Āpastamba 1.1.28-29: If the proper time for initiation has passed, he shall observe, for the space of two months, the duties of a Student, as observed by those who are studying the three Vedas; after that he may be initiated; and after that he may be instructed.

Manu 3.1 (Period of Studentship): Duties relating to the Three Vedas should be observed under the Preceptor for thirty-six years, or for half that period, or for a quarter, or precisely till they have been got up.—(3.1)

Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa 6-105-13: He [Surya, the sun-god] is the lord of the sky, the disperser of darkness, the master of the three Vedas (viz. Rik, Sama and Yajur), the sender of thick rain, the friend of water and the on who courses swiftly in the path of the sky.

Chāndogya Upaniṣad 2.21.1: The three vidyās [the Ṛk, the Yajuḥ, and the Sāma] are together the hiṃkāra; these three worlds [the earth, the space between the earth and heaven, and heaven] are together the prastāva; fire, air, and the sun are together the udgītha; the stars, the birds, and the rays are together the pratihāra; serpents, gandharvas, and the ancestors are together the nidhana. This Sāma resides in everything.

(Word-for-word explanation):

Trayī vidyā hiṃkāraḥ, the three Vedas [the Ṛk, the Yajuḥ, and the Sāma] are the hiṃkāra; ...

Is the reference usually to the three types of Vedic mantras that can be present in any of the four Vedas or to the three Vedas, namely, Ṛgveda, Yajurveda and Sāmaveda? If it's the latter, why is Atharva Veda excluded from the list?

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    Upvoted. I could perceive from the observation of the members in this site that your question will be down voted by many. And, many of them may clamour for closing your question. Good luck. @sv. – srimannarayana k v Oct 17 '19 at 0:13
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    @srimannarayanakv which would this question be downvoted or closed without any reason? – Pandya Oct 17 '19 at 2:24
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    There are some members, who have dogmatic/negative attitude. They will not tolerate questions or answers, which are different from their ways of understanding. It happened in my case. And, moderators are dormant here. That was why I posted that message.@Pandya – srimannarayana k v Oct 17 '19 at 2:52
  • Chandogya Upanishad is mentioning the name of Atharva-Veda in various mantras 7.1.2 to 4 नाम वा ऋग्वेदो यजुर्वेदः सामवेद आथर्वणश्चतुर्थ इतिहासपुराणः पञ्चमो वेदानां वेदः पित्र्यो राशिर्दैवो -archive.org/stream/… – SwiftPushkar Oct 17 '19 at 4:28
  • Take a look at this answer of mine about your question - hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/28900 – SwiftPushkar Oct 17 '19 at 4:29

I have come across two different answers to this interesting question.

The first answer according to some western Indologists is that Atharva Veda was recognized as a Veda very late. This explains the mention of only 3 Vedas in the various texts mentioned above.

The second answer is that the Atharva Veda mantras are not used in Yajnas and so those who want to do Yajnas do not have to read Atharva Veda.

The Atharvan is very much in the same position as we shall find the Yagus texts: the three Vedas are mentioned, often in connection with other more specific forms and designations of prayer and sacerdotal acts, but the Atharvan is omitted. The impression left .. is by no means that of conscious neglect or contempt, but rather of esoteric restriction to the sphere of the great Vedic ritual (srauta). Thus it augurs no contempt or neglect of the Atharvan, if in a charm constructed for the purpose of obtaining a knowledge of the Vedas, A.V. VII, 54 (Kaus. 42, 9), only rik, saman, yaguh, veda, and oblation (havih) are mentioned: the person who desires Vedic learning is not in training for Atharvan priesthood, and therefore does not care to include this specialistic learning.

Introduction to Hymns of the Atharva-Veda translated by Maurice Bloomfield

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  • Then change it to a comment. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Oct 18 '19 at 14:24
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    @PradipGangopadhyay yours is actually answer the question, just needs some sources. – Pandya Oct 26 '19 at 1:26

Vyasa when he categorized the vedas is the one who split the then existing veda into their modern classifications - Rg, Yajur, Sama, and...the Atharva. Most of the Atharva consists of mantras for various spells and incantations, but, nevertheless, it is not entirely that. All modern Hindus (not including Shavites, and Yoga schools) are followers of Vyasa, the Uttara Mimaamsa - no matter whether followers of Sankara (Advaita - Monism), Ramanuja (Visistadvaita - qualified Monism), or Madhva (Dvaita - Dualism), and a few others. All are followers of the three Prasthanas, the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, and the Gita. Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, and others, all have written Bhashyas (commentaries) on Vyasa's Brahma Sutras. The Mundaka Upanishad I.i.4-5 says Swami Gambhirananda translator):

  1. To him he said, '"There are two kinds of knowledge to be acquired--the higher and the lower"; this is what, as tradition runs, the knowers of the import of the Vedas say.'

  2. Of these, the lower comprises the Rg-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, Atharva-Veda, the science of pronunciation etc., the code of rituals, grammar, etymology, metre, and astrology. Then there is the higher (knowledge) by which is attained the Imperishable.

An objection can be raised that the Mundaka Upanishad (as is the Prasna Upanishad) is part of the Atharva Veda, so the Mundaka Upanishad verses above are self-referential. But, Vyasa has included over 100 references to the Mundaka Upanishad in his Brahma Sutras, as well as references to the Prasna Upanishad.

Remember that almost all (except for 8 verses if memory serves me right) of the Sama Veda is repetition of the Rg Veda. The Atharva Veda is not mentioned in the Chandogya Upanishad verse mentioned above as the for the completion of Dharma and Moksha, for the following of Rtam and Satyam - the Atharva Veda is not needed. You can also argue that the Chandogya verse is self-referential also, as the Chandogya Upanishad is part of the Sama Veda.

The final argument is except for the Chandogya verse mentioned, the other references are smriti, not sruti. Since the Mundaka is sruti, sruti always takes precedence over smriti.

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  • 'Since the Mundaka is sruti, sruti always takes precedence over smriti' - We have another reference from Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa: "3. He heated these three lights, and from them, thus heated, the three Vedas were produced--the Ṛg-veda from Agni, the Yajur-veda from Vāyu, and the Sāma-veda from Sūrya." Within Śruti, do Brāhmaṇas take precedence over Upaniṣads? – sv. Oct 17 '19 at 21:03
  • @sv. as my answer says, we are all followers of the three Prasthanas, followers of Vyasa's system. One of the three Prasthanas is the Upanishads. Is your question whether or not Vyasa is wrong in classifying the Atharva veda as veda? – Swami Vishwananda Oct 18 '19 at 5:30
  • you should also read page 2 here. Sharma talks directly about 3 and 4 vedas - archive.org/details/IndianPhilosophyACriticalSurvey/page/n11 – Swami Vishwananda Oct 18 '19 at 5:52

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