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Hindu texts

The Atharva Veda is a sacred text of Hinduism, part of the four books of the Vedas. It derives from the Indo-Aryan name Atharvan, a term which is usually taken to mean a fire priest in Vedic Sanskrit. More specifically, the Atharva Veda was mainly composed by two clans of fire priests known as the Bhrigus (also called Atharvans) and Angirasas. Additionally, it also includes composition of certain other Indo-Aryan clans such as the Kaushikas, Vasishthas and Kashyapas. Shruti (what is heard) is a canon of Hindu scriptures, early forms of which may have existed as early as 1500 BC, with most scholarship favoring dates between 1200 and 800 BC. Shruti is said to have no author; rather, it is believed to be a divine recording of the... The Vedas (also referred to as Vedam) are part of the Hindu Shruti; these religious scriptures form part of the core of the Brahminical and Vedic traditions within Hinduism and are the inspirational, metaphysical and mythological foundation for later Vedanta, Yoga, Tantra and even Bhakti forms of Hinduism. ... The Rig Veda ऋग्वेद (Sanskrit ṛc praise + veda knowledge) is the earliest of the four Hindu religious scriptures known as the Vedas. ... The Sama Veda (सामवेद), or Veda of Holy Songs, is third in the usual order of enumeration of the four Vedas, the ancient core Hindu scriptures. ... The Yajur Veda यजुर्वेद is one of the four Hindu Vedas; it contains religious texts focussing on liturgy and ritual. ... The Brahmanas (Brahmin Books) are part of the Hindu Shruti; these religious scriptures focus on sacrifice -- particularly that of horses and soma. ... The Aranyakas (Forest Books, Forest Treatises) are part of the Hindu Shruti; these religious scriptures are sometimes argued to be part of either the Brahmanas or Upanishads. ... The Upanishads (उपनिषद्, UpaniÅŸad) are part of the Hindu Shruti scriptures which primarily discuss meditation and philosophy and are seen as religious instructions by most schools of Hinduism. ... Smriti (what is fit/deserves to be remembered) refers to a canon of Hindu religious scripture. ... The great Hindu Epics are also occasionally termed Mahakavyas (Great Compositions); the terms refer to a canon of Hindu religious scripture. ... The Mahabharata (Devanagari: महाभारत, phonetically Mahābhārata - see note), sometimes just called Bharata, is one of the two major ancient Sanskrit epics of India, the other being the Ramayana. ... Bhagavad Gīta भगवद्गीता, composed ca the fifth - second centuries BC, is part of the epic poem Mahabharata, located in the Bhisma-Parva chapters 23–40. ... Lord Ram, Laxman, Sita and Hanuman(crouching) The Ramayana (Sanskrit: march (ayana) of Rama) is part of the Hindu smriti, written by Valmiki. ... The Puranas (Sanskrit purāṇá ancient, since they focus on ancient history of the universe) are part of Hindu Smriti; these religious scriptures discuss varied topics like devotion to God in his various aspects, traditional sciences like Ayurveda, Jyotish, cosmology, concepts like dharma, karma, reincarnation and many others. ... There are eighteen main Puranas, being: Brahma Purānās Brahma Brahmānda Brahma Vaivarta Mārkandeya (This sacred purana has the Devi Mahatmyam, an important religious text for Shaktas. ... The Tantras (Looms or Weavings), written between 500 and 1800, are part of Hindu Smriti; these religious scriptures discuss rituals and meditation. ... Sutra (सूत्र) in Sanskrit is derived from the verb √siv, meaning to sew. ... Below is a list of sutras organized alphabetically under the broad categories of Hinduism and Buddhism. ... Smriti (what is fit/deserves to be remembered) refers to a canon of Hindu religious scripture. ... There are eighteen main Smritis, being: Manu Smriti; Yajnavalkya Smriti Parasara Smriti Vishnu Smriti; Daksha Smriti; Samvarta Smriti; Vyasa Smriti; Harita Smriti; Satatapa Smriti; Vasishtha Smriti; Yama Smriti; Apastamba Smriti; Gautama Smriti; Devala Smriti; Sankha-Likhita Smriti; Usana Smriti; Atri Smriti and SaunakaSmriti. ... The Ashtavakra Gita (Song of Ashtavakra) is an influential nondualist Hindu text traditionally said to have been written by the Sage Ashtavakra, though its authorship is not known with certainty. ... The Gita Govinda or the Song of the Shri Krishna is a work composed in the 12th century by Jayadeva Goswami. ... Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a classic Sanskrit manual on Hatha Yoga, written by Swami Svatmarama. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... The Vedas are part of the Hindu Shruti; these religious scriptures form part of the core of the Brahminical and Vedic traditions within Hinduism and are the inspirational, metaphysical and mythological foundation for later Vedanta, Yoga, Tantra and even Bhakti forms of Hinduism. ... In Hinduism, Atharvan is a legendary sage and seer, and one of the Rishis, said to have composed the Atharvaveda. ... The adjective Vedic may refer to The Vedas, the oldest preserved Indo-Aryan texts. ... The Sanskrit language ( संस्कृता वाक्) is one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family and is not only a classical language, but also an official language of India. ... The Indo-Aryan languages form a subgroup of the Indo-Iranian languages, thus belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. ... This article is about the Hindu god Kasyapa. ...

Contents


Status

The Atharvaveda, while undoubtedly belonging to the core Vedic corpus, in some ways represents an independent parallel tradition to that of the Rîg and Yajur Veda.


The Jaina and Bauddha texts are considerably more hostile to the AV (they call it Aggvana or Ahavana Veda) than they are to the other Hindu texts. They even call it a non-Aryan Veda concocted by Paippalada for human sacrifices. The Hindu texts too have taken a less than charitable view and have on occasions omitted the reference to the "Atharvan" text in the context of Vedic literature, though some attribute this to the fact that the Atharva Veda was a later addition chronologically. The Atharvan ParishishhThas themselves state that specific priests of the mauda and jalada schools should be avoided. It is even stated that women associated with atharvAns may suffer from abortions. The hand with a wheel on the palm symbolizes the Jain Vow of Ahinsa, meaning non-injury and nonviolence. ... Statues of Buddha such as this, the Tian Tan Buddha statue in Hong Kong, remind followers to practice right living. ...


Recensions

Traditionally 9 schools of the Atharvan literature are supposed to have existed. One can reconstruct their names using the charaNavyUhas as below:

  1. paippalAda
  2. stauda
  3. mauda
  4. shaunakIya
  5. jAjala
  6. jalada
  7. brahmavada
  8. devadarsha
  9. chAraNavidyA


Of these, only the Shaunakiya and the Paippalada recensions have survived. The Paippalada text is considered earlier than the Shaunakiya.


Additionally, from the Vishnu and Vayu Puranas (older Hindu texts on the gods, goddesses and their histories) it may be possible to glean a few more ancient schools that were not listed in the charaNavyUhas. The Puranas are part of Hindu Smriti; these religious scriptures discuss devotion and mythology. ...


These are:

  • sumantu
  • kabandha
  • kumuda
  • shaulkAyana
  • babhravya
  • munjakesha
  • saindhavAyana
  • nakshatrakalpa
  • shAntikalpa
  • saMhitavidhi

At least some of these may have evolved into the other schools mentioned in the list of the charaNavyUhas. saMhitavidhi, shAntikalpa and nakshatrakalpa are the 5 kalpa texts adduced to the shaunakiya tradition and not separate schools of their own.


From the paurANic text we may propose the following evolutionary history of the atharvAn texts:

 vyAsa pArAsharya | sumantu | kabandha AtharvaN-a~Ngirasa | ------------------------------------- | | pathya____ devadarsha / | | / | |  kumuda jAjala shaunakiya mauda | | | | / | paippalAda | brahmavada | babhravya saindhavAyana | |  |(?) | |(?) shaulkAyana |(?) jalada munjakesha stauda chAraNavidyA 

Of these only the texts of the shaunaka and paippalada schools are extant. On this page henceforth we shall be referring to the shaunaka text.


There are two main circum-vedic texts associated with the AV 1) the vaitAna sUtra and 2) the kaushika sUtra. These serve the same purpose as the vidhAna of the R^igveda and are of greater value in studying the paurANo-vedic link than the atharvAN lore itself.


There are several upanishhats that are appended to the AV but appear to be relatively late additions to the tradition. The most important amongst these are the munDaka and the prashna. The former contains a important reference to shaunaka a shakha-kR^it of the AV while the latter one to paippalAda.


The contents of the saMhita itself have some important bearing on the development Hindu thought.


Issues of note

  • The AV is the first Indian text dealing with medicine. It identifies the causes of disease as living causative agents such as the yatudhAnya, the kimIdi, the kR^imi and the durNama. The atharvANs seek to kill them with a variety of drugs in order to counter the disease( see XIX.34.9). This approach to disease is surprisingly advanced compared to the trihumoral theory developed in the pauraNic era. Remnants of the original atharvanic thought did persist in the paurANic era as can be seen in sushruta's medical treatise (garuDa purANa, karma kANDa chapter 164). Here following the atharvAN theory the pauRANic text suggests germs as a cause for leprosy. In the same chapter sushruta also expands on the role of helminths in disease. These two can be directly traced back to the AV saMhita. The hymn AV I.2 describes the disease leprosy and recommends the rajanI oshadhi for it treatment. From the description of the oshadhi as black branching entity with dusky patches it is very likely that is a lichen with antibiotic properties. Thus the AV can stake the claim for being one of the earliest texts to record uses of the antibiotic agents. Furthermore an understanding of the helminth caused diseases and their anatomy is exhibited in AV V.23. The importance of the brain as a critical organ was also understood by the AtharvANs as suggested by mantra AV X.2.26. {Details on this will follow in later editions}
  • The AV also informs us about Indo-Aryan warfare. A variety of devices such as the an arrow with a duct for poison (apAskambha) and castor bean poison, poisoned net and hook traps, use of disease spreading bugs and smoke screens find a place in the AV saMhita (eg. hymns IX .9, IX.10, the trishaMdi and nyArbudi hymns). These references to military practices and associated kshatriya rites were what gave the AV its formidable reputation. In the mahAbharata era that shortly followed after the end of the AtharvAN period there is a frequent comparison to between weapons and the mantras of the heroes. Probably, this comparison was initially supposed to mean the application of deadly weapons as mentioned in the AtharvAN tradition. Later of course this association added to the negative connotations of the AV. {Details on this will follow in later editions}
  • Several regular and special rituals of the Aryans are a major concern of the AV just as the 3 other vedas. The major regular rituals covered by the atharva veda are marriage in kANDa XIV and the funeral in kANDa XVIII. There are also a range of hymns that are specific to rituals of the bhR^igu-a~ngirasas, vR^Atyas and kshatriyas. One of the most important of these rites is the VishhAsahi Vrata that it is performed to invoke the indra and vishNu with the mantras of the XVIIth kANDa. The vR^Atya rituals were performed by individuals who took on a nomadic ascetic way of living and were generally sent into neighboring states by the ruler of a particular state. They appear to have served a role in reconnaissance and negotiations with neighboring states (compare with Arjuna's Vratya like journey into the yadu principality to woo subhadrA). Finally, there are some rituals aimed at the destruction of the enemies (Abhicharika hymns and rites) particularly using the closing mantras of the XVIth Kanda. While these are a factor for traditional negative views on the AV it should be noted that in content they are mirrored by several other hymns from the Rig as well as the Yajushes. Moreover, Abhicharika rites were an integral part of the vedic as amply attested in the brAhmaNa literature (see the tale of YavakrdDa in the Jaiminiya brAhmaNa). Thus the AV as such began fully within the classic vedic fold though it was more specific to certain clans of fire priests. The development of the abhichArika rites to their more 'modern' form was seen only in the vidhAna literature and in fact began within the Rigvedic tradition in the form of the RigvidhAna. The author of the RigvidhAna provides passing reference to the development of similar rites in the AV tradition (the references to the Angirasa KrityAs). These rites reached their culmination in the Kaushika and Vaitana Sutra and in some of the Parishishhthas (appendices) of the Atharvan literature. However, these are far removed from the actual hymns themselves suggesting that they represent an encrustation on the atharvanic practice rather than its original form. While in its most extreme form Atharvanic Abhicharika faded away it did seed the mainstream Hindu culture resulting in the origin of the Pauranic form of the fire ritual (yaga-s). It also provided the launching pad for the worship of late evolving popular deities like Kumara and Ganapati to capture the mainstream Hindu ritual.
  • Philosophical excursions: The AV made the most important contributions to Aryan philosophical thought of all the Samhitas. One of the most spectacular expressions of this is seen in the hymn XII.I, the hymn to the earth or the Prithivi SuktaM. It is used in the Aghrayana rite and expresses in profound terms the oneness of human life and nature. Everything in existence is described as conglomerated system encompassing all the smallest to the largest entities. The foundations of Vaishheshika, the highest of the Hindu Darshanas is expressed in the mantra XII.1.26 in which the atoms (Paamsu) are described forming the stone, the stones agglutinating to form the rocks and the rocks held together to form the Earth. An early pantheistic thought (somewhat convergent to the latter day Vishhishthadvaitins) is seen in the hymn X.7 that describes the common thread running through all manifest and un-manifest existence as the skaMbha. This Skambha is described as what poured out of the Hiranyagarbha, that was the precursor of the complex world in a very simple form (X.7.28). This Skambha is indra and Indra is the Skambha which describes all existence. The hymn also describes the pantheistic nature of the Vedic gods (X.7.38): Skambha is the heat (tapaH) that spreads through the universe (Bhuvana) as waves of water; the units of this spreading entity are the gods even as branches of one tree. This one theme that repeatedly presents itself in various interpretations that abounded in later Hindu philosophies and can be considered one of the most fundamental expression of Vedic thought.

Thus rather than being a backward, folk form of the religion, the atharva veda covers a great spectrum of early Aryan thought. From internal astronomical references (hymn XI.7) one might infer that the Atharvanic period included the time when the Pleiades occupied the spring equinox (~2200BC). Further we have evidence that pippalAda one of the early collators, and vaidharbiH one of the late contributors associated with the Atharvanic text lived during the reign of prince Hiranyanabha of the Ikshvaku dynasty. This allows us to state to that the core AV composition was at least complete by 1500 BC. Thus the AV is not particularly recent in the Vedic Samhita tradition and falls well within the range of the second phase of vedic creativity- the classic mantra period that followed the Rigvedic period. Not surprisingly there are some similarities in the Yajur and Atharva collections.


We may conclude that despite the Atharva Veda's gradual fading from active Hindu religious culture its contribution is central to the other Vedic Samhitas. PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO THIS ARTICLE, WE ARE IN NEED OF INFORMATION


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