History of Arya Samaj
Among all the movements that have taken place in India to reform Hinduism, Arya Samaj is one of the most successful movement. It has over 5000 branches all over India and in many countries around the world.
Arya Samaj was founded on 10th of April,1875 at Bombay, by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, one of the greatest Hindu religious reformer of all times. Its mission was to revive and propagate the teachings of Vedas, the four (4) most ancient books of revealed knowledge.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati was born in 1824, in the small village of Tankara, in Gujarat, India. At the age of fourteen, he lost faith in religious worship followed by his family during a Shivratri festival. Some years later, he left home in search of truth and God. For the next fifteen years, he searched for a guru who would teach him the ultimate truth. Finally, in Mathura, he met Swami Virjanand, who revealed to Dayanand the truth contained in the Vedas. After completing his studies, Swami Dayanand devoted his life preaching Vedic knowledge to people throughout India.
To combat the poverty, misery and hypocrisy he saw in the Hindu society, Swamiji started a strong movement of religious, social and political reforms. A brave and fearless leader, and a great orator, he attracted large gatherings at his lectures and discourses. His powerful speeches and writings, which preached the authority of the Vedas and criticized the meaningless religious customs and social injustices, won him both friends and enemies. He survived several attempts on his life, but finally succumbed to a lethal poison. He died on the night of Deepawali, October 30, 1883. Through their dedicated efforts, Swami Dayanand’s followers continued his work, under the banner of Arya Samaj.
This great organization has been largely responsible for the many reforms that have taken place in recent history. It tried to unite the diverse forms of worship by stressing the authority of the Vedas which are the basis of Hinduism. It taught the Vedic truth of one all-pervading, omniscient, eternal and formless God. It condemned blind faith and superstitious beliefs. It revived the Vedic samskaras (sacraments) and the yajna (havan) ceremonies. The Arya Samaj fought against social injustices and discriminations based on birth, race, sex, color or creed. It fought to end to the prevalent custom of child marriage and encouraged the remarriage of widows. In the political arena, the Arya Samaj was foremost in India’s struggle for independence from foreign rule.
Arya Samaj in North America
In North America, a number of Arya Samaj organizations have been formed since the nineteen-seventies. In the year 1991, they came together to form the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha America, a congress of Arya Samajs in North America. They have become an essential part of the Hindu Community and serve as houses of worship as well as community centers.
Arya Samaj of New Jersey (formerly known as Arya Samaj of Bergen County) was formed in August, 1982. It has grown into a large religious and cultural congregation with members from various counties in New Jersey and New York. It is committed to promote the mission and principles of Arya Samaj. It teaches Vedic religion, conducts yoga classes to adults and children. It conducts weekly havan/satsangs and religion and Hindi classes for children. It also participates in various social and humanitarian activities including active participation in the Interfaith Brotherhood/Sisterhood Committee.