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PhD Defence

The Paippalādasaṃhitā of the Atharvaveda

  • Umberto Selva
Tuesday 11 June 2019
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

In the late 1950s, a number of manuscripts were discovered in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. They contained one of the oldest collections of Vedic texts, the Atharvaveda, dating to the late second millenium BC, in a recension, the Paippalāda, that was thought to have survived only in a very corrupt manuscript found in Kashmir roughly a century before. These new manuscripts, written in the Odia script, preserved a much more reliable text. Given the importance and the antiquity of the text, this discovery sparked the enthusiasm of Indologists, historians of religions, anthropologists and linguists eager to dive into the newly discovered material. This, however, hinged on the production of a philologically reliable critical edition of the text. Umberto Selva’s dissertation is a further step in this direction: it focuses on three sections from the 17th book of the collection, containing a variety of material in both poetry and prose: from magical spells to exorcise demons who threaten birthing women and children, to curses against enemies, and remedies against nightmares. One section in particular illustrates a ritual observance consisting in the imitation of the behaviour of a bull, a practice that can be traced back to prehistoric Indo-European cultural models and that was re-elaborated by the Pāśupatas, the earliest-known ascetic sect devoted to the god Śiva. The edition is equipped with a critical apparatus, a translation and a commentary that discusess philological problems and attempts at an interpretation.


  • Prof. A.M. Lubotsky
  • Prof. A. Consolaro (Università degli Studi di Torino)


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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