By Harshmeet Singh
Very few would know that the call for ‘Swarajya’, usually associated with Lokmanya Tilak, was first given by Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj. In fact, the word ‘Harijan’, often traced to Mahatma Gandhi, was also first used by Dayanand Saraswati. Born in a Brahmin family as Mul Shankar Tiwari, Saraswati was a staunch supporter of the Vedas. He never sought to establish a new religion; rather he asked everyone to walk the path suggested by the Vedas and accept universal brotherhood.
In 1875, he wrote a book called ‘Satyarth Prakash’ in Hindi. In Satyarth Prakash, he mentions, “I accept as Dharma whatever is in full conformity with impartial justice, truthfulness and the like; that which is not opposed to the teachings of God as embodied in the Vedas. Whatever is not free from partiality and is unjust, partaking of untruth and the like, and opposed to the teachings of God as embodied in the Vedas—that I hold as adharma.”
His pragmatic teachings attracted a large bunch of followers towards him including Lala Lajpat Rai, Madam Cama, Ram Prasad Bismil, Mahatma Hansraj and Swami Shraddhanand.
Though the Arya Samaj was largely successful in its aim of restricting conversion of Hindus, it suffered a split soon after the death of Dayanand Saraswati. The split came in the form to 2 fractions, viz. the Gurukul fraction headed by Swami Shradhhanand and the College Fraction which was headed by Lala Hansraj and Lala Lajpat Rai. While the Gurukul fraction went on to form Gurukuls in Haridwar with the aim of imparting education in Sanskrit medium to the young generation, the college fraction went on to establish the first DAV (Dayanand Anglo-Vedic) College in Lahore in 1886. The famous Hans Raj college in the Delhi University is also named after the same Lala Hansraj.
Even though the College fraction wanted English to be the medium of instruction in the schools, they never undermined the significance of Sanskrit language and ensured that it remains an integral part of the schools’ curriculum. And this ideology continues even today. With the DAV schools mixing the best of both worlds (modern & traditional), they stand true to their name of Anglo-Vedic schools.
An ex-student of the DAV School, Ara, Devanshu Chandra has a broad smile on his face while talking about his school days. He says, “I don’t think I would have ever understood the Indian culture so well had I not been a student at DAV. All our morning prayers were in Sanskrit and there were frequent yagya ceremonies at the school as per the Dayanand principle.”
Further sharing his memories, he adds, “We used to have Dada Daadi day at School once in a while where our grandparents were invited and treated with all the respect in the world. It was amazing.”
Today, 129 years hence, the DAV group of schools and colleges has its presence in Nepal, Singapore, Fiji and Mauritius, along with various parts of India. Unlike some of the other old education groups in the country, the DAV schools have successfully maintained and enhanced their popularity among the students due to their envious academic record. Year after year, the DAV Schools have managed to grab top rankings in multiple school surveys across the country.
And if you thought that DAV is just giving birth to bookworms and nerds, you can’t be any farther from the reality. DAV schools boast of an Asian Airgun Shooting Champion to go with a bronze medalist in the Cycling Competition at the recently concluded Special Olympics World Game at USA (Los Angeles). The DAV schools have some humungous numbers at hand. With over 600 schools spread across multiple nations, the group educates over 20 lakh students each year.
Even today, when the other schools are trying hard to shrug off their Indian identity and project themselves as International schools, DAV is proudly carrying on its tradition of Vedic teachings while integrating the best of western world in its curriculum. With all the talks of revamping education and introducing ‘advanced techniques’ in our education system, DAV schools stand as a tall proof of the fact that century old institutions, if taken care of, can very well give the newer generation of schools a run for their money!