Question on Patanjali (Kashmir and P's MB) and kApyas

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at
Tue Apr 1 02:21:30 UTC 1997

On Wed, 26 Mar 1997 Palaniappa at wrote:


> Can 'possession' by a gandharva be taken to suggest that the wife mentioned
> in passage 3.7.1 of the above upaniSad is at least culturally non-Vedic?

The Vedic scholars on this list should be able to expand on the following. 

Possession by (or at least association with) one or more gandharvas seems
to be commonly applied to women in general. In the rgvedic hymns relating
the marriage of sUryA, the first three husbands of the bride are Soma,
an unnamed gandharva and Agni. The mortal husband is the fourth. This hymn
is commonly used in weddings, I believe. 

One particular gandharva named viSvAvasu is also associated with women in
the Vedic hymns. Other than rgvedic references, the BU also has one 
reference to this gandharva, in the portion relating to the sexual 
relations of a married couple. After eating the food prepared according to
the sthAlI-pAka, viSvAvasu is requested to go away before the husband lies
with the wife. 

These references to gandharvas seem to be quite general, with no 
indication that the woman in question is culturally non-Vedic. So I
doubt if such a general indication can be read in the two references to
patancala kApya. In fact, unless all women are deemed to be culturally
non-Vedic, the opposite conclusion might be equally or more valid.

What I find interesting is that this kApya seems to have had both his wife
and his daughter possessed by specific gandharvas. But this possession by
a non-human spirit does not seem to have any negative connotations to it.
There is no mention of any attempts to exorcise the gandharvas out.  
Another interesting thing is that these gandharvas are an Angirasa
(sudhanva, who possesses the daughter) and an atharvaNa (kabandha, who
possesses the wife). And both gandharvas know something important about
brahman that patancala kApya and his students do not. For example,
kabandha's question sets the background for the very significant antaryAmi
brAhmaNa of the upanishad. Assuming a broad textual contemporaneity of the
upanishads and the atharvAngiras, this might be of some significance.  

S. Vidyasankar

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