November 1860 was a historic time. A young monk had come to Mathura. He had triple-ash marks on his forehead and a garland of Rudraksha beads on his neck. He wore a turban and carried a water pot in one hand and a solid staff in the other. He had some books with him. He wore saffron clothes like other monks did. He was six feet tall and a little over thirty-five years old. He was fair in complexion, with a pleasant countenance, sharp eyes, and fine body features. Austerity and celibacy glowed on his face, but because he came from a long journey, fatigue was also evident on his face. He spoke with a Gujarati accent, and his voice was clear, sweet, and deep. He had come to Mathura with the specific mission of meeting someone whom he would make his Guru. He had left his father’s home in 1846 and had been traveling for approximately fourteen years. In this period, he had met several Yogis and holy men and he had combed dense, dangerous jungles, crossed many rivers filled with ice and reptiles, and peeped into many dark caves. But so far, he did not attain the real Shiva, nor was he able to solve the mystery of death, nor was his thirst for knowledge satisfied. In his seemingly endless travels, he had seen blind faith and superstition replace real religion. He had always wanted to know whether Hindu holy books had sanctioned these practices. To get to the core of the knowledge contained in these Sanskrit holy texts, this young monk, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, came to Mathura to ask for admission to the Sanskrit school of Swami Virjananda Saraswati. Coincidentally, both Virjananda and Dayananda were initiates of one Guru, the now-old Purnananda Saraswati. It is believed that it was this frail Guru who had advised the younger Dayananda to approach the older Virjananda for admission. The initiating Guru, Purnananda, wrote to Dayananda: I am too old now. I cannot teach anymore. If you want to study Grammar, go to my able student Virjananda. He will satisfy your needs. Biographers offer the opinion that Swami Dayananda, thus advised by Swami Purnananda, must have thought at that time that Swami Virjananda was blind and could not effectively teach, but now, when he heard of the blind Swami’s stupendous scholarship, he made up his mind to go to him in Mathura.
DR SATISH PRAKASH