Often called the fourth and the last Veda, the Atharva Veda is different from all the other three Vedas. Though the classical Atharva Veda is related to religious and socio-cultural aspects of the society, it dwells on an entirely different level of knowledge. The hymns that are contained in Atharva Veda are more diverse in nature and character than the ones in Rig Veda. It is also of a much simpler language than the Rig Veda. Most scholars in fact do not even consider Atharva Veda to be a part of the Vedas. The Atharva Veda is associated with the area and cult of mystic science and the dark side of science. It is said to deal with death, spirits and afterlife. It is said that if pregnant women attend the rituals where Atharva Veda is chanted, the effects can be so powerful that they may suffer an abortion. An example of the power of Atharva Veda is sited in epic of Mahabharata. When the Pandavas were exiled for a period of thirteen years, they consulted Atharva Veda and shrank time so that it compressed to thirteen days. To know more about Atharva Veda, continue to read this insightful article on it.
History Of Atharva Veda
The name Atharva comes from the cult of people who were into fire worshipping. It literally means ‘fire-people’. In ancient India the fire worshippers were considered as important a part of the society as the regular priests. These fire worshippers were priests as well as they were wizards, meaning to say that they had innate knowledge of the occult. They knew all the spells and magic formulas and used to apply their knowledge of it for the benefit of people.
The Atharva Veda basically consists of charms and spells that were prevalent at that time in the society. The Atharva Veda presents a portrait of the Vedic society. One can find an independent and parallel stream of knowledge and thought in the Atharva Veda. It is said that the mantras are very powerful and should be chanted with much caution and only by specific priests who have a wide knowledge about the Atharva Veda.
It consists of the knowledge on medicine. It comprises of the intensive studies to figure out the cause of various diseases. Atharva Veda is in fact one of the first texts to record the uses of antibiotics. It also talks about the various tactics that can be used in wars. Like, you can find an example of the warfare technique where the arrows with a duct for poison are used. Other techniques include spreading bugs that cause diseases, smoke screens, etc. Atharva Veda, majorly, got its recognition from its references to military practices and techniques. This veda is a collection of seven hundred and thirty-one hymns, containing about six thousand verses. All of these hymns are compiled into twenty books. It is said that about one-seventh of the Atharva Veda is inspired from Rig Veda. Even the language and meter of the hymns of Atharva Veda finds its resonance in Rig veda. Although, there are some differences like, the language in is not as rigid as it is in Rig Veda and also, the meter is not very tightly handled like it is in Rig Veda. Contextually, Atharva Veda is set in the later times than Rig Veda. It is set in such geographical and cultural context that it is easy to notice that Vedic Aryans, during the times of Atharva Veda, have entered the Ganges County and started settling in the areas around the holy river. It also shows historically, how Aryans were now spreading out to the south east region of India. There is a special mention for the tigers from the Bengal region in Atharva Veda; they are mentioned as the strongest and most feared animals of all. It is also said in Atharva Veda that the king must step on the skin of a dead tiger, which symbolizes power and mightiness. There was no mention of the tigers in Rig Veda.
In Atharva Veda, Brahmins are given the highest position on the caste hierarchy, so much so that the Brahmins or the priests are referred to as gods on earth. The most famous part of Atharva Veda that has stuck through ages is the songs or hymns of white magic. These are very ancient magical formula which were Brahmanised. These songs of magic and ancient charms were written by the unknown authors of the ancient times. But it is quite definite that these collections of charms and magic formulas were written and composed by the Brahmin priests of those times. This can be figured out occasionally from the comparisons and epithets. For example, in Atharva Veda there is a charm against field-vermin, in which it is mentioned that the insects must leave the corn untouched as the Brahmin is not suppose to touch the sacrificial food. There is a really big part of Atharva Veda which is dedicated to cater to the interests of the Brahmins, their fees and food, etc.