The Word Arya


There are several misconceptions about the word Arya. Arya is not restricted to any religion, society, caste, sect, creed or community. It is a meaningful word which transcends geographical boundaries and is universally applicable and hence acceptable. In ‘Nirookhta’ the meaning of the word ‘Arya’ ‘Eshwaraya putra’ the son of God. God is our father and we are His children. A father has many children but he who is virtuous, polite and obedient is entitled to be called his true son and thereby termed ‘Arya’. To become an ‘Arya’ one must try to be godly. It may seem difficult but not impossible. ‘Yo vai yatha chintyati tatha bhavati’ as man thinketh, so he becometh. A person who believes in God and His Divinity, tries to imbibe His qualities and become Godly.

The Vedas, the religious texts, the Scriptures, the Epics, all extol the qualities of an ‘Arya’.

Arya Vrata Visrajanto Adhi Kshami

(Rigveda 10/65/11) Aryas are those who avow to inculcate qualities like truth, non-vilence, purity, etc. in their lives.

‘Arya Jyotiragrah’ – the ‘Arya’leads with light. Arya not only lights his own path but also shows light to others.

Bhuddhist Scripture ‘Dhammapad’ states ‘Ariyappavedite dhamme sadaa ramati pandito’ – the pundits or scholars always dwell in the dharma of Aryas. The word Arya here refers to noble people. The prefix ‘Arya’ is adjoined to several Bhuddist preachers’ name e.g. Arya Asag, Arya Dev.

In Jainism the saadhvi or a lady who renounces wordly pleasures and becomes ascetic is addressed as ‘Aryaa’.

In Sikh religious text it is stated, ‘Jo tum, Sikh hamaare Arya, devo seesa dharma ke karya’ – our Sikh, if you are an Arya, then sacrifice your head for the cause of dharma. Here Arya denotes noble, valorous and virtuous person.

In ‘Ramayana’ Sita addressed Rama as ‘Aryaputra’ and Rama addressed her as ‘Aryaa’. ‘Aryaputra’ means son of a noble person and ‘Aryaa’, a virtuous lady.

In Mahabharata (Adi parva 44/7) the word Aryamati is affixed with the name of a noble prince which means a prince with ennobled intellect.

Swami Dayanand Saraswati, in his ‘Ved Bhashya’, has described Arya as ‘Shreeshtha guna-karma swabhaavyukta manushyah’ – the people who are noble in qualities, deeds and nature.

Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, in his famous essay ‘What is the significance of the name Arya’, has written, “The word Arya expressed a particular ethical and social ideal, an ideal of well governed life, candour, courtesy, nobility, straight dealing, courage, gentleness, purity, humanity, compassion, protection of the weak, liberality, observance of social duty, eagerness for knowledge, social accomplishment, there is no word in human speech that has a nobler History.”

The Arya is he who strives and overcomes, all outside him and within him, that stand opposed to human advance.

In everything he seeks truth, in everything right and freedom.

Arya is, therefore, an embodiment of all the noble, virtuous and humane qualities which can embellish human character and raise a person from the stratum of a social animal to the status of a human being. It was in the context of this meaning of the word Arya, that the concept of Arya Samaj was mooted – Arya Samaj – an assembly of virtuous, noble people who can unitedly think and strive to create a better society.

In order to know what Arya Samaj is, it is necessary to know the background which necessitated the establishment of Arya Samaj.  The political, economic and social conditions prevailing in the nineteenth century presented to a dismal picture of a society which appeared to be beyond redemption. Centuries of foreign domination had reduced the Honor of Indian society to nothingness. Illiteracy prevailed, ignorance abounded, superstitions were rampant, knowledge was totally eclipsed, the essence of dharma was lost, practice of irrational rituals and blind faith was dominant, social evils were widespread and cultural values were eroded. All these factors had reduced the glory and valor of Aryavrata to shambles. Never before was the need for a survival kit felt more acutely than at this critical period for the revival of a collapsing society which was on the brink of annihilation. Swami Dayanand Saraswati emerged on the scene as the savior of the disintegrated and factional ridden society. The Arya Samaj which he founded became the beacon light to guide the people who had lost their way in total darkness.

The idea of setting up Arya Samaj came to the mind of Swami Dayanand when he visited Mumbai for the first time. His followers enthusiastically welcomed the proposal of setting up an Arya Samaj in Mumbai. The rules and regulations of the Arya Samaj numbering 28 were chalked out by Sri Panna Chand Anand Malik. On 10th April 1875 the first Arya Samaj was established in Mumbai. On 24th June, 1877 an Arya Samaj was set up in Lahore. It was in Lahore that the rules or principles of Arya Samaj were amended and the number reduced to 10. They were accepted as guidelines for members of Arya Samaj. These rules are known as the 10 principles of Arya Samaj.

Ten Principles of Arya Samaj – Click to read more…

Arya Samaj believes in Karma – ‘whatever you sow, so ….. you reap’. Man is free to act and he alone is responsible for his actions, both good and bad. God is Omniscient – all knowing.  Nothing can escape from Him. Man may live in illusion that the sin he is committing is unobserved but he does not realize that every action of his is vigilantly observed and recorded in God’s computer.  God dispenses justice. He rewards or punishes man for his good and bad deeds. Nothing can tilt the balance of His justice. Arya Samaj shows the right path of approaching God. Man’s approach to God is direct.  There can be no third intermediary to connect the Atman with the Paramatman. Every soul has to strive individually to attain God.

Arya Samaj believes that Veda is divine knowledge, which was imparted by God at the beginning of Creation for the benefit of all.  Therefore, all have the right to acquire the divine knowledge contained in the Vedas irrespective of gender, caste or creed. The mission of Arya Samaj is to propagate the teachings of the Vedas so that man may know what is Atman and Paramatman and how he could attain ‘Moksha‘ or Salvation which is the ultimate goal of human existence.

Arya Samaj upholds the theory of rebirth. The cycle of birth and death has been continuous since the creation of the universe.  The present birth is the resultant of our karmas in our previous life. Our present karmas will be the deciding factor of our next birth. The disparity in human beings apparently visible in the rich and the poor, happiness and sorrow, difference in mental structure of children having same genetic heritage – one acquiring brilliance and the other mental retardness, are all consequences and cumulative result of our previous karmas. This theory of karma goads man to keep away from sin and follow the path of virtue, for it makes him realize that ultimately it will be he alone who will have to face and suffer the consequences of his actions.

Arya Samaj believes in the division of society into four different categories and these categories are based on karmas and not on caste. A person is a Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya or Shudra because of his inclination, aptitude and vocation. There can be a Brahmin and a Shudra in the same family if the former takes to teaching and literary pursuits and the latter to serve others. This theory demolishes caste barriers which divide the society and the community. The ideal projected by the Vedas is ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – the entire world is one family.

Since its inception Arya Samaj has played a pivotal role in rejuvenating Indian society by weeding out social evils, by spreading literacy, by educating people and by creating awareness among them about the greatness of their cultural heritage, focusing on the need to realise their self by perusing the Vedas. Arya Samaj has led a crusade against child marriage, Sati system, caste system, dowry system, animal sacrifice, debarring of shudras from entering the portals of temples. It has always championed the cause of down trodden and endeavoured to pave the path for the progress of the weaker section of society by making them aware that they are in no way inferior to any other class of society, that they have equal right to strive for their upliftment – socially, politically, economically, and spiritually. Arya Samaj is a force to reckon with – a force enforcing self-discipline, a force continuously battling against evils and a force instilling the spirit of patriotism among the people. Sri Pattbhi Sitarammaiya had written that 80% of the people who fought for the independence of India were those who were associated with Arya Samaj.
The aim of Arya Samaj is to establish peace in the world. Peace can be established only when the hearts of the people are not divided by barriers of communalism which distances man from man. Where there is hatred there is enmity and enmity breeds contempt and ill-will and ill-will in turn foments destruction. Communalism envisages well being of a particular community. Arya Samaj prays for the welfare of all human beings, ‘Sarve bhavantu Sukhina’ let all be happy, ‘Sarva asha mama mitram bhavantu’ – I wish that all be my friends, ‘Mitrasya chakshusha sarvaani bhutaani samikshe’ – may I look upon others with an eye of friendship. Where there is a friendship, there is cordial relationship among people, they share their joys and sorrows, there is co-operation among them, there is co-ordination in their actions and there is peace everywhere. Arya Samaj by its concerted efforts spreads the message of peace to humanity. Arya Samaj has benefited the world at large and Hindu society in particular. The evaluation and appreciation of Arya Samaj is best expressed by the noted Indian nationalist Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, who stated “If Arya Samaj keeps walking the Hindu society will remain standing, if Arya Samaj remains standing the Hindu society will sit down, if Arya Samaj sits down, the Hindu society will sleep and if Arya Samaj sleeps then the Hindu society will die.”