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The Atharvaveda ( Sanskrit , m., अथर्ववेद, Atharvaveda, alternatively Atharwaweda) is one of the sacred text collections of Hinduism . It contains a mixture of magical hymns, magic formulas and other material that are apparently of very different ages. Although much is linguistically much younger than the other three Vedas (at least of the Rig Veda ), there are also very old passages in it. It is estimated that the Atharvaveda was canonized in the second half of the last millennium BC, and was only then placed on a par with the other three Vedas . It exists in two reviews or schools, the better known Shaunaka version and the more recently better researched Paippalada version. The Atharvaveda comprises 20 books in 731 hymns with about 6000 verses. About a seventh of the Atharvaveda is taken from the Rigveda. The Atharveda came into being when the settling down in the Ganges plain was already completed. The word for tiger appears here, but not in the earlier Rig Veda.

Each of the four Vedas , that is Rigveda , Samaveda , Atharvaveda and Yajurveda , comprises four layers of text. The oldest layer are the Samhitas (hymns), the next layer are the Brahmanas (ritual texts), then come the Aranyakas (forest texts ) and finally the Upanishads (philosophical teachings).

The other three Vedas were assigned to specific priests in the Vedic sacrificial ritual: the Hotri (“caller”) had to know the Rigveda by heart , the Udgatri (“singer”) had to master the Samaveda , and the Adhvaryu (sacrificial priest) had to know the mantras of Yajurveda . When the Atharvaveda was included in the canon, it was simply assigned to the Brahman , although this priest actually had to know the three other Vedas by heart so that he could observe the ritual from the background and intervene if mistakes were made. That is why he is also known as the “victim's doctor”. The assignment of Brahman to Atharva Veda is therefore rather arbitrary.

Compared to the other three Vedas, the Atharvaveda has always had the reputation of being primarily concerned with magic. Atharvan originally means fire priest. Another class of priests were the Angiras . Magical formulas to help heal the sick were the business of the Atharvans. Black magic to harm enemies or rivals was the business of the Angiras. The holiness of Atharvaveda has always been somewhat doubted because of this magical content. The Atharvaveda is of great importance with regard to the medical ideas of the time. The songs and spells for healing diseases belong to the magical healing rites (bhaishajyani). Exorcism and “women's rites” (love magic) are also described. The Atharvaveda thus opens a window to a completely different world than that of the Rigveda.