The Religion and Philosophy of the Atharvaveda (Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAD318
Author: N. J. Shende
Publisher: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune
Language: English
Edition: 1985
Pages: 152
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5 inch x 7.0 inch
Weight 340 gm
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Book Description


(to the first edition)

The Athermancy Literature has engaged my attention since 1937, when I was studying the problem of the authorship of the Mahäbh rata. Therein I was struck by the unorthodox tendencies of the members of the family of the Bhgvängirases, the authors or the editors of the AV. who stand quite apart from other orthodox priestly families. My aim in the present work is to present these unorthodox tendencies, reflected in the theory and practice of the Atharvaic Religion, and warranted by the actual Atharvaiic Texts, viz., the Satiihita, Brahmaia and KauikasUtra. The mythology Of the has been treated in my other work, the Foundations of the Atharvar.zic Religion. The philosophy of the AV. is based on the conceptions of the Brahman and Atman of the Atharvaçic thinkers. They have substantially contributed to the Upaniadic thought. I have attempted to throw new light on the problem of the late Atharvanic Upaniads.

The tenth chapter of this work was published in the Pracyavã , Calcutta in 1944. The ninth chapter was published in 1949 in the Karmarkar Commemoration Volume, Poona. The eighth chapter was published in the Journal of the University of Bombay in 1949. I take this opportunity to thank the authorities of the Bombay University and the publishers of the Karmarkar Volume, for having permitted me to re-publish the above papers.

I must thank the authorities of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona, for publishing this work.

I thank the Manager and Staff of the Aryabhushan Press, Poona, who printed the work so promptly, in spite of many difficulties.

Finally I acknowledge my indebtedness to the University of Bombay for the grant-in-aid, received by me from the University towards the cost of publication of this work.



1. The Atharvanic Religion and Magic.
2. The magical traits in the religion of the RV, YV and SV.
3. The nature of Magic in the AV.
4. The characteristics of the Atharvaiic Religion.
5. The importance of the Religion of the AV.
6. The philosophy of the AV.

(1) The Atharvanic Religion and Magic.
The religion of the AV is essentially magical although the spheres of the religion and magic are different. Religion, though difficult to define, can be broadly described as a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to men, which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life? Thus religion consists of a belief in the powers, higher than man and an attempt to propitiate them. The belief in these powers may take the form of gods like Agni, Indra, iva or Viu, which is implored by devout 250 tees to favor them with prosperity of men, cows, horses etc., by means of offering sacrifices along with the recitation of prayers. It is the sweet will of the deity thus pacified, which confers such favors on the devotee. In magic, on the other hand, there are invariably the mistaken applications of one or other fundamental laws of thought, namely, the association of ideas by similarity and association of ideas by contiguity in space or time. In magic, thus, there is belief, though wrong, in the laws of uniformity and causation in the nature.2 The magician believes that by means of the spells, which he recites while the magical acts are practised, the desired effect is brought about owing to the fact that the like causes produce like effects. Thus the brahman of the Atharvanic priest only reveals the underlying application of one or other of the two laws of Nature mentioned above. The priest is confident of the fact that his performance of the brahman is bound to yield the exact result. In magic, thus the desired effect does not depend on the caprice or sweet will of the deity as in religion, but is bound to take place on account of the mysterious power arising out of the acts and spells of the magician. Magic and religion thus belong to the different spheres. But in the case of the Ày, we find that there is a perfect blending of the two. We have in the AV the magical rites and sacrificial rites side by side. The deities are pacified and also are urged to bring about the desired effect. Thus there is religious magic or magical religion in the AV according to the preparation of the religious and magical ideas in the rites.

( (2) The Nature of Magic in the AV.
The magic in the AV observes the general laws of magic, viz., the law of similarity i. e. the like causes produce like effect or the effect resembles its cause and the law of contact according to which the things which are associated once remain so associated even at a distance and even if their association ceases to be. The former is termed by Frazer as homeopathic magic and the latter as contagious magic.° For instance, in a rite to kill the enemy one cuts a branch of a tree. The tree here symbolizes the enemy. By cutting it, he cuts the body of the enemy who is away. This is imitative or homeopathic magic. In the same rite one collects dust from the ground where his enemy has stepped. He puts it on fire. His enemy is burnt thereby; In this case the dust which was in contact with the enemy for sometime continues to be so connected even if physically it is separated. This is due to the power of the bra human. The burning of the dust results in burning the enemy (AV 2. 12. 3—8). In the primitive magic, the spells were unintelligible and spoken in the primitive language of the savages. In the Ataractic magic the priest or the performer of the magic, being a cultured and intelligent man, systematized his spells. These form the AV. In these spells one finds some peculiarities of magic. In the magical rites the words of the spells are equally important as the act. The priest is confident of the power of his speech. He says to a dying man under his treatment : “I make an amour of my Brahman for your protection. You shall not die. By means of my speech (spell) I release you from the snares of Death.” (8.1.3; 6.10; 2.1,10). Thus his braining, the magical act and the magical potency arising from it are associated with his speech. In addressing the demonic creatures, he always tells that he knows their names, which may be secret, and also their father, mother and sister. He knows their houses (1. 2. 1). This knowledge of the genealogy and secret names brings force to his spells and weakens and exposes the other party. In such spells repetition also plays an important part. The whole formula is repeated with the change of certain words about direction or deity (10. 5).

In our attempt to study these spells we get a very valuable help from the KauikasUtra, without which many hymns would not have been properly understood. Attempt is made in this work to see whether there is any connection between the magical rites prescribed by it and the respective hymns either by way of similarity of word, sound or idea.




  Introduction I
I The Medicine in the AV. 11
II The Erotic in the AV. 48
III The Statecraft in the AV. 75
IV The Ghya rites in the AV. 101
V The Social and Domestic practices in the AV. 117
VI The Witchcraft in the AV. 153
VII The Sacrifice in the AV. 178
VIII The Brahman in the AV. 201
IX The Contribution of the AV. to the Upaniadic Thought 211
X The Atharvardc Upaniads Bibliography 225
  Bibliography 250
  Abbreviations 252

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