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Common Myth and Tales: Kinnara and Kinnari
Goombaking, a Khmer friend on AF sent me a PM the other day, asking me to translate an article in an Indonesian blog. It turned out the story is about Mekhala and the origin of thunder. Goombaking thought the tale was only famous in Cambodia and Thailand, he's quite surprised to see that it's more widespread than he ever thought. I began to think, there are a lot of similarities between us that we just don't know about. We thought we're so different, but if we look closer we're actually quite alike. I would like to start a series on our common myth and tales, beginning with the Kinnars.
Kinnaras (male) and Kinnaris (female) are mythical half-human half-bird creature found in Hinduism and Buddhism. The kinnars are often depicted of having the head, torso and arms of a human and the wings, tail and feet of a bird or swan. There are a lot of stories in SEA which features these celestial beings. One of the most famous story is about the love story between a kinnari Manohara (Manora in Thailand) and Prince Sudhana (the story is featured on the reliefs of Borobudur temple, Indonesia).
In Thailand and Cambodia, the Kinnars are often used as decorations in temples. In Java, Indonesia the kinnars are often depicted guarding the divine tree kalpataru (kalpavriksha). Burmese depiction of Kinnaris are unique as their breasts are covered. Meanwhile, the Kinnars in Sari temple, Indonesia have their wings on their back which makes them look like the angels in western culture.