In Southeast Asia, two of the most beloved mythological characters are the benevolent half-human, half-bird creatures known as the Kinnara and Kinnari, which are believed to come from the Himalayas and often watch over the well-being of humans in times of trouble or danger.
Kinnaris, the female counterpart of Kinnaras, are depicted as half-bird, half-woman creatures. One of the many creatures that inhabit the mythical Himavanta, Kinnaris have the head, torso, and arms of a woman and the wings, tail and feet of a swan. They are renowned for their dance, song and poetry, and are a traditional symbol of feminine beauty, grace and accomplishment.
Their character is clarified in the Adi parva of the Mahabharata, where they say:
We are everlasting lover and beloved. We never separate. We are eternally husband and wife; never do we become mother and father. No offspring is seen in our lap. We are lover and beloved ever-embracing. In between us we do not permit any third creature demanding affection. Our life is a life of perpetual pleasures.
They are also featured in a number of Buddhist texts, including the Lotus Sutra. An ancient Indian string instrument is known as the Kinnari Veena.