The Brahmayajña brāhmaṇa (1.1.29 of the Gopatha-brāhmaṇa) of the Atharvaveda provides a glimpse of the Vedic saṃhitā canon as known to the brāhmaṇa authors of the AV tradition. The Brahmayajña might be done as part of the basic rite as done by dvija-s of other śākhā-s or as part of the more elaborate AV tradition of the annual Veda-vrata. The annual vrata-s of the Atharvaṇ brāhmaṇa-s include the Sāvitrī-vrata, Veda-vrata, Kalpa-vrata, Mitra-vrata, Yama-vrata and Mṛgāra-vrata. The kṣatriya-s and vaiśya-s should do at least 3 and 2 of them respectively, with the first 2 being obligatory. During these vrata-s the ritualist follows certain strictures like not consuming butter milk nor eating kidney beans, common millets, or the masura lentils at the evening meal, bathing thrice a day and wearing woolen clothing. Before performing Brahmayajña, he performs the ācamana as per the vidhi which states:
sa ācamanaṃ karoti |
He performs the ritual sipping of water.
This calls for the special Atharvaṇic ācamana described in the final section of the ācamana-brāhmaṇa of the AV tradition (GB 1.1.39):
tad apy etad ṛcoktam —
It has also been thus stated in the ṛk:
“āpo bhṛgvaṅgiro rūpam āpo bhṛgvaṅgiromayaṃ |
sarvam āpomayaṃ bhūtaṃ sarvaṃ bhṛgvaṅgiromayam ||”
The waters are of the form Bhṛgu-Aṅgiras incantations. The waters are imbued with the Bhṛgu-Aṅgiras incantations.
All being is imbued with the waters; [thus,] all [being] is imbued by the Bhṛgu-Aṅgiras incantations.
•The Atharvaṇ-s justify the above ṛk is by noting that the Paippalāda Atharvaveda begins with the ṛk “śaṃ no devīḥ…” to the waters (see below).
antaraite trayo vedā bhṛgūn aṅgiraso ‘nugāḥ ||
Within these [waters] the three [other] Veda-s follow the Bhṛgu-Aṅgiras incantations.
“apāṃ puṣpaṃ mūrtir ākāśaṃ pavitram uttamam” iti ācamyābhyukṣy ātmānam anumantrayata | [sūrya jīva devā jīvā jīvyāsam aham |
sarvam āyur jīvyāsam ||]
“The flower is the form of the waters, the empty space [and] that which the most pure”. Thus, he sips the water and having sprinkled water (practically mārjanam) he recites the incantation indra jīva etc: Enliven, o Indra; Enliven o Sūrya. Enliven, o gods. May I live. May I complete my term of life.
•The flower of the waters in the above incantation is an allusion to the ṛk describing the the ancient action of the Atharvaṇ-s in kindling the fire in waters [from a lotus]: ``tvām agne puṣkarād adhy atharvā nir amanthata |”
•He does the ācamana by taking three sips each with two successive words from the mantra apām puṣpam…
iti brāhmaṇam ||
Thus is the brāhmaṇa.
Now for the Brahmayajña:
kiṃ devatam iti ? ṛcām agnir devatam | tad eva jyotiḥ | gāyatraṃ chandaḥ | pṛthivī sthānam |
“agnim īḷe purohitaṃ yajñasya devam ṛtvijaṃ | hotāraṃ ratnadhātamam ||”
ity evam ādiṃ kṛtvā ṛgvedam adhīyate ||
Who is the deity? Agni is the deity of the ṛk-s. That is indeed light. Gāyatrī is its meter. The earth is its station.
“I praise Agni, the officiant of the ritual, the god and ritualist; the hotṛ and the foremost giver of gems.”
Thus, having placed it at the beginning the Ṛgveda is studied.
yajuṣāṃ vāyur devatam | tad eva jyotis traiṣṭubhaṃ chandaḥ | antarikṣaṃ sthānam |
iṣe tvorje tvā vāyava stha devo vaḥ savitā prārpayatu śreṣṭhatamāya karmaṇe ||
ity evam ādiṃ kṛtvā yajurvedam adhīyate ||
Vāyu is the deity of the Yajuṣ-es. That is verily light; Triṣṭubh is its meter. The atmosphere is its station.
“To you for nourishment, to you for strength. You are the Vāyu-s. May Savitṛ impel you the most excellent ritual.”
Thus, having placed it at the beginning the Yajurveda is studied.
sāmnām ādityo devatam | tad eva jyotiḥ | jāgataṃ chandaḥ | dyauḥ sthānam |
“agna ā yāhi vītaye gṛṇāno havyadātaye | ni hotā satsi barhiṣi ||”
ity evam ādiṃ kṛtvā samāvedam adhīyate ||
The Āditya is the deity of the Sāman-s. That is indeed light. Jagati is its meter. The heaven is its station.
O Agni, come to the oblations, praised with songs to the ritual offering. Sit as the hotṛ on the ritual grass.
Thus, having placed it at the beginning the Sāmaveda is studied.
atharvaṇāṃ candramā devatam | tad eva jyotiḥ | sarvāṇi chandāṃsi | āpaḥ sthānam | <śaṃ no devīr abhiṣṭaya> ity evam ādiṃ kṛtvātharvavedam adhīyate ||
The moon is the deity of the Atharvaṇ incantations. That is indeed light. All are its meters. The waters are its station. “May the divine [waters] be auspicious for us…” Thus, having placed it at the beginning the Atharvaveda is studied.
adbhyaḥ sthāvara-jaṅgamo bhūta-grāmaḥ saṃbhavati | tasmāt sarvam āpomayaṃ bhūtaṃ sarvaṃ bhṛgvaṅgiromayam | antaraite trayo vedā bhṛgūn aṅgirasaḥ śritā ity ab iti prakṛtir apām oṃkāreṇa ca | etasmād vyāsaḥ purovāca:
“bhṛgvaṅgirovidā saṃskṛto ‘nyān vedān adhīyīta |
nānyatra saṃskṛto bhṛgvaṅgiraso ‘dhīyīta ||”
From the waters the families of immotile and motile organisms have come into being. Hence, all being is imbued with water; [thus] all is imbued with the Bhṛgu-Aṅgiras incantations. The three other Veda-s are situated within these Bhṛgu-Aṅgiras incantations. Therefore, indeed it is water and the origin of water is by the Oṃkāra. In this regard Vyāsa had formerly said:
“He who is sanctified by the Bhṛgu-Aṅgiras incantations may study the other Veda-s.
The one sanctified elsewhere should not study the Veda of the Bhṛgu-Aṅgiras-es.”
•Regarding the origin of all beings from water: this is articulated early on in the ṛk: yo apsv ā śucinā daivyena… (RV 2.35.8) of Gṛtsamada Śaunahotra.
sāmavede ‘tha khilaśrutir brahmacaryeṇa caitasmād atharvāṅgiraso ha yo veda sa veda sarvam |
iti brāhmaṇam ||
Now there is also the khila of the Sāmaveda: “Therefore, he who as a celibate student knows the Veda of Atharvāṅgiras-es knows all this.”
Thus is the brāhmaṇa.
•The statement from the Sāmaveda-khila is also taken to justify the punarupanayana that is performed in order for those of other traditions to study the Atharvaveda.
Several notable points are raised by the Brahmayajña brāhmaṇa of the AV, not just regarding the AV tradition but also regarding its interaction with the other Vedic schools and their own evolution. It is quite obvious that the Brahmayajña brāhmaṇa represents a relatively late brāhmaṇa composition with a specific aim of justifying the primacy of the AV, probably in the context of the intra-brahminical competition for the position of the brahman in the śrauta ritual. This is explicitly supported by the fact that it cites Vyāsa [Pārāśarya] who appears in late Vedic texts and is remembered by tradition as the redactor of the 4 fold form of the śruti. In a similar vein, the citation of the Sāmaveda-khila suggests that it was composed after the terminal sections of the Sāmavedic tradition had been completed.
The opening ṛk of the RV is compatible with any of the śakha-s of the Ṛgveda. The Yajurveda that it refers to is clearly the Vājasaneyi saṃhitā (either Mādhyaṃdina or the Kāṇva śākhā-s). The Samaveda could again be any of the Samavedic saṃhitā-s. The Atharvaveda is probably the Paippalāda saṃhitā because the vulgate and the Śaunakīya begin with “ye triśaptāḥ…” However, we must note that we do not know the beginning of the lost AV śākhā-s.
Why is this notable? The AV-pariśiṣṭa 46 (Uttama-paṭala) gives the beginning and end verses of the four Veda saṃhitā-s along with several AV verses to be used in the annual Veda-vrata. Notably, these are partly different from those of the Brahmayajña brāhmaṇa. Interestingly, according to the Uttama-paṭala, the RV ends with the famous ṛk: “tac chamyor āvṛṇimahe…”. This is not present in the Śākala-pāṭha which instead ends with the short Saṃjñā-sūkta. The former ṛk was claimed by Michael Witzel to be the last ṛk of the Bāṣkala RV. However, as Vishal Agrawal correctly noted its is stated to be the last ṛk by even the Śāñkhāyana and Kauśītaki traditions. Thus, the Uttama-paṭala is referring to some RV śākhā other than Śākala, though we cannot be sure of its identity.
The Uttama-paṭala gives the Sāmaveda’s first verse as “agna ā yāhi…”, which is known to be the first ṛk of all surviving śākhā-s of the SV. However, the last ṛk is given as:
“eṣa sya te dhārayā suto ‘vyo vārebhir havane maditavyam | krīḍan raśmir apārthivaḥ ||”
This is different from the ṛk “svasti na indro vṛddhaśravāḥ…” with which the surviving SV śākhā-s conclude. It is a divergent variant of the ṛk RV 9.108.5 not attested elsewhere. In fact the extant SV saṃhitā-s contain a version that follows the RV cognate. Thus, evidently the Uttama-paṭala is referring to a now lost SV śākhā.
The situation with the YV is the most interesting. The cited starting mantra goes thus:
“iṣe tvorje tvā vāyava sthopāyava stha devo vaḥ savitā prārpayatu śreṣṭhatamāya karmaṇa āpyāyadhvam aghnyā indrāya bhāgam ūrjasvatīḥ payasvatīḥ prajāvatīr anamīvā ayakṣmā mā va stena īśata māghaśaṃso rudrasya hetiḥ pari vo vṛṇaktu dhruvā asmin gopatau syāta bahvīr yajamānasya paśūn pāhi ||”
Remarkably, this mantra is not found in any of the extant YV saṃhitā-s. However, the “indrāya bhāgam” is reminiscent of the “indrāya deva-bhāgam” found in the Āpastamba-śrautasūtra and the Bhāradvāja-śrautasūtra or the “devebhya indrāya” found in the Maitrāyaṇīya saṃhitā. Moreover, the last mantra of the Yajurveda is given as “dadhikrāvṇo akāriṣam…”. In other YV saṃhitā-s, this mantra occurs in the Aśvamedha section and is used among other thing by the ritualists to purify their mouths after the obscene sexual dialog. However, it is not the last mantra of the Aśvamedha section in any of the extant saṃhitā-s. This indicates two things: first, the Uttama-paṭala is recording a now lost YV śākha of the Kṛṣṇayajurveda (KYV). Second, while today Āpastamba and Bhāradvāja are attached to the Taittirīya-śākhā, they were once the sūtra-s of a lost KYV śākhā. This loss likely happened relatively early. It was probably associated with the southward movement of the Āpastamba-s and Bhāradvāja-s, who then shifted to the related Taittirīya-saṃhitā (TS). The text of the Baudhāyana-śrautasūtra precisely follows the TS; hence, it was definitely one of the original sūtra-s of the Taittirīya-śākhā.
Finally, the AV of the Uttama-paṭala begins with “ye triśaptāḥ…” indicating that it was recording the original śākhā behind the vulgate or the Śaunakīya.
Thus, we see a striking difference between the two AV traditions of the Gopatha-brāhmaṇa and the Uttama-paṭala. While the tendency is to see the AV-pariśiṣṭa-s as late and post-dating the brāhmaṇa, we have to be more cautious. First, the AV-pariśiṣṭa-s are a rather composite mass recording a range of traditions that with a wide temporal span. Some material like the Nakṣatra-kalpa-sūkta could closer to the late brāḥmaṇa material in age whereas, at the other end, the tortoise-soothsaying (Kurmavibhāga) is likely a late text. We posit that the Uttama-paṭala belongs to the an early layer of the AV-pariśiṣṭa-s — this provides a reasonable hypothesis for the divergence between it and the brāhmaṇa. First, it should be noted that the AV-Paippalāda-AV-Śaunakīya/vulgate divergence is rather deep — mirroring the deep divergence of the Kṛṣṇa and Śukla branches of the Yajurveda. This split might have gone along with some geographical separation in the initial phase of their divergence. This geographical separation model would suggest that the Brahmayajña brāhmaṇa tradition was associated with the AV-Paippalāda or a related lost AV school that was in the vicinity of the old Vājasaneyin-s. This is also supported by certain parallels seen between the Gopatha-brāhmaṇa and the Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa in the śrauta sections. In contrast, the Uttama-paṭala as associated with the Śaunakīya or a related school that developed in the vicinity of a lost KYV śākhā.
We have evidence that the interactions between the KYV and AV traditions might go back even deeper in time: for example, this is clearly supported by the AV-related Bhavā-Śarvā-sūkta of the Kaṭha-s that was likely present in the lost Kaṭha-brahmaṇa and the various shared sūkta-s and upaniṣat material between the Taittirīya and the AV. Finally, we have evidence from what is today Gujarat that at a later period there was a certain equilibriation of the AV schools with the combination of the Paippalāda and Śaunakīya material. This parallels a similar acquisition of some Kaṭha material by the Taittirīya. Thus, there appears to have been a relatively complex web of fission and fusion interactions between the śākha-s over a protracted period.