By: Mohnish Singh
India is expressing pride over its legacy with tremendous self-confidence and asserting that it will strengthen its ancient traditions while ushering in modernity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.
He also underlined that the country’s policies and efforts have no discrimination and are aimed at serving the poor, the backwards and the deprived on priority, and said the service of the poor, the backward and the downtrodden is the “first ‘yagya’ for the country today”.
We bow to Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati Ji on his 200th Jayanti. He was a beacon of knowledge and spirituality. https://t.co/hcgxL0Ahz4
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 12, 2023
Modi made the remarks after inaugurating year-long celebrations commemorating the 200th birth anniversary of social reformer and Arya Samaj founder Dayanand Saraswati, and extolling his legacy, he also said that at a time when the world is facing many issues, the path shown by Maharshi Dayanand “instills hope” in crores of people.
The prime minister, who was welcomed with Vedic chants by a group of girls and a few performances themed on the legacy of Dayanand Sarsawati, later unveiled the logo of the bicentennial celebrations during the event hosted at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Delhi.
Modi, in his nearly 40-minute address, said India is showing the way to the world in the field of environment and emphasised that it was a matter of pride that India was chairing the G20 this year.
“The country today with tremendous self-confidence is expressing pride over its legacy. The country is saying with full self-confidence that we will strengthen our traditions while ushering in modernity,” Modi said.
The country is running on the tracks of “virasat” (heritage) and “vikas” (development), the prime minister said.
Modi said when he talks of walking on the “kartavya path”, some people say that he talks about duties but not rights.
“If this is the case with me in the 21st century, then imagine what kind of difficulties Swami Dayanand would have faced in showing the path to the society 150 years ago,” he said.
Modi called the 200th birth anniversary of the social reformer “historic”, and said it was an inspiration for the future of humanity.
Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati became a voice for empowerment of India’s women and launched a strong campaign against social discrimination and untouchability, he said.
Modi said today the daughters of the country are taking on major roles from being deployed in Siachen to flying Rafale fighter planes.
After arriving at the venue, the prime minister walked past the panorama of exhibitions carrying images of Dayanand Saraswati and some of his rare photographs, and saw live representations of various facets of Arya Samaj.
He also offered “ahuti arpan” in the ongoing yagya at a pavilion made on the premises of the stadium.
In this era of discord, violence and instability, the path shown by Maharshi Dayanand gives hope, the prime minister was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office after the event.
At the end of the programme, Modi handed over a symbolic ‘mashaal’ (torch) to youth representatives as a symbolic carrying forward of the spark ignited during it, so as to reinforce the messages of Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati to the rest of India and the world, it said.
Born in 1824, Saraswati worked to counter the then prevalent social inequities. Arya Samaj has played a key role in cultural and social awakening of the country by its emphasis on social reforms and education, the PMO had said in a statement earlier. Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj in 1875.
During a meeting in January, Modi called upon academic and cultural institutions across the country to produce well-researched work on the contributions of the great visionary and social reformer as well as the Arya Samaj – which will complete 150 years of existence in 2025.
In his address, Modi said he was fortunate to be born on the same land where Swamiji was born and emphasised the values of the ideals of Maharshi Dayanand in his life.
The time when Dayanand Saraswati was born, the country was marred and weakened after centuries of slavery and was losing its aura and self-confidence, and numerous efforts were being made to crush the ideals, the culture and the roots of India, the prime minister said.
Swamiji dispelled the notion of any deficiency in the traditions and scriptures of India and he had pointed out that their real meaning was forgotten, Modi said, adding he revived the light of the Vedas in society.
“We bow to Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati Ji on his 200th Jayanti. He was a beacon of knowledge and spirituality,” Modi tweeted.
In his address at the event, he also said that false interpretation of the Vedas was being used to belittle India and its traditions were being deformed, and at such a time, Maharshi Dayanand made strong efforts to bring changes in society and his contribution is extraordinary.
Maharshi Dayanand also started a strong campaign against social ills like discrimination and untouchability. “Evils that were falsely attributed to religion, Swamiji removed them with the light of religion itself,” the prime minister said, adding Mahatma Gandhi had considered Swamiji’s fight against untouchability as his biggest contribution.
The prime minister also underlined that Maharshi Dayanand also emerged as a logical and effective voice against the stereotypes that had flourished in society against women. Maharshi Dayanand strongly opposed discrimination against women and initiated campaigns for education of women at that time, he said.
Even in today’s day and age, there are societies which deprive women of their right to education and respect, but it was Maharshi Dayanand who raised his voice when equal rights for women was a far-fetched reality, even in the western countries, the prime minister said. “In this ‘Amrit Kaal’, the 200th birth anniversary of Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati has come as a sacred inspiration”, he added.
The prime minister elaborated on the wider role of sages and saints in Indian ethos by referring to the achievements of Indian sages in the fields of philosophy, yoga, mathematics, policy, diplomacy, science and medical science. Maharshi Dayanand played a big role in reviving that ancient tradition, the prime minister said.
India is leading the world in the quest for sustainable development, and environment is being pushed as a special agenda of the G20, he said. The prime minister said the Arya Samaj can play a big role by promoting these modern ideals with the foundation of ancient wisdom. He asked them to push natural farming as also for Shri Anna.
The prime minister also noted the significant contributions of Jeevan Prabhat Trust in social service and rescue operations during the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat and underlined that the organisation was inspired by the ideals of Maharshi Dayanand.
The Arya Samaj has the legacy of teachings of Swamiji and the country expects a lot from every ‘Arya Veer’, Modi said.
Modi also said that innumerable freedom fighters and institution builders and patriots took inspiration from Swamiji, including Lokmanya Tilak, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, V D Savarkar, Lala Lajpat Rai and Ram Prasad Bismil.
The prime minister said this occasion will be celebrated for two years and “I am happy that the government has also decided to celebrate this festival (the 200th birth anniversary of Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati)”.
Governor of Gujarat Acharya Devvrat, Union Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy, Ministers of State for Culture Arjun Ram Meghwal, and Meenakashi Lekhi were also present on the occasion, among others.
The organisers gifted Modi a ceremonial scarf and a panel bearing various rare artistic images of Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati.