national and religious movement that is now going on. The Samaj has a great future if it can outgrow what has appeared to me its narrowness.
BURY THE HATCHET NOW
The disciples of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati and followers of Mahatma Gandhi must bury the hatchet and move forward on the path of progress so that our motherland may attain the greatness that it was famous for in days of yore.
Mahashay Vishwanath Ji, a staunch Arya Samajist and a Gandhian, of the DAV College, Lahore fondly narrated an anecdote to me. Long ago in undivided India, he was on a Ved prachar mission in the interior of the Punjab beyond Multan. Hindi was neither spoken nor understood in that remote interior rural Punjab. Going in an ekka, he heard melodious bhajans in Hindi from a group of women WHO WERE ALSO WORKING ON THE SPINNING WHEEL OR CHARKHA POPULARISED BY THE SWADESHI AANDOLAN. Swadeshi was indeed so dear to both Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati and Mahatma Gandhi.
Here was a fusion of the Vedic spirituality popularized in the Punjab by Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati emerging as bhajans in praise of ISHWAR and lessons in self dependence through the CHARKHA that rekindled the freedom spirit awakened by Mahatma Gandhi. We of the present generation are proud recipients of the rich legacy of both the Maharishi and the Mahatma.