Chapter

Apsarās: Enabling Male Immortality, Part 1

Serinity Young

in Women Who Fly

Published in print March 2018 | ISBN: 9780195307887
Published online November 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780190659714 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780195307887.003.0007
Apsarās: Enabling Male Immortality, Part 1

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Apsarās are ancient Indian flying divinities. Although they are wingless, their iconography reveals their power of flight. They function in both Hinduism and Buddhism, although in distinct ways in each religion. Overall, they are under the power of the god Indra, who sends them out to seduce celibate ascetics who challenge his power. The ascetics are powerless against such ravishingly beautiful, sexual, and coquettish women. Like the valkyries, the apsarās carry fallen warriors to heaven, but in these Eastern traditions, they are given to the warriors. One sign of their pervasiveness was their imitation by devadāsīs, beautiful and talented dancers who danced before the gods in Hindu temples. Buddhists picked up on their themes as consummate seductresses; in an ancient Buddhist epic, the Buddha uses them to disillusion his half-brother.

Keywords: heroes; kings; ascetics; fertility; devadāsīs; seduction; war; heaven

Chapter.  6564 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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