Female and male attractiveness as depicted in the Vanaparvan of the Mahābhārata


  • Iwona Milewska


Sanskrit literature, Indian epics, Mahābhārata, beauty, female and male attractiveness


This paper deals with the bodily attractiveness of heroines and heroes, as described in one of the two most important epics of India. The basis for this analysis is the love stories and episodes included in the main plot of the Vanaparvan, the third book of the Mahābhārata. The stories from this book have been taken into consideration due to their numerous occurrences, which are a sufficient ground for generalizations. Many characteristic features of their protagonists are repeated in different sub-stories. Also, the images of female and male characters, princesses, queens and kings are presented and discussed in detail. The external beauty of such female heroines as Damayantī, Sāvitrī, Sukanyā, Suśobhanā and Sitā; as well as the attractiveness of two semi-goddesses, called Apsarases, are described and analysed. The names of the Apsarases discussed in the context of female beauty are Urvaśī and Menakā. Besides this, the image of an unnamed courtesan is discussed, as it is the most detailed description of a female character and probably follows the ideal of female beauty as shown in the Mahābhārata. As far as the male protagonists are concerned, the images of heroes such as Nala, Bhīma, Aśvapati, Rāma and Daśaratha are taken into consideration. The examples of male attractiveness also include features of the five main heroes of the Mahābhārata: the Paṇḍava brothers.