Women in the Atharva-veda Samhita

by Pranab Jyoti Kalita | 2017 | 62,142 words

This page relates ‘Goddess Oshadhayah (Oshadhayas)’ of the study on women in the Vedic society reflecting the Atharva-veda Samhita in English. These pages discusses the social aspects of women, education, customs of marriage, practices of polyandry and polygamy, descriptions of female deities and various rites and rituals. It is shown how women earned much praise in ancient Indian society. Included are Sanskrit text and references of the Atharvaveda and commentary by Sayana-Acharya.

The deification of the beneficial objects is common in the Atharvaveda and in case of the herbs too, it is not different. The Atharvaveda has dealt with a large number of herbs and has introduced the varied qualities of the same. Almost all the herbs have been deified in this Veda and as the number of these herbs is very large, hence, the study of each and every herb may prolong this work. In certain references, all the herbs are addressed commonly and here too, the study is confined to the herbs in general.

All the herbs are addressed in general by the term oṣadhayaḥ [oṣadhayas],[1] the plural form of oṣadhi. Dyau is called the father of the herbs and Pṛthivī is called their mother.[2] Oceans are regarded as the root-cause of their generation.[3] For their divine origin, they are called devī.[4] It is stated about the herbs that they are created by the Atharvans, Aṅgirases and by the gods.[5] Herbs are born by the influence of the penances of the Brahmacārins.[6] They belong to the almighty Ucchiṣṭa.[7] They are called manuṣyajāḥ, i.e. created for human beings.[8] Herbs are the wives of Soma.[9] Vanaspati is the king of all the herbs.[10] Soma is also regarded as their king.[11]

Sāyaṇācārya[12] has broadly observed two types of herbs, one is grāmya and another is āraṇya. He enumerates the cultivated food-grains like Vrīhi, Yava, etc., under the grāmya division and other forest trees under the āraṇya division.[13] It is stated that gods have addressed these herbs and anointed the same with rain.[14] The herbs are germinated when it rains.[15] Hence, they are asked to be delighted with rain.[16]

Agni resides in the herbs,[17] which are manifold.[18] They are called bṛhaspatiprasūtā,[19] i.e. applied by Bṛhaspati. Such herbs are implored to cure all the diseases.[20] Along with water, herbs are eulogised to cure diseases and are urged to be propitious.[21] They are invoked to ensure the birth of a male child.[22] These herbs are earnestly extolled to release one from the curse of a Brāhmaṇa, to free one from the sin against Varuṇa, to free one from the fetter of Yama and to protect one from all the offences against gods.[23] For the protection against death also, herbs are prayed.[24]

The herbs, which are used as food are asked to be propitious to the people.[25] Such herbs are asked to be produced in varied manner[26] and are expected to be substantial.[27]

Footnotes and references:


oṣadhayaḥ sarvā vīrudhaḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid., 6.95.3


yāsāṃ dyauḥ pitā pṛthivī mātā … / Atharvaveda, 3.23.6


… samudro mūlaṃ vīrudhāṃ babhūva / Ibid.




ātharvaṇīrāṅgirasīrdaivīrmanuṣyajā uta / Ibid., 11.6.16


saṃvatsaraḥ sahartubhiste jātā brahmacāriṇaḥ / Ibid., 11.7.20


Ibid., 11.9.21


manuṣyajāḥ manuṣyebhya utpannā / Sāyaṇa, Ibid., 11.6.16


ut tvā mṛtyoroṣadhayaḥ somarājñīrapīparan / Atharvaveda, 8.1.17 somarājñīḥ somasya patnyaḥ oṣadhayo devyo / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.


… yāsāṃ rājā vanaspatiḥ / Atharvaveda, 8.7.16


yā oṣadhayaḥ somarājñīrbahvīḥ … / Ibid., 6.96.1 somarājñīḥ somaḥ amṛtayo devo rājā īśvaro yāsāṃ tāstathoktāḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.


oṣadhayaḥ vrīhiyavādyā grāmyāḥ āraṇyāstarugulmādyāḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid., 4.15.16 Also vide, Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 11.6.6


Vide, Sāyaṇa on Atharvaveda, 4.15.16


abhivṛṣṭā oṣadhayaḥ prāṇena samavādiran / Atharvaveda, 11.6.6


cf., Ibid., 11.6.16, 17


oṣadhayaḥ vrīhiyavādyā grāmyāḥ āraṇyāstarugulmādyāḥ ānandinīḥ vṛṣṭijalena harṣayuktā bhavantu / Sāyaṇa, Ibid., 4.15.16


garbho asyoṣadhīnāṃ … / Atharvaveda, 6.95.3 he agne tvam oṣadhīnām oṣaḥ pākaḥ āsu dhīyata iti oṣadhayaḥ sarvā vīrudhaḥ / tāsāṃ garbhaḥ garbhavad antaravasthitaḥ asi bhavasi / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.


… bahvīḥ … / Atharvaveda, 6.96.1


bṛhaspatiprasūtāstā … / Ibid. bṛhaspatinā devena tattadrogabhaiṣajyeṣu prasūtāḥ preritāḥ / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.


bṛhaspatiprasūtāstā no muñcantvaṃhasaḥ / Atharvaveda, 6.96.1


śaṃ no bhavantvapa oṣadhayaḥ śivāḥ / Ibid., 2.3.6


tāstvā putravidyāya daivīḥ prāvantvoṣadhayaḥ / Ibid., 3.23.6


muñcantu mā śapathyādatho varuṇyāduta / atho yamasya paḍvīśāt viśvasmād devakilbiṣāt // Ibid., 6.96.2


ut tvā mṛtyoroṣadhayaḥ somarājñīrapīpaaran / Ibid., 8.1.17


Ibid., 8.2.15


… pṛthag jāyantāṃ vīrudho viśvarūpāḥ / Ibid., 4.15.3


payasvatīroṣadhayaḥ … / Ibid., 3.24.1 oṣadhayaḥ vrīhiyavādyāḥ payasvatīḥ payasvatyaḥ sāravatyo bhavantu / Sāyaṇa, Ibid.

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