Mula Shankar, later known as Dayanand Saraswati, was born in 1824 in a Brahmin family, in the petty state of Morvi, Kathiawar in Gujarat.
Left home at the age of 21 & wandering for 15 years in search of knowledge.
At last, in 1860, he found his guru in Swami Virjananda Saraswati, a blind Sanyasi at Mathura.
He translated the vedas & wrote three books-
Satyartha Prakash (the truth exposition) in Hindi. Central theme – Dualist doctrine of mind & matter.
Veda Bhasya Bhumika – an introduction to his vedic community.
Veda Bhasya – a vedic commentary in Sanskrit on the Yajurveda & the major part of the Rigveda.
With the help of Mahadev Govind Ranade, he founded Arya Samaj (Society of Nobles) at Bombay in 1875 & later shifted to Lahore in 1877.
He looked upon the Vedas as ‘India’s Rock of Ages’. He believed that the Hindu religion & the Vedas on which it was based were eternal, unalterable, infallible & divine. Therefore, he gave the slogan ‘Go back to the Vedas’ & ‘the Vedas are the source of all knowledge’.
The Samaj opposed the domination of priestly classes, encouraged widow remarriages, founded schools & colleges, hospitals, providing social service.
The Samaj was associated with the controversial ‘Shuddhi‘ (Purification) movement, which created communal hatred in Punjab, U.P. & other parts of north India where Arya Samaj was stronger.
Another plank in the programme of the Arya Samaj, which led to serious trouble, was protection of the cow. In 1882 the Arya Samaj formed a ‘Cow Protection Association‘.
Greatest Contribution – in the field of Education.
After the death of Dayanand in 1883 in Ajmer, his disciples were divided in to two groups.
Liberal Group– led by Lala Hansraj & Lala Lajpat Rai set up Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College at Lahore in 1886, where both Western & Indian knowledge was imparted.
Orthodox Group– led by Lala Munshi Ram (Swami Shraddhanand) demanded Sanskrit as the medium & founded The Gurukul University at Kangdi, Haridwar, in 1902.