By Kewal Ahluwalia


Even in the circle of most of the Arya Samajs, Swami Virjanand, the blind sage of Mathura is only known as the celebrated teacher of Swami Dayanand Saraswati who founded the Arya Samaj, Very little is known about his early life.


Without a Virjanand there would have been no Dayanand and without a Dayanand there would have been no revival of Vedic dharma which was so essential for all individuals and national salvation at that time. If it was not for Swami Virjanand and an organization like Arya Samaj would not have been founded by Swami Dayanand. It is quite possible that we all would have been Moorti Pujarik of some kind or adopted other religion. But when we think of Dayanand we cannot but think of Swami Virjanand, his great and worthy guru.


Swami Vijanand Ji

(1778 - 1868)


Swami Virjanand, the blind sage of Mathura and the celebrated teacher of Swami Dayanand Saraswati who founded the Arya Samaj, was born in a place near Jullundur in the year 1778 in Brahmin family. His childhood name was Vraj Lal. At the tender age of five, the boy lost his eyesight after an attack of small pox and before he completed his twelfth year his parents died,


Thus the boy was thrown to the mercies of his elder brother and sister-in-law at very young age. As they did not treat him well, the temperamental Virjanand soon left their house.


His wanderings led him to Rishikesh where he led a life of meditation and austerity for about three years. Swami Virjanand left Rishikesh for Hardwar. At Hardwar Virjanand came in contact with one Swami Purnanand, a renowned Sanskrit scholar who initiated him into 'sanyasi', and gave him the name of Virjanand Saraswati. Swami Purnanand taught him Sanskrit grammar. Soon Virjanand began to master other branches of Sanskrit literature, and also took up the work of teaching others. After this course of Hardwar, Swami Virjanand left for Kashi, the well-known city for Sanskrit learning and for higher studies. Here he lived for about 10 years, mastering Vedanta and Ayurveda, etc. Soon he came to occupy a place of eminence among the scholars of Varanasi. From Varanasi. Swami Virjanand went to Gaya where he made a comprehensive and critical study of Upanishad, the preliminary study of which he had first taken at Hardwar and completed at Varanasi. From there Swami Virjanand went to Calcutta which was, at that time attracting Sanskrit talent from all over the country. At Calcutta, Swami lived for a number of years impressing the citizens with his masterly knowledge of Sanskrit grammar and literature. In spite of the material comforts he had at Calcutta, Swami Virjanand soon left that city and settled at Gadia Ghat on the banks of the Ganges. It was here that the then Maharaja of Alwar came across the Swami and was greatly impressed by him. On the invitation of the Maharaja, Swamiji agreed to come to Alwar where he stayed for some time. At the request of the Maharaja, Swamiji wrote "Shabda-Both", the manuscript of which is still treasured in the library at Alwar. From Alwar, Virjanand went to Soron and from there to Mathura. At Mathura he established a "pathshala" to which students flocked from all over the country. The expenses of the pathshala were met by donations from the Rajput Princes and no fees were charged from the pupils. Swami Virjanand was a man of indomitable courage and fiery enthusiasm. His love for the Vedic literature was only equaled by his earnest desire to serve his country and religion. As long as we have any love for Sanskrit and the Vedas, we cannot afford to forget the yeoman service swami Virjanand rendered to the cause of Hindu nationality.


It was at Mathura that Swami Virjanand came across his most illustrious disciple, the famous Dayanand Saraswati. Swami Virjanand was a very hard task master and he expected a very high standard of diligence and discipline in his students. Even Dayanand Saraswati was not spared by his master. When Dayanand Saraswati completed his course Swami Virjanand demanded from him as 'guru-dakshina'--a vow that he will work incensantly to spread the knowledge of Vedas in this country. Swami Virjanand who helped him realize the true meaning of life and understand the hidden, inner meanings of Vedas so when they separated, Virjanand extracted from him the promise that he should consecrate his life to the annihilation of the heresies that had crept into the Puranic faith, and to re-establish the ancient religious methods of the ages  and to disseminate the truth. “Dayanand my son, go and spread the true knowledge of the Vedas, dispel the darkness of ignorance, throw light on the true meaning of truth and liberate India”.  Swami Dayanand promised his guru accordingly. So Swami Dayanand urged Hindus to go back to Vedas, and to shun superstitious practices that had distorted their faith. He strongly opposed idol worship which had no validity in the Vedas and urged Hindus to worship one formless God. He strongly condemned social practices –such as child marriage, custom of dowry, force widowhood, the hereditary caste system based on birth and statee (self-immolation by widows)- that had nothing to do with Vedas. To create a vehicle for his reform program, Swamiji laid the foundation of the Arya Samaj in 1875.


Swami Virjanand died on Monday, the 14th September, 1868 at the age of 90.  When the news of the demise of Virjanand reached Dayanand, he took a deep sigh and exclaimed "alas! Bharatvarsha! Holy Aryavarta, today the glorious sun of Vedic grammar has set."!



Kewal Ahluwalia.