The fourth Veda, Atharva Veda differs from the trayividya – Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samaveda - in that it deals mainly in application of mantras in day to day life and accomplishment of worldly goals whereas the other three Vedas centre around the concept of yajna and adhyatma.
The primary texts elaborating the prayoga (application) of Atharva Veda are five in number.
They are :
- Kausika Gruhya sutram
- Vaitana Srouta sutram
- Angirasa kalpam
- Nakshatra kalpam
- Santhi kalpam.
The applications of Atharva Veda mantras can be broadly classified under the following heads. In addition to these, it is noteworthy that there are also parts dealing in adhyatma, extolling virtues of brahmacharya, atithi satkara etc. The kandam 14 is devoted entirely to marriage ceremony and the kandam 18 to funeral rites. The mantras of kandam 20 are also found in Rigveda.
- Therapeutic. For treatment of fever, dysentery, excessive urination, deep ulcers, urinary block, acute constipation, diseases of the head, possession by evil spirits, jalodara, vatha, pitha and kapha vikaras, cough and other kapha vikaras, bleeding from wounds, excessive bleeding during menstruation, heart diseases, jaundice, visarpa, leucoderma, tuberculosis, leprosy, goiter, diseases arising out of alcoholism, diseases of ear, eyes, tongue, head etc., infertility (both male and female), hereditary diseases, excessive thirst, gynecological problems, various kinds of poisoning and fractures
- Other health related rituals include generation of intellect, gaining physical strength, treating baldness and getting long hair, getting strong teeth, vaajeekaranam, aid in conception, smooth labor and to avoid premature delivery
- There are also mantras for treatment of diseases of the cattle folk and horses and rituals to find out whether a disease can be cured or not
- Wishes and desires. For achieving fame, prosperity, abundance of grains, longevity, glory and brilliance, begetting a suitable husband, begetting a suitable wife, winning over the love of a woman, begetting a male child, success in debate, success in gambling, success in litigation, improvement and more profit from business
- Agricultural and nature related. Changing course of rivers, to cause rains, to get water in well,pond,lake etc., to ward off rats, insects and other pests, protection from floods and good harvest.
- Warfare. For success in warfare, chasing away the elephants of the enemy, to cause fear among enemy’s army, tormenting enemy’s army, to create confusion and discord among enemy’s army, driving away enemy’s arrows
- Astras such as Pashupatastra and Agneyastra are from the Atharva Veda. There are also rituals for knowing success or failure in battle.
- Domestic. To remove discord and establish affection among family members, to avoid fight during partition of family property, enticement between husband and wife, to avoid fight between husband and wife, removal of anger, defeating co wife
- Abhicharika and black magic. Performing abhichara for defeating the enemy and neutralizing and sending back black magic done by the enemy. The Angirasakalpam deals extensively in this subject
- Protection. From robbers, of cattle folk from tiger and other beasts, while crossing a river by boat, from snakes, scorpion, during travel, self protection, to get back lost / stolen article, protection from evil mongers
- Sins and curses .Relief from curses, drushtidosha, from sins committed in the past, relief from varuna pasha as punishment for dishonesty, relief from nirruti pasha, relief from brahmana’s curse, removal of evil effect of bad dreams, removal of evils of jealousy
- Yajnika. In the yajna, the atharvavedi Brahma is the chairperson supervising the act and also prescribing and executing remedies in case of errors and bad omens. The mental power of the Brahma is very important in the successful completion of the yajna
- Vaitana srouta sutram is the text prescribing various applications of atharva veda mantras in the yajna. The mantras are used in procedures such as vedikaranam, agnichayanam and in yajnas like aindragnapashu, chatusharavoudana sava, ashvamedha, agrayaneshti, sakamedhaparva, rajasooya, anadutsava, ajoudanasava, vajapeya, mrugareshti, brahmasyodana sava, atimrutyusava and atiratra
The brahma also prescribes and performs remedies for removal of obstacles in yajna and also in situations such as when the vapa is taken away by crow or dog.
The sutram called nakshatrakalpam prescribes thirty mahasanthis for different situations. The mahasanthi performed when bad omens (utpata) of divya, antariksha or bhouma nature are seen is called amrutha santhi.
- Vaisvadevi santhi is performed to resurrect a dead person.
- To escape from fear of fire and for achieving desires , aagneyi mahasanthi is performed.
- To pacify adverse grahas, nakshatras, upagrahas and also for curing the diseased person , bhargavi mahasanthi is performed.
- One desirous of brahmatejas should perform brahmee mahasanthi.
- For abundance of progeny, food and cattle folk and also to prevent loss of children, praajaptya mahasanthi is performed.
- For begetting kingdom, wealth and brahmatejas barhaspatya mahasanthi is performed.
- Savitri mahasanthi is for attaining purity.
- To become exponent in chhandasastra and for brahmatejas, gayatri mahasanthi is performed.
- One who performs abhichara and also desirous of wealth should perform angirasi mahasanthi.
- Those desirous of victory, strength, prosperity and desirous of causing fear among enemies should perform aindri mahasanthi.
- One desirous of begetting a kingdom and for pacifying evils from bad omens should perform mahendri santhi.
- For wealth, kauberi mahasanthi is performed. Aadityaa mahasanthi is for knowledge, brilliance, wealth and longevity.
- For abundance of food and to ward off misfortune , roudri mahasanthi is prescribed.
- For victory , aparajita mahasanthi is performed.
- For relief from fear of death yaamya, of water varunee, of wind and storms vayavaya , mahasanthis are performed.
- To prevent kula kshaya santatee , mahasanthi is done.
- For relief from dearth of clothes , tvashtree mahasanthi is performed.
- Kaumaree santhi is for protection of children from diseases.
- Nairruti santhi is for relief of person suffering from nirruti dosha.
- Marudganee santhi is for strength, gaandharvee to prevent loss of horses and paravatee to prevent loss of elephants.
- One desirous of begetting land should perform parthivee mahasanthi and for relief from fear , abhaya mahasanthi is performed.
- Another text associated with santhikarma is santhikalpam which describes vainayaka santhi and navagraha santhi.
- In santhi karmas , various mantras are grouped together into ganas such as laghugana, bruhatgana, aholingagana, salilagana and applied.
- There are also rituals like vastu santhi used during gruhapravesha. Atharva veda contains hundreds of mantras useful in vastu santhi.
The samhita contains various mantras for performing remedies when bad omens such as a brahmana taking weapon, laughing of idol, dhoomaketu, raining of ghee, honey, flesh etc., pigeon or owl entering the house, when twin calves are born to cow, donkey or horse or earth quake are encountered. There are also remedies performed when touched by a crow, sudden finding of water in barren land and removal of evil arising out of evil pratigraha.
Rituals are also available for removal of obstacles, removal of obstacles in vedadhyayanam and removal of competition
The priest of the king is usually an atharvavedi adept in both santhi karma and abhicharika karma. The abhicharika karma is very important in warfare for defeating the enemies. The rajakarma includes rajyabhisheka, pushapabhisheka, and reinstatement of king in his lost kingdom daily abhimantranam of the dress and ornaments of the king, abhimantranam of the armor of the king going to war, daily daanam and neeranjanam in the night.
The common methods employed in the prayogas are as under :
- Havanam - This is the most common method of prayoga wherein the mantra devata is propitiated by offering suitable dravya in agni and the result obtained as a blessing of the devata. Thirteen dravyas such as ghee, havis, samit etc. are used and the sutram gives guidance as to the choice of the dravya.
- Japaha - The mantras are merely chanted to obtain the desired result.
- Upasthanam - This method is of paying obeisance with specific prayers.
- Abhishechanam - This is especially used in treatment of diseases and various santhis. Abhimantranam of water in kalasha is performed with the relevant mantras and after mixing it with sampatam (remnant ghee collected after every ahuti in the havan) the patient /yajmana is bathed with it.
- Mani bandhanam - In this method a mani (amulet) made out of mantra specific herbs or materials such as anjanam is tied for protection or for obtaining the desired result. Some of the manis found in atharva veda are palashamani, yavamani ,phalamani,varanamani, abhivartamani,harinamani, jangidamani,oudumbaramani and darbhamani.
- Oral consumption and topical application. The medicinal herbs/materials are collected and after abhimantranam administerd orally or applied locally to the patient.
- Dhoopanam - Fuming of the relevant material after abhimantranam.
- Prashanam - Items such as annam and purodasha are consumed after abhimantranam with the relevant mantras.
- Apart from these there are many rituals such as riding a boat, pradakshinam, throwing objects in the direction of the enemy transferring the disease to another person/creature, planting objects under the soil, sprouting of grains and daanam specified to the prayoga as elaborated in the sutras.