Love Songs in the Atharva veda

Abstract: The paper looks into the symbolisms found in the love songs in Atharva Veda. The aspects of change in the idea of love between man and woman ever since their growth towards urbanisation are considered. Relation between love and the religious view or philosophical perspective of the society are confronted. Challenges of mental power with relation to religion are also drawn to a close study.

Keywords: Atharva Veda, love songs, physical love, mental power, religious philosophy

As man becomes more cultured and refined, he moves away from nature and towards artificiality. And this distance from nature seems to keep him away from purity and reality too. In the process, he starts to scoff at normal and natural behaviour. For instance, the love between man and woman is a natural phenomenon but most of the ancient philosophies and religions appear to ignore this truth. It is as if love is another name of sin. The story about Adam and Eve is a good example of this mentality.

In Indian philosophy too, the situation is not very different. Vedic literature is considered to be the repository of the oldest philosophy of the Indian subcontinent. This literature has always been seen as highly philosophical, without any earthy touch. It is an irony that a culture, which has produced a whole book on the science and art of love, is not able to accept reality. Human life cannot be imagined without love. In fact, in the early stages, man could survive only because of this ability to love. Of course, human love is not oriented towards sex alone. Social harmony, family bond and attachment to life and life-oriented things are also part of love. For man/woman, love is such a dominant emotion that it gives him/her great strength to overcome every difficulty with relative ease.

Love includes physical and mental feelings. It is true that emotional response is a characteristic of human beings alone. Most other creatures are attracted to each other only physically. This may be the reason why in human society, sex-oriented love is not accepted uncritically. Love is the fact and reality of life and is necessary for the existence of the world. The human race cannot continue to exist without physical love. For making it viable, physical love has to be combined with emotions. In this case, the best form of love is a good combination of physical and emotional relationship. That is what we see in most love songs in the folk tradition.

However, in the traditional or conventional reading of these songs, there has been an attempt on the part of the so-called elitist scholars and academics to ignore this aspect and concentrate on the purely emotional aspects. Cut off from their physical basis, these emotions tend to become drained of reality and the result is that excessive emphasis is laid on the spiritual dimension. This is an unhealthy approach towards our philosophy or religion or culture.

It is in this light that we now read and analyze the love songs in the Vedas. Contrary to the popular assumption that Vedas are not connected to everyday life in this world, we have to look at them as total expressions of human reality, instead of isolating the spiritual or the metaphysical. The famous nasadiya sukta of Rig Veda talks about kama (passion) as a power of tadeka (supreme God). It says that long before the universe originated there was nothing in existence; neither truth nor untruth, not even space or sky, death or amrita or night or day. In that airless situation there was the existence of the supreme God. Besides him, there was only apraketa salila (non-creative water), which too was covered by darkness.

The supreme God collected his mental power and, with the force of passion, gave birth to kama. Kama was the cause of this world. It was the mental power of the supreme God (manaso retah). The Atharva Veda accepted this theory and gave it an expanded meaning as well. Kama is not only passion, but an understanding, a friendly behaviour and a mutual understanding which induces friendship between human beings. It is strength and will power as well. It is the supreme emotion, from which earthy love or passion has originated. In this case, Kama is the giver and kama is the taker as well. In the 9th chapter of the Atharva Veda, kama is worshipped as a deity, which can give power. It can then protect man from enemies. It is greater than any other power. In fact, it is the only power that can create all the human beings.

There are many hymns in the Atharva Veda, where love in its physical earthy form is described. Love between lovers, between husband and wife, their passion and excitement are described in a manner that is closer to the tradition of folk songs. A man falls in love with a woman and he searches for oushadh, the sweet medicine, which can make him sweet-natured and thus attract ‘woman towards him. While using this medicine, he sings:


O madhu, sweet herb

No sweeter, sweetest herb

Born in the sweet spring month,

O Sweet-growing medicine!

I dig you for sweetness.

You are sweet, make me also sweet,

Make the tip of my tongue sweet

Make the root of my tongue sweet.

May my words be sweet

May my thoughts be so sweet

That she worships my mind.

May my coming and going become sweet

May my sitting and standing also become sweet.

O sweet herb! You look beautiful

On the trees in the jungle.

Let me too become equally sweet.

Encase us in love, sugarcane-sweet

So that my beloved lingers

And goes not away from me

O sweet, sweeter medicine!

Make me sweet, for my beloved!

Atharva Veda-1.34.1,2,3,4,5


As the wind blows

on the earth

and churns every straw

I too churn the mind of my beloved.

O beloved, remain my lady-love

become my beloved

never permit distance between us.

O Azwin twins!

We lovers should walk together

live together

move forward together

with the feeling of togetherness

with the togetherness of hearts.

As the arrow hits the golden bird

may my love-arrow also hit

the heart of my beloved.

Her feelings should flow out

outer love should enter within.

In outer and inner love, everywhere

I see my beloved’s cosmic form.

See, my beloved has come

With eagerness for her lover.

I too come, galloping like a horse.

Our love should become happy

our relationship, beautiful

heart should merge with heart

body with body.

Atharva Veda.2.30. 1,2,3,4,5


O beloved!

Let your mind follow mine

end stay under my command

as a horse, controlled by the rider.

O beloved! I hold your attention

as a keeper holds his horse with reins.

our mind should turn around mine

as straw spins in strong wind.

O beautiful woman,

I massage the paste of

anjana, mayugha, kushtha and nalad on you

with my hands, with tenderness.

Atharva Veda 6. 102,1-3


O sahasraparni!

Remover of ill luck

Bestower of good luck

You grow

Spreading a hundred branches upward

thirty-three branches downward.

O beloved!

With a thousand leaves

I dry up your heart

Let your heart and mouth dry up

In my love.

The yellow-petalled bearer of luck

That looks beautiful in the jungle

Draws her heart towards mine

And welds them together.

As a man’s lips grow parched with thirst

Let her mouth go dry, with passion.

As a mongoose severs a snake and joins the pieces

Let this oushadh knit together our separate hearts.

Atharva Veda. 6.139.1-5


I am digging out this oushadh

With tears in my eyes

Let me see my lover

Let him, who has gone, come back.

This Asuri medicine

Made Indra

Control all deities.

I use the same medicine

To gain control over you.

Let me warn you, promise not to me alone

Promise to the entire court

You will remain always mine

And never praise anyone else.

If you leave me

Or a river separate us

This medicine will bring you back bound

And keep us together.

Atharva Veda . 7.38.1-5


(marriage songs)

Let our eyes see beauty.

You should keep me in your heart

I shall keep yours in mine

And each will be in sync with the other.

Let our faces shine

You should keep me in your heart

I shall keep yours in mine

And each will be in sync with the other.

Atharva Veda. 7.36.1


I am digging this powerful


So that my co-wife falls into trouble

And I get back

my husband.

O beautiful medicine

O giver of luck

With high leaves

You are worshipped by all deities

Make me. strong.

So that my co-wife runs away

And my husband remains only mine.

I will not mouth your name

Be not friendly to my man

O co-wife, go away

Don’t come back.

Let me grow from strength to strength

And let my co-wife fall

Lower than the lowest.

O oushadh,

Destroyer of enemies

Give me strength

By your power, to control my co-wife.

As a cow pursues its calf

As water rushes to the shore

Let your mind, o my husband

Come back to me.

Atharva Veda. 3. 16. 1-6.


RATI SAXENA. Eminent Hindi poet, translator and Sanskrit scholar. She has authored three collections of poems in Hindi and one each in English and Malayalam, (in translation). Among the several awards she has received, the most coveted is the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for Translation in 2000.

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Eminent Hindi poet, translator and Sanskrit scholar. She has authored three collections of poems in Hindi and one each in English and Malayalam, (in translation). Among the several awards she has received, the most coveted is the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award for Translation in 2000.

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