- 1. Origin and meaning of ‘Veda’
- 2. Founder of Vedas
- 3. Determination of the time of origin of the Vedas
- 4. Objectives of Vedas
- 5. Importance of Vedas
- 6. Creation of the four Vedas
- 7. The Rugveda
- 8. The Yajurveda
- 9. The Samaveda
- 10. The Atharvaveda
‘The word Veda (वेद) has been derived from the verb vid (विद्) with a prefix dhayan (धञ्) which means spiritual emotion (bhav), action (karma) and result. From this the word Veda means spiritual knowledge, subject of knowledge or the means of acquiring knowledge. The various meanings of vid are to have, to acquire knowledge, or to see.’(1)
Synonym – Shruti: The sages heard the Vedas first (shrut refers to that which is heard) hence they are also called the Shrutis.
According to the Indian holy texts the Darshans, a word is perpetual and has an unique association with its meaning. Since words from the Vedas are considered eternal the Vedas are considered divine.
The ancient sages [the seven great sages (saptarshi)] have been considered the authors of the Vedas; however several holy texts proclaim that sages are not the creators of mantras rather They were only seers. The ancient sages were enlightened with Vedic literature.
‘The meaning of the word rushi (ऋषि) as given in the holy text Nirukta means rushirdarshanat (ऋषिर्दर्शनात्) meaning “Those who have realised the manifest form of God are called rushis i.e. sages.” Thus one would say the sages were enlightened with the knowledge of the eternally existing Vedas. It is from this viewpoint as well that the Vedas are considered divine as no one is accorded the status of being their author.’(2)
‘As one recedes to the origin of creation one has to accept a principle which itself is absolute (praman). It is also referred to as The Supreme Soul (Paramatma), God (Ishvar) or Mahabhut (the Great Cosmic Element). The Bruhadaranyakopanishad (2.4.10) states that the very breath of this Great Cosmic Being are the Vedas. Lord Brahma from the Purans is called Prajapati in Vedic literature. Prajapati generated creation and created the Vedas to nurture it. It is also said that Prajapati created the Vedas with His expiration. The sages first heard this sound of hum (हुं) originating from Prajapati hence that sound of hum, that is the Vedas acquired the name “Shrutis”.’(3)
The four Vedas originated from the four mouths of Lord Brahma.
Gayatri has been called Vedamata (mother of the Vedas) in various holy texts.
‘Authors of the Purans have attributed the creation of the Vedas to different deities according to the sect to which they belonged. According to one school of thought the Rugveda was created from Agni (the deity of fire), the Yajurveda from Vayu (the deity of air) and the Samaveda from Aditya (the Sun deity).
The Vedas being in the form of a word (shabda), one view states that they have originated from absolute ether. A word is a quality of absolute ether. Divine speech (para vani) which manifests from absolute ether in the heart or absolute ether in the subconscious mind (chidakash) is itself known as the Vedas.’(4)
Various Purans state that the Vedas have originated from Omkar. The Shiva Puran (7.6.27) says that the Rugveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda have originated from the letters a (अ), u (उ), m (म) and subtle sound respectively. The Bhagvadgita (7.8) says that entire literature itself has originated from Omkar. According to the Mahabharat initially there was only one Veda in the form of Om.
‘The Para mode of speech is the most subtle form of knowledge. It is also known as the Veda. Since sages were enlightened with the Vedic mode of speech it is called the Pashyanti (to see) mode. The Pashyanti mode of speech is the manifest verbal form of the Vedas. The gross form of this speech is the Madhyama mode. These three forms of expression of the Vedas are extremely complicated. The fourth mode of speech, the Vaikhari is that spoken by the common man.’(5)
The Vedas were created by The Lord for the welfare of mankind much before creation of man. Hence the sages were able to realise them. This is also precisely the reason why they are called eternal (anadi).
‘The motive of the Vedas is to help man to remain within the limitations of the Vedas despite having lost the spiritual emotion that ‘He is I (so’ham)’ by retaining awareness of the soul principle or at least to prevent him from becoming unhappy in the materialistic world. The Vedas are meant primarily to bestow the entire creation with happiness rather than to attain the Final Liberation (Moksha). The resultant benefit of a happy society is the Final Liberation. Due to smooth functioning of the cycle of Dharmacharan">Righteousness (Dharma) and the Final Liberation society becomes happy. This itself is cumulative merit (samashti punya). The Vedas are certainly overjoyed to see one individual liberated but they are even happier to see ninety-nine people making spiritual progress.’ – H.H. Kane Maharaj, Narayangaon, Maharashtra, India
The Vedas are not meant merely for spiritual contemplation. They also contain worldly and divine concepts in them.
A. The Vedas are Lord Narayan Himself: ‘वेदो नारायण: साक्षात् ।’ Meaning : It is said that ‘the Vedas are (Svayambhu) Lord Narayan Himself’.
B. Importance with reference to spiritual practice: Before the creation of man The Lord created the absolute earth, absolute water, absolute fire, absolute air and absolute ether elements to fulfill the requirements of his (man’s) physical body. Similarly He created the Vedas for the sake of the embodied soul undertaking spiritual practice (jivatma).
C. Importance of study of the Vedas: ‘If the Vedas did not possess the potential to survive as they have over the ages then they would have been dead long ago. The very fact that they have survived is evidence to prove their potential. Once it is said that this is the foundation of the temple of one’s life it becomes essential to study its nature. However without the study of the Vedas one cannot understand its nature.’(8)
D. Proclamation of the Vedas: ‘कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्’ means ‘They make the entire universe Aryan’.
कर्तव्यमाचरन् काममकर्तव्यमनाचरन् ।
तिष्ठति प्रकृताचारे य: स आर्य इति स्मृत: ।। – वसिष्ठस्मृति
Meaning: The man who controlling his desires performs his duties in accordance with the norms of the Great Illusion (Prakruti) and the scriptures, refraining from actions prohibited by the scriptures is called an ‘Aryan’. – Vasishthasmruti
E. Basic holy texts of Indian (Bharatiya) Dharmacharan">Righteousness (Dharma) and culture: The Vedas constitute the main seat of Aryan religion. Manu’s quote ‘वेदोऽखिलो धर्ममूलम्’ meaning the Vedas are the very foundation of Righteousness is famous.
F. The first literary work in the world
G. The Vedas and other holy texts: The table below compares the Vedas and other holy texts. It will explain the extraordinary importance of the Vedas.
|Vedas||Other holy texts|
|1. Creator||God||Spiritually evolved|
|2. Subject A.
happy to realise
|What worldly life
should be in relation to
spiritual progress and
realisation of God.
How to progress from
|3. Paths of Yoga taught and
their proportion %
| A. Path of Devotion
| B. Path of Knowledge
| C. Path of Action
|4. Useful for which
spiritual level %
The Purans state that there is only one Veda which is divided into four parts. The four Vedas are its four limbs (Agnipuran 150.24, Vishnupuran 3.4.1, Vayupuran 1.179, Padmapuran 5.2.43). ‘In the earlier yugs (eras) the Vedas were a single text. Hence it was difficult to study them. Sage Vyas realised this after completion of His study of them. He realised that since the verses [rucha i.e. a mantra or a shloka (many ruchas constitute an aphorism (sukta)] and aphorisms (sukta i.e. a combination of ruchas) were scattered in different lineages (gotras), the Vedas had to be divided in such a way that they would serve the purpose of performing sacrificial fires and being handed down by tradition. If that was not done then they would either not survive or would have unnecessary additions. If they were destroyed then our culture (sanskruti) based on them would undergo dissolution; hence He dedicated Himself to this task and divided the Veda only for the convenience of its study into four parts. He sorted out all the verses (ruchas) from the Vedas and compiled the Rugveda. He then separated the verses which could be sung and compiled the Samaveda. That part giving a detailed account of how to perform a sacrificial fire (yadnya) in prose form, was called the Yajurveda. The Atharvaveda was created by compiling the mantras useful in performing magic (yatuvidya) and helping in worldly life. Because He divided the Veda into four the sage was named Vyas (व्यास), meaning (Vedan vivyas), the one who divided the Veda, thereafter. The contemporary teachers (acharyas) accepted Sage Vyas’s division of the Vedas unconditionally. This will explain how important this accomplishment was.’(9)
Sage Vyas handed over a Rugveda Sanhita called Bahvruch to a disciple named Pail, a Yajurveda Sanhita called Nigadakhya to Vaishampayan, a Samaveda Sanhita called Chandog to Jaimini and an Atharvaveda Sanhita called Angirasi to Sumantu. These four disciples propogated the four Vedas. That is why the respective disciple is called the main teacher of the corresponding Veda text.
‘In the spread of the institution of sacrificial fires the Rugveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda were the three most important ones. All kinds of Vedic sacrificial fires could be performed with the help of these three Vedas. A sage of every Veda presided at a sacrificial fire. Adhvaryu, Hota and Udgata are the three main sages. Since the Atharvaveda included mantras, tantras, black magic (jaran-maran, vashikaran), political actions, etc. it was of absolutely no use in performing sacrificial fires. However with the passage of time it came to be used in performing sacrificial fires and so was accorded a status on par with the other Vedas. Consequently in the literature of the later period the Vedas are considered to be four in number.’(10)
The table below describes the special features of each of the four Vedas.
|1. Form of the Absolute Being of the Veda|
|B. Face||That of a
|That of a
|That of a
|Akin to a
|C. Eyes||Wide, like
|D. Height||Length of 2
|Length of 6
|Length of 9
| E. Hands are
of letters for
japa) in the
right hand, a
in the left
|A mace, a
ing the sacred
|2. Teachings of Sage Vyas|
| A. Imparted
| B. Which
|3. The lineage
|4. The deity||Brahma||Rudra
|5. Rhythm (cha-
nda) of the
|Gayatri||Trishtubh (p)||Jagati||Anushtubh (p)|
|6. The sub-veda||Ayurveda||Dhanurveda||Gandharva-
** Length of a forearm is measured from the elbow to the finger tips.
[Based on the Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. The variations in the brackets are excerpts from the Shri Gurucharitra 26.27-219, * (asterisks) are based on Hemadri’s Chaturvargachintamani.]
‘Ruk is a metrical composition. The word ruk (ऋक्) may be defined as follows.
‘ऋच्यन्ते स्तूयन्ते देवा अनया इति ऋक्’ means that by means of which the deities can be glorified is a ruk (Shabdakalpadrum).
‘पादेनार्धेन चोपेतवृत्तबद्धा मन्त्रा ऋच:’ means a rucha is a metrical mantra which consists of a metrical part (charan) and an ardhi (Jaimini Nyayasutras 2.1.12).
‘तेषामृक् यत्रार्थवशेन पादव्यवस्था’ means a sentence in which the stanzas (charan) are arranged in a rhythm (Chanda) is known as a ruk (Jaimini Nyayasutras 2.1.10).
Importance: This is the first and oldest among the four Vedas. In fact the Rugveda is the oldest holy text available on the face of the earth.
The Rugveda Sanhita was created before the Aranyaks and Upanishads. At the time of creation of the Vedas they were not compiled separately as the Sanhitas. The Rugveda and the other Vedas acquired the form of a holy text only during the period of the Brahman holy texts.
Subdivisions: ‘मंत्रब्राह्मणयोर्वेदनामधेयम्’ means that the Veda is a literary work formed by the union of two parts – the mantra part and the Brahman part (Apastamba Paribhasha 31). The Sanhitas were comprised of mantras and the Brahman part was constituted by the Brahman texts, Aranyaks and Upanishads.
Formation of mandals: One ruksanhita is divided into ten mandals. A mandal is made up of several aphorisms (suktas) and every aphorism is comprised of many verses (rucha). Mandals are further subdivided into gotramandals and mishramandal. Since the mandals from two to eight are named after the lineage (gotra), sages and Their descendants they are called the gotramandals. In serial order Grutsamad, Vishvamitra, Vamadev, Atri, Bharadvaj, Vasishtha, Kanva and Angiras are the eight sages of the mandals. The mandals from two to seven form the very core of the Rugveda. The composition of the mantras in it being the most ancient, even the other aphorisms in the Rugveda were composed in the period following the former. All the aphorisms in the ninth mandal are in praise of only one deity, that is Som who is also named as Pavaman. Hence this mandal is also called the Pavaman mandal. It has been inferred that after the second to eighth mandals were compiled, aphorisms of every sage of those mandals related to the deity Som were compiled to constitute the ninth mandal. In the ensuing period the first and tenth mandals were attached to the Rugveda. The Rugveda also includes some aphorisms called Khilsuktas. Khil means an appendix or a mantra which is suffixed.
The entire Rugveda is based on rhythm. The mantras from it are compiled in some verses (vrutta) and have various parts (pad). Particular Vedic rites (anushthan) should be undertaken with mantras of a particular rhythm, e.g. Adhan (one of the rites from a sacrificial fire) of Agni (the deity of fire) should be undertaken by Brahmans (priests) in the Gayatri rhythm, by Kshatriyas (kings and warriors) in the Trishtubh rhythm and Vaishyas (businessmen) in the Jagati rhythm as advocated by the Taittiriya Brahman holy text.
The aphorisms (sukta) from the Rugveda mainly encompass the praise or description of deities such as Indra, Agni, Varun, Marut, etc. Besides aphorisms on various subjects such as society, spiritual rites (sanskar), composition of the universe, philosophy, etc. are also found in the Rugveda. Generally the aphorisms are classified as 1. Devatasukta (aphorisms on deities), 2. Dhruvapadsukta (aphorisms with specific chorus suffixed to the mantras), 3. Kathasukta (aphorisms of stories), 4. Samvadsukta (aphorisms of conversations), 5. Danstutisukta (aphorisms glorifying offering), 6. Tattvadnyansukta (aphorisms on philosophy), 7. Sanskarsukta (aphorisms on spiritual rites) 8. Mantriksukta (aphorisms of followers of mantras), 9. Laukiksukta (aphorisms for worldly benefits) and 10. Aprisukta (aphorisms generating happiness).
Devatasukta: Forms, nature and glory of deities such as Indra, Agni, Varun, Surya, Savita, Vayu, Usha, Pusha, Apa, Ashvini, Rudra, Bhag, Vishnu, Marut, Vishvedev, Sarasvati, Vak, Dyava-Pruthivi, etc. are described in the Rugveda and verses in their praise are also written.
Dhruvapadsukta: One comes across several aphorisms with specific chorus suffixed to the mantras. Many such suktas are found in the Rugveda.
Kathasukta: Some stories appear in condensed form (bijas) in some aphorisms of the Rugveda; however later they are elaborated upon in the Brahman texts. To cite examples the story of Shunahashep from the Rugveda 1.24 is described in detail in the Aitareya Brahman (5.14) and the story of the Vaman (dwarf) incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the Shatpath Brahman text has originated from the Vishnusukta in the Rugveda 1.154.
Samvadsukta: From all the aphorisms of conversations in the Rugveda those of conversations between Pururava-Urvashi (10.95), Yama-Yami (10.10) and Sarama-Pani (10.108) are the three most important ones.
Danstutisukta: These aphorisms from the Rugveda are named thus because in them sages have praised kings who have offered horses, cows, oxen, wealth, etc. to Them.
Tattvadnyansukta: The beautiful principles propagated in the later periods in the Upanishads are first found in the Rugveda in the condensed form. Based on the principle of the Vedic sages of ‘Ekam sat’ that there is only one Absolute Truth, in several instances the Rugveda projects the concept that everything is God and that everything originates from the Absolute Truth.
Sanskarsukta: Though Vedic mantras are chiefly utilised to perform Vedic (shraut) rites, some aphorisms and mantras from it are also used in spiritual rites performed at home. The 85th aphorism from the tenth mandal is renowned as the Suryasukta. The mantras from it are incorporated in the wedding rites (vivaha sanskar). Similarly in spiritual rites performed at home the following aphorisms are included – snan and marjan (bathing and offering) [10.9], Shraddhaprayog (ritual of offering to ancestors) [10.15], Pretakarma (rites of cremation) [10.16 and 18], Upanayan (thread ceremony) [10.19 and 62], Garbhadhan (a rite performed to purify the womb and overcome defects in the ovum and the foetus) [10.184].
Mantriksuktas: Numerous aphorisms from the Rugveda are used to overcome calamities such as tuberculosis and other diseases, bad omens, nightmares, black magic such as jaran, maran possession, poisoning, etc.
Laukiksukta: These aphorisms pertain to dice-playing (10.34), Manduksukta [quick actions performed akin to a frog’s (manduk) leap] (7.103), code of Righteousness of rulers (rajadharma) [10.173], etc.
Aprisukta: These aphorisms are used during animal sacrifice. After the text on Vedic mantras was complete different sages created their own mandals (assemblies). Later this event resulted in hostility between sages of the various assemblies and to overcome that animosity aphorisms which generate happiness were included in most mandals. The word apri (आप्री) is derived from the roots a (आ) + pri (प्री) which mean to please or to make one content. Though there was enemity between Sages Vishvamitra and Vasishtha the aphorisms generating happiness in the mandals of both are almost the same.
A rule from the Rugveda says ‘यस्य वाक्यं स ऋषि: या तेनोच्यते सा देवता’ meaning the one who states a quote is its sage and the deity described by Him is the one to be worshipped.
Pairs of deities: Some examples of pairs of deites from the Rugveda are Agni-Shom (Rugveda 1.93), Mitravaruni (6.67), Dyava-Pruthivi (1.85) and Shuna-Sir (4.57.5). A characteristic of Vedic form of worship is considering two different deities as one and worshipping them jointly.
Worship of deities: Aryans following the Vedas would appease these deities by offering oblations in the fire (havan) or offer them somras (wine). However this spiritual practice of theirs was done for the fulfillment of some worldly desire (sakam). They would pray to these deities for worldly happiness and victory in all spheres. Various Vedic sages have prayed for boons of a long life of hundred years and destruction of demons and enemies.
The quote ‘यस्य वाक्यं स ऋषि’ by Yaska states that a sage (rushi) is the one whose quote itself is a mantra. According to this description (nirukti) deities like Indra, Agni, etc. should also be considered as sages but being deities They are not called so. The text Sarvanukramani by Sage Shaunak gives the name of the sage of every aphorism and verse (rucha). Those who are sages from among deities, Brahmans (priests) and kings are called devarshi, brahmarshi and rajarshi respectively.
The number of sages capable of generating mantras in the Rugveda is over three hundred and fifty. From them Angira, Rahugan and Kushik are considered the oldest. However merely one or two of their mantras are available. Among the sages capable of generating mantras, thereafter the seven great sages who came are Bharadvaj, Kashyap, Gautam, Atri, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni and Vasishtha. According to the serial number of the assemblies (mandals) the main sages are Grutsamad (mandal 2), Vishvamitra (mandal 3), Vamadev (mandal 4), Atri (mandal 5), Bharadvaj (mandal 6), Vasishtha (mandal 7) and Kanva (mandal 8). Considering the composition of mantras Vasishtha is accorded the first position with the maximum of 103 aphorisms. The remaining sages and Their contribution of aphorisms is given below in serial order – Bharadvaj 60, Vamadev 55, Vishvamitra 48, Grutsamad 40, Kakshivan 27, Agastya 26, Dirghatama 25, Gautam 20, Medhatithi 20, Shyavashva 15, Kutsa 14, Madhuchchanda 10, Praskanva 9, Parashar 5, Jamadagni 5, Kavash 4, Bruhaspati 2 and Haryat, Apala, Ashtak, Kushik and Sudas 1 each.
Society and culture (sanskruti): From the descriptions in the Rugveda at various places one can fathom the culture of the Vedic Aryans.
The Vedic sages created the institution of sacrificial fires (yadnya) as the point of union of God and man, on the earth. Later that very institution became the central focus of the spread of Vedic culture (sanskruti). A sacrificial fire is the very core of social life and the formation of social organisations. According to the Vedic sages The Supreme God exists in the form of a sacrificial fire. Performing sacrificial fires was Their sole code of Righteousness. Somyag is a sacrifice which is accorded the central focus in the Rugveda. Som represents vision and fire symbolises light. It is because of the sun and the rain that all living beings survive. Food too is generated from them. This being the attitude of Vedic sages towards sacrificial fires They linked every important action of life to them.’(11)
‘Yajus (यजुस्) means mantra in prosaic form. The Yajurveda is thus a compilation of the specific mantras to be chanted when performing different sacrificial fires and the specific regulations to be observed during it.
Knowledge, action and worship are the three categories of a successful living. Of these three it is mainly the Yajurveda which has accepted the stage of action or ritualistic worship (karmakand). It is the basis of Vedic ritualistic worship and gives an elaborate account on the institution of sacrificial fires.
The Yajurveda has two parts – the Krushna and the Shukla. The chief teacher (acharya) of the Yajurveda was Sage Vaishampayan. He created several disciples like Yadnyavalkya.’(12) Once Vaishampayan was angry with Yadnyavalkya for some reason and asked the latter to return His Yajurveda. Yadnyavalkya vomited it out. The other disciples then assumed the form of francoline patridges and swallowed it. [It is from this patridge (tittir) that the names Taittiriya Brahman and Taittiriya Upanishad were derived.] Thereafter Yadnyavalkya worshipped the Sun deity and procured the Yajurveda for himself, from Him. As the Sun deity returned the Yajurveda to Yadnyavalkya in the form of a horse (speech) that commentary is called the Vajasaneyi Sanhita. Yadnyavalkya glorified His new Veda by naming it the Shukla Yajurveda. To counter this Vaishampayan began to call the former Yajurveda the Krushna Yajurveda.
The Krushna Yajurveda : ‘Different stories from the Krushna Yajurveda have been reproduced in the Taittiriya Brahman text but sacrificial fires is their real objective. The stories begin with the phrase “देवासुरा: संयत्ता आसन् meaning the deities and demons are waging a war”. At first, the deities are defeated and they seek refuge in Lord Brahma or Lord Vishnu. Both Brahma and Vishnu advise them to perform a sacrificial fire, after which they emerge victorious in the war and are bestowed with desired benefits. The Taittiriya, Mahanarayan, Maitri, Kath and Shvetashvatar are Upanishads derived from the Krushna Yajurveda.
The Shukla Yajurveda : The Shatpath Brahman constitutes the most important text of the Shukla Yajurveda. Brahmans belonging to the Madhyandin branch (that is those who consider the afternoon rite of sandhya as the most important) replace the alphabet y (य) with j (ज) and sh (श) with kh (ख). Some repeat an alphabet, pronounce the anusvar (अं) nasally and instead of holding the beat with the neck, do so with the hand.’(13)
‘The first meaning of the word sama is dear or the promise of a lover. In some contexts it is also used as singing. It is this meaning which applies to the popular Samaveda. Many mantras from the Rugveda have been incorporated into the Samaveda. The songs composed based on them are known as sama. In some places mantras from the Rugveda itself are called sama. This is truly appropriate as the mantras from the Rugveda constitute the foundation of sama. A quote in the Chandogya Upanishad states “ऋचि अध्यूढं साम which means the sama are those which are based on the verses (rucha)”. A special definition of the word sama is found in the text the Bruhadaranyak (1.3.22). It says
सा च अमश्चेति तत् साम्न: सामत्वम् ।
Meaning: Sa means a verse (rucha) and am means musical notes such as gandhar, etc. Both together constitute a sama.
Thus melodious singing of the verses is sama as per its definition. To illustrate the close association between verses and sama in the Aitareya Brahman text they have even been imagined as a married couple.
Origin: It is said that this has originated from the sun. The Taittiriya Sanhita states that Brahmans (priests) have been created from the Samaveda.
The holy text the Bruhaddevat says “सामानि यो वेत्ति स वेद तत्त्वम् meaning the one who understands the sama understands the implied meaning of the Vedas”. In the Gita (10.42) Lord Shrikrushna has glorified the Samaveda by proclaiming, “From among all the Vedas I am the Samaveda”. The Chandogya Upanishad states that the Omkar is the gist of the Samaveda. The praises of the Samaveda are sung in both the Rugveda and the Atharvaveda.’ (14)
‘The Yajurveda and the Samaveda are Sanhitas (texts) created specially for performing sacrificial fires; hence they are also called the yadnyik texts. Various verses (rucha) from the Rugveda are found in the Yajurveda. From the literary viewpoint the Samaveda has nothing new because most of the verses from it are in the ninth mandal of the Rugveda. The hymns sung during sacrificial fires based on the samdevatak (that is verses beginning with the word samdevatak) are called “sama”. The Jaimini Sutra expresses the same in the words “गीतिषु सामाख्या”. Sages following the traditions of all the four Vedas were accorded the same status in the institution of sacrificial fires which is seen in its fully blossomed state in the Yajurveda. The Yajurveda is accorded great significance in the history of sacrificial fires and the Samaveda in the history of Indian music.’(15)
Sorcery is an important topic from the Atharvaveda.
‘The Atharvaveda has acquired its name from Sage Atharva, a descendant of the lineage of Sage Angiras who first got a vision of the Veda and then compiled it. This Veda is considered less sacred than the other three Vedas because it contains very little information regarding sacrificial fires. A fifth of the Atharvaveda is taken from the Rugveda.
A. It has been inferred that Lord Brahma must have been a sage following the Atharvaveda because most of the mantras from it are associated with household tasks. It is considered as the Veda of the priests. As it includes all kinds of acts such as bringing about peace, fortification, destruction, black magic (abhichar), etc. it is said that only a Brahman who has studied this Veda can be nominated as a priest. The royal priest had to perform the above actions to propitiate conciliation and to promote happiness and welfare for a king, based on this Veda. Such a royal priest played a major role in politics and during times of war. He was the forerunner (purohit) in the real sense. The appendix of the Atharvaveda states that all problems faced by the state are set at rest and the state becomes prosperous if one who is well versed in the Atharvaveda resides there. It is customary to refer to the Atharvaveda as the Kshatraveda as well. Different rituals are recommended in the Atharvaveda to defeat an enemy in a war.
B. The Atharvaveda is a precious and enriching literary work for a sociologist. It is a treasure house of information on varied topics such as the latest advances in medicine, the attitudes and conduct in politics, relationships between women and men, business transactions, misconcepts in society, conventions, Spirituality, etc.
C. A concept from the Atharvaveda states that spirits and demons can cause different kinds of diseases. Accordingly mantras to cure those diseases are also mentioned in it. Both, the aspirations of man to live a long life and attempts to prevent death are predominantly seen in the Atharvaveda.
Though most of the deities from the Rugveda are included in the Atharvaveda, their forms have changed drastically. All deities created by different categories of people have received recognition in the Atharvaveda. If a survey from the Rugveda to the Atharvaveda is conducted, then in the latter deities have been replaced by spirits, disease and death to a great extent. Deities from the Atharvaveda thus have to perform the very important task of destroying spirits and demons. Agni (the deity of fire) in the Rugveda performs the mission of transporting the oblations offered to Svadhiti and other deities to them while in the Atharvaveda He assists in performing rituals of abhichar (magic) to defeat the enemy.’(16)
‘The Atharvaveda recommends different kinds of remedies of magic, that is mystical mantras. The objective of these mantras in brief is three fold – upashaman (peace), ashansan (desired benefits) and shapan (criticism, abuse). It is believed that disease and calamities befall due to spirits and demons, so they can be overcome by performing upashaman or shapan on the spirits and demons.’(17) ‘However in such cases an enemy can counteract the benefits to be obtained from a sacrificial fire by performing another sacrificial fire. Such sacrificial fires are performed using insignificant substances such as cobs of grain, leaves of the palas tree, etc. as oblations. To prevent the loss of these benefits of a sacrificial fire the Atharvaveda recommends mantras and tantras to kill one’s potential enemy beforehand. When performing these mantrik and tantrik rites a piece of bamboo is slit longitudinally to symbolise slaying of the enemy. The Atharvaveda first discusses souls which torment and their supernatural energy. Sorcerers who perform black magic project their own spiritual energy on the enemy. That energy is called krutya. The Atharvaveda also recommends the mantras to be chanted to combat krutya. During that period people feared nightmares which were suggestive of impending death. To prevent the occurrence of such dreams it was a practice to recite the sixteenth volume (kand) of the Atharvaveda.’(18)
‘The path followed by sages from the Rugveda is to venerate deities through aphorisms (suktas) and to get auspicious benefits from them. On the other hand the path followed by sages from the Atharvaveda is to acquire benefits by commanding superhuman energies through mantras.’(19)
‘There are 68 Upanishads beginning with the Shanti verse (path) “Bhadram karnebhihi shru (shru) nuyam devaha (भद्रं कर्णेभि: श्रृ (शृ) णुयाम देवा:)” and concluding with the sentence “Ityatharvavede Upanishad samapta (इत्यथर्ववेदे उपनिषद् समाप्ता)” which are certainly associated with the Atharvaveda. Compared to the other three Vedas the number of Upanishads associated with the Atharvaveda are the maximum.’(20)
‘Righteousness (Dharma)’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.
Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh. Publisher: Pandit Mahadevshastri Joshi, Secretary, Bharatiya Sanskrutikosh Mandal, 410 Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030.
First edition: Vol. 3 to 10, Second edition: Vol. 1 and 2
. Vol. 9, Pg. 61 . Vol. 9, Pg. 66
. Vol. 9, Pg. 61-62 . Vol. 9, Pg. 62
. Vol. 9, Pg. 61-62 . Vol. 9, Pg. 67
. Vol. 9, Pg. 63-65 . Vol. 9, Pg. 63
. Vol. 9, Pg. 158 . Vol. 9, Pg. 68
. Vol. 1, Pg. 711-721 . Vol. 7, Pg. 567
. Vol. 7, Pg. 569, 570 . Vol. 9, Pg. 740, 741
. Vol. 9, Pg. 579 . Vol. 1, Pg. 119-123
. Vol. 9, Pg. 579 . Vol. 1, Pg. 123
. Vol. 9, Pg. 580 . Vol. 1, Pg. 122