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Atharva Veda

The Atharva Veda was not included as the Fourth Veda up to the time of the Bhagavad Gita', because its mantras had little to do with the main yajna rituals as in the other three Vedas. It has information on aspects that are not found in the other three Vedas. The Atharva Veda contains 736 hymns or suktas with a total of 6,077 mantras. They deal with health, medicine, victory, friendship, progeny, black magic, and charms and chants used for offensive and defensive purposes.

The Atharva Veda also contains mantras that deal with building construction, trade and commerce, statecraft, penances, long life, harmony in life and mantras to ward off evil spirits.

This Veda also refers to swarga (heaven) and naraka (hell), virtue and sin, and qualities like satya (truth) and tapas (austerity), and ceremony like diksha (initiation) that help a person attain perfection. The Atharva Veda is also called Brahma Veda because the priests who specialise in its recitation are called the Brahma priests. Furthermore it is also called Bhaishajya Veda (the Veda of medicines and treatment of diseases) and Kshattra Veda (the Veda of the warrior class). So, unlike the other Vedas, the Atharva Veda touches a wider scope of worldly subjects. The Gopatha Brahmana and three important Upanishads, Prashna, Mundaka and Mandukya, developed from it.


Q1. What is special about Atharva Veda?


The Atharvaveda is a collection of 20 books, with a total of 730 hymns of about 6,000 stanzas. The text is stated Patrick Olivelle and other scholars, a historical collection of beliefs and rituals addressing practical issues of the daily life of the Vedic society. The Atharva Veda stands apart from the other three Vedas because it does not treat śrauta (sacred) rituals as its main topic but represents in part the popular side of Vedic culture and religion. Among the ten major Upanishads of the four Vedas, three very important Upanishads - Prasna, Mundaka, and Mandukya Upanisads belong to Atharva Veda. The Atharva Veda is a great mine of Indian wisdom guiding to a happy and fruitful life.

Q2. What does Atharva Veda talk about?

The "Atharva Veda" is dedicated to prolonging life and healing illnesses, seeking cures from herbs, dealing more with diseases and their remedies, gaining a lover or partner, or world peace and the nature of good and evil. The Vedas are the oldest Hindu sacred texts. The Atharva Veda is deemed to be an encyclopedia for medicine "Inter Alia". Ayurveda is an Upaveda or Upanga (supplementary subject) of Atharva or Rigveda according to some schools or is a Panchama Veda, i.e. it is not imposed or added from the exterior but is a part and parcel of the main body of the Vedas. A few glimpses of Medical Science as prevalent in ancient India have been presented here.

Q3. How many branches are there in Atharva Veda?

Atharva Veda is divided into 20 Kandas, which are divided into 36 Prapathakas. These Prapathakas have 730 Suktas (hymns), of which there are 5,987 mantras. The Caraavyuha, a later era Sanskrit text, states that the Atharvaveda had nine shakhas, or schools: paippalāda, stauda, mauda, śaunakīya, jājala, jalada, Brahma Veda, devadarśa and cāraavaidyā. Of these, only the Shaunakiya recension, and the more recently discovered manuscripts of Paippalāda recension have survived. The Paippalāda edition is more ancient.

Q4. Where is original Atharva Veda kept?

The oldest copies of any of the Vedas are copies of the Rig Veda and Atharva Veda. They are currently on display in the Bhandarkar Oriental Institute in Pune, Maharashtra, India. About a sixth of the Atharvaveda texts adapts verses from the Rigveda, and except for Books 15 and 16, the text is mainly in verse deploying a diversity of Vedic meters. Two different revised editions of the text – the Paippalāda and the Śaunakīya – have survived into modern times. Reliable manuscripts of the Paippalada edition were believed to have been lost, but a well-preserved version was discovered among a collection of palm-leaf manuscripts in Odisha in 1957.

Q5. What is the original name of Atharva Veda?

The oldest name of the text, according to its own verse 10.7.20, was Atharvangirasah, a compound of "Atharvan" and "Angiras", both Vedic scholars. The "Atharvan" and "Angiras" names, imply ‘auspicious’ and ‘hostile’ sorcery practices respectively. Over time, the name Atharva Veda became widespread. The latter name Angiras which is linked to Agni and priests in the Vedas, states George Brown, may also be related to Indo-European Angiros.

The Atharvaveda is also occasionally referred to as Bhrgvangirasah and Brahmaveda, after Bhrigu and Brahma respectively. This is so because the priests who attain specialization in its recitation are called Brahma priests. It is also known as Bhaishajya Veda and Kshattra Veda. This Veda is the storehouse of the procedures of everyday life.

Q6. How old is Atharva Veda?


The Atharvaveda was likely compiled simultaneously with Samaveda and Yajurveda, or about 1200 BCE – 1000 BCE. Along with the Samhita text, the Atharvaveda includes a Brahmana text and a final layer of the text that covers philosophical speculations. The Atharvaveda was accepted as a Veda in the late 1st millennium BCE. It was compiled last, probably around 900 BCE, although some of its material may go back to the time of the Rigveda, or earlier. Olson states that the ultimate acceptance of Atharvaveda as the fourth Veda probably came in the 2nd half of the 1st millennium BCE. However, notes Max Muller, the hymns of Atharva Veda existed by the time Chandogya Upanishad was completed (700 BCE).