Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 451 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
GANDHARVA, in Hindu mythology, the term used to denote (I) 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 I gods. Thus he is director of the sun's horses; he is guardian of this scale of four notes, G, A, b B, C, were subsequently added a note below and a note above, which made the hexachord with the semitone between the 3rd and 4th both up and down, as F, G, A, 5 B, C, D. It was at a much later date that the 7th, our leading note, was admitted into a key, and for this the first two letters of the last line of the above-named hymn, " Sanctus Johannes," would have been used, save for the notion that as the note Mi was at a semitone below Fa, the same vowel should be heard at a semitone below the upper Ut, and the syllable Si was substituted for Sa. Long afterwards the syllable Ut was replaced by Do in Italy, but it is still retained in France; and in these two countries, with whatever others employ their nomenclature, the original Ut and the substituted Do stand for the sound defined by the letter C in English and German terminology. The literal musical alphabet thus accords with the syllabic: La, Si, Ut or Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol. In Germany a remnant of Greek use survives. A was originally followed in the scale by the semitone above, as the classical Mesa was followed by Paramese, and this note, namely 5B, is still called B in German, English B (French and Italian Si) being represented by the letter H. The gamut which, whenever instituted, did not pass out of use until the 19th century, regarded the hexachord and not the octachord, employed both letters and syllables, made the former invariable while changing the latter according to key relationship, and acknowledged only the three keys of G, C and F; it took its name from having the Greek letter gamma with Ut for its lowest keynote, though the Latin letters with the corresponding syllables were applied to all the other notes. 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.
End of Article: GANDHARVA

Additional information and Comments

In the famous play of Shakontala by Kalidasa ,the term Gandharva is used to denote a marriage link and explained as a free-will marriage between Shakotala and the king. This seems an accepted and respectable marriage.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.