The Gopatha Brāhmana is the only extant Brāhmaṇa of the Atharvaveda. This work is not as ancient as the other three Vedas. Sage Gopatha composed this work between 2000 B. C. to 1000 B.C. He is one of the sages belonging to the Pippalāda branch in the Atharvaveda, who probably resided in the Madhyadeśa (middle part of India).
This Brāhmaṇa has two parts:
- The Purva-Gopatha – It has five prapāṭhakas (chapters) and a total of 135 kaṇḍikās.
- The Uttara-Gopatha – It has six prapāṭhakas and 123 kaṇḍikās. Each kaṇḍikā has five to six long sentences. The text starts with a description of creation from Brahman which alone existed in the beginning. This creation started with water. From the water, the sages like Bhṛgu, Atharvan and the ten Ātharvaṇa sages evolved.
The other topics that appear in this Brāhmaṇa include:
- Descriptions of Oṅkāra and Gāyatrī
- Details regarding the rules of brahmacharya, which is usually spread over twelve years, needed for the study of the Vedas
- Duties of the four main priests in Vedic sacrifices
- Descriptions of sacrifices like Agnyādhāna, Agnihotra, Darśapurṇa- māsa, Sattra, Āgrayaṇa, Paśubandha, Rājasuya, Vājapeya, Aśvamedha, Sarpamedha
- Many mantras of the Ṛigveda
- The imposition of stringent rules (considered to be new in this work) on the Brāhmaṇas like prohibiting them from learning music and dancing
- The Uttara-Gopatha Brāhmana bans receiving dakṣiṇā in sacrifice
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