The Story of Apsara Menaka and the Gandharva King’s Daughter

12th century sandstone statue of an apsara, from Madhya Pradesh, India

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Previous: How Lord Brahma Pacified Agni Deva

Note: In the previous post, we read about how Brahma Deva convinced Agni to return to the world. The story of Agni Deva’s withdrawal from the world was narrated in reference to Sage Bhrigu which was narrated in relation to the desire of the ascetics (in Naimisha forest) to listen to the story of Sage Bhrigu and his family.

In this post, we will return to the thread of Sage Bhrigu’s family.

Ugrasrava Sauti addressed the ascetics in Naimisha forest saying: 

“O bhrahmana, Sage Chyavana, and his wife Sukanya had a son called Pramati. He too was an illustrious sage with resplendent energy. 

Pramati had a son with the apsara Ghritachi. Their son was named Ruru.

Ruru married Pramadvara. They had a son called Sunaka.

O brahmanas, now I will tell you the entire story of Ruru of abundant energy.”

Note: Ugrasvara Sauti begins the story of Ruru with his to-be wife’s birth. These words were spoken by Sauti to the ascetics in Naimisha forest.

Once there was a great rishi called Sthulakesa. Along with being very kind and learned, he also possessed great ascetic power. 

At that time, the apsara Menaka had an intimate relationship with the Gandharva King. As a result, Menaka became pregnant. During her pregnancy, she stayed in a place very close to rishi Sthulakesa’s hermitage. When the baby was born, Menaka put the baby on the banks of a river that flowed near the hermitage. Thus abandoning the baby, she returned to heaven. 

Note: Kisari Mohan Ganguli’s translation of the Unabridged Mahabharata does not mention the Gandharva King’s name, however, other sources mention him as King Vishwavasu of the Gandharvas. The Gandharvas were celestial singers (or musicians). They were also skilled in the art of illusions and many Gandharvas also possessed deep spiritual knowledge.

Different people are mentioned as Gandharva Kings at different times. So it’s not clear what the word ‘king’ in reference to Vishwavasu really means. It could also mean famous and influential Gandharva. 

In any case, Vishwavasu had obtained deep spiritual knowledge through his conversations with the sage, Yajnavalkya. Vishwavasu had also mastered the art of creating illusions. He taught this art to one of his friends, who later taught it to Arjuna.

The abandoned baby (Menaka’s daughter) was very beautiful and filled with the light of heaven. When Rishi Shulakesa discovered this child near his hermitage, he was filled with compassion for the abandoned baby. The rishi picked up the child and raised her as his own daughter performing all the vedic rites at the appropriate times. He named this child, Primadvara, because she surpassed everyone with her good qualities.

One day, Bhrigu’s great-grandson, Ruru, saw Pramadvara in rishi Sthulakesa’s hermitage. His heart by pierced by the God of love the moment he saw the beautiful Pramadvara.

Note: In the next post, we will read about the beautiful love story of Ruru and Pramadvara.

Next: Sage Ruru and Pramadvara A Beautiful Love Story

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