Atharvaveda Samhita, the fourth of the Vedas, is regarded to be the last. The Vedas are generally referred to as the "trayi-Vidya" or the three-fold knowledge, signifying Rigveda, Yajurveda and Samveda. It means that Atharvaveda was later addition and in the beginning there were only three Vedas. But certainly some of the hymns of Atharvaveda must have been as old a those of the Rigveda. They belong to the same pre-historic past as do the oldest mantras of Rigveda. It is quite possible that a majority of hymns of Atharvaveda were composed and complied relatively later after the example of Rigveda. But the mention of "trayi-Vidya" or triple knowledge and the exclusion of Atharvaveda or its non-mention never means the neglect, hostility or discrimination against. Being of late origin Atharvaveda holds the fourth place. First "trayi-Vidya" is mentioned and then Atharvaveda, and sometimes it is even passed over. There is no conflict or contradiction between the life and ideas presented by the first three Vedas and the Atharvaveda Samhita. They represent the two aspects of the same life and civilization. The three Vedas deal with the gods and future life of man and Atharvaveda deals with the present, the life in this world. It is concerned with man, his practical problems, protection from the enemy, politics and day-to-day welfare. It has rightly been observed that the aim of Atharvaveda is "to appease, to bless and to curse".
But it is not the whole truth. Atharvaveda is also highly philosophical. The three Vedas are not so deeply concerned with the problem of Absolute as is the Atharvaveda. Its special significance in term of its intimacy with the problem of Absolute can hardly be over emphasized. On account of its sublime theosophical contents, Atharvaveda deserves our highest respect and consideration. Because it contains the large number of highly philosophic hymns dealing explicitly or implicitly with the Absolute or Brahma, Atharvaveda is also known as Brahmaveda, absolute is the ultimate goal where every individual soul wants to reach. This signifies the real self-realization, the knowers of the Brahma know that the Absolute or the Self is ever wise, satisfies, self-existent, free from all desires, never deficient, unaging, immortal and ever young. Such persons are never afraid of death. These cosmogonic and highly philosophical hymns belong to the latest sections of the Book.
Atharvaveda means the books of Atharvans. Atharvans or Angiras were a class of highly intellectual priests who are reputed to be the first to have instituted the fire-worship, and Soma sacrifice. They were the earliest teachers of that Brahama-Vidya. As the authors of Atharvaveda Samhita, they were known as Atharvangiras or simply Angiras. Sage Atharva was the son of rishi Bhrigu and Bhrigu of Brahma himself. Atharvan had twenty sons and therefore this Veda is divided into twenty books, these Books or Mandalas contain seven hundred thirty-one hymns and more than six thousand verses. The last two books has almost entirely been additions. The twentieth book has almost entirely been transplanted here from Rigveda. Similarly book fifteenth and sixteenth are doubtful from chronological point of view and are obviously later inter-plantations. On the whole the one-seventh of the Atharvaveda is taken from Rigveda Samhita. It presents a mixture of verse and prose, for example, the book fifteen is totally in prose and the major portion of book sixteenth is a prose composition. Thus books one to thirteen only are characteristically most Atharvanic, and the rest correspond to the various hymns of Rigveda Samhita.
Atharvaveda foreshadows the later Agma and Tantra literature. It presents the secular and intellectual aspects of our ancient culture. The term "atharvan" designated intellection from the very beginning. It contains several hymns highly intellectual and philosophical in their contents and significance, it deals chiefly with the practical side of life, with man, his protection and security, destruction of the enemies, the use of magic charms, formulas, amulets and herbs for removing diseases, evil omens, funerals and the like. Some of Atharvaveda's magic songs form the highest lyrical poetry ever composed. The great importance of Atharvaveda Samhita lies in the act that it remains one of our riches heritages representing the mundane, secular, philosophical and intellectual aspects of our ancient life and culture, all rolled into one.