The themes of the hymns of the Atharva-Veda may be grouped as follows: charms to cure dis ease and possession by demons; prayers for long life and health; imprecations against demons, sorcerers, and enemies; charms pertaining to women; charms pertaining to royalty; charms to secure harmony, influence in the village assembly, and the like; charms to secure prosperity in house, field, cattle, business, gambling, etc.; charms in expiation of sin; prayers and imprd cations in the interest of Brahmans; and wed ding and funeral stanzas. Curiously enough, the Atharva has a large number of cosmogonic and theosophic hymns, being in this respect a more significant precursor to the Upanishads (q.v.) than is the Rig-Vcda itself.
The redactions of these four Vedas, called sathkitas by the Hindus. have been handed down in various schools, branches, or recensions, which present a given Veda in forms differing not a little from one another. The school differences of the Rig-Veda are of no importance, except as they extend also to the Brahmanas and Sutras. (See below.) There are two Sama-Veda redac tions, that of the school of the Kautimmas and the Ranayaniyas; and two of the Atharva-Veda, ascribed to the school of aunakiyas and the Paippaladas. The Yajur-Veda especially is handed down in recensions that differ from one another very widely. There is first the broad division into White Yajur-Veda and Black Yajur-Veda. The most important difference be tween these two is that the Black Yajur schools intermingle their stanzas and formulas with the prose exposition of the Brahmana, whereas the White Yajur schools present their Brahmana in separate works. The White Yajur-Veda belongs to the school of the Vajasaneyins and is sub divided into the Madhyandina and Kanva schools. The important schools of the Black Yajur-Veda are the Taittiriyas, Maitrayaniyas, Kathas. and Kapishthalas. Sometimes these schools have definite geographical locations. For example. the Kathas and the Kapishthalas were located, at the time when the Creeks became acquainted with India, in the Punjab and in Kashmir. The Jlai trayaniyas appear at one time to have occupied the region around the lower course of the river Narmada, and the Taittiriyas, at least in mod ern times, are in the south of India.
The poetic stanzas and the ritualistic formulas of the Vedas collectively go by time name of mantra. 'pions utterance.' or 'hymn.' These were followed at later periods by a very different literary type, namely, the theological treatises called lwahmanas. They are exegetical and eom
mentative, and are bulky expositions of the sacrificial ceremonial, deseribing its minute de tails, discussing its value. speeulating upon its origin, and illustrating its potency by ancient legends. Aside from the light which these texts throw upon the sacerdotalism of ancient India, they are important because they are written in connected prose, the earliest in the entire do main of Indo-Germanic speech. They arc es pecially important for syntax, representing in this respect the oldest Indian stage even better than the Rig-Veda, owing to the restriction im posed upon the latter by its poetic form. The Brahmanas also were composed in schools or recensions, but the various Brahmana recensions of one and the same Veda differ at times even more widely than the Samhitas of the Mantras. Thus the Rig-Veda has two Bralunanas, the Aitareya and the Kaushitaki or Sankhayana. The Brahmana matter of the Black Yajur-Vedas is given together with the hymns themselves; but the White Yajur-Veda treats its liralimana matter separately, and,with extraordinary full ness, in the famous Satapatha-Brahmana, the `Brahmana of the Hundred Paths,' so called be cause it consists of 100 lectures. Next to the Rig-Veda and Atharva-Veda this work is the most important production in the whole range of Vedic literature. Two Brahmanas belonging to independent schools of the Sama-Veda have been preserved, that of the Tandins, usually des ignated as the Poneavithga-Brahmaaa and that of the Talavakaras or Jaiminiyas. To the Atharva-Veda is attached the very late and sec ondary G5patha-Brahmana, though its contents are in reality foreign to the spirit of the Athar van hymns.
A later development of the Brahmanas are the Aranyakas, or 'Forest Treatises.' Their later character is indicated both by the position they occupy at the end of the Brahmanas and by their theosophical character. The name 'Forest Treatise' is of somewhat. obscure application, but it seems likely that these works, owing to the superior mystic sanctity of their contents, were intended to be recited in the solitude of the forest instead of in the village. The two im portant Aranynkas are the Aitareya and the Taittiriya, belonging, of course, to the Vedic schools of these names. The chief value of the Aranyakas is that they form in contents and tone a transition to the Upanishads, which are either imbedded in them, or, more usually, form their concluding portions. See UPANISIIAD.