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Which are the exact lokas inhabited by the Apsaras according to different sampradayas?

Edit: Which lokas are the ones where Apsaras are born in the first place?

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  • They live with the gandharvas in gandharva loka, which is in the lower part of swarga. – Ikshvaku Apr 25 at 0:34
  • @Archit Based on the 2 comments and 1 answer so far I think we can safely say the relevant texts differ in their opinions and different sampradayas rank the relevant texts differently. Hence the question. – chhatra Apr 25 at 10:39
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The Original Loka of the Apsaras

Apsaras are originally residents of a sub Loka named Apsara Loka, of the bigger Bhuvarloka. (Refer: How many lokas are there?)

The region above the earth and below the sun, known as Bhuvarloka is inhabited by many different kind of celestial races like Siddhas, Gandharvas, etc. This region is described as:

The region that extends from the earth to the sun, in which the Siddhas, etc (and other celestial beings) move, is called Bhuvarloka, which also I have described
-Vishnu Purāṇa 2.7.17

A story of the ascent of a Brahmin named Sivasarman through higher lokas is found in the Skanda Purāṇa where his journey after death is described fairly in detail. As per this, while the attendants of Bhagwan Vishnu were taking the Brahmin from earth, through all the lokas, soon after Gandharva Loka, they encountered Apsara Loka before they reached the sun.

Hearing the origin of the Apsarāloka, in this manner the eminent Brāhmaṇa reached the Solar World in a moment, travelling in an aerial chariot.
-Verse 28, Chapter 9, Kāśī khaṇḍa Pūrvārdha

This shows us that the Apasaras are one of the categories of celestials (as mentioned in the Vishnu Purāṇa) who live between the region above the earth and below the sun known as Bhuvarloka and near Gandharva Loka, have their own sub-loka allotted to them by the name of Apsara Loka.

Thus to sum up, Apsaras originally live in Apsara Loka of Bhuvarloka, between the earth and sun.


Apsaras found in other Lokas

Often we come across a description where we see them frequenting other lokas or performing duties in other lokas as follows:

  1. Apsaras described on Mount Kailasa (Refer: this answer)
  2. Apsaras in Indra Loka as described in the Mahabharata as well as the encounter of Arjuna with Urvashi there.
  3. Apsaras again in Surya Loka in the abovementioned chapter of the Skanda Purāṇa (about verses 31-32)

However as stated above their original Loka is the Apsara Loka where as per the very same chapter of the Skanda Purāṇa about 60,000 apsaras live. (Verse 12)

In fact as one can see though the incident of Apsara Urvashi and Arjuna in Swarga Loka finds mention in Mahabharata, verse 7 of this chapter of the Skanda Purāṇa mentions her as one of the residents of Apsara Loka, the original abode of the Apsaras.

Such a difference must be understood by the fact that Apsaras are originally the inhabitants of Bhuvarloka, however they do frequent other lokas. This is similar to when say an Indian goes abroad for work, holidaying, he is not called a resident of that country or even if he permanently moves there, his Indian relatives back home do not become residents of that Loka or multiple lokas (just by few Apsras moving about, other Apsaras don’t become residents of Swarga, Manidvipa, Kailasa) . His origin lies in India and he will be called an Indian only. In the same way Apsaras going for work (to serve in Indra’s Loka) will still be Apsaras (Indians) only and their origin will lie in Apsara Loka (India).

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  • Are Apsaras the only inhabitants of Apsarāloka? – chhatra Apr 25 at 13:14
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    @chhatra yes and no. Among celestials only apsaras. But women from earth who die and meet a specific criteria too become Apsaras in apsara Loka. It’s there in the same chapter of Skanda Purāṇa. Do you want me to add that? Or do you want to update your question and me to answer that? – Archit Apr 25 at 16:23
  • @chhatra did you upvote that comment? If you did, which of the other two options would you likE? – Archit Apr 25 at 17:07
  • That wasn't me. Who are these celestials you speak of? – chhatra Apr 25 at 17:32
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    Thank you. This is also the point I had been trying to meld both answers into. Please consider including a precis of this explanation in your answer. That would also be in keeping with the edited question. – chhatra Apr 26 at 16:37
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(Kausitaki Upanishad 1.3) : He going by the path by which the immortal gods travel reaches the world of Agni (fire), then to the world of Vayu (air), then to the world of Varuna, then to the world of Aditya (sun), then to the world of Indra, then to the world of Prajapati, then to the world of Brahma. In this world of Brahma, verily, is the lake Ara, points of time called Yestiha, the river Viraja, the tree Ilya, the city Salajya, the court of Aparajita, the door keepers Indra and Prajapati, the hall Vibhu, the throne Vicaksana, the couch Amitaujas, the beloved Manasi and her twin Caksusi weaving the worlds with flowers, Ambas (mothers), Ambavayis (nurses), Apsaras (celestial beauties), and the rivers called Ambayas. To this world comes the knower of this. To him Brahma says, "Welcome, you have my glory and you have reached the ageless river Viraja and you will never age."

Based on this verse from Kausitaki Upanishad we can say that Apsaras lived in Brahma-loka.

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  • @user22556 Would that then make them more meritorious beings than the residents of Indra loka? – chhatra Apr 25 at 11:23
  • @chhatra They reside in Brahma-loka. And not in Indra loka – Dark Knight Apr 25 at 11:59
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    @user22556 I understand that. Since Brahma-loka is higher than Indra loka it should follow that the beings there in general have higher "merit" (sattva guna?) as compared to the residents of the latter. Do you agree with this inference? – chhatra Apr 25 at 13:09
  • @chhatra yes I agree – Dark Knight Apr 25 at 13:37
  • @user22556 In that case don't you find it strange then that they play the role of courtesans in Indra's court and may also be despatched at will by Indra to meddle with the aspirants of even lower worlds? – chhatra Apr 25 at 17:29

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