Swami Shraddhanand also known as Mahatma Munshi Ram was an Arya Samaj missionary who propagated the teachings of Swami Dayananda Saraswati.
Born on 22/02/1856 in Talwan village in Jalandhar district of the Punjab province, As a youth he led a life of immersed in pleasure. Like all young men of his period, he felt that India had no heritage and that her books were nothing but the songs of primitive priests. The singers of the Vedas were worshippers of Nature and believers of numerous gods. They were uncivilised. So he thought that he had no other way but to disown them and seek refuge in an alien culture.
His life changed when he came in contact with Swami Dayanand Saraswati. He learnt from him that India had a glorious past, and her ancient books contained the best thoughts and wisdom of the world. He became an Arya Samaji.
He started publishing a periodical Saddharma Pracharak which was initially in Urdu and soon became popular in the Punjab region. Later, he started publishing the same in Devanagari Script.
He spread the social ideals of the Arya Samaj Movement. He strongly condemned Hindu orthodoxy, caste rigidities, untouchability and advocated widow remarriage, education of women. He was an active participant in the foundation of Arya Kanya Ashram in Kot Kishanchand in 1885. He also raised funds for Girls’ schools and Kanya Ashram.
He established a Gurukul (a residential school system prevalent in ancient Bharat, where teaching on all areas of life, including spiritual practice was done by Gurus or Sages) at Kangari region near Haridwar in 1902. In 1917, Swami Shraddhanand took sanyas and became involved in Hindu reform movement and the Indian Independence movement.
He started working with the Congress and also led the agitation in Delhi against the oppressive ‘Rowlatt Act’. He gave a speech reciting Ved Mantras at Delhi’s Jama Masjid in the year 1922.
While working with Congress he realised that a Muslim always remains a Muslim. Muslims could even stop Congress meetings for the sake of their Namaz. He observed that Hindu Sangathan by means of social reform and bringing back of non - Hindus to their parent Dharma (Shuddhi) could save the nation. In his book Hindu Sanghtan he writes
‘I was already interested in the work of reconversion of Hindus from Muhammadanism and Christianity. I began a special study of the subject. For the full thirteen years after that I remained a mere student of statistics, but in the beginning of the year 1923 A.D. I threw myself heart and soul into the movement of protection and progress of my people and the time has come for me to give to the thinking portion of my countrymen the result of my cogitation and experience.’
However he was constrained to leave the Congress for his views and participation in the shuddhi movement..Under these circumstances, he considered that the Hindu Dharma was suffering injustice under the Congress. He became active in the Hindu Mahasabha.
In 1925, Swami Shraddhanand declared in a speech in Patna that he had been seized of the problem of the dying out of the Hindu race after reading U. N. Mukherji’s book entitled Hindus- A Dying Race.
Swami Shraddhananda estimated that the Hindu nation needed to seriously implement the agenda of the Hindu Sangathan and social reform was essential for the unity among Hindus. In the late 1920s, the Arya Samaj launched reforms for ‘untouchable’ uplift and removal of caste inequalities.
The Hindu Mahasabha also initiated steps to abolish untouchability as a core issue of Hindu Sangathan in the 1920 and 1930s.
At the Hindu Mahasabha session in Benaras (1923), Swami Shraddhananda proposed a resolution ,”Prelude to the assimilation of the Aryan fraternity.‟
The Hindu Mahasabha supported Swami Shraddhananda‟s resolution regarding the access of the so-called untouchables to schools, wells, roads and temples in India.
It is important to see how the Sangathan movement was linked up with the Shuddhi movement. At its Gaya session (December, 1922), the Hindu Mahasabha emphasised the need to unify the Hindu community and to defend it from Muslim attacks and violence‟.
Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya was the President of the session and he remarked that the Hindu were ,weak and degenerate‟ as never before, and that there was an imperative need to organise the community.
In late 1923, Swami Shraddhananda became the President of Bharatiya Hindu Shuddhi Sabha, created with the aim to reconvert Muslims, specifically the Malkana Rajputs through Shuddhi.
He played the leading role in the Shuddhi campaign. He organized a huge gathering for this purpose and purified the Rajputs at Agra, Bharatpur and Mathura etc. The campaign picked remarkable speed from Agra to Mathura, Aligarh and neighbouring districts. The Shuddhi enthusiasts claimed not less than 18000 re-converts in Agra and the neighbourhood in 1924. More than 30000 Malkana rajputs were stated to have been converted by the end of 1923 itself and in 1927, it was reported that more than 163000 Malkanas had come back to the Hindu fold. The Shuddhi campaign created new consciousness and energy among the Hindus.
Swami Shraddhananda estimated that educated Hindus meet each other only on rare occasions. The Hindus have no common meeting place and their temples have not sufficient space where one or two hundred sit together. The Muslims mosques like Juma, Fatehpuri and old mosques have sufficient space where at least serve as meeting places for thousands. But for Hindus, the meeting place is Lakshmi Narayana‟s Dharamashala which can accommodate 800 people. The Muhammadan meetings are free from all noise but the Hindus meetings are not free from all noise. He proposed to build at least one Hindu Rashtra Mandir (national temple) in every city and major town of India as a first step towards the Sangathan.
On 23rd December, 1926 a devout Muslim named Abdul Rashid came to meet Swami Shraddhananda at his residence in Naya Bazar, Delhi. He pretended that he had come to discuss Islam with Swami Shraddhananda. He had covered himself with a blanket, inside which he brought a gun. He fired gunshots at Swamiji Many people gathered at the spot, but to their dismay found that Swamiji was no more. Rashid had been caught by his body-guard Dharmapal. Thus Swami Shraddhananda became a victim of the murderous tradition of Islam. Swami Shraddhananda attained martyrdom but became immortal.
Published literature of Swami Shraddhananda:
- Hindu Sangathan: Saviour of the Dying Race, Published by s.n., 1924.
- Inside Congress, by Swami Shraddhanand, Compiled by Purushottama Rāmacandra Lele. Published by Phoenix Publications, 1946.
- Kalyan Marg Ke Pathik (Autobiography:Hindi), New Delhi. n.d.
- Autobiography (English Translation), Edited by M. R. Jambunathan. Published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1961
- Article byTapan Kumar Das, Assistant Prof. in History,Khandra College, Khandra, Paschim Bardhaman (W.B.) in World Wide Journal of Multidisciplinary Research and Development, WWJMRD 2017; 3(8): 66-68
- Swami Shraddhanand, by Satyadev Vidyalankar, ed. by Indra Vidyavachaspati. Delhi, 1933.
- Hindu Sanghtan by Swami Swami Shraddhanand Edited by Vivek Arya and published by Arsh Sahitya Prachar Trust, edition 216
- Autobiography SWAMI SHRADDHANAND loose translation by AUTHOR M. R. JAMBUNATHAN Edited by Vivek Arya and published by Arsh Sahitya Prachar Trust, edition 216