This story is not just a piece of paper, but this story in itself is a whole book written on wood and stone. This story is a living document of those great works of the Arya Samaj which has saved Himachal Pradesh from the traps of Christianity. This life story begins with a church built by the Britishers in the year 1843 at a distance of six kilometres from Thanadhar in Kotgarh, Himachal Pradesh, and finally ends up at building an Arya Samaj Temple. This is the story of a man who introduced the Vedas and Vedic religion of India to the world. But to more know about this we have to go 119 years back of the present times when in 1900, the 21-year-old Samuel Evans Stokes, the son of a rich man in America, came to India as Christian missionary to convert Hindus into Christianity. He, who come to spread the message of the Isha-Messiah to the Indians, ends up spreading the Message of Veda after coming into the contact with Arya Samaj.
In fact, in 1900 a man named Samuel Evans Stokes from American city- Philadelphia came to India on the order of Vatican. At that time Mr. and Mrs. Carlton were a doctor couple who were working in India for the missions of prevention of leprosy. Evan Stokes also joined them in their conversion mission which they were doing in the name of pursuing his service-spirit. In the early days, he worked in the plain areas of the country including Mumbai, but due to excess heat of summers, he moved towards hilly areas of Himachal.
With the passage of time, eventually on 12 September 1912, Evan Stokes married to an Indian Christian woman Agnes with the Christian traditions and customs. Although he had to face tough opposition from his family because he was the heir to his family’s prosperous business. When Ivan Stokes made his mind to spend life living in India, his family bowed in front of his insistence. His mother gifted him a garden of tea plantation spread in about 200 acres of 30,000 rupees value in Barobag in Shimla which was later turned into an apple garden by Ivan Stokes. He bought the good and more productive apple species from outside and started a kind of apple revolution in Himachal.
After that, the real story begins when the plague disease spread in the country and on this spread of plague, the healthy people of any village left their patients helplessly in the name of God while saving themselves to safer places. But the people of Arya Samaj kept themselves engaged in the work of serving humanity day and night. One such follower of Vedic religion, the sage, Mahatma was Pandit Ruliyaram ji. He had a unique thirst for public service, which could never be extinguished. He had a great sense of renunciation, excitement and unconditional service sense for the society. After seeing the sentiment of Pandit Ji, Samuel Evans Stokes find the doors to truth opened in his mind and realized into his heart that it was the real service to humanity and also the ultimate truth and true religion. Moreover, the task of religious conversions they are doing on the orders of the missionary is loaded with selfishness and equalize to doing fraud with humanity.
After some time, Ivan Stokes met Lala Lajpat Rai and saw in him the agony for country’s independence, inspired by the acts of his serving spirit towards the society, understood the ideas of Arya Samaj & Vedic religion and sage Dayanand and studied the Satyam Prakash. After which Samuel Stokes became the only American to take part in the Indian independence movement. In protest against the British Empire, he became a revolutionary who influenced the society by the ideology of Arya Samaj and even spent 6 months in jail to promote sedition and hatred against the British government in India.
By the year 1932, a phenomenal incident took place and Evan Stokes’ changed his mind. He made himself free from the traps of Vatican and Christianity by adopting Vedic religion and changed his name as Satyanand Stokes from Samuel Evan to move out in search of the true God. He read Bhagvat Geeta in English and then learned Sanskrit in the efforts to understand it -studied the Vedas, Upanishads simultaneously. In the Barobag only, he built the Arya Samaj Temple in the part of his own house. In it, the inscriptions of the Upanishads and the Bhagavadgita were engraved on wooden pillars of the temple. That is, now Satyanand Stokes had become a Vedic Aryan Sage. Wife Agnes had also changed her name to Priyadevi Stokes and children as Lal Chand Stokes, Prem Stokes, Satyavati Stokes, Tara Stokes, and Savitri Stokes.
In the year 1937, the construction of the temple of Arya Samaj in Thanadar has made history. For financial support, a veteran Indian Business Tycoon Kishore Birla contributed Rs 25,000 to encourage him. This temple built by him is called Paramjyoti temple or the temple of eternal light today. On May 14, 1946, Satyananda Stokes left this world to meet eternity but till date, the Vedas and Upanishads of Arya Samaj written on the walls of this temple are still singing the songs of praise of this saint for saving the ideologies of Arya Samaj.
Vinay Arya (General Secretary)