The fourth and final of the revered text of the Hindu dharma, the Vedas, the Atharvaveda, in short, is depicted as “knowledge storehouse of Atharvāṇas” Atharvāṇas meaning, formulas, and spells intended to counteract diseases and calamities, or “the procedures for everyday life”. A late addition to the Vedic Scriptures, the word owes its roots to Sanskrit and the widely used epithet for the scripture is ‘the Veda of Magic formulas’. As it sides with popular culture and tradition of the day rather than preaching religious and spiritual teachings, it is more often viewed not in connection with the three other Vedas, but as a discrete scripture.
In popular context with being widely popular as the Veda of Magic formulas, it is a mixture of hymns, chants, spells, and prayers; and involves issues such as healing of illnesses, prolonging life, and as some claim also the black magic and rituals for removing maladies and anxieties.
However, many books of the Atharvaveda are dedicated to rituals without magic and to theosophy, a philosophy in itself asserting that the knowledge of God can be achieved through spiritual practice or intuition.
It is a collection of 730 hymns with about 6,000 mantras, divided into 20 books, with three Upanishads embedded to it; Mundaka Upanishad, Mandukya Upanishad, and Prashna Upanishad. Though not all but a considerable part of it is the adaptation of Rig Veda, the most ancient of all Vedic Scripture. As the tales have it and alike other three Vedas, the believers of the Hindu dharma regard the Atharvaveda too as Apauruṣeya; meaning, not of a man or impersonal and also not belonging to a particular author. The hymns and the verses were written by the Rishis (or the Sages) and as the ardent believers of the Hindu dharma claim the revered Lord himself taught the Vedic hymns to the sages, who then handed them down through generations by word of mouth.
However, no definite date can be ascribed to the composition of any Veda as the generational descend of the texts in Vedic periods was by literary oral tradition, the core text of the Atharvaveda falls within the classical Mantra period of Vedic Sanskrit, during the 2nd millennium BC – younger than the Rigveda, and roughly contemporaneous with the Yajurveda mantras and the Sāmaveda.
The Samhitas in the Arthava Veda have written accounts of Surgical and medical speculations, it includes mantras and verses for treating a variety of ailments. For instance, the verses in hymn 4.15 of the recently discovered Paippalada version of the Atharvaveda, it discusses how to deal with an open fracture, and how to wrap the wound with Rohini plant (Ficus Infectoria, native to India). And so have speculations been made about remedy from herbal medicines, on the nature of man, life, good and evil and even spells and prayers to gain a lover. And some hymns were even about peaceful prayers and philosophical speculations, the origin of the universe and the existence of God himself. It is indeed a collection of all sort of speculations that quite often leaves us bewildered.
As mentioned earlier, the contents of the Atharvaveda quite contrast with the other Vedas and is often viewed as a discrete scripture rather than in connection with the three Vedas. The 19th century German Indologist and historian Albrecht Weber has best put it as, “The spirit of the two collections [Rigveda, Atharvaveda] is indeed widely different. In the Rigveda there breathes a lively natural feeling, a warm love for nature; while in the Atharva there prevails, on the contrary, only an anxious dread of her evil spirits and their magical powers. In the Rigveda we find the people in a state of free activity and independence; in the Atharva we see it bound in the fetters of the hierarchy and superstition.”
The Arthava Veda still finds its relevance in today’s contemporary society as it has been a pioneer in influencing the modern medicine and healthcare, culture and religious celebrations and even literary tradition in the Indian sub-continent as it contains the oldest known mention of the Indic literary genre. The fourth and final of the revered text of the Hindu dharma still is one of the most cherished books for any Vedic scholar today.