Atharva Veda

Atharva Veda

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Acknowledgement: We are thankful to Veda Prasar Samiti, Chennai for providing the pdf files of Vedas in Devanagari script to us.

"The Atharvaveda (a tatpurusha compound of atharvan, an ancient Rishi, and veda, meaning knowledge) is a sacred text of Hinduism and one of the four Vedas, often called the fourth Veda. According to tradition, the Atharvaveda was mainly composed by two groups of rishis known as the Atharvanas and the Angirasa, hence its oldest name is Atharvangirasa. In the Late Vedic Gopatha Brahmana, it is attributed to the Bhrigu and Angirasa. Additionally, tradition ascribes parts to other rishis, such as Kausika, Vasistha and Kasyapa. There are two surviving recensions (sakhas), known as Saunakiya (AVS) and Paippalada (AVP).

The Atharvaveda, while undoubtedly belonging to the core Vedic corpus, in some ways represents an independent parallel tradition to that of the Rigveda and Yajurveda. It incorporates much of the early traditions of healing and magic that are paralleled in other Indo-European literatures.

The Atharvaveda is less predominant than other Vedas, as it is little used in solemn (Shrauta) ritual. The largely silent Brahman priest observes the procedures of the ritual and heals it with two mantras and pouring of ghee when a mistake occurs. An early text, its status has been ambiguous due to its magical character.

The Caranavyuha (attributed to Shaunaka) lists nine shakhas, or schools, of the Atharvaveda: paippalada, regions south of the Narmada River, stauda, mauda, saunakiya, regions north of the Narmada River, jajala, jalada, kuntap, brahmavada, devadarsa and caranavaidya.

Of these, only the Saunakiya (AVS), present in Gujarat, and the Paippalada (AVP) recension in coastal Orissa have survived. Both have some later additions, but the core Paippalada text is considered earlier than most of the Saunakiya. Often in corresponding hymns, the two recensions have different verse orders, or each has additional verses not in the other.

Samhitavidhi, Santikalpa and Naksatrakalpa are some of the five kalpa texts adduced to the Saunakiya tradition and not separate schools of their own.

Two main post-Samhita texts associated with the AV are the Vaitana Sutra and the Kausika Sutra. The Vaitanasutra deals with the participation of the Atharvaveda priest (brahmán) in the Shrauta ritual, while the Kausikasutra contains many applications of Atharvaveda mantras in healing and magic. This serves the same purpose as the vidhana of the Rigveda and is of great value in studying the application of the AV text in Vedic times. Several Upanishads also are associated with the AV, but appear to be relatively late additions to the tradition. The most important of these are the mundaka and the prasna Upanishads. The former contains an important reference to Saunaka, the founder of the Shaunakiya shakha, while the latter is associated with the Paippalada shakha.
It is conjectured that the core text of the Atharvaveda falls within the classical Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit at the end of the 2nd millennium BCE - roughly contemporary with the Yajurveda mantras, the Rigvedic Khilani, and the Samaveda.

The Shaunakiya text is clearly divided into four parts: Kandas 1-7 deal with healing and general black and white magic that is to be applied in all situations of life, from the first tooth of a baby to regaining kingship. Kandas 8-12 constitute early speculation on the nature of the universe and of humans as well as on ritual and are thus predecessors of the Upanishads. They continue the speculative tradition of some Rigvedic poets. Kandas 13-18 deal with issues of a householder's life, such as marriage, death and female rivalry, as well as with the ambiguous Vratyas on the fringes of society and with the Rohita sun as an embodiment of royal power. Kanda 19 is an addition, and Kanda 20 is a very late addition containing Rigvedic hymns for the use of the Atharvanic Brahmanacchamsin priest as well as for the enigmatic Kuntapa ritual of the Kuru kingdom of Parikshit. The Paippalada text has a similar arrangement into four parts (Kandas 1-15, 16-17, 18, 19-20) with roughly the same contents.

The current recitation style of this Veda mostly resembles the Rigvedic one.

The Shaunaka Shakha of the Atharvaveda is recited in western Saurastra, at Benares, Gokarna and, after a recent introduction from Benares, also in South India (Tirupati, Chidambaram, etc.). The Gokarna version follows the northern style, which resembles the way the Maharashtrians recite the Rigveda Samhita. In Varanasi, which derives its style from Gujarat, the way of recitation is little different. Similarly in South India, the Shaunaka Shaka is recited using the Rig Veda as a base, with minute variations in Kampa Svara." - Source:

On Vedas:

"The authority of the Vedas extends to all ages, climes and persons; that is to say, their application is not confined to any particular place, time, and persons.

In the more recent Upanishads, the spiritual ideas have been collected and brought into one place; as in the Bhagavad Gitâ, for instance, which we may, perhaps, look upon as the last of the Upanishads, you do not find any inkling of these ritualistic ideas. The Gita is like a bouquet composed of the beautiful flowers of spiritual truths collected from the Upanishads. But in the Gita you cannot study the rise of the spiritual ideas, you cannot trace them to their source. To do that, as has been pointed out by many, you must study the Vedas. The great idea of holiness that has been attached to these books has preserved them, more than any other book in the world, from mutilation. In them, thoughts at their highest and at their lowest have all been preserved, the essential and the non-essential, the most ennobling teachings and the simplest matters of detail stand side by side; for nobody has dared to touch them. Commentators came and tried to smooth them down and to bring out wonderful new ideas from the old things; they tried to find spiritual ideas in even the most ordinary statements, but the texts remained, and as such, they are the most wonderful historical study. We all know that in the scriptures of every religion changes were made to suit the growing spirituality of later times; one word was changed here and another put in there, and so on. This, probably, has not been done with the Vedic literature, or if ever done, it is almost imperceptible. So we have this great advantage, we are able to study thoughts in their original significance, to note how they developed, how from materialistic ideas finer and finer spiritual ideas are evolved, until they attained their greatest height in the Vedanta. Descriptions of some of the old manners and customs are also there, but they do not appear much in the Upanishads. The language used is peculiar, terse, mnemonic." - Swami Vivekananda

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