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.
You can explore the magnificent temples of Angkor with me through my regular newsletter.