Atharva Veda is not considered the same as other three Veda and the study of which is generally discouraged if one doesn't have the required moral conditioning. What makes the Atharva Veda different from the other three?

I know Atharva contains recipe for numerous maleficent rituals including vashikarana etc. Could this be the reason?

Can someone shed some light on this?

  • 2
    Can you clarify what exactly your question is? Are you asking "Why should you not study the Atharva Veda unless you have sufficient moral conditioning?"? Or is it "What makes the Atharva Veda different from the other three?"?
    – senshin
    Jun 23 '14 at 5:05
  • both, actually. I have written what I believe is the reason for the first question. If I'm wrong, answerer can correct me. Jun 23 '14 at 5:16

There are currently four Vedas, known as the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. Many years ago, the Vedas were referred to as trayi, meaning three. There must have been some point of time when there were only three Vedas, the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Sama Veda. The Atharva Veda is believed to be a later addition to the sacred canon.

It is important to know that there were four classes of priests who were required at any sacrifice (yajna). The first class consisted of the officiating priests or acolytes (hotri). They invoked the gods by reciting the mantras, prepared the sacrificial ground and the altar, and poured out the libations. The hymns of the Rig Veda are for this class of priests. The second class of priests consisted of choristers (udgatri). They were the ones who chanted the sacred hymns and the hymns of the Sama Veda are for this class of priests. The third class of priests consisted of reciters (adhvaryu). While they carried out sacrificial rites, they chanted sacred texts and the hymns of the Yajur Veda are for this class of priests. The fourth class of priests consisted of brahmana overseers. They supervised the sacrifice and the hymns of the Atharva Veda are for this class of priests.

The Atharva Veda was first revealed to Atharvan, the Angirasa and the Bhrigus. The text obtains its name from Atharvan. The Atharva Veda is also known as Brahma Veda. This is because the hymns of the text were meant for the brahmana overseers.

Unlike the other Vedas, in addition to the prayers, the Atharva Veda contains charms and spells. It is almost as if the Atharva Veda used to be recited to counteract evil influences during the course of a sacrifice.

Source: Introduction to The Atharva Veda by Bibek Debroy and Dipavali Debroy

  • 1
    You haven't addressed the other issue about Atharva being a somewhat devilish, if I may say so. Or am I wrong? Jun 23 '14 at 11:10
  • 6
    Atharva Veda does contain spells that can apparently cause harm. That does not make Atharva Veda devilish. It is that immature person who misuses such a spell who is devilish. Chemistry books contain information about poisons. That does not make Chemistry books devilish. Jun 23 '14 at 14:01
  • True! Chemistry does contain the recipe to make TNT but it depends on the morality of that person to put Chemistry to good use, that's where the morality of the user or learner of Atherva gains importance (as I asked in the question). Jun 24 '14 at 4:44
  • I have heard that Atharva Veda contains both do's and don'ts and curses and spells would be enlisted as dont's and the specific consequences. If someone more knowledgeable could clarify if this is correct,it would be helpful. Thanks. Sep 2 '14 at 4:10

Ayurveda and Vedic music are included in the Atharva Veda.

The major Vedas are Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda. The Atharva Veda is/was considered as a part of Rigveda. (See note below)

As an example consider what Kumārila Bhaṭṭa wrote about Lord Shiva,

Vishuddh gnaan dehaay trivedi divya chakshu-she I Srey praapti nimit-taay namah Som-ardh-dhaarine II 1 II

This is taken from here. In this text/manthra, Lord Shiva is called "Trivedi" (knows 3 Vedas; not "Chathurvedi" - knows 4 Vedas), the reason behind this is the same.

Note: Not sure about from what time it is considered as a separate veda. Also unsure about the reason for the separation.

  • 2
    What do you mean by "Atharva veda is a part of Rigveda"? The two texts are thought to have differing authorship and to have been written at different times, so I'm not sure why you would consider Atharva to be part of Rig.
    – senshin
    Jun 23 '14 at 7:40
  • Edited answer with the text by Kumarila Bhatt mentioning Shiva as Trivedi.
    – user11
    Jun 23 '14 at 19:05

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