The Ancillary Literature of The Atharva-Veda (A Study with Special Reference to The Parisistas)


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About The Book

The present work seeks to focus attention on the richness and variety of the Atharvanic literature. It undertakes to give at one place a comprehensive and connected account of the profuse ancillary literature belonging to the Atharva-veda. This book also aims at bringing to the foreground the vast and important but mostly neglected literature in the Vedic field, namely, the Atharva-Veda Parisistas. The Atharva Veda Parisistas deal with a number of subjects like the lore of constellations, royal ceremonies, rituals, religious observances, magic, philology, omens and portents, etc.

The present study is divided into two parts. The first part describes in brief the nature and contents of the Atharca-Veds sanhita nad then takes up the ancillary texts, other than the Parisistas. The second part deals exclusive and exhaustively with the Atharva-Veda Parisistas. All the Parisistas have been studied in detail and their contents have been critically and systematically restated. Some general questions such as those relating to the date, the style, etc. of the parasites have also been discussed. The study concludes with an index of the Atharva –Veda Brahmana, the Kausika Sutra, the Vaitana sutra, the Parisistas and other Vedic texts.


About The Author

Dr B. R. Modak (b. 1928) received his Ph. D. Degree from the University of Poona. He was Professor of Sanskrit at the Karnataka University. Dr. Modak delivered lectures in a number of universities both in India and the USA. He was hounoured by the Government of Karnataka for his valuable contribution to Sanskrit literature. Professor Modak has edited Svarajya-Siddhi, a manual of Advaita Vedantaa. He has completed the project ‘Contribution of Karnataka to Sanskrit’ sponsored by the University Grants Commission, New Delhi.



The Atharva –Veda is a book of ancient wisdom which deals with a number of subjects which have supra-terrestrial and terrestrial significance. A good deal of occult knowledge of the ancients is stored in this Veda. The exact meaning of the Veda has been a matter of research of the last several millennia; hence it is not possible to say with great precision what significance was can attach to the occult knowledge contained in the Atharva-Veda. In this context, the appendices of the Atharva-Veda promise to throw useful light.

Rashriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan is happy that Dr B. R. Modak undertook the task of bringing large number o f appendices together and of writing a thesis and recommends its publication under the scheme of the Pratishthan.

We feel that this publication will enrich our knowledge about the Atharva-Veda and will stimulate Vedic scholars to undertake further research in various issues which are relevant to the Atharva-Veda and its appendices.



It has been observed-and, indeed very rightly- that the Rg-Veda and the Atharva-Veda together present a more or less full picture of the life of Vedic man in all its aspects. Broadly speaking, the Rg-Veda, which may justifiably be called ‘the Veda of classes’, deals with the higher strata of society consisting of poets, priests and princes, while the Atharva-Veda is pre-eminently ‘the Veda of the masses’. In other words, it may be said that the Rg-Veda represents the main hierarchical current of Vedic culture and the Athrava-Veda represents it popular undercurrents. The two Vedas are thus complementary to each other. In a sense, however, the Atharva-Veda must be said to possess far greater interest from the socio-historical and cultural points of view than the Rg-Veda , for , by its very nature he Rg-Veda has a restricted choice of subject matter. The hymns in the Rg.Veda relate to what may be called hierarchical mythology and sacrificial ritual, especially the soma offering, but we get to know very little from it about the popular way of life and thought-about magic, medicine, witchcraft, spirits, etc. These matters do not fall within the purview of the sophisticated thinkers of the Rg-Veda. The Rg-Veda can by no means be said t touch all spheres of life, private as well as public.

The Atharva-Veda, on the other hand, exhibits remarkable freedom in the choice and treatment of its subjects. It portrays the life of the common man, in all its light and shade, hopes and fears, in its vicissitudes from the womb to the tomb- indeed, from the pre-natal to the post-mortem condition. With its essentially heterogeneous material, embodying ‘hymns and stanzas for the cure of diseases; prayer for health and long life; charms for the prosperity of home and children, cattle and fields; expiatory formulas designed to free from sin and guilt; charms to produce harmony in the life of families and in the deliberations of the village assembly; charms concerned with love and marriage and, indirectly, with the rivalries and jealousies of men and women in love; conjuration against demons, sorcerers and enemies; charms for king sin pace and war; and charms calculated to promote the interests of the Brahmanas’, the Atharva-Veda is a veritable mine of information regarding the full life of t common man. In this Veda’ the obscurer relations and emotions of human life are brought to the surface and exploited. ‘ On the popular plane of religion, the Atharva –Veda certainly deal with notions of greater antiquity than those of Rg-Veda , though it is generally believed hat on the higher philosophical place the Atharva-Veda represents a more advanced stage. Therefore, the Atharva-Veda, accordingly, possesses great value not only as a source of the source of the culture history of ancient India, but also as a highly interesting anthropological document.

The Atharva-Veda is a Veda of practical performance par excellence. It is easily seen that a majority of its mantras are intended to serve a definite and ‘drastically practical’ purpose. Even the so-called physic hymns in this Veda aim at some practical end. The viniyoga (application) aspect is, therefore, more important in the Atharva –Veda than in any other Veda. An adequate understanding of this Veda , therefore, depends to a large extent upon the knowledge of the rites and practices which its mantra s are prescribed to accompany .Very often however, there is hardly any rational connection between the contents of a mantra and its viniyoga. The employment of the hymns often appears secondary and to be without any bearing on the real nature of ht hymns. As is to be expected with the primitive way of life and thought, this connection is essentially magical rather than logical.

For a proper understanding of this tradition of Atharvanic magical ideology and practices one has necessarily to depend upon the ancillary literature belonging to the Atharva-Veda. For it is in that literature that the tradition is preserved more or less fully. Without a critical and comprehensive study of this ancillary literature, which, incidentally, is quite profuse, one cannot hope to be able to form an adequate estimate of the Atharva-Veda and it as peculiar thought complex.

The Atharva-Veda has come down to us in two recensions-the Saunakiya and the Paippalada, though it is traditionally believed to have had nine sakas of these two recensions, the Saunakiya recensionis more popularly known. The ancillary literature belonging to the Atharva-Veda comprises, as stated by the Caranabyuha, of the following works.

Generally speaking each Veda (or Vedic school ) has its Samhita, Brahmana, Aranuaka and Upanisad, Similarly, from among the six vedangas each Veda has its own siksa, kalpa chandas an d jyotisa-the same vyakarana and nirukta being regarded as common to all the Vedas for all practical purposes. The enumeration of the ancillary texts made above will show some points about the Atharva-Veda in this respect. There is no Aranyaka belonging to the Atha

Item Code: NAF480
Cover: Hardcover
Edition: 1993
Publisher: Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan
ISBN: 8121506077
Language: English
Size: 9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Pages: 560
Other Details: Weight of the Book: 850 gms