Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

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Read about Gandharvas at Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Mythica.

GANDHARVA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] The `heavenly Gandharva' of the Veda was a deity who knew and revealed the secrets of heaven and divine truths in general. He is thought by Goldstucker to have been a personification of the fire of the sun.

The Gandharvas generally had their dwelling in the sky or atmosphere, and one of their offices was to prepare the heavenly soma juice for the gods. They had a great partiality for women, and had a mystic power over them. The Atharvaveda speaks of "the 6333 Gandharvas."

The Gandharvas of later times are similar in character; they have charge of the soma, are skilled in medicine, regulate the asterisms, and are fond of women. Those of Indra's heaven are generally intended by the term, and they are singers and musicians who attend the banquets of the gods.

The Puranas give contradictory accounts of the origin of the Gandharvas. The Vishnu Purana says, in one place, that they were born from Brahma, "imbibing melody. Drinking of the goddess of speech (gam dhayantah), they were born, and thence their appellation." Later on it says that they were the offspring of Kasyapa and his wife Arishta. The Harivansa states that they sprang from Brahma's nose, and also that they were descended from Muni, another of Kasyapa's wives.

Chitraratha was chief of the Gandharvas; and the Apsarases were their wives or mistresses. The "cities of the Gandharvas" are often referred to as being very splendid.

The Vishnu Purana has a legend of the Gandharvas fighting with the Nagas in the infernal regions, whose dominions they seized and whose treasures they plundered. The Naga chiefs appealed to Vishnu for relief, and he promised to appear in the person of Purukutsa to help them. Thereupon the Nagas sent their sister Narmada (the Nerbudda river) to this Purukutsa, and she conducted him to the regions below, where he destroyed the Gandharvas.

They are sometimes called Gatus and Pulakas. In the Mahabharata, apparently, a race of people dwelling in the hills and wilds is so called.

Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM