Page:History of India Vol 1.djvu/129

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91
THE ATHARVA-VEDA

Manu and other metrical codes, three Vedas are generally recognized. And although the claims of the Atharva were sometimes put forward, still the work was not generally recognized as a fourth Veda till long after the Christian Era. It is only in the Brahmana and Upanishads of the Atharva-Veda itself that we find a uniform recognition of this work as a Veda. It is divided into twenty books, and contains nearly six thousand verses, although a sixth of the collection is in prose. Another sixth is taken from the hymns of the Rig-Veda, mostly from the tenth book. The nineteenth book is a kind of supplement to the previous eighteen, while the twentieth book is made up of extracts from the Rig-Veda.

The Atharva-Veda consists for the most part of formulas intended to protect men against the baneful influences of divine powers, against diseases, noxious animals, and curses of enemies. It knows a host of imps and goblins, and offers homage to them to prevent them from doing harm. The hymns are supposed to bring from the unwilling hands of gods the favours that are wanted. Incantations calculated to procure long life or wealth or recovery from illness, and invocations for good luck in journeys, in gambling, and in intrigue, fill the work. These hymns resemble similar hymns in the last book of the Rig-Veda, except that in the Rig-Veda they are apparently additions made at the time of the compilation, while in the Atharva-Veda they are the natural utterance of the present.

We must now hasten to an account of the compo-