Of the life of the first, of Dayânanda Sarasvatî, we have very full accounts. He initiated a great reform of Brahmanism, and seems to have been a liberal-minded man, so far as social reforms were concerned. He also was willing to surrender his belief in the divine revelation of the Brâhmanas,
though he retained it in full strength with regard to the Vedic hymns. He published large commentaries on the Vedas, which show great familiarity with Sanskrit and very wide reading, though at the same time an utter want of critical judgement. He sanctioned the remarriage of widows, supported the movement in favour of raising the marriageable age of boys and girls, and altogether showed himself free from many prejudices as to caste, food, and all the rest. He condemned idolatry and even polytheism. His name became better known in Europe also, from the time that he fell into the net spread for him by Madame Blavatsky. But this lasted for a short time only, and when he perceived what her real objects were, the Samnyâsin would have nothing more to say to her. She was not quite the Maitreyî he had expected. He did not know English, she did not know Bengâli or Sanskrit; hence they did not understand each other at first, while later on, as some people said, they understood each other but too well. However that may be, he certainly seems to have been a powerful disputant, his influence became greater and greater, till at last his opponents, the orthodox and unchanging Brahmans, were suspected of having poisoned their dangerous rival. He died suddenly, but his followers, under the name of Ârya-Samâj, form still a very important and growing sect in India, that keeps aloof from all European influences.