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Apsarases in Indian Literature and the Legend of Urvasi and Pururavas

by: Krishna Kanta Handique

Indian literature abounds in a variety of myths and legends narrating allegorical/historical stories with moral teachings where celestial or semi-celestial beings, in particular the apsarases, occupy an important place. The work examines the origin and development of the institution of apsarases and their characteristics as described in the vast corpus of Vedic, Epic-Puranic and classical works, with a thorough study of the depiction of the legend of the Urvasi and Pururavas.

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ISBN: 9788186921166
Year Of Publication: 2001
Edition: 1st
Pages : xiii; 201
Bibliographic Details : Appendices; Bibliography; Index
Language : English
Binding : Hardcover
Publisher: Decent Books
Size: 23 cm.
Weight: 500

Overview

Indian literature abounds in a variety of myths and legends narrating allegorical/historical stories with moral teachings where celestial or semi-celestial beings, in particular the apsarases, occupy an important place. Of such legends, a few have become much popular and they reappear in the course of the history of literature at various stages. One such legend is that of Urvashi and Pururavas which is one of the most ancient legends of India, owing its origin to the Rigveda. This scholarly work, based on extensive original sources — primary, comprising ancient Sanskrit texts, commentaries and glosses and modern literary pieces, kavyas and plays, as well as critical writings on these original works, studies the origin and development of the institution of apsarases and their characteristics as described in the vast corpus of Vedic, Epic-Puranic and classical works. In this context, it undertakes an interesting survey of the concept of nymphs (apsarases) in Indo-European, especially Greek mythology. Dr. Handique then thoroughly examines the depiction of the legend of Urvashi and Pururavas — a favourite theme that has been immortalised in literary masterpieces in Indian literature as a whole: from the ancient Vedas and Puranas, the Harivamsha and Vikramorvashiyam to modern works like Urvashi Janani and Abhishapta Urvashi and stray poetic pieces. Presenting a new angle to the study, the book attempts to explore aspects of an age old tradition that bears close affinity with the institution of the apsarases in terms of mode of living worship and ideals — like system of the devadasis. The book will prove invaluable to scholars of Indian mythology, culture and literature as well as interest general readers of ancient India’s legends and tales.

Contents

Preface
Abbreviations
1. Introduction
Sources of Our Study
Vedic — The Two Epics — Classical Sanskrit Works — Modern Works: (Selected Works in Assamese, Bengali and Hindi Only)
Method and Approach
Summary of the Present Work
Part I
Apsarases in Indian Literature
2. Origin and Development of Apsarases
Origin of the Nymphs in Indo-European Literature
Characteristics of Nymphs
Apsarases Relation with the Gandharvas
Origin of the nymphs or Apsarases in Indian Literature
Apsarases in the Ramayana: Post-Vedic Period
Various Legends of the Apsarases in the Ram — Rambha and Vishvamitra — Natural Role of the Apsarases — Apsarases Role in the Hermitage of Bharadvaja — Episode of Viradha — Mandakini and Pancapsarases — Punjikasthala: Mother of Hanuman — Reference to Ghritaci and Vishvamitra — Places Infested by the Apsarases — Hema — Hema: Mother of Mandodari — Story of Rishyashringa — Story of Shabari — Rambha and Ravana — Ravana’s Recollections — Role of the Nymphs in the Battlefield — Hermitage of Trinavindu — Lanka: Abode of Nymphs — Prayer of Hanuman — Songs of Nymphs in the Ashoka Garden — Gandhakali — Critical Appreciation
The Apsarases in the Mahabharata
Pramadvara — Matsya and Satyavati — Menaka and Vishvamitra — Gautama and Janapadi — Tilottama — The Apsarases in the Devasabhkas — The Apsarases in the Court of Kubera — Ghritaci and the Sage Bharadvaja — Arjuna and the Apsarases — Abode of the Apsarases
The Apsarases in the Puranas
The Apsarases in the Vayu Purana — The Apsarases in the Vishnu Purana — The Apsarases in the Bhagavata Purana — The Apsarases in the Agni Purana and Garuda Purana — The Apsarases in the Vamana Purana — The Apsarases in the Padma Purana — The Apsarases in the Markandeya Purana — The Apsarases in the Brahmavaivartta Purana — The Apsarases in the Brahma and Matsya Puranas — The Apsarases in the Harivamsha Purana — The Apsarases in the Linga Purana — The Apsarases in the Kalika Purana — The Apsarases in the Devi Bhagavata
Apasarases in the Katha Literature
The Apsarases in the Katha-Sarit-Sagara
Alambusha — Tilottama — Ruru and Pramadvara

Part II
Legend of Urvashi and Pururavas
3. Legend of Urvashi and Pururavas in Vedic Literature
The Dialogue Hymn of the RV, 10, 95
Urvashi and Pururavas in the YV
Urvashi: One of the Female Seers of the Vedic Mantras
Urvashi Pururavas: Akhyana Theory
The Legend is an Allegory
The Dramatic Element in the Legend
A Love Legend
Analysis of the Word ‘Urvashi’ and ‘Pururavas’
Urvashi and Pururavas in Brihaddevata
Urvashi and Pururavas in Nitimanjari
Urvashi and Pururavas in Vedarthadipika
4. The Legend of Urvashi and Pururavas in the Post-Vedic Period
Urvashi and Pururavas in Ramayana
Urvashi and Pururavas in the Mahabharata
Urvashi and Rishyashringa — Urvashi‘s Role in the Courts of Kubera and Indra — Urvashi and Arjuna in the Indraloka — Urvashi and Shuka
Urvashi and Pururavas in the Puranas
Urvashi and Pururavas in the Vayu Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Matsya Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Vishnu Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Bhagavata Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Vamana Purana — Birth Story of Urvashi in the Devi Bhagavata — Critical Appreciation of the Vamana and the Devi Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Brahma Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Padma Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Skanda Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Agni Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Varaha Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Kurma Purana — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Garuda Purana — The Story of Vasishtha and Agastya in the Matsya Purana — Urvashi’s Role in the Circle of the Sun — Urvashi and Pururavas in the Harivamsha
Pururavas and Urvashi in the Katha-Sarit-Sagara
Pururavas and Urvashi in the Upapuranas
Pururavas and Urvashi in the Kalika Purana — Pururavas and Urvashi in the Vaishnava Upapuranas — Pururavas and Urvashi: Vishnudharmottara Purana — Urvashi: The Model of Art of Painting — Urvashi in the Saura Purana
Urvashi in the Holy Places
Urvashi in the Fairy Tales
Urvashi Incarnation of Durga
Urvashi and Pururavas in Vikramorvarshiyam of Kalidasa — Deviation and Innovation brought about by Kalidasa
5. Legend of Urvashi and Pururavas in Modern Literature
Urvashi Janani
Urvashi: Ramdhari Singh Dinakar
Abishapta Urvashi
6. Urvashi and Devadasis
Temples and Devadasis
Citrangada
Devadasi: Profession Prevailed in Kerala
Evidence of Devadasis and Shiva Temples
Devadasi and Shankaradeva
Yogini Tantra and Devadasis
Ahom Queen Phuleshvari was originally a Devadasis
The origin of Bharat Natyam
Madhava Kandali’s Ramayana
Devadasi: A Holy Tradition
Devadasi: Social Evils and Indian Women
Devadasi: Source Hailed from Western countries
7. Conclusion
Appendix I
Appendix II
Bibliography
Index

Meet the Author
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1944
Dr. Krishna Kanta Handique is a reputed scholar of Sanskrit and folk literature who has presented research papers and represented the country in world conferences. His published works are Dvatrishaputtalika, Nagananda, Drama by Shriharsha, Uduyana: Vasavadutta and Bohe Brahmadaka Bhedi.
Books of Krishna Kanta Handique