A Living Portrait of India

Atharvaveda means the Veda of the Wise and the Old. It is associated with the name of the ancient poet Atharvan (The Wise Old One). It is also called Atharva-Angirasa, being associated with the name of another rishi, Angiras. Although later in age, the Atharvaveda reveals a more primitive culture than the Rigveda. The custom is to enumerate Yajurveda and Samaveda after the Rigveda, and mention Atharvaveda last. Atharvaveda contains about 6 thousand verses forming 731 poems and a small portion in prose. About one seventh of the Atharvaveda text is common to the Rigveda.

Atharvaveda contains first class poetry coming from visionary poets, much of it being glorification of the curative powers of herbs and waters. Many poems relate to diseases like cough and jaundice, to male and female demons that cause diseases, to sweet-smelling herbs and magic amulets, which drive diseases away. There are poems relating to sins and their atonement, errors in performing rituals and their expiatory acts, political and philosophical issues, and a wonderful hymn to Prithvi or Mother Earth. 
Atharva Veda
An outstanding feature of this Veda is the number of incantations in order to placate gods not willing to grant favours to humans. This is in direct contrast to the spirit of the Rig Veda hymns which while acknowledging the powers of the gods and their role in the affairs of humans, were nevertheless expressed with love and confidence. The fear manifest in this fourth Veda has a lot to do with superstitions and spells. Earthly success is sought after, and to this end, the Veda recognizes imps and goblins as well. On the other hand, the desire for a healthy long life created the need for prayers and other means to ward off disease, thus giving rise to Ayur Veda, the text that is synonymous with the medical science of Ayurveda. In absolute contradiction to the rest of the Atharva Veda is the hymn to the god Varuna - in the words of Professor Wilson 'We know of no passage in Vedic literature which approaches its simple sublimity.'
One-sixth of the Atharva Veda is not metred, and one-sixth of its hymns are those of the Rig Veda. There are a total of 760 hymns and six thousand verses in this text known also as the Brahmin Veda because of obvious reasons.
Clearly of a later origin than the other Vedas, the Atharva is generally believed to have been composed during the period of the tenth mandala of the Rig Veda.


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