For my (yes) 50th birthday my family gave me a wonderful plaster statue from India 80 cm high.
She is a dancing woman, most likely an apsara, a heavenly nymph who inhabit the Swarga, the paradise of Indra the king of gods. It seems that the statue lay in the courtyard in front of the pool for washing in a temple in Rajasthan.
But who, of beautiful and seductive apsaras, is shown in this sculpture? I like to think that she is Urvashi, the most beautiful. Here's how she was born.
Narayana and Nara, two rishis, ie two Indian sages, were immersed in their meditations in the Himalayan foothills. Their efforts mystics and the hardships they had undergone began to worry the gods because they did not want two humans got too close to the condition of the gods.
To distract them from their meditations, Indra thought to send down two beautiful apsaras, convinced that faced with such beauty even the rishis and yogis wouldn’t resist or, at least, would be a bit distracted.
When the two apsaras presented themselves to holy men, Narayana looked at and passionless, laid a flower on his thigh or - according to another tradition - struck just above his thigh.
From this was born an apsara incomparably more beautiful of the two sent by Indra.
Narayana gave that wonderful creature to Indra.
That apsara - who later had a very adventurous life that will tell you another time and which is now in the living room of my house - was Urvashi, whose name literally means, 'born from a thigh'.