Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/240

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undigested jumble of different pieces."[1] Last comes the Atharva-Veda, not always regarded as a Veda properly speaking. It derives its name from an old semi-mythical priestly family, the Atharvans, and is full of magical formulæ, imprecations, folk-lore, and spells. There are good reasons for thinking this late as a collection, however early may be the magical ideas expressed in its contents.[2]

Between the Vedas, or, at all events, between the oldest of the Vedas, and the compilation of the Brahmanas, these "canonised explanations of a canonised text,"[3] it is probable that some centuries and many social changes intervened.[4]

If we would criticise the documents for Indian mythology in a scientific manner, it is now necessary that we should try to discover, as far as possible, the social and religious condition of the people among whom the Vedas took shape. Were they in any sense "primitive" or were the civilised? Was their religion in its obscure beginnings, or was it already a

  1. Weber, p. 87. The name Taittirya is derived from a partridge, or from a Rishi named Partridge in Sanskrit. There is a story that the pupils of a sage were turned into partridges, to pick up sacred texts.
  2. Barth (Les Religions de l'Inde, p. 6) thinks that the existence of such a collection as the Atharva-Veda is implied, perhaps, in a text of the Rig-Veda, x. 90, 9.
  3. Whitney, Oriental and Linguistic Studies, First Series, p. 4.
  4. Max Müller, Biographical Essays, p. 20. "The prose portions presuppose the hymns, and, to judge from the utter inability of the authors of the Brahmanas to understand the antiquated language of the hymns, these Brahmanas must be ascribed to a much later period than that which gave birth to the hymns."