1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gandharva

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GANDHARVA, in Hindu mythology, the term used to denote (1) in the Rig-Veda usually a minor deity; (2) in later writings a class of divine beings. As a unity Gandharva has no special attributes but many duties, and is in close relation with the great gods. Thus he is director of the sun’s horses; he is guardian of soma, the sacred liquor, and therefore is regarded as the heavenly physician, soma being a panacea. He is servant of Agni the god of light and of Varuna the divine judge. He is omnipresent: in the heavens, in the air and in the waters. He is the keeper of heaven’s secrets and acts as messenger between gods and men. He is gorgeously clothed and carries shining weapons. For wife he has the spirit of the clouds and waters, Apsaras, and by her became father of the first mortals, Yama and Yami. He is the tutelary deity of women and presides over marriage ceremonies. In their collective capacity the Gandharva share the duties allotted to the single deity. They live in the house of Indra and with their wives, the Apsaras, beguile the time by singing, acting and dancing. Sometimes they are represented as numbering twelve, sometimes twenty-seven, or they are innumerable. In Hindu law a Gandharva marriage is one contracted by mutual consent and without formality.