This class of gods appeared first in the Vedic period. They were sky beings, associated with the preparation of soma. The Atharvaveda said that there were 6,333 gandharvas. They liked mortal women and sported with them, using their powers to shape-shift and fool all but the most disciplined of wives. There were, however, a number of great heroines whose austerities (tapas) were a match for the magic powers (siddhis) of the gandharvas. In later mythology they were said to be children of the progenitor, or grandfather, named Kassyapa-prajapati, by his wife Arishtha. An appendix to the Mahabharata, the Harivamsa, stated that they came from Brahma’s nose. They were adept at music and were known as the heavenly musicians.
Gandharva marriage was one of the six forms of marriage. It could be a love marriage or a seduction, even a seduction by force—getting its name from the gandharvas’ example. Even under the best of circumstances, gandharva marriage was not blessed by the sacrament (samskaras) of Brahmanical ritual.