Apsaras, aka: Apsarā, Apsara, Ap-sara; 10 Definition(s)
Apsaras means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.
Apsaras (अप्सरस्).—* An Apsaras is a nymph (devastrī). These apsarā women were born at the churning of the ocean of Milk. (Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Bālakāṇḍa, Chapter 45, Verse 32 and Viṣṇu Purāṇa, Part I, Chapter 9 and Agni Purāṇa, Chapter 3). There are thousands of Apsaras. (Details given against the names of Apsaras).
*) Ariṣṭhā, a wife of Kaśyapa, delivered thirteen Apsaras. They were: Alambuṣā, Miśrakeśī, Vidyutparṇā, Tilottamā, Rakṣitā, Rambhā, Manoramā, Keśinī, Subāhu, Surajā, Suratā and Supriyā. Ariṣṭhā gave birth also to four Gandharvas, Hāhā, Hūhū, Atibāhu and Tumburu as mentioned in the following verse.
"ariṣṭāsūta subhagādevī devarṣitaḥ purā alambuṣā miśrakeśī vidyutparṇā tilottamā aruṇā rakṣitā caiva rambhā tadvat manoramā keśinī ca subāhuśca vikhyatau ca hahāhuhū tumburuśceti catvāraḥ smṛtāḥ gandharvasattamāḥ."(Source): archive.org: Puranic Encyclopaedia
Apsara (अप्सर).—Divine dancers born of Muni and Kaśyapa. Joined Gandharvas in milking the cow Earth; worship Barhiṣad pitṛs. Love sports with Gandharvas over the Himalayas.1 A group of celestial women who often go to Mount Kailāsa.2 Thirty-four3 wait on Indra.4 Joined the gods in offering prayers to Hari.5 Take their origin from the sportful motion of Hari.6 Danced at the avatār of Kṛṣṇa.7 Went to Dvāraka with gods and prayed for the return of Hari to Vaikuṇṭha.8 Their association with the wise and the righteous.9 Welcome Kṛṣṇa back to his own region.10 Were asked by Indra to obstruct the completion of Mārkaṇḍeya's tapas.11 Dance in front of the Sun god and move with him by turns.12 Live in Meru: Kāmadeva was their overlord;13 born on earth as 16000 gopis during Kṛṣṇa's avatāra;14 sprung from the churning of the ocean;15 strew fired grain at the conquering tour of Lalitā.16 Fourteen birth spots for them distinguished.17 Once when the Apsaras ladies, all daughters of Agni, were engaged in water sports in Mānasa, there came Nārada. Without saluting him they asked him how to attain the Lord as husband. He gave them a vrata but cursed that they would be separated from the Lord and become slaves of robbers; became the rekhas on the body of Vāmana.18
- 1) Matsya-purāṇa 6. 45; 10. 24; 15. 3; 22. 59; 120. 1.
- 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 1. 36; IV. 6. 9.
- 3) Vāyu-purāṇa 69. 4; 101. 28.
- 4) Bhāgavata-purāṇa VI. 7. 4.
- 5) Ib. VII. 8. 38.
- 6) Ib. VIII. 5. 40.
- 7) Ib. X. 3. 6; 4. 11.
- 8) Ib. XI. 6. 3.
- 9) Ib. XI. 12. 3.
- 10) Ib. XI. 31. 2.
- 11) Ib. XII. 8. 16.
- 12) Ib. XII. 11. 47; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 23. 27 and 50.
- 13) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 15. 49; III. 8. 15; 7. 25-26.
- 14) Ib. III. 71. 243-4; IV. 2. 26.
- 15) Bhāgavata-purāṇa VIII. 8. 7.
- 16) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 18. 9.
- 17) Ib. IV. 33. 18-25.
- 18) Matsya-purāṇa 70. 21-5; 246. 54.
The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.
Natyashastra (theatrics and dramaturgy)
Apsara (अप्सर) is a Sanskrit word referring to “celestial nymphs”. Acording to the Nāṭyaśāstra 1.82-88, when Brahmā, Indra and all other gods went to inspect the playhouse (nāṭyamaṇḍapa) designed by Viśvakarmā, he assigned different deities for the protection of the playhouse itself, as well as for the objects relating to dramatic performance (prayoga).
As such, Brahmā assigned the Apsaras to its rooms (gallery, śālā). The protection of the playhouse was enacted because of the jealous Vighnas (malevolent spirits), who began to create terror for the actors.(Source): Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra
Natyashastra (नाट्यशास्त्र, nāṭyaśāstra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition (śāstra) of performing arts, (nāṭya, e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nataka) and poetic works (kavya).
Itihasa (narrative history)
Apsarā (अप्सरा) refers to the name of a Lady mentioned in the Mahābhārata (cf. I.59.47, I.65, I.59.7, I.65, I.61.93). Note: The Mahābhārata (mentioning Apsarā) is a Sanskrit epic poem consisting of 100,000 ślokas (metrical verses) and is over 2000 years old.(Source): JatLand: List of Mahabharata people and places
Itihasa (इतिहास, itihāsa) refers to ‘epic history’ and represents a branch of Sanskrit literature which popularly includes 1) the eighteen major Puranas, 2) the Mahabharata and 3) the Ramayana. It is a branch of Vedic Hinduism categorised as smriti literature (‘that which is remembered’) as opposed to shruti literature (‘that which is transmitted verbally’).
General definition (in Hinduism)
The Apsaras are celestial nymphs, the dancers in the court of Indra, the king of the Devas. All of them are extremely beautiful and skilled in both dance and music. They occur in persian mythology also, but there, they are water nymphs (apam=water), and are closely associated with ApamNapat.
They are many in number, and the most famous are
- and Ghritachi.
Other nymphs who are mentioned in the Puranas are:
- and Adrika.
For Tilottama and Urvashi, the story of their origins is available, but the others are believed to have sprung forth from the ocean-of-milk when it was churned by the Devas and Asuras.
They are closely associated with the Gandharvas, who are the celestial musicians. Some of the Apsaras are paired with a Gandharva, such as Tumburu with Rambha, and Menaka with Vishvavasu. But the relationship is temporary and is not a marriage tie.(Source): Apam Napat: Indian Mythology
1) Apsarās (अपसरा): Heavenly nymphs, The dancing girls of Indra's court.
2) An Apsara (also spelled as Apsarasa) is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
3) Apsaras are beautiful, supernatural female beings. They are youthful and elegant, and superb in the art of dancing. They are often the wives of the Gandharvas, the court musicians of Indra. They dance to the music made by the Gandharvas, usually in the palaces of the gods, entertain and sometimes seduce gods and men. As ethereal beings who inhabit the skies, and are often depicted taking flight, or at service of a god, they may be compared to angels.
Apsaras are said to be able to change their shape at will, and rule over the fortunes of gaming and gambling. Urvasi, Menaka, Rambha and Tilottama are the most famous among them. Apsaras are sometimes compared to the muses of ancient Greece, with each of the 26 Apsaras at Indra's court representing a distinct aspect of the performing arts. They are associated with fertility rites.
There are two types of Apsaras; Laukika (worldly), of whom thirty-four are specified, and Daivika (divine), of which there are ten. The Bhagavata Purana also states that the Apsaras were born from Kashyap and Muni.
etymology: An Apsara (Sanskrit: अप्सराः apsarāḥ, plural अप्सरसः apsarasaḥ, stem apsaras-, a feminine consonant stem, អប្សរា), is also known as Vidhya Dhari or Tep Apsar (ទេពអប្សរ) in Khmer, Accharā (Pāli) or A Bố Sa La Tư (Vietnamese), Bidadari (Indonesian & Malay), Biraddali (Tausug), Hapsari or Widodari (Javanese) and Apson (Thai: อัปสร). English translations of the word "Apsara" include "nymph," "celestial nymph," and "celestial maiden."(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism
Apsara (अप्सर):—The word Apsaras is explained as apsu rasa, the essence of the oceanwater produced at the churning, when Apsarasas and the physician god Dhanvantari first rose from it. There were sixty crores of them, not to speak of their “countless attendants”. In the Mahābhārata this origin is attributed to Dhanvantari but not to the nymphs, and Nārāyaṇa himself in māyā form plays the part of the seductive woman, who induced the Asuras to give up the ambrosia.
According to a late tradition, sundry Apsarasas were born of Brahman’s fancy (‘faculty of imagination’); others, of Dakṣa’s daughters. The first make a group of ten plus one, beginning with Menakā, and are called Vaidikīs, sacrosanct, recognised by revelation, and as such distinguished from those born from Dakṣa’s daughters.
This group may be considered, therefore, as that of the most revered nymphs:
- and Manovatī.
Eighteen are ascribed to Muni (sired by Kaśyapa). Six (names of) nymphs are ascribed to Prādhā (apparently should be eight). Ten unnamed Apsarasas of the North are called Vidyutprabhās “by name” (“lightning-glorious”). Seven times six thousand (South Indian Mahābhārata, thirteen thousand) Apsarasas dance on the point of Dilīpa’s sacrificial post to the music of Viśvāvasu.
The list of epic Apsarasas is as follows (H = Harivaṃśa, R = Rāmāyaṇa):
- Anugā (H),
- Anūnā (H),
- Anumlocā (H),
- Aruṇapriyā (H),
- Ghṛtasthalā (H),
- Cārumadhyā (H),
- Citrā (Mitrā)‚
- Jāmī (see Yāmī),
- Nāgadantā (-dattā),
- Parṇikā (H),
- Priyamnkhyā (H),
- Budbudā (Vudvudā),
- Madhurasvarā (-nā),
- Mālinī (?),
- Lakṣmaṇā (H),
- Varananā (H),
- Śraviṣṭhā (H),
- Sugrīvī (H),
- Sumadhyā (H),
- Surathā (H),
- Suramā (H),
- Surūpā (H),
- Sulocanā (H),
- Suvṛttā (H),
- Sanrabheyī (-seyī),
- Hemadantā (H),
- Hemā (R and H).
All come from Brahman’s eye.
These nymphs dance and sing. They are called “gods’ girls”. Their female companions are the Devapatnīs, proper wives of the gods. Like all Hindu celestials they are depicted as overloaded with gems and garlands, They also wear necklaces, golden girdles, and anklets, which tinkle as they welcome saints to heaven.(Source): GRETIL e-library: Epic Mythology
Languages of India and abroad
apsarā (अप्सरा).—f (S) A courtesan of svarga, Indra's heaven.(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary
apsarā (अप्सरा).—f A courtesan of svarga. Not fully grown or developed. Timid, gentle.(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.
Apsara (अप्सर).—[ap-sṛ-ac] Any aquatic animal (moving in water).
Derivable forms: apsaraḥ (अप्सरः).
--- OR ---
1) (-rāḥ, rā). [अद्भ्यः सरन्ति उद्गच्छन्ति, सृ-असुन् (adbhyaḥ saranti udgacchanti, sṛ-asun) Uṇ.4.236; cf. Rām. अप्सु निर्मथनादेव रसात्तस्माद्वर- स्त्रियः । उत्पेतुर्मनुजश्रेष्ठ तस्मादप्सरसोऽभवन् (apsu nirmathanādeva rasāttasmādvara- striyaḥ | utpeturmanujaśreṣṭha tasmādapsaraso'bhavan) || A class of female divinities or celestial damsels who reside in the sky and are regarded as the wives of the Gandharvas. They are very fond of bathing, can change their shapes, and are endowed with superhuman power (prabhāva). They are called स्वर्वेश्याः (svarveśyāḥ) and are usually described as the servants of Indra, who, when alarmed by the rigorous austerities of some mighty sage, sends down one of them to disturb his penance, and her mission is generally successful; मेनकाऽप्सरसां श्रेष्ठा महर्षिणां पिता च ते (menakā'psarasāṃ śreṣṭhā maharṣiṇāṃ pitā ca te) Mb.1.74.75. cf. या तपोविशेषपरिशङ्कितस्य सुकुमारं प्रहरणं महेन्द्रस्य (yā tapoviśeṣapariśaṅkitasya sukumāraṃ praharaṇaṃ mahendrasya) V. 1. They are also said to covet heroes who die gloriously on the battle-field; cf. परस्परेण क्षतयोः प्रहर्त्रोरुत्क्रान्तवाय्वोः समकालमेव । अमर्त्यभावेऽपि कयोश्चिदासीदेकाप्सरः प्रार्थितयोर्विवादः (paraspareṇa kṣatayoḥ prahartrorutkrāntavāyvoḥ samakālameva | amartyabhāve'pi kayościdāsīdekāpsaraḥ prārthitayorvivādaḥ) || R.7.53. Bāṇa mentions 14 different families of these nymphs (see K.136) The word is usually said to be in pl. (striyāṃ bahuṣvapsarasaḥ) but the singular, as also the form अप्सराः (apsarāḥ), sometimes occurs; नियमविघ्नकारिणी मेनका नाम अप्सराः प्रेषिता (niyamavighnakāriṇī menakā nāma apsarāḥ preṣitā) Ś.1; एकाप्सरः (ekāpsaraḥ) &c. R.7.53 and see Malli. thereon; अनप्सरेव प्रतिभासि (anapsareva pratibhāsi) V.1.
2) Direction or the intermediate point of the compass (dik ca upadik ca).
--- OR ---
Apsara (अप्सर).—an aquatic animal. त्रीण्याद्यान्याश्रितास्त्वेषां मृगगर्ताश्रयाऽप्सराः (trīṇyādyānyāśritāstveṣāṃ mṛgagartāśrayā'psarāḥ) Ms. 7.72. See [apsaraḥ. -patiḥ 1] 'Lord of waters', Name of Varuṇa.
2) the ocean.
Derivable forms: apsaraḥ (अप्सरः).
Apsara is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms ap and sara (सर). See also (synonyms): apcara.(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.
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Search found 48 books and stories containing Apsaras, Apsarā, Apsara or Ap-sara. You can also click to the full overview containing English textual excerpts. Below are direct links for the most relevant articles:
The Mahabharata - Third Book (by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa)
Section XLVI < [Indralokagamana Parva]
Section CCLXII < [Draupadi-harana Parva]
Section XLV < [Indralokagamana Parva]
The Bhagavata Purana (by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)
Chapter 11 - Summary Description of the Mahapurusa < [Canto XII - The Age of Deterioration]
Chapter 2 - The Activities of Maharaja Agnidhra < [Canto V - The Creative Impetus]
Chapter 7 - Indra Offends His Spiritual Master, Brhaspati. < [Canto VI - Prescribed Duties for Mankind]
Yoga Vasistha [English], Volume 1-4 (by Vihari-Lala Mitra)
Chapter CXXIII - The king's excursions on all sides < [Book VII - Nirvana prakarana part 2 (nirvana prakarana)]
Chapter I - Introduction < [Book I - Vairagya khanda (vairagya khanda)]
Chapter XVI - Joy and grief of the princess < [Book III - Utpatti khanda (utpatti khanda)]
Chapter 3 - Arjuna Obtains the Celestial Weapons < [Vana Parva]
Chapter 4 - The Death of Karna < [Karna Parva]
The Mahabharata - First Book (by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa)
Section LXIII < [Adivansavatarana Parva]
Section CXXX < [Sambhava Parva]
Section VIII < [Pauloma Parva]
The Devi Bhagavata Purana (by Swami Vijñanananda)