In the Mahabharata, Kinnara Kingdom refers to the territory of a tribe called Kinnaras, who were one among the exotic tribes. They along with others, were inhabitants of the Himalaya mountains. The people of the Gangetic Plain looked upon them with wonder and considered them as super-human. The Kinnara tribe is identified to have lived in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh state in India. A group of people living in this district still call themselves Kinnaurs. They could be the descendants of the ancient Kinnaras.
Kinnaras were mysteriously linked with horses. The Puranas mention them as being horse-necked beings.
The epic Mahabharata, mentions Kinnaras, not as horse-headed beings but as beings who were half-man and half-horse (similar to the Centaur from Greek Mythology). The epic Mahabharata and the Puranas describe, regions north of the Himalayas as the abode of Kinnaras. This region was also the abode of a tribe of people called Kambojas. They were fierce warriors skilled in horse riding and horse warfare. Some of them were robber-tribes who invaded village-settlements, by raiding them using their skilled cavalry-forces. The myth of Kinnaras probably came from these horsemen. Another reference in the epic consider them as a sub-group of the Gandharvas.
References in Mahabharata
- Note: The references like (1,18) refer to verses in the Mahabharata.
Territories of Kinnaras
Mandara mountain (identified as the low-mountains of the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh) is said to be the abode of the Kinnaras: There is a mountain called Mandara adorned with cloud-like peaks. It is covered all over with intertwining herbs. There countless birds pour forth their melodies, and beasts of prey roam about.
Kinship with other exotic tribes
Kinnaras are mentioned as half-men and half-horses at (1.66) where they are described as kinsmen of other exotic tribes.
Kinnaras were mentioned along with other exotic tribes like the Nagas, Uragas, Pannagas, Suparnas, Vidyadharas, Siddhas, Charanas, Valikhilyas, Pisachas, Gandharvas, Apsaras, Kimpurushas, Yakshas, Rakhsasas, Vanaras etc. at various places. (1-18,66), (2-10), (3-82,84,104,108,139,200,223,273) (4-70), (5-12), (7-108,160), (8-11), (9-46), (12- 168,227,231,302,327,334,(13-58,83,87,140), (14-43,44,88,92).