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It was not Mahatma Gandhi who started the struggle for India’s independence

not mahatma

Author : Dr. Vibhu

The accuracy of the history of India as, contained in modern-day records, has been much criticised over the decades since India freed itself from British colonisation. The ‘official’ version, as accepted both in India and abroad, needs re-evaluation; as is always the case in dealing with the question ‘what is the truth?’ considerable intellectual integrity will be required to chart a course through this controversy.

To begin with, it must be remembered that India has – in truth – secured independence twice over, not once. The first victory was that of gaining freedom from Islamic rule by the Mughal dynasty; the contribution of the Sikhs in Punjab deserves to be singled out as being key in this success. Guru Gobind Singh must be hailed for the greatness of his leadership, and India should be eternally grateful to the Sikh Gurus and their people for conducting that struggle.

Whenever India’s Independence is celebrated, tribute must be paid to Maharishi Svami Dayanand for being the true pioneer of this struggle. Sadly, outside of the circles of the Arya Samaj movement, India seems to be guilty of overlooking this fact. The role of the Arya Samaj in the latter part of the 19th century in beginning the fight against British rule was profound. This article focuses on one example of its work; the effect of a book written by Dayanand in 1875.

The Arya-abhivinaya is a collection of 108 mantras from the Vedas that Svami Dayanand translated into Hindi. As a book, it is most notable for the inspirational style of the commentary that the author uses to explain each mantra in detail; which is why it galvanised many of India’s revolutionaries over coming generations. These patriots used it as a source of solace to drive them on the selfless path of service to the motherland. Two stories illustrate this well.

Firstly is the fact that Ram-Prasaad Bismil, that great young crusader for the freedom of India, used to read Arya-abhivinaya every day. The publisher’s note in the book’s English translation written by Satyananda Shastri in 1971 describes the inspiration Bismil gained from one of the mantras covered by Svami Dayanand in his book: This is why he was dauntless even in the face of death: Listen to the immortal roaring of this lion-hearted indomitable young martyr. He sang the following memorable stanza, even at the altar of death (just before he was hanged for treason):

Maalik terii razaa rahe aur tuu hii tuu rahe. Baaqii naa main rahuun na merii aarzuu rahe. [O Almighty God, you are eternally unchanging. May only, in this world, your will prevail and of none else. I am mortal; I surrender to You. I do not wish to survive any more nor do I wish any of my desires to outlive me.]

The second example is a case prosecuted for sedition, by the British authorities against members of the Arya Samaj in the district of Patiala, Punjab in 1907. Incredibly, the evidence submitted by the prosecution was a collection of patriotic quotations from the Arya-abhivinaya. It was alleged that the Arya Samaj was a seditious society, and that it wanted to overthrow the British Government in India because its members prayed the following prayer daily:

….O Supreme God, You are the greatest ruler among all worldly rulers. Kindly instil us with appropriate courage, fortitude, morality, courtesy, prowess, physical strength and mental stamina and many other such virtues, so that, we may remain independent and enjoy sovereign imperial sway. May no foreigner come to our country to rule over us, and may we never lose political independence and be enslaved by foreigners!….

Of course, this commentary is none other than Dayanand’s elucidation of mantra 38.14 of Yajur Veda. So, it can be seen that by 1875, well over half a century before Gandhi’s movement peaked, Svami Dayanand had already made his clarion call to North India to begin to resist British rule.

Dayanand’s great legacy is highlighted by the sentences that follow further on in the same paragraph explaining this mantra: ….Also, kindly bless us with independence in our own national affairs and freedom to visit other countries at will. May we able to manage our political and administrative affairs ourselves! May there be excellent men and women to do the needful in this regard, so that, our nation may never suffer for want of anything we need. O Master of all, please provide for our political bodies statesmen equipped with perfect learning and other requisite qualities. May our warriors and administrators, endowed with resourcefulness and foresight, excel in valour and other virtues….

Could any words ring any more true? Even today, with the malign influence of western corporations, this timeless masterpiece of wisdom surely must resonate – not only for the India of today but for political administrations of all nations of the world – for all time.

It must be asked why Dayanand has been ‘written out’ of the text-books of history that survive in India from the time of the British Raj. The answer simply is that a key plank of Britain’s strategy, for maintaining its grip on India in the very long term, was to try and make Christianity the national religion of India. For this to succeed, Dayanand’s aim of uniting all the people of India under one God (and thus one faith, the Vedic Dharma) by inspiring them to (re)turn to the Vedas would have to be thwarted. The British Government even went to the lengths of commissioning a German Christian scholar of Sanksrit – Prof. Max Muller – to write a translation of the Vedas that opposed Dayanand’s interpretation; much of Muller’s work clearly makes the judgement that Christian thought is of a superior quality to that of India’s.

A startling example of evidence of such prejudice is contained in a book by T. Williams titled Exposure of Dayanand Sarasvati and his followers (Both as to their Deliberate Falsification of the Rigveda and their immorality) published in 1889 in Delhi. Dayanand’s translation of the mantra RigVeda 10:10:10 is that the word yama denotes husband and yami denotes wife. Williams, however, is scathingly critical of this. He objects: ‘I have then shown that the speakers throughout this dialogue, are twins, a brother and a sister. The sister Yami desires ardently that her brother Yama should sexually lie with her….’

Such was the type of abuse, then, that his British detractors were directing at Dayanand a few years after his death, a measure of how intimidated the British authorities were by the Arya Samaj movement well before Gandhi arrived on the scene. This leaves us with this question. Can the history books – written by the British, and left as a legacy to India, and which are being used to teach history to Indian children to this day – be trusted? Even more heart-breaking is that this version of history is the only officially accepted one in India today.

Perhaps Gujarat’s recent decision to celebrate the memory of the great Sardar Vallabhai Patel will be the catalyst for India to likewise go on and place on its highest pedestal, its greatest son of recent millennia, Dayanand Saraswati.