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1 (sing.) In the Ṛg Veda a name given to an atmospheric deity, also called Viśvāvasu, associated with rain. He is the guardian of the heavenly soma, and the physician of the gods.

2 (pl.) A class of male (and sometimes female) divinities or spirits, often characterized as ‘heavenly musicians’, who feature in Indian religious stories from the Ṛg and Atharva Vedas onwards, initially as attendants on Indra and the other gods. In Purāṇic and Epic texts they are often paired with the Apsarases. Like many supernatural beings, despite their seductive beauty, they are considered both powerful and dangerous, and can be a threat to humans, especially in remote parts of the forest, or wilderness (araṇya). In the Mahābhārata, Citraratha is designated king of both Gandharvas and Apsarases.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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