Apsaras- Indian cousin of the Muse?

Over the last couple years I have been incredibly drawn to Hinduism and have been studying it closely. I’m sure many of my PBP posts will discuss Hindu things as I am learning more everyday. I am very new to the religion and do not wish to offend any Hindus out there. Please accept my nuggets of information as coming from the purest place, and accept them as words of a new student to a very old religion. And I would love advice/help/knowledge from any Hindus out there! Please feel free to comment, Hindu or otherwise.

three-apsaras-on-lotus

Three Apsaras on a lotus.

As I learn more about Hinduism I find there to be many, many links to Paganism, which is why I feel it is relevant to a Pagan blog. But I will surely go into that later with the letter “H”, when you can bet I’ll be discussing Hinduism.

In the meantime, let me take a moment to introduce the Apsaras….

In extremely succinct terms, the Apsaras are female spirits found in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, and are usually associated with the clouds or water (something I read also associated them with the woods, but they are born of air and liquid so I’m not sure where the woods fit it). They are beautiful, young and supernatural, and they can shape shift. The Apsaras are also dancers, and have been equated to the Greek muses with different Apsaras representing different performing art forms. But regardless of what performing art they represent, they are always dancers.

To the best of my knowledge, the Apsaras came from a Hindu creation myth that centers on the search for amrita (hey hey, another “A” word), the elixir of immortality, and is essentially about creating order out of chaos. The myth tells of a struggle between the gods and demons, which ends up in a tug of war using the serpent Vasuki, with Vishnu in the center orchestrating the action. This struggle, or tug-of-war, stirs up, or churns, the ocean of milk, which creates foam at the top. It is from this milky foam that the Apsaras first emerge.

 A relief at Angkor Wat depicting the tug-of-war with the Apsaras emerging from the foam.

A relief at Angkor Wat depicting the tug-of-war, with the Apsaras emerging from the foam.

Please keep in mind, the above is an extremely watered down summary of a myth that is in actuality many pages long. It can be found in the epic Bhagavata Purana, a very ancient Indian text, if anyone is interested in the entire story.

I just love the idea of the beautiful Apsaras emerging dancing from the milk foam. There’s so much imagery and symbolism I don’t even know where to begin!

So that is where I will leave you…. thinking about the Apsaras, dancing in sublime beauty in the milk foam, perhaps a cousin to the muse…

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