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Atharva Veda Brahmanas

Atharva Veda Brahmanas are the portion of Atharva Veda describing rituals. Gopatha Brahmana is the only available Brahmana of the Atharva Veda. It has two divisions, Purva and Uttara, containing respectively five and six prapathakas. Atharvan Caranavyuha (or Parisishta) tells us that once this Brahmana contained as many as one hundred prapathakas (Gopathah Sataprapathakam brahmanamasit). On the basis of its language, some western scholars believe it to be later Brahmana.

In its purva (first part), 21 rituals are enumerated. Its final portion has a collection of verses, which refer to the prativeda brahmacharya of twelve years. The Gayatri hymn is explained in different ways and mantra, kalpa and brahmanas are mentioned at one place. It also mentions the moon as the presiding deity, and water as its loka (world). A supplementary shruti of Sama Veda is also described. The first part refers to many ancient kingdoms. Hermitages of Sage Vasishta on huge boulders situation in the center of the Vipat (Vipasa, Beas) river indicates that the composer was conversant with the Kulu region and, perhaps, with the well-known tourist resort near Manali, now famous as Vasistha Kunda. It also describes separately the three metrical units of the word omkara – the first metrical unit of Brahma as of red color; the second belong to Vishnu as of black color; and the third of Ishana (Shiva) as of yellow color. We thus see that the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha is mentioned at one place in this Brahmana.

The purva portion (I.26) contains the definition of the avyaya (indeclinable)  - an avyaya is that which remains the same and does not change in three genders, and in all the (eight) inflections (case terminations), and in all the numbers. This verse has been quoted by Patanjali also in his Mahabhashya (2nd century BCE). This first part also contains a reference to the riveting of gold with silver and salt (I.14).

The Saunaka recension of Atharva Veda was popular in Gujarat and it continues to be so even to this day. Many of its readings are found in other Brahmanas also. According to some scholars, this indicates that, though this Brahmana was compiled at a comparatively later period, it is still an old Brahmana. For example, the following line of Nirukta is similar to that found in the Aitareya Brahmana – yasayi devatayai havirgrihitamsyattam manasa dhyayet vasat-karisyan. Gopatha Brahmana (II.3, 2) contains its echo in the following words – tam manasa dhyayan vasatam kuryat. It has been suggested that Yaska had before him the text of Gopatha Brahmana.

The word vijnayate, which is used quite often in the Brahmanical texts, it first found in Gopatha Brahmana. It also states very explicitly that the Brahmanas, like the kalpa, Rahasya, Upanishad, itihasa, Purana, anvakhyana, etc., are not Veda but an aid to the understanding of Vedas.