Atharva - Veda means 'the Veda of the Atharvan' or 'the knowledge of Magic Formulas'. Originally, however, the word meaning 'fire priest', dates back to the Indo-Iranian period. It is a collection of 731 hymns, which contain about 6,000 verses, in the recension which is best preserved. The great importance of the Atharva - Veda Samhita lies in the very fact that it is an invaluable source of knowledge of the real popular belief as yet uninfluenced by the priestly religion, of the faith in numberless spirits, imps, ghosts, and demons of every kind, and of the witchcraft, so eminently important to ethnology and for the history of religion.
This work includes in the first place, critical notes upon the text, giving the various readings of the manuscripts, and not alone of those collated by Whiney in Europe, but also of those of the apparatus used by S. P. Pandit in the great Bombay edition; second, the readings of Paippalada of Kashmere version, furnished by the late Professor Roth; further, notice of the corresponding passages in all the other Vedic texts, with report of the various readings; the data of the Hindu scholiast respecting authorship, divinity, and metre of each verse; also references to the ancillary literature, especially to the well-edited Kausika and Vaitana Sutras, with account of the ritualistic use therein made of the hymns or parts of hymns, so far as this appears to cast any light upon their meaning; also, extracts from the printed commentary; and finally, a simple literal translation with introduction and indices.
William Dwight Whitney (1827-1894) studied Sanskrit for three years in Germany, and gained wide reputation for his scholarship in this field. At Yale University, he became professor of Sanskrit in 1854, adding comparative philology in 1869. He became secretary to the American Oriental Society in 1857 and its president in 1884. He was editor-in-chief of the first edition of the respected Century Dictionary, published in 1889.
Whitney revised definitions for the 1864 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary, and in 1869 became a founder and first president of the American Philological Association. He wrote metrical translations of the Vedas, and numerous papers on the Vedas and linguistics, many of which were collected in the Oriental and Linguistic Studies Series (1872-74). He wrote several books on language, and grammar textbooks of English, French, German, and Sanskrit.
Whitney’s labors on the Atharva-Veda. – As early as March, 1851, at Berlin, during Whitney’s first semester as a student in Germany, his teacher Weber was so impressed by his scholarly ability as to suggest to him the plan of editing an important Vedic text. The impression produced upon Roth in Tubingen by Whitney during the following summer semester was in no wise different, and resulted in the plan for a joint editing began accordingly upon his return Berlin for his second winter semester. His fundamental autograph transcript of the Atharva-Veda Samhita is contained in his Collation-Book, and appears from the dates of that book to have been made in short interval between October, 1851, and March, 1852. The second summer in Tubingen (1852) was doubtless spent partly in studying the text thus copied, partly in planning with Roth the details of the method of editing, partly in helping to make the tool, so important for further progress, the index of Rig-Veda pratikas, and so on; the concordance of the four principle Samhitas, in which, to be sure, Whitney’s party was only “a secondary one,” was issued under the date November, 1852. During the winter of 1852-3 he copied the Praticakhya and its commentary contained in the Berlin codex (Weber, No. 361), as is stated in his edition, p. 334. As noted below (pp. xliv, I), the collation of the Paris and Oxford and London manuscripts of the Atharvan Samhita followed in the spring and early summer of 1853, just before his return (in August) to America. The copy of the text for the printer, made with exquisite neatness in nagari letter by Mr. Whitney’s hand, is still preserved.
The Edition of the text or “First volume.” - The first part of the work, containing book i.-xix of the appeared in Berlin with a provisional preface date February, 1855. The provisional preface announces that the text of book xx. will not be given in full, but only the Kuntapa-hymns, and, for the rest of it, merely reference to the Rig-Veda; and promises, as the principal contents of the second part, seven of the eight items of accessory material enumerated below.- This plan, however, was changed, and the second part appeared in fact as a thin Heft of about 70 pages, giving book xx. in full, and that only. To it was prefixed a half-sheet containing the definitive preface and a new title-page. The definitive preface is dated October, 1856, and adds an eight item, exegetical notes, to the promises of the provisional preface. The new title-page ahs the words “Erster Band. Text,” thus implicitly promising a second volume, in which, according to the definitive preface, the accessory material was to be published.
Relation of this work to the “First volume” and to this Series. – Of the implicit promise of that title-page, the present work is intended to complete the fulfillment. As most of the labor the first volume had fallen to Whitney, so most of the labor upon the projected “second was of have been done by Roth. In fact, however, it turned out that Roth’s very great services for the criticism and exegesis of this Veda took a different from, and are embodied on the on hand in his contributions to the St. Petersburg Lexicon, and consist on the other in his brilliant discovery of the Kashmirian recension of this Veda and his collations of the text thereof with that of the Vulgate. Nevertheless, as is clearly apparent (page xvii), Whitney thought and spoke of this work as a “Second volume of the Roth-Whitney edition of the Atharva-Veda,” and called it “our volume” in writing to Roth (cf. p. lxxxvi); and letters exchanged between the two friends in 1894 discuss the question whether the “Second volume” ought not to be published by the same house (F. Dummler’s) that issued the first in 1856. It would appear from Whitney’s last letter to Roth (written April 10, 1894, shortly before his death), that he had determined to have the work published in the Harvard Series, and Roth’s last letter to Whitney (dated April 23) expresses his great satisfaction at this arrangement. This plan had the cordial approval of my friend Henry Clarke Warren, and, while still in relatively fair healthy, he generously gave to the University the money to pay for the printing.
External from of this work. – It is on account of the relation just explained, and also in deference to Whitney’s express wishes, that the size of the printed page of this work and the size of the paper have been chosen to much those of the “First volume.” The pages have been numbered continuously from 1 to 1009, as if this work were indeed one volume; but, since it was expedient to separate the work into two halves in binding, I have done so and designated those halves as volumes seven and eight of the Harvard Oriental Series. The volume are substantially bound and properly lettered; the leaves are open at the front; and the top is cut without spoiling the margin. The purpose of the inexpensive gilt top is not for ornament, but rather to save the volumes from the injury by dirt and discoloration which is so common with ragged hand-cut tops. The work has been electrotyped, and will thus, it is hoped, be quite free from the blemished occasioned by the displacement of letters, the breaking off of accents, and the like.
PLATES, ONE IN EACH VOLUME OF THE WORK
PREFATORY AND BIOGRAPHICAL AND RELATED MATTER
Paragraphs in lieu of a preface by Whitney
Biographical and related matter
GENERAL INTRODUCTION, PART I. : BY THE EDITOR
GENERAL INTRODUCTION, PART II: PARTLY FROM WHITNEY'S MATERIAL
Cross-references to explanation of abbreviations and so forth
THE ATHARVA-VEDA SAMHITA: TRANSLATION AND NOTES
INDEXES AND OTHER AUXILLARY MATTER
Brahma Sutras (81)
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