|Swami Dayanand and Shivratri
Swami Dayanand was born at Tankara (Morvi), a town situated on the bank of the Machhooka Mahanadi, in Kathiawar (Gujrat), in the Vikram era 1881 (1825 A.D.). His original name was Mool Shankar, and his father's Karsanji. He was the head of an eminent Brahman family of the village and was rich, prosperous and influential.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati
By the time Dayanand was fourteen years of age, he knew the whole of the Yajur Veda Samhita by heart, some portions of the remaining three Vedas and some minor works on Sanskrit grammar. He understood but a little (as also his father).
The fast of Shivatri approached, and now that Dayanand was his fourteenth year, there was absolutely no reason, said his father, why he should not keep it. Dayanand was at first reluctant to comply with his father's wishes, but when the katha, setting forth the meritoriousness of the fast, was recited to him, he consented. The mother strongly protested but Karsanji was bent upon having his way, and so the fast had to be kept. The worship of the presiding deity of the sacred shrine were duly explained to him. One of the injunctions was that the devotee who kept the fast of Shivratri, must remain awake the whole night, as otherwise the fast would bear no fruit.
As soon as the third quarter of the night came, the devotees seemed to have well exhausted and were unable any further to resist sleep. Dayanand's father was one of the batch which was the first to fall asleep, nor were the priests long in following his example.
Dayanand was surprised at the scant respect which these worshippers of Shiva seemed to have for the fast by practically going against their professions, but he was determined that nothing should induce him to lose the reward which his leaders had deliberately forfeited. To prevent himself, therefore, from dropping into a slumber, he took to vigorously sprinkling water over his eyes, and to thinking. While thus employed, he saw something that drew him out of his abstraction and riveted his attention on itself.
A mouse creeping out of its hole began to take liberties with the image of Shiva, and make free with the offerings which had come to it from the worshippers. For many moments the boy watched the doings of the little creature, possibly amused a little, but serious thoughts followed, and he mused: "Is this the Mahadeva whom the katha represented as deity with human shape, with a trident in his hand and playing upon the drum - the God who bestows a boon upon one and pronounces a curse upon another, and who is the Lord of the Kailash mountain? This image has not the power to drive away even an insignificant mouse from its presence!
Dayanand thought long and hard and intently, and this thinking laid the foundation of that great, all-embracing socio-religious revolution which he subsequently brought in the land of his birth.