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This excerpt from the Baudhayana Shrauta Sutras, a text associated with the Yajur Veda, describes an interesting story involving a war between the Devas and the Asuras:

When gods and demons fought a great battle, these creatures dispersed in diverse directions; some went to gods; others to demons. Brihaspati was the priest of gods; Ushanas Kavya of demons. Gods passessed Brahman-power. Demons possessed Brahman-power, They fought many battles without decisive victory. Gandharva bearing solar lustre knew what was going to happen. Indra was the paramour of his wife. He said to her, "O thou whose limbs are immortal. do thou ask the Gandharva as to why the gods of demons do not win." "All right" she said to him, "Do thou come tomorrow." He (Gandharva) sported on the sea together with his wife in a golden ship. Indra came. He became a golden ray and stuck on a major part of the ship, Seeing that he had come, he asked him. "O thou with immortal limbs, please say, why gods or demons do not become victorious," "Do not speak loudly," he said. "The ship has ears." "Gods have Brahman-power, demons have Brahman-power," he said. Hearing it Indra took the form of a yellow parrot and flew up. Looking at him, he said, "O Indra, those will win who have yellow (parrot) on their side." He (Indra) went to Aushanasa Kavya and conferred with the daughter of Jayanti and four desire-yielding cows. Instructed, he left the demons and went to the gods. Consequently the gods won the great battle.

Ushanas Kavya is another name for Sukracharya. But my question is, who is the Gandharva whose wife was having an affair with Indra, and who gave Indra a prophecy aboard a golden ship?

Now in the Vedas the word "Gandharva" is most often used as a name for Surya the Sun god, rather than as a name for the race of celestial singers the term most commonly signifies now. And the fact that the Gandharva in this passage is "bearing solar lustre" is more evidence that it's Surya. But did Indra ever have an affair with one of Surya's wives? (I discuss Surya's wives here.)

On a side note, who is the "daughter of Jayanti"?

  • What sort of fantasy tale is this and what exactly happens to Indra at the end? – Surya Oct 8 '17 at 8:04
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    @Surya Well, apparently after winning the battle Indra becomes lightheaded, and then he does some kind of Yagna and then somehow this leads to "the cause of creation of the human race". – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 8 '17 at 13:37
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    Wow that's an awesome story. "Daughter of Jayanti" is Devayani imo, Matsya Purana mentions it here Verse 186 – Arya Oct 8 '17 at 14:19
  • @Ajay Interesting, I wonder if this story is connected to the story of Kacha and Devayani. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 8 '17 at 16:10
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It's a three-headed Gandharva. I found the story described in greater detail in this excerpt from the Jaiminiya Brahmana of the Sama Veda:

Fighting for a long time, the gods and the demons achieved no deciding victory. Brihaspati was the chief priest of the gods and Ushanas Kavya the chief priest of the demons. Whatever magic was used from below, the same magic was used from above. As the magic was equal it achieved no deciding victory. A three-headed Gandharva knew of means to achieve the deciding victory between them. He was distrustful. His palace was a ship floating on water. Indra came to know: "The Three-headed one knows of a means to achieve the deciding victory." He went up to the Gandharva's wife to find out the means to achieve a deciding victory. He said to her: "Ask your husband whether the gods or or the demons who have been fighting for so long, will win?" While these two were talking together, the three-headed Gandharva returned home. Indra immediately transformed himself into a leech or a reed and hung on the ship's side. Then she asked her husband: "The gods and the demons have been fighting for so long, - who of them will win?" "Not so loud", he said, "the earth has ears." Therefore even nowadays people say : "Not so loud, the earth has ears." "Never mind," she said, "tell me!" He said: "Both these brahmanas, Brihaspati of the gods and Ushanas Kavya of the demons, know as much as the other. Whatever they both do, produces equal results. Whatever sacrificial offerings are made by one, the same are made by the other. These sacrificial offerings meet and because there is absolute equality, they again separate and disappear. Those, on whose side one of the chief priests goes over, will win." When Indra heard this, he flew away transformed into a parrot. While he flew away, the Gandharva looked after him and said: "They will win for whose benefit the green one there is flying!" Indra came to Ushanas Kavya who lived with the demons. He said to him: "Sage, what sort of people do you support here? You belong to us and we to you. Join us!" "On what conditions?" he said, "What have you got to offer?" "I have the wishing-cows of Virochana Prahladi to offer." With the words "Off then," they both ran away taking the cows along. The demons followed them. They came nearer and nearer to them. Then Indra said : "Sage, the demons have come quite close to us. Arrange it so that they do not overtake us." Both of them then recited the rik-stanza: "The brilliant drop, well provided with arms, purifies itself, destroying bewitchments, protecting cattle, providing father of the gods, pillar of Heaven, support of the earth." With it they erected a pillar right up to heaven. The demons could not come over it. They reached the gods along with the cows. When they had arrived, Usanas Kavya praised himself and Indra with the rik-stanza: "The inspired sage, the prince of the people, a skillful Ribhu, an Ushanas in magic: he discovered the concealed, hidden, secret name of these cows."

I'm still not sure what the Gandharva's name is, but he has three heads so he's not Surya the Sun god as I had suspected.

It's also interesting that this description of the story doesn't mention Indra having an affair with the Gandhar's wife. And this description makes clearer why Indra went to Sukracharya; it was to bring him to his side by offering him the cows of Prahlada's son Virochana. (I'm not sure how he got Virochana's cows.) This may relate to the Rig Veda verses quoted in my question here which suggest that Sukracharya was on the side of the gods at some point.

  • Yes, not paramour. seems wrong translation. Lover might be in the sense having warmth or close relationship. – Mr. Sigma. Oct 9 '17 at 1:45
  • @Rohit. Well, considering all the other affairs Indra has had, it would not surprise me if he had an affair with the Gandharva's wife as well. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 9 '17 at 1:47
  • These stories are confusing. Who is this three headed luxury cruise loving Gandharva who knows all? The only three headed being whom Indra resorted to as far as I know is Vishvarupa, who though being of mixed descent, was not a cruiser. – Surya Oct 12 '17 at 15:31

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