Urvasi, the Apsara

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Probably the most famous Apsara.


1) Birth of Urvasi.

In days of old two hermits named Nara and Narayana did penance to Brahma in the holy hermitage of Badarika for a thousand years. (Nara and Narayana were the children born to Dharma, the son of Brahma). Because of the severity of their penance Indra was struck with fear hhinking that they were doing this severe penance with a view to become Indra, he approached the hermits and told them that they might ask for any boon. Even though Indra told them several times, they did not speak a word nor did they make any stir. Indra’s fear increased. So Indra decided to create some delusions which would arouse in them fear, desire etc., so that their penance might be broken.

He began to bring around them wild animals such as lion, elephant wild snake etc. and natural phenomena such as storm, heavy rain, forest-fire etc. to terrify them. The efforts of Indra were futile. The disappointed Indra sent for Kamadeva and consulted him, as a result of which Kamadeva and his wife Ratidevi with many celestial maids came to the hermitage in the mountain of Gandhamadana with the intention of hindering the penance of Nara Narayana. The season of spring was created in the forest. The celestial women such as Rambha and others came before the hermits and began to sing and dance. The hearts of the hermits began to swell with passion. When they opened their eyes what they saw was a beautiful sight. The famous #Apsara, Menaka, Rambha, Tilottama, Sukesini, Manorama, Mahevari, Puspagandha, Pramadvara, Ghrtaci, Candraprabha, Soma, Vidyunmala, Ambujaksi, Kancanamala, and others with their ten thousand and eighty hand-maids stood before them.

Hermit Naravana who got terribly angry struck on his thigh with his hand and instantly there arose a woman of extreme beauty. Because she had originated from the #Uru (#thigh) of Narayana, that woman, who was the most beautiful in the three worlds, got the name Urvasi. All the others were struck with wonder at the sight of this new creation. After that so many other beautiful women also were created. The, hermit Narayana gave all of them to Indra. With shame Indra accepted them and returned to heaven along with them. Thus Urvasi arrived at the realm of the devas.

(Devi Bhagavata, Skandha 4).


2) Position of #Urvasi.

It is mentioned in Mahabharata that Urvasi had the eleventh place among the singers. The expert dancers were Anucana, Adrika, Somakesi, Misra, Alambusa, Marici, Sucika, Vidyutparna, Tilottama, Ambika, Ksema, Rambha, Subahu, Asita, Supriya, Pundarika, Sugandha, Surasa, Pramathini, Kamya and Saradvati.

Urvasi got the first place among the celestial maids in beauty.

(Maha-bharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 123).


3) Urvasi and Pururava.

Pururavas was the son of Budha born of Ila. He grew up and became a king of great renown. His fame reached even the realm of the gods.

One day during that period Brahma cursed Urvasi. “Go and be born on the earth.” (It is stated in the Devi Bhagavata that it was Brahma who cursed Urvarsi and in the Bhagavata that it was the Mitravarunas who cursed Urvasi).

Urvasi had heard about the fame of Pururavas and had felt tender love for him. The celestial maid reached the earth. She went to the palace of Pururavas and saw him. Because of the perfection of their figures, both loved mutually. The king asked her to become his wife. She agreed. But she laid down three conditions.

(i) I have with me two lambs which I bring up as my sons. You must take care of them. No harm should befall them.

(ii) I take in only ghee. On no account should you compel me to eat any other food.

(iii) Don’t come near me in nudity except at the time of coition.

The king agreed to all these conditions. From that day onwards Urvasi lived in the palace of the king as his wife. They lived happily for a long while without separating from each other.


Urvasi became conspicuous by her absence in the realm of the gods. She was the most expert actress in heaven.

Indra missed her.

So a search was made and they found out that she was in the palace of Pururavas. Indra asked the Gandharvas to bring that celestial woman to heaven somehow. Visvavasu and some others of the Gandharvas reached the palace of king Pururavas and waited for an opportunity. One midnight they stole the lambs and took them away through the sky. At that time the king was with Urvasi in the harem. Urvasi heard the cry of the lambs and she was flurried. She reviled the king who was not capable of taking care of two lambs. Hearing her harsh words the king took his bow and arrow and following the cry of the lambs he was about to chase the thieves. Taking this opportunity the Gandharvas caused a lightning to flash in the king’s harem. In the light of the lightning Urvasi saw the king standing nude. The Gandharvas having achieved their task had left the lambs and departed before the king hod got out of the room. The king caught hold of the lambs and returned to the harem, within a short while. But Urvasi had gone out of the palace and was on her way.


The king was full of grief. He wandered all over the country in search of Urvasi. At last he reached Kuruksetra and saw Urvasi there. He bowed low before her and implored her to return to the palace. But Urvasi replied thus:-

“Women are like wolves. Don’t have alliance with them Oh King! Kings should not put faith in women and thieves.”

Saying thus, Urvasi vanished.

(Devi Bhagavata, Skandha 1) .



4) The reason why Pururavas had to remain separate from Urvasi.


Pururavas had once gone to heaven, in accordance with the invitation of Indra to help the Gods in the battle with the asuras. Indra had killed Mayadhara, a noble Asura that battle and had celebrated a festival.

In that festival Rambha was dancing before Tumburu, the sage-priest, and detecting some flaw in her dance Pururavas teased her. Rambha retorted by asking the King what he knew about dance, and the king replied that he had learned from Urvasi more dance than Tumburu the teacher of Rambha. Tumburu got angry at this, and cursed the king Pururavas to suffer from the pangs of separation from Urvasi. Stricken with grief, Pururavas returned to his palace. It was after this that the Gandharvas took away Urvasi. Pururavas went to Badarikasrama and performed penance, meditating on God Visnu for the nullification of the curse.

Urvasi, aggrieved by separation from her husband, sat motionless as a picture, in the custody of the Gandharvas.

Lord Visnu was pleased with the penance of Pururavas. The Gandharvas brought her back to the King. Thus it became possible for the king to meet Urvasi at least once a year.

(Kathasaritsagara, Lavanakalambaka, Taranga 1).



5) The sons born to Pururavas by Urvasi.

The king became very sad when Urvasi was about to depart from him at Kuruksetra. Seeing his grief Urvasi told him.

“Oh King, if you want so much to live with me, you have to worship the Gandharvas. They will be pleased and will give me to you. Don’t be sorry. Now I am pregnant. Come to this place at the end of a year. We can spend that night together. Then we will get another son also that night.”

Pleased at what Urvasi had said, the king returned to his palace.

On completion of a year Pururavas went to Kuruksetra and spent a night with Urvasi.

Urvasi gave Pururavas a very beautiful child and then she vanished. The king sat there and praised the Gandharvas, who gave the king an #Agnisthali (a fire pot). Because of his derangement, thinking it to be Urvasi the king took the sthali (pot) and wandered about in the forest. At last placing the pot in the forest, the king returned to his palace. On that day Tretayuga (one of the four ages of the word,) commenced, and the Vedas dawned in his mind as three in number. He returned to the place where he had left the Sthali in the forest and took it. After that he made two #aranis (wood from which fire is kindled by attrition) out of a banyan tree and placed his body between them and made fire. That fire is called Jatavedas. Thus jatavedas became the son of Purtaravas.


Pururavas generated three fires from #Jatavedas. The first of them is Pranava. The second is called Narayana and the third Agnivarna.

(Srimad Bhagavata, 9th Skandha).


To Pururavas six sons were born from the womb of Urvasi. They were Ayus, Srutayus, Satyayus, Raya, Vijaya and Jaya. (A little difference is observed in these names in the Mahabharata, Adi Parva, Chapter 75, Stanzas 24 and 25) .



6) To know how a Gandharva named Durmada and a Vidyadhari named Unmada played a trick on Pururavas and Urvasi, see under Unmada.



7) How Agastya and Vasistha were born to Mitravarunas because of Urvasi.

In days of old there was a renowned king named Nimi in the family of Iksvaku. He decided to perform a sacrifice of a long duration. He began preparation and invited famous hermits such as Bhrgu, Angiras, Vamadeva, Pulastya, Pulaha, Rcika and others. Finally he invited Vasistha. At that time Indra had begun another sacrifice in heaven. So Vasistha went to heaven for that sacrifice, telling Nimi that he would conduct the sacrifice on his return. The emperor Nimi did not like it. Recognizing the hermit Gautama as the main priest, he began performing the sacrifice. The sacrifice of Indra lasted for 500 years. When Vasistha returned after that, the sacrifice of Nimi was over. Vasistha cursed Nimi. “You will become devoid of body.” Nimi cursed back. “Let Vasistha also become thus.”


The aggrieved Vasistha went to his father Brahma and complained about the curse. Brahma told Vasistha. “You penetrate the brightness of Mitravarunas and stay there. In due course you will get a birth which is not of a womb.”

Hearing these words, Vasistha reached the hermitage of Mitra Varunas. He left his body there and fused himself into their effulgence. During this period Urvasi came to that hermitage. Seeing her, Mitravarunas had seminal flow. The semen fell in a pot. From the pot two bright and handsome sons were born. The first of them was Agastya and the second Vasistha.

(Devi Bhagavata, Skandha 8).



8) Indra cursing Urvasi.

Once Agastya went to the durbar of Indra. On the occasion Indra asked Urvasi to dance. In the midst of the dance she saw Jayanta, the son of Indra, and became amorous and her steps went wrong. Narada who was playing his famous lute called Mahati could not play well. Agastya got angry and cursed Jayanta to become a bud. He cursed Narada also. So his lute became the lute of the world.

Urvasi i born on the -earth under the name Madhavi due to the curse.



9) Urvasi changing Arjuna into eunuch. (See under Arjuna).



10) Other information.


(i) It is mentioned in Mahabharata, Sabha Parva, Chapter 10, Stanza 11, that Urvasi had been in love with Kuvera once.


(ii) Urvasi was dismayed when Sukadeva attained Supreme Bliss. (See under Suka).





Indra, the king of the Devas, according to his innate character thought that Nara and Narayana wanted to overthrow him and rule over the heaven.


So he sent Apsaras (nymphs) to disturb the two saints with sexual passion.


Seeing the Apsaras, Narayana placed a flower in his thigh and immediately sprung from it a voluptuous nymph whose charms far excelled those nymphs sent by Indra.


Since this beautiful nymph came out of the thigh she was called Urvasi. 







Indra, the king of the Devas, according to his innate character thought that Nara and Narayana wanted to overthrow him and rule over the heaven.

So he sent Apsaras (nymphs) to disturb the two saints with sexual passion.

Seeing the Apsaras, Narayana placed a flower in his thigh and immediately sprung from it a voluptuous nymph whose charms far excelled those nymphs sent by Indra.

Since this beautiful nymph came out of the thigh she was called Urvasi. 



#Urvasi, meaning of the word:





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