Indian literature abounds in a variety of myths and legends narrating allegorical/historical stories with moral teachings where celestial or semi-celestial beings, in particular the apsarases, occupy an important place. Of such legends, a few have become much popular and they reappear in the course of the history of literature at various stages. One such legend is that of Urvasi and Pururavas which is one of the most ancient legends of India, owing its origin to the Rgveda.
This scholarly work, based on extensive original sources--primary, comprising ancient Sanskrit texts, commentaries and glosses and modern literary pieces, kavyas and plays, as well as critical writings on these original works, studies the origin and development of the institution of apsarases and their characteristics as described in the vast corpus of Vedic, epic-Puranic and classical works. In this context, it undertakes an interesting survey of the concept of nymphs (apsarases) in Indo-European, especially Greek mythology. Dr. Handique then thoroughly examines the depiction of the legend of Urvasi and Pururavas--a favourite theme that has been immortalised in literary masterpieces in Indian literature as a whole: from the ancient Vedas and Puranas, the Harivamsa and Vikramorvasiyam to modern works like Urvasi Janani and Abhisapta Urvasi and stray poetic pieces.
Presenting a new angle to the study, the book attempts to explore aspects of an age old tradition that bears close affinity with the institution of the apsarases in terms of mode of living worship and ideals--like system of the devadasis.
The book will prove invaluable to scholars of Indian mythology, culture and literature as well as interest general readers of ancient India's legends and tales.