The Atharva Veda Book 15 mentions about Vratya who created this universe and roused Prajapati/Brahma to action. So, is the Vratya described Lord Shiva as 15:1 says he becomes Mahadev Or is it a Supreme being similar to Purusha or Viraj?
So is the Vratya describe is Lord shiva as 15:1 says he become Mahadeva Or is it a Supreme being similiar to Purusha or Viraj?
If we look at Atharva Veda Kanda 15 – Adhayatma Prakaran Sukta. We can see that the Devata of that Sukta is Vratya. . Here its said that after becoming leader of group of Vratyas he advised Prajapati. This Vratya became Lord of the gods , Ishana , Ishwara . He is singularly became the leader of Vratyas. group .The back is of red color and outer central stomach is of blue color.
Here are the verses from Atharva Veda -
व्रात्य आसीदीयमान एव स प्रजापतिं समैरयत ||1||
Vratya AsiDiYaMaaNa Eva Sa PrajaPatim SamaiRayat
After acquiring Vratya form , Group leader Vratya advised the best superior knowledge to Praja Palak Brahma.
तमेकभवत् तल्ललाममभवत् तन्महदभवत् तज्ज्येजष्ठम्भवत् तद् |
ब्रह्माभवत् तत् तपोsभवत् तत् सत्यमभवत् तेन प्राजायत ||3||
TamekaBhavat TallaLaMaMaBhavt TanMaHyadBhavt TajjYaiJaShthaBhavat Tad BrahmaBhavat Tat TapoBhavat Tat SatyaBhavat Tena PrajaYat
Whom , the Prajapati became turned great , amazing ,broad (jeshtha) ,Brahma (creator) ,became powerful and truthful. From that only one this (Vratya) came into existence.
सोsवर्धत स महाभवत् स महादेवोsभवत् ||4||
So Vardhata Sa MahaBhavata sa MahaDevoBhavat
The which whome is Prajapati (Vratya or Rudra –Shiva) added /created progeny (praja) and by this growth he became very great (Maha) –became Mahadeva.
स देवानामीशां पर्येत् स ईशानोsभवत् ||5||
Sa DevaNaMiShaam Paryet sa IshanoBhavat He Who became revered; as Ishwara or Ishana
नीलमस्योदरं लोहितं पृष्ठम् ।|7||
NilaMasyoUdaram Lohitam Prushtham
His back is of red color and outer central portion of stomach is of blue color.
We can see here in this sukta the names like Nila-Lohita which are also stated in Puranas which are of Lord Shiva Or Mahadeva Or Rudra.
Here Linga Purana 2.19 uses name Nila-Lohita for Lord Rudra.
नीलश्च लोहितश्चैव प्रधानपुरुषान्वयात् । स्कंदस्ते यतः शुक्ल तथा शुक्लमपैति च ।।
He is of both Blue and Red colour since both Pradhana and Purusha merge in him. Since the semen flows from him, he is known as Shukla.
This is the puranic verse from Shreemad Bhagvat Purana which is same as verse 4 and 7 - of Atharva veda kanda 15.
इत्यादिष्ट: स गुरुणा भगवान्नीललोहित: |
सत्वकृतिस्वभावेन् ससर्जात्मसमा: प्रजा: ||15||
ity ādiṣṭaḥ sva-guruṇā bhagavān nīla-lohitaḥ
sattvākṛti-svabhāvena sasarjātma-samāḥ prajāḥ
The most powerful Rudra, whose bodily color was blue mixed with red, created many offspring exactly resembling him in features, strength and furious nature.
Here Rudra Or Shiva is said to be of Blue-Red color , this verse is clearly of Rudra Or Shiva.
Conclusion – So from carefully looking at the adjacent verse Of Athrva-Veda and the veres from puranas ,we can say that here most probably the deity Vratya from Atharva veda is Lord Shiva Or Rudra Or Maha Deva. We can clearly see the resemblance of the terms used in both vedas and Puranas. Here Vratya is also depicted a supreme Ishwara. But he is not stated as Supreme being similiar to Purusha or Viraj ,at least in this sukta of Atharvaveda.
There are 18 Paryayas (sub-chapters) in the 15th chapter of AtharvaVeda. All the paryayas describe the activity of Vratya. So, in general consideration the Devata of whole chapter is Vratya.
But if we look in the 5th paryaya of 15th chapter, the Devata there is mentioned as Lord Rudra: So, it is clear that Vratya described in AtharvaVeda is Lord Shiva himself. The reason why Devata of other paryaya is written Vratya and why Devata of 5th paryaya is written Rudra is because 5th parayaya is strongly associated with Ashta-Murti form of Shiva. Although the 5th chapter describes the activity of Vratya but it is in relation with Ashta-Murti form of Shiva.
Bhava the Archer, a deliverer, delivers him from the intermediate space of the eastern region..... Sarva the Archer his deliverer from the intermediate space of the southern region...... Pasupati the Archer his deliverer from the intermediate space of the western region...... They made Rudra the Archer his deliverer from the intermediate space of the region of the nadir...... Mahādeva his deliverer from the intermediate space of the region of the zenith..... Ishana the Archer, a deliverer, delivers him from all the intermediate regions. (AtharvaVeda 15.5)
Also in the 1st paraya or Birth of the Vratya section, the Devata of 5th Mantra which states 'Vratya became Ishana.', is Rudra.
स देवानामीशां पर्यैत्स ईशानोऽभवत् ।। 5
He gained the lordship of the Gods. He became Ishana.
Also without looking the Devata also, by the description of birth given in 1st Paryaya, it is clearly known it is Lord Shiva who is described there:
व्रात्य आसीदीयमान एव स प्रजापतिं समैरयत् ।।
स प्रजापति: सुवर्णमात्मन्नपश्यत्तत्प्राजनयत् ।।
तदेकमभवत्तल्ललाममभवत्तन्महदभवत्तज्जेष्ठमभवत्तद्ब्रह्माभवत्तत्तपोऽभवत्तत्सत्यमभवत्तेन प्राजायत ।।
सोऽवर्धत स महानभवत्स महादेवोऽभवत् ।।
स देवानामीशां पर्यैत्स ईशानोऽभवत् ।।
स एकव्रात्योऽभवत्स धनुरादत्त तदेवेन्द्रधनुः ।।
नीलमस्योदरं लोहितं पृष्ठम् ।।
नीलेनैवाप्रियं भ्रातृव्यं प्रोर्णोति लोहितेन द्विषन्तं विध्यतीति ब्रह्मवादिनो वदन्ति ।। [Atharva Veda 15:1]
There was Vratya . He roused Prajapati to action. Prajapati beheld gold in himself and engendered it. That became unique, that became distinguished, that became great, that became excellent, that became Brahman, that became Tapas, that became Truth: through that he (Vratya) was born. He grew, he became great, he became Mahadeva. He gained the lordship of the Gods. He became Ishana. He became Eka Vratya. He held a bow, even that Bow of Indra. His belly is dark-blue, his back is red (Nila Lohitam). With dark-blue he envelops a detested rival, with red he pierces the man who hates him: so the knowers of Brahman say.
So, Vratya described in 15th chapter of AtharvaVeda is Lord Shiva.