Gandharva, aka: Gāndharva; 16 Definition(s)


Gandharva means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, 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.

In Hinduism

Nāṭyaśāstra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

1a) Gandharva (गन्धर्व) refers to a group of deities to be worshipped during raṅgapūjā, according to the Nāṭyaśāstra 3.1-8. Accordingly, the master of the dramatic art who has been initiated for the purpose shall consecrate the playhouse after he has made obeisance (eg., to gandharvas).

1b) Gandharva (गन्धर्व) refers to a “musician” who can be assigned the role of an assesor (prāśnika) of dramatic plays (nāṭaka) according to the Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 24. These assessors (eg., the gandharvas) are to point out the faults of a dramatic performance (nāṭaka) as well as the merits of actors (nartaka) whenever a controversy (saṃgharṣa) arises among persons ignorant of the nāṭyaśāstra.

2) Gāndharva (गान्धर्व) refers to “musical performance” composed of notes, time-measure and verbal themes, according to the Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 28. It is a combination of vocal music and the music of instruments:—“that which is made by the stringed instruments (ātodya) and depends as well on various other instruments, and consists of savra (notes), tāla (time-measure) and pada (verbal theme) should be known as the gāndharva. As it is very much desired by gods and as it gives much pleasure to Gandharvas, it is called the gāndharva (i.e. a thing belonging to Gandharvas.)”

Gāndharva (musical performance) is of three kinds:

  1. that of the notes (svara),
  2. that of the time-measure (tāla),
  3. that of the verbal theme (pada).
(Source): Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra

Gāndharva (गान्धर्व, “music”).—In ancient times music is indicated by the word gāndharva. By later authors, however, it is called gīta or saṃgīta. In Vedic texts the term gāndharva does not occur. We find the following musical terms: vādita for instrumental music, gīta for vocal music and gātha to indicate originally religious, later on also secular musical recitations (“sprechgesang”) or songs in a simple recitative style in contradistinction to the more complicated sāman-melodies.

According to Dattilam, “in the very beginning music (gāndharva) was given by the Self-existing One (Svayambhū) to Nārada and the other gandharvas. Then, it was duly taken down to the earth by Nārada. A collection of notes (svara), which is based on words (pada), which is well-measured by time-measurement (tāla) and which is executed with attentiveness, is called music (gāndharva).”

According to Nāṭyaśāstra 28.9: “as it is very much desired by gods and as it gives much pleasure to Gandharvas, it is called the gāndharva (i.e. a thing belonging to Gandharvas)”.

According to the Saṃgītaratnākara 4.2: “that, which from eternity exists as a traditional and which is always performed by celestial musicians as something which brings happiness, is what the experts call gāndharva”.

(Source): Google Books: Dattilam: A Compendium of Ancient Indian Music

Gāndharva (गान्धर्व, “classical music”).—That which master musicians (gandharva) have been performing in an unbroken tradition down to thhis day—prakaraṇa songs and other compositions vased on fundamental melodic forms (grāmarāga), modes (jāti), etc.—is classical music (gāndharva). (cf. Saṅgītaśiromaṇi 13.1)

(Source): Google Books: Saṅgītaśiromaṇi: A Medieval Handbook of Indian Music

Gandharva (गन्धर्व).—Description of a women of gandharva type;—A woman who enjoys roaming in many gardens, is adorned with good nails and teeth, speaks with a smile, is slim-bodied, has a slow gait, loves sexual pleasure, is always pleased to hear music (gīta and vādya) and to witness dance, is careful about cleanliness of the body and has soft skin, glossy hairs and charming eyes, is known to possess the nature of a gandharva.

(Source): Natya Shastra
Nāṭyaśāstra book cover
context information

Nāṭyaśāstra (नाट्यशास्त्र, natya-shastra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition of performing arts, (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 (nāṭya) and poetic works (kāvya).


Gandharva (गन्धर्व).—One of the nine divisions of Bhārata, a region south of mount Meru, according to the Varāhapurāṇa chapter 74. Gandharva is surrounded by an ocean (sāgara) and is one thousand yojanas in extent. Meru is one of the seven mountains located in Jambūdvīpa, which is ruled over by Āgnīdhra, a grandson of Svāyambhuva Manu, who was created by Brahmā, who was in turn created by Nārāyaṇa, the unknowable all-pervasive primordial being, who was created by Brahmā, who was in turn created by Nārāyaṇa, the unknowable all-pervasive primordial being.

The Varāhapurāṇa is categorised as a Mahāpurāṇa, and was originally composed of 24,000 metrical verses, possibly originating from before the 10th century. It is composed of two parts and Sūta is the main narrator.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Varāha-purāṇa

The Gandharvas of the Vāyu-purāṇa are connected with the ritual especially in connection with the chanting of the Sāmaveda. In the Vedas they are no doubt associated with the ritual and especially with Soma and not with the Sāmaveda.

(Source): Google Books: Cultural History from the Vāyu Purāna

1a) Gandharva (गन्धर्व).—A Kādraveya Nāga,1 lives in trees.2

  • 1) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 36: Vāyu-purāṇa 61. 79: 62. 100: 69. 73: 100. 159: 101. 3 and 28: 106. 59.
  • 2) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa I. 7. 84: 8. 40.

1b) A kingdom noted for horses;1 a division of the Bhāratavarṣa.2

  • 1) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 16. 17: Matsya-purāṇa 114. 8: 121. 48.
  • 2) Vāyu-purāṇa 45. 79: Viṣṇu-purāṇa II. 3. 7.

1c) A god to be worshipped in housebuilding.*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 253. 25.

1d) The fourteenth kalpa; here Gāndhārasvara and Nāda came into being.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 21. 32.

1e) Born of Ariṣṭā and Kaśyapa;1 worshipped for personal beauty;2 sent by Indra to disturb Mārkaṇḍeya's tapaṣ;3 killed in crores by Bharata;4 other references to.5 A gaṇa moving with the sun by turns praising him;6 sang Sāma in Vāruṇī yajña.7 Three steps inferior to gods; semidivine like Yakṣas, Rākṣasas and Piśācas; frequent Kailāsa; vanquished by Rāvaṇa; Citraratha was their overlord.8 milked the earth and preserved its essence Gandha (s.v.); worship Barhiṣad manes; attended with Apsaras at the yajña of Arjuna Kārtavīrya;9 world of;10 live in trees,11 ety. from singing;12

  • 1) Matsya-purāṇa 5. 1: 6. 29 and 45: Viṣṇu-purāṇa I. 5. 46: 21. 25.
  • 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 3. 6.
  • 3) Ib. XII. 8. 16.
  • 4) Ib. IX. 11. 13.
  • 5) Ib. IV. 6. 9: V. 1. 8; VI. 7. 3; VII. 7. 50; 8. 38; X. 3. 6: 4. 11: 25. 31: 55. 23: 62. 19; 85. 41; XI. 6. 3: 12. 3: 14. 5: 16. 33: 31. 2: XII. 11. 47: Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 1. 155: 2. 26: 4. 2: 9. 77: 15. 24: 20. 48 and 101: 33. 15: 39. 56.
  • 6) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 23. 27 and 50: 32. 1-2: 35. 191.
  • 7) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 1. 25.
  • 8) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 167-70, 255: 8. 10: 10. 37: 24. 59. IV. 36. 16: Matsya-purāṇa 8. 6.
  • 9) Matsya-purāṇa 10. 24: 13. 17; 15. 3; 37. 2 and 4: 43. 22.
  • 10) Matsya-purāṇa 78. 11: 246. 61: 247. 11.
  • 11) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 7. 84: Vāyu-purāṇa 9. 55: 21. 33: 30. 86: 33. 64: 34. 55.
  • 12) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 13) Vāyu-purāṇa 66. 73.

1f) (Mauneya) in number 60 crores, overcame the Nāgas of Rasātala and deprived them of their jewels, etc.; ultimately defeated by Purukutsa, son of Māndhāta.*

  • * Viṣṇu-purāṇa IV. 3. 4-9.

2a) Gāndharva (गान्धर्व).—One of the nine divisions of Bhāratavarṣa.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 16. 9. Matsya-purāṇa 48. 7.

2b) A form of marriage by which Kṛṣṇa married Rukmiṇī, and Duṣyanta married Śakuntalā. Princesses usually chose their husbands.*

  • * Bhāgavata-purāṇa III. 3. 3; IX. 20. 15-16; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 15. 5; Viṣṇu-purāṇa III. 10. 24.

2c) The science of music; a vidyā; mūrchanas and their lakṣaṇas in;1 the music displayed at the court of Brahmā; also the music played upon by Kṛṣṇa.2

  • 1) Vāyu-purāṇa 86. 26, 36-69. Viṣṇu-purāṇa III. 6. 28.
  • 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IX. 3. 30; X. 21. 5[1]; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 61. 21, 26-8.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purāṇa book cover
context information

The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Dhanurveda (science of warfare)

Gāndharva (गान्धर्व) refers to a weapon (Arjuna received this weapon from tribe Tumbari (Gandharvas)). It is a Sanskrit word defined in the Dhanurveda-saṃhitā, which contains a list of no less than 117 weapons. The Dhanurveda-saṃhitā is said to have been composed by the sage Vasiṣṭha, who in turn transmitted it trough a tradition of sages, which can eventually be traced to Śiva and Brahmā.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dhanurveda
Dhanurveda book cover
context information

Dhanurveda (धनुर्वेद) refers to the “knowledge of warfare” and, as an upaveda, is associated with the Ṛgveda. It contains instructions on warfare, archery and ancient Indian martial arts, dating back to the 2nd-3rd millennium BCE.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Gandharva (गंधर्व): A class of celestial beings regarded as specialists in music.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

Gandharva (गन्धर्व).—The celestial demigod dancers, singers, and musicians of the heavenly planets.

(Source): ISKCON Press: Glossary

In Buddhism

General definition (in Buddhism)

A Gandharva (Sanskrit) or Gandhabba (Pali) is one of the lowest ranking devas in Buddhist theology. They are classed among the Caturmaharajikakayika devas, and are subject to the Great King Dhrtarastra, Guardian of the East. Beings are reborn among the Gandharvas as a consequence of having practiced the most basic form of ethics (Janavasabha sutta, DN.18). It was considered embarrassing for a monk to be born in no better birth than that of a gandharva.

Gandharvas can fly through the air, and are known for their skill as musicians. They are connected with trees and flowers, and are described as dwelling in the scents of bark, sap, and blossom. They are among the beings of the wilderness that might disturb a monk meditating alone.

The terms gandharva and yaksa are sometimes used for the same person; yaksa in these cases is the more general term, including a variety of lower deities.Among the notable gandharvas are mentioned (in DN.20 and DN.32) Panada, Opamanna, Nala, Cittasena, Raja. Janesabha is probably the same as Janavasabha, a rebirth of King Bimbisara of Magadha. Matali the Gandharva is the charioteer for Sakra.

(Source): WikiPedia: Buddhism

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Gandharva (गन्धर्व).—The gandharvas are a group of deities categorised as belonging to the vyantara class of Gods (devas). The vyantaras represent a class of Gods (devas) comprising eight groups of deities that wander about the three worlds (adhaloka, madhyaloka and ūrdhvaloka).

(Source): Wisdom Library: Jainism

Gandharva (गन्धर्व).—A class of vyantara gods;—According to Tiloyapaṇṇatti, the ten Gandharvas are:

  1. Hāhā,
  2. Huhū,  
  3. Nārada,
  4. Tumbara,
  5. Vāsava,
  6. Kadamba,
  7. Mahāsvara,
  8. Gītarati,
  9. Gītarasa,
  10. Vajravān.

Golden in appearance, they have the Tumbaru tree as their Caitya-tree

Accordign to Śvetāmbara Saṃgrahaṇī-sūtra, they are:

  1. Hāhā,
  2. Huhū,
  3. Tumburu,
  4. Nārada,
  5. Ṛṣivādika,
  6. Bhūtavādika,
  7. Kadamba,
  8. Mahākadamba,
  9. Raivata,
  10. Viśvāvasu,
  11. Gītarati,
  12. Gītayaśas.

The Gandharvas are blackish and beautiful in appearance, have excellent physiognomy, sweet voices and adorned with crowns and neckalces. The Tumbaru tree is their herald mark.

(Source): Google Books: Jaina Iconography

Gandharva (गन्धर्व) refers to the “musician” class of “peripatetic celestial beings” (vyantara), itself a category of devas (celestial beings), according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 4.10. Who are the lords amongst the musician (gandharva) class of peripatetic (forest) celestial beings? Gītarati and Gītayaśa are the two lords in the musician class of peripatetic celestial beings.

(Source): Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 4: The celestial beings (deva)
General definition book cover
context information

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

gandharva (गंधर्व).—m (S) A celestial chorister. These are a class of demigods. They inhabit Swarga and form the orchestra of the principal deities. 2 fig. An extraordinary vocalist or musician.

--- OR ---

gāndharva (गांधर्व).—n S Song, singing, vocal music.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary
context information

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.

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