History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2009: Q.1 (b)

Q.1 (b) “The Arya Samaj may quite logically be pronounced as the outcomes of conditions imported into India by the west.” (Lala Lajpat Rai). Comment.

Arya Samaj was founded by Dayanand Saraswati in 1875 as a socio-religious movement which aimed at reforming Hinduism through propagation of the infallibility of Vedas as the source of all truths.

The opposition of idolatry, polytheism, rituals, caste system and child marriage and support for widow remarriage, inter-cast marriage and female education were reform policies of Arya Samaj.

Authors are divided on the question of extent to which western influence shaped the policy of reformers like Dayanand Saraswati.

First Viewpoint: Arya Samaj as the outcomes of the influence of the West

Lala Lajpat Rai said, “the Arya Samaj may quite logically be pronounced as the outcomes of conditions imported into India by the west.”  And Jawaharlal Nehru writes that Arya Samaj was a reaction to the influence of Islam and Christianity.
Some argues that British occupation of India with its allegience to Protestant Christianity inspired the modern iconoclasm like Arya Samaj which eventually led to the development of an esoteric form of Hinduism that advocated philosophical monism and denounced religious imagery as idolatrous.

The reform policies of the Arya Samaj do show western influence as oppositions to the idoltary, polythiesm etc was same as in Christianity and the socio-religious reforms propagated by Arya Samaj were those which the western reformers were already advocating.

Also the British, due to their developed scientific and modern outlook, presented India as a backward culture with stagnant society. Arya Samaj tried to revive the self-confidence in Indians through reforms and giving the call for Swarajya as “India for Indians”. Hence, Arya Samaj was the outcome of the reaction to the British.

Second Viewpoint: Arya Samaj was not influenced by the West

Har Bilas Sarda remarks that there was no influence of western civilisation on Dayanand Saraswati as he did not know English and was in no way influenced by European culture and European thought. The inspiration of Dayanand Saraswati was derived entirely from the indigenous sources.

Dayanand claimed that idol workship, polytheism, rituals etc are later additions to Hinduism and not as per Vedas. For him, Vedas were the final authority in Hindu religion. He used Vedas to oppose social evils like caste system, child marriage etc.

The argument that he borrowed ideas of women empowerment, window remarriage, etc form western tradition is not well founded as he did not know English. Also he started the shuddi movement to reconvert non-hindus which was in no way had influence of the west.


Better explanation could be that, it is not that ideas migrated from West to India, but in exposure to West brought out the latent elements already present in Hinduism. Hence the condition brought by the West to India led to the reformers like Dayanand Saraswati to found Arya Samaj to propagate the reform ideas rooted in ancient Indian sources like Vedas. It was also a better idea to connect the reform to indigenous sources as it would attract the masses and face lesser opposition from conservative elements.

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