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The most beautiful Apsara
Urvashi-Pururavas by RRV.jpg
Urvashi and Pururavas painted by Raja Ravi Varma
Devanagari उर्वशी
Affiliation Apsara
Personal information
Spouse Pururavas

Urvashi (Sanskrit : उर्वशी, romanized: Urvaśī) is an apsara in Hindu legends. She was a celestial maiden in Indra's court and was considered the most beautiful of all the Apsaras. She is perennially youthful and infinitely charming but always elusive. [1] She is a source as much of delight as of dolour. [2]



The 'Urvashi' means she who controls hearts. It is derived from two words "Ur", meaning heart and "vash" meaning to control. Monier Monier-Williams proposes a different etymology in which the name means 'widely pervasive' and suggests that in its first appearances in Vedic texts it is a name for the dawn goddess. [3]



Narayana on the left and Nara on the right, Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh, ca. 5th century Nara Narayana Deogarh.jpg
Narayana on the left and Nara on the right, Deogarh, Uttar Pradesh, ca. 5th century

The Devi Bhagavatam narrates the story of Urvashi. Once the revered sages Nara-narayana were meditating in the holy shrine of Badrinath Temple situated in the Himalayas. Indra, the king of the Gods, did not want the sage to acquire divine powers through meditation and sent two apsaras to distract him. The sage struck his thigh and created a woman so beautiful that Indra’s apsaras were left matchless. This was Urvaśī, named from ur, the Sanskrit word for thigh. After his meditation was completed, the sage gifted Urvaśī to Indra, and she occupied the place of pride in Indra’s court. [4] [5] [6] [7]

Birth of Rishyasringa

Urvashi in the Ramayana, seduced Vibhandaka and became the mother of Rishyasringa, who later played crucial role in birth of Rama and was married to Shanta, the elder sister of Rama. [8]

As Pururavas's wife

Once Urvashi and Pururavas, founder of the lunar dynasty, fell in love with each other. Pururavas asked her to become his wife, but she agreed on three or two conditions. The most retold conditions are that Pururavas would protect Urvashi's pet sheep and they would never see one another naked (apart from lovemaking). [9]

Pururavas agreed with the conditions and they lived happily. Indra started missing Urvashi and he created circumstances where the conditions were broken. First, he sent some Gandharvas to kidnap the sheep, when the couple was making love. When Urvashi heard her pets' cries, she scolded Pururavas for not keeping his promise. Hearing her harsh words, Pururavas forgot that he was naked and ran after the sheep. Just then, Indra flashed lightings and Urvashi saw her husband naked. After the events, Urvashi returned to heaven and left Pururavas heartbroken. Urvashi used to come on earth and bore Pururavas many children, but they were not completely reunited.

Their love story is found in the Rigveda [10] and Shatapatha Brahmana too. Kalidasa's drama Vikramōrvaśīyam is about their love story with variations from the original texts. [11]

Urvaśī's Curse

Urvashi and Arjuna by B P Banerjee Arjuna and Urvasee (Urvashi).jpg
Urvashi and Arjuna by B P Banerjee

She is also mentioned in the Mahabharata, as the celestial dancer of Indra's palace. When Arjuna had come for obtaining weapons from his father Indra, his eyes fell upon Urvaśī. Indra seeing this sent Chitrasena to address Urvasi to wait upon Arjuna. Hearing the virtues of Arjuna, Urvasi was filled with desire. At twilight, she reached Arjuna's abode. As soon as Arjuna saw that beauty at night in her room in beautiful attire, from fear, respect, modesty, and shyness he saluted her with closed eyes. She told Arjuna everything and also of her heart desire. But Arjuna refused, as considering her to his superior of old, and said that she was like his mother because of her past marriage to Pururavas. In wrath, she cursed Arjuna for destitute of manhood and scorned as a eunuch for a year. This curse helped Arjuna during his Agyatvās. [12]


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