Indian mythologies have described a number of mythical exotic people such as Kinnara, Kimpurusha, Yaksha, Gandharva, Rakshasa, Kirata, Vanara etc. Some of these might have referred to specific immigrant tribes. For example, Gandharva may refer to those who hailed from Gandhara which was the ancient name for the present day Afghanistan. Kirata may refer to a tribe of hunters. Vanara may refer to a specific species of humanoid apes. Kinnara people were considered to be fine musicians.
|Half human-half bird form of Kinnara in South east Asian artworks|
However, it appears that the visualizations of some of these tribes have been exaggerated beyond the scope of realities, especially for the purpose of lending curious phantasy elements in the anecdotes. Kimpurusha has been described as lion headed human being. The term Kimpurusha in Sanskrit means a questionable human form or literally “is it a human being”!
In some of the Puranas, the Kinnara people, well versed in music, have been described as horse-necked people or human beings with long necks. The long necked humans might have been inspired by some of the African tribes who lengthen their necks by wearing a series of rings around their necks as a traditional practice. While in some Buddhist and Hindu mythologies, Kinnara is a mythical character with an upper half-human and a lower half-horse form especially in India; or a half-bird (lower body) and half human (upper body) in South-east Asian legends. The evolutionary changes or deviations in Indian and South-east Asian myths on ‘KInnara’ show that the formats have been inspired by phantasies that have evolved with time and distance elements.
In Southeast Asian mythology, Kinnaris, the female counterpart of Kinnaras, are depicted as half-bird, half-woman creatures. The Kinnara character is described in the Adi parva in the Mahabharata, they are depicted as perpetual lovers and celestial musicians. They are also featured in a number of Buddhist texts, ilike the Lotus Sutra. An ancient Indian string instrument is known as the Kinnari Veena or simply Kinnari. In Burma (Myanmar), kinnara are called keinnaya or kinnaya. Female kinnara are called keinnayi or kinnayi.
Migration of tribes
We talk of the global village nowadays but the human tribes were migrating from one country or region to the other since the beginning of the human history even though in those days they had to travel exclusively by feet or by means of horses. Thus the Indian subcontinent and the Africa were connected since early history by migrating tribes and travelers.
The Gandharva were the people from Gandhara or ancient Afghanistan. Immigration of white skinned people from Eurasia has been recorded in ancient Indian place names. Place names containing the indigenous phrases suggestive of immigration and settlement of white skinned people such as Bola (Tulu), Bela/Bellar (Kannada), Vellar (Tamil/Telugu), Gore (Marati/Hindi) can be found all over India.
Tribes from Kenya
There is a village known as Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. The Kinnaur tribes living in the area consider themselves as descendants of Kinnaras, referred to in our mythologies. One Puranic reference describes Kinnaras as long necked human tribes. This reminds us of several African tribes who traditionally lengthen their necks by inserting rings. The mythical half horse imagery of epics might have been sparked by the fleet footed athletic African tribes. The fast paced runners from African tribes could have helped modeling the half human-half horse phantasy attributed to Kinnaras. The Burmese equivalent word of Kinnara is Kinnaya or Keinnaya possibly suggests the tribes from Kenya.
Kenya in Tulunadu
Tribes from Kenya could have wandered along different areas of India including the coastal Karavali and Tulunadu, where a number of ancient place names suggestive of Kenya are still surviving (Post 217) .
There are atleast two villages in Karavali known as Kinya (Mangalore Taluk) and Kenya (Sullia Taluk). Besides, there a number of ‘Kinni’ villages such as Kinnigoli, Kinni Padavu, Kinni Kambala, etc.
The Kenya/Kinya/Kinna/Kinni villages are found all over India of which a sampling is given in the list here below:
Kenya / Kinna places in India
Andhra Pradesh: Kinnamguda, Kinnarpalle, Kinnervada, Kinnerle, Kinnamguda, Kinnisapugh, Kinnisadak,
Haryana: Kinnar, Kingra, KInana, ,
Karnataka: Kinna, Kinnarhalli, Kinnya, Kenya, Kinni, Kinnisultan. Kinnigoli, Kinnikambala, Kinni-padavu,
Madhya pradesh: Kinnapura, Kinna, Kindri, Kiniya, Kenjar?, Kenjur?
Tamilnadu: Kinnakorai, Kinnimangalam.
Bihar: Kinnu Dehri, Kinaur, Kinjar.
Himachal Pradesh: Kinnu, Kinner.
Uttar Pradesh: Kinnupur, Kinoti, Kinaura, Kinki, Kinawa, Kinauli.
Maharastra: Kinhi, Kinhala, Kini.
Orissa: Kinam, Kintala
Uttar Pradesh: Kinnupur, Kinner Patti.
Uttar khand: Kina, Kinath, Kinsur
West Bengal: Kinkarkoti.
The ancient mythical concept of Kinnara could have been recreated on poetic imagination as phantasy creature based on immigrant fleet footed athletic tribes with long necks from ancient Kenya. Ancient settlements and villages named after the Kenya tribes distributed all over India lend credence to the concept of immigration and settlement of ancient Kenyan tribes in India who might have been assimilated in indigenous heritage in the course of passage of time.