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The Atharvaveda

(Sanskrit: अथर्ववेदः, Atharvavedaḥ from priests (atharvāṇas) and Veda, meaning sacred lore or “knowledge”) is the “knowledge depository of atharvāṇas, the stratagem, approach or formula for daily life”. It is the 4th Veda, having 730 psalm or hymns with around 6,000 mantras (chantings), carved up into 20 volumes. Atharvaveda adapts approximately a sixth verses from the Rigveda; excluding Volumes 15 and 16, the text is in verse form setting out a medley and multicity of Vedic constituents.

In modern time, only two different recensions of the Atharvaveda – the Paippalāda and the Śaunakīya – have survived. A well-preserved edition was found among a miscellany of palm leaf manuscripts in Odisha in 1957 AD, but credible documents or palimpsest of the Paippalada version were said to have been vanished.

The Atharvaveda is the “Veda of magical formulas”. Atharvan stands for guidance and mantras especially in an ally to avert evil and asperity along with philosophical discerning. ‘Atharvan‘primitively means ‘priest’ and the Mantras in the Atharvaveda were lightened by Sage Atharva.

On the contrary to the ‘hieratic theology’ of the other three Vedas, the Atharvaveda is believed to exhibit a ‘famous creed of religion’, integrating not merely formulas for occultism, but also the everyday solemnity for inaugural into the study (upanayana), matrimony, and cremations. Atharvaveda also includes royal rituals and the duties of the court priests and not a liturgical Yajurveda-pattern agglomeration.

In addition to the Samhita contents, the Atharvaveda contains a Brahmana text and the closing layer of the text that includes philosophical conjectures. Its latter layer incorporates three basic Upanishads; the Mundaka Upanishad, the Mandukya Upanishad and the Prashna Upanishad, inspiring several schools of Hindu philosophy.

Nomenclature of Atharvaveda

According to Monier Williams, Atharvaveda may be named after the legendary priest named Atharvan who was the initiator to create prayers to fire, present Soma, and who entered in “formulas and spells pinned to halt illness and cataclysms”. Laurie Patton mentions that the term Atharvaveda is for the subject matter being “Veda of the Atharvāṇas”.

According to Atharvaveda’s own verse 10.7.20, its oldest name was Atharvangirasah, an aggregate of “Atharvan” and “Angiras”, both Vedic persons of letters. Each school of Hindu named the text after itself, like Saunakiya Samhita, which means the “acquiesced book of Saunakiya”. Maurice Bloomfield mentions the “Atharvan” and “Angiras” names connote distant concepts, with the prior acknowledged auspicious while the following pointing to antagonistic black magic practices. Over time, the positive propitious aspect arrived commemorated thereafter the term Atharvaveda became common and global.

The Atharvaveda is also sometimes denoted as Bhrgvangirasah (after the sage Bhrigu) and Brahmaveda (after Lord Brahma).

Historical background

The Atharvaveda is supposed to be composed as a Veda coeval with Samaveda and Yajurveda, or about 1200 BCE – 1000 BCE. The ancient Hindu tradition (exists in Nepal and India) in the beginning acknowledged only three Vedas. The Bhagavad Gita, the Rigveda, the verse 5.32-33 of Aitareya Brahmana, the verse of Taittiriya Brahmana, and other Vedic epoch texts introduce only three Vedas- Rigveda, Samaveda, and Yajurveda. The embracing of the Atharvanas psalms and traditional folk practices was slow-going.

It was treated as the 4th Veda much later than the first three. For instance, the early Buddhist Nikaya scripture also does not admit Atharvaveda as a Veda and make citation of only three Vedas. Olson cites that the final recognition of Atharvaveda as the fourth Veda likely introduce in the 2nd half of the 1st millennium BCE. However, Max Muller records that the hymns of Atharvaveda ekes out an existence by the time Chandogya Upanishad was concluded (~700 BCE), but was then brought up as “alleluia of Atharvangirasah”.

Revisal and recensions

The Atharvaveda contains nine shakhas (branches), or schools: brahmavada, cāraṇavaidyā, devadarśa, jājala, jalada paippalāda, staudamauda, and śaunakīya which is mentioned in the Caraṇavyuha, a later epoch Sanskrit literature.

Among these schools, only the Shaunakiya edition and Paippalāda recension are alive. The two recensions are distinct in the way they are sort out, as well as subject matters. For instance, Volume 10 of Paippalada is more elaborated and beheld more conscientiously with no errors at all, more blossomed and more perceptible in elaborating monism, the theory of “oneness of Brahman, all life modes and the existence”.

 Formation of Atharvaveda

The Atharvaveda collection initially was arranged into 18 volumes (Kāṇḍas), and the final two were annexed later. These books are arranged by the length of the hymns; not by subject and not by authors as the other Vedas. Each volume basically has psalms of around a matching number of verses, and the existing manuscripts mark the volume with the shortest psalms as the 1st volume, and then in a rising order but some manuscripts do the inverse. Most psalms are poetic, in verities meters, only about a sixth of the volume is prose.

Most of its hymns are distinct to it, exempting for the one-sixth of its hymns (obtained from the Rigveda), mainly from its10th volume. The 19th volume fortifies similar attributes, likely of later arrangements, and was adjoined later. The 143 hymns of the 20th book of Atharvaveda Samhita are almost entirely borrowed from the Rigveda.

The hymns of Atharvaveda contain a variety of contents and topics, across its entire 20 volumes. More or less, the first seven volumes concentrate basically on mystic poems for all types of remedial and wizardry and supposed to be the oldest section. Volumes 8 to 12 are conjectures of various topics, while Volumes 13 to 18 inclined to be about life phenomenal rituals of passage rite.

The Atharvaveda Shaunaka edition contains the Srautasutra texts Vaitāna Sūtra and the Kauśika Sūtra as an additive of Atharvan Prayascitthas, two Pratishakhyas, and a set of Parisisthas. The corresponding texts for the Paippalada version of Atharvaveda were Agastya and Paithinasi Sutras but these are kissed goodbye or yet to be found.

Topic themes

The Atharvaveda Samhita comprises hymns primarily were mesmerizing, sorcery spells, enchantment, and necromancy meant to be enunciated by the person who desires some succor, or by a wizardry practitioner who would call it on his or her representation. The general aim of these hymns’ magic spells was the longer life of a beloved or restoration from some suffering. In such conditions, the victim would be provided things like a plant (leaf, stem, barks, seed, root) and a talisman.

Some incantations were for hyper lovers looking about to discard oppositions or to intrigue the paramour who is less than passion, others for warriors going to war with the mission of conquering the opponents, some for winning at games, in the commercial field, for the bounty of farming, or extirpation of frivolous pest irritating a household. Some hymns were not about magical purposes, but appeal, plea, theosophical speculations, and erudite notions. A notable fragment of the Samhita text is psalms also for household rites unaccompanied magic or spells.

Remedy from medicinal herbs

Along with the healing techniques with mantras in Atharvaveda, many psalms in it such as hymn 8.7, similar to Rigveda’s hymn 10.97, is an appreciation of medicinal herbs and plants, propounding that postulations about the healing property and the health value of plants and herbs were cropping up part of realization in of yore Nepal and India.

Upanishads in Atharvaveda

The Atharvaveda contains three primary Upanishads implanted within it.

Mundaka Upanishad

The Mundaka Upanishad is in a poetic style, with 64 verses, composed in the form of the mantra, with the purpose of teaching and meditation on metaphysical knowledge. It has 3 Mundakams (branches), each with two divisions. The first Mundakam delineates the erudition and wisdom of “High-level Knowledge” and “Low-level Knowledge”, and then put forward that acts of sacrifices, oblation, and sacred presents are stupidity, and do nothing to decrease miseries in vary life or next, rather it is the knowledge that emancipates.

The second Mundakam states the identity and character of the Brahma (supreme soul), the Atma (Seer, Self, Soul), and the way to realize Brahma (ultimate god). The 3rd Mundakam carries on with the conference and then adduces that the condition of realizing Brahma is one of emancipation, fearlessness, liberation, and rapture. The pantheism theory is also discussed here. Through uninterrupted observation of Satya, Tapas, Samyajñāna, and Brahmacharya, one attains the self (Atman, witness).

Mandukya Upanishad

It is the shortest of all the Upanishads in the Atharvaveda. The text talks on the syllable Aum presents the concept of four levels of mindfulness, mentions the existence and nature of Atman (Soul, Self). It also cites the chronometrical and philosophical interconnection between Buddhism and Hinduism.

Prashna Upanishad

It is from the Paippalada sect of Atharvavedins with 6 Prashna (interrogations), and each is a lesson with a deliberate out of replies. The first three Prashnas are abstruse philosophical queries but do not have any concrete, logical answers, but substantially garnished mythology and symbolism. The fourth part, on the contrary, carries a weighty ideology. The last two parts confer about the symbol Aum and Enlightenment theory. The text is significant for its edifice and sociological cognizance of the learning system in olden Nepal and India.

Important Literature

The Atharvaveda consists of the earliest familiar allusion to the Nepalese and Indic literary genre, the Puranas, in the verse 11.7.24.

The 1st millennium AD Buddhist text appended books of asombroso-holy chanting and spells for safety from wicked dominances of non-humans like hellhounds and specters. These were known as Pirita (Pali: Paritta) and Rakkhamanta (“chanting for safeguarding”), and they provide a hypothesis and pattern of psalm available in Atharvaveda.