The founding of the Arya Samaj
Between 1869 and 1873, Swami Dayanand, a native of the Princely State of Gujarat, made his first earnest attempt at affecting a substantial and lasting reform in his native India. This attempt took the form of the establishment of several so-called "Vedic Schools" which, in contradistinction to other public schools at the time, put a marked emphasis on attempting to impart Vedic values, culture and religion to its students. The first was established at Farrukhabad in 1869 and reported 50 students as being enrolled in its first year. This initial success led to the founding of four additional schools in rapid succession at Mirzapur (1870), Kasganj (1870), Chhalesar (1870) and Varanasi (1873).
The Vedic Schools represented the first practical application of Swami Dayanand's vision of religious and social reform. They enjoyed a mixed reception. On the one hand, students were not allowed to perform traditional idol worship (murtipuja in hindi) at the school, and were instead expected to perform sandhya (a form of meditative prayer using mantras from the Vedas) and participate in agnihotra twice daily. Also, disciplinary action was swift and not infrequently severe. On the other hand, all meals, lodging, clothing and books were given to the students free of charge, and the study of Sanskrit was opened to non-Brahmins. The most noteworthy feature of the Schools was that only those texts which accepted the authority of the Vedas were to be taught. This, in the opinion of Swami Dayanand, was critical for the spiritual and social regeneration of Vedic culture in India.
Due primarily to organizational problems, the Vedic Schools soon ran into many difficulties. Swami Dayanand had considerable trouble finding qualified teachers who agreed with his views on religious reform, and there existed a paucity of textbooks which he considered suitable for instruction in Vedic culture. Funding was sporadic, attendance fluctuated considerably, and tangible results in the way of noteworthy student achievement were not forthcoming. Consequentially, some of the schools were forced to close shortly after opening. As early as 1874, it had become clear to Swami Dayanand that, without a wide and solid base of support among the public, setting up schools with the goal of imparting a Vedic education would prove to be an impossible task. He therefore decided to invest the greater part of his resources in the clear formulation and widespread propagation of his ideology of reform. Deprived of the full attention of Swami Dayanand, the Vedic School system all but collapsed shortly thereafter, and the last of the remaining schools (Farrukhabad) was finally closed down in 1876 due to Muslim takeover.
Later, Swamiji's disciples Swami Shraddhanand,who established Gurukuls like Gurukul Kangri University Haridwar and many others, and Guru Datt Vidyarthi, Mahatma Hansraj established Dayanand Anglo-Vedic Schools System (D.A.V.) Schools and Colleges in India to spread the Arya Samaj Principles, Mission and Vedic education based on Vedas. These Gurukals and DAV schools are now spread over the whole world for Vedic preachings.
Adi Brahmo Samaj
While traveling (1872 - 1873), Swami Dayanand came into close and extended contact with several of the leading Indian intellectuals of the age, including Navin Chandra Roy, Raj Narayan Bose, Debendranath Tagore and Hemendranath Tagore all of whom were actively involved in the Brahmo Samaj. This reform organization, founded in 1828, held many views similar to those of Swami Dayanand in matters both religious (e.g. a belief in monotheism and the eternality of the soul) and social (e.g. the need to abolish the hereditary caste system and uplift the masses through education). Debendranath Tagore had written a book entitled Brahmo Dharma, which serves as a comprehensive manual of religion and ethics to the members of that society, and Swami Dayanand had studied it thoroughly while in Calcutta.
Although Swami Dayanand was persuaded on more than one occasion to join the Brahmo Samaj, there existed several points of contention which the Swami simply could not overlook, the most important being the position of the Vedas. Swami Dayanand held the Vedas to be divine revelation, and refused to accept any suggestions to the contrary. Despite this difference of opinion, however, it seems that the members of the Brahmo Samaj and Swami Dayanand parted on good terms, the former having publicly praised the latter's visit to Calcutta in several journals and the latter having taken inspiration from the former's activity in the social sphere.
The Light of Truth
Swami Dayanand made several changes in his approach to the work of reforming Hindu society after having visited Calcutta. The most significant of these changes was that he began lecturing in Hindi. Prior to his tour of Bengal, the Swami had always held his discourses and debates in Sanskrit. While this gained him a certain degree of respect among both the learned and the common people alike, it prevented him from spreading his message to the broader masses. The change to Hindi allowed him to attract increasingly larger crowds, and as a result his ideas of reform began to circulate among the lower classes of society as well.
After hearing some of Swami Dayanand's speeches delivered in Hindi at Varanasi, Raj Jaikishen Das, a native government official there, suggested that the Swami publish his ideas in a book so that they might be distributed among the public. Witnessing the slow collapse of the Vedic Schools due to a lack of a clear statement of purpose and the resultant flagging public support, Swami Dayanand recognized the potential contained in Dasâ€™ suggestion and took immediate action.
From June to September 1874, Swami Dayanand dictated a comprehensive series of lectures to his scribe, Pundit Bhimsen Sharma, which dealt with his views and beliefs regarding a wide range of subjects including God, the Vedas, Dharma, the soul, science, philosophy, childrearing, education, government and the possible future of both India and the world. The resulting manuscript was edited by Sharma and others, and was eventually published under the title Satyarth Prakash or The Light of Truth in 1875 at Varanasi. This voluminous work would prove to play a central role in the establishment and later growth of the organization which would come to be known as the Arya Samaj.
Principles of Arya Samaj
On the 24th of June, 1877, the second major Arya Samaj was established at Lahore. However, the original list of 28 rules and regulations drafted by Dayanand for the Rajkot Arya Samaj and used for the Bombay Arya Samaj were deemed by the Lahore community to be too unwieldy. Therefore, it was proposed that the principles should be reduced and simplified, while the bylaws should be removed to a separate document. Everyone present, including Swami Dayanand, agreed, and the 10 Principles of the Arya Samaj as they are known around the world today came into existence.
Main article: Principles of Arya Samaj
All subsequently established branches of the Arya Samaj have been founded upon the Lahore principles. However, each new branch of the Society has a degree of freedom in determining the exact bylaws under which it shall operate. Everyone who wishes to become a member of the Society must agree to uphold these principles in their entirety. However, nothing beyond these 10 Principles has any binding force on any member of the Arya Samaj. For this reason, the early Samaj proved to be attractive to individuals belonging to various religious communities, and enjoyed a notable degree of support from segments of the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim populations of Indian society.
Drawing what are seen to be the logical conclusions from these principles, the Arya Samaj also unequivocally condemns practices such as polytheism, idolatry, iconolatry, animal sacrifice, ancestor worship, pilgrimage, priestcraft, the belief in avatars or incarnations of God, the hereditary caste system, untouchability and child marriage on the grounds that all these lack Vedic sanction.