Friday, 15 June 2012

The Exotic Tribes of India- Kimpurusha & Kinnara

Now these two names are heard, not frequently, but at least the reader might have a slight idea of these names. When the scriptures take names of exotic tribes, these two names are always there- Kinnaras and Kimpurushas.
The reason for clubbing these two is because these two show a lot of common geography and common references.

The origin of Kinnaras is not specified but that of Kimpurushas is told to be Pulaha rishi, a saptarshi in the Swayambhuva Manvantara. ( Mahabharata 1.66). Now whether truly the Kimpurushas originated from Pulaha rishi or it was just an effort to prove that everyone evolved from Swayambhuva Manu and Saptarshis, we don't know. But the Bhagvata Puran provies some input. It says that Agnidhra, the son of Priyavrata placed at 3 in the chronological tables prepared by me, had 9 sons namely Kimpurusha,Ketumal, Bhadrashva,Nabha, Ramyak,Harivarsh,Ilavritta, Kuru and Hiranmaya. Agnidhra divided his kingdom Jambudweepa into 8 parts and gave one kingdom to each out of which the part beyond Kailasa was given to Kimpurusha and was called Kimpurushvarsha. This info is quite true since even the wives of these 9 sons are given as also the family line of Agnidhra continued through Nabhi is also given. Quite possibly Kinnaras were the local people living there and then after Kimpurush was given that area, they intermixed not only with the Kimpurushas but also with Vidyadharas, Siddhas, Gandharvas and Apsaras.

The Kinnaras and Kimpurushas are the most left out people when it comes to references. The primary reference of them comes when the Puranas describe the geography of Jambudweep saying that there is a country called Kimpurushvarsha lying beyond the Kailasa where the Kinnaras and Kimpurushas live.
The Kimpurushas thus have a fixed territory of Kimpurushvarsha but the Kinnaras are also mentioned to be living along with Yakshas and Gandharvas in certain places like (Mahabharata 3.139).

Thus the exotic tribes were quite intermixed and lived in common areas and kingdoms. The major places of Kinnaras and Kimpurushas were Gandhamadan and Mandara mountains to the north of Kailash mountains and to the east of Meru. The Ramayana also mentions that along with the Yakshas and Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras and Kimpurushas were also living in Lanka under Kubera.

The etymology of Kinnara and Kimpurusha is quite same owing to the fact that the Vedic people thought that they were half men and half lion. This happened because the Kinnaras and Kimpurushas were quite cut-off from the Vedic civilization in mainland India.In some places, the Kinnaras are mentioned to be one of the sub-tribe within the Gandharvas ( MBh 2.10).This shows the intermixing within them. All these tribes are clearly under the sway of Kubera since in many places in Mahabharata, it is mentioned that Kubera was their head.

Very less names are available of Kinnaras and Kimpurushas in different scriptures. In many places Ramayana and Mahabharata just mention them collectively but refrain to give nay name. A slight insight in the Kinnara and Kimpurusha world comes from Mahabharata ( 2.10) where the kings of these people are mentioned. It says that Bhagadatta leads the Kinnaras, Druma the Kimpurushas. Also, Mahabharata ( 2.27) says Arjuna had defeated Durmaputra, a Kimpurusha during the Rajasuya campaign. (2.43) mentions that Druma was present during the Rajasuya Yagya of Yudhisthira. Another information that I get from Wikipedia is that Rukmi, the king of Vidarbha was a disciple of Drona, a Kimpurusha.

The Kimpurushas and Kinnaras were under the sway of Kubera. Mahabharat (14.63) tells us that the gold mines of Yakshas in Himalayas were guarded properly by the Kinnaras.
The main reason why one remembers the Kinnaras is their phenomenal ability to sing beautifully. Mahabharata says that once you venture into Kinnara territory you will find beautiful Kinnara women (Kinnari) along with female Vidyadharas singing sweetly. Arjuna also had taken the form of a Kinnara to teach music to Matya king's daughter.Thus the Kinnaras are always remembered of having sweet voices.This also gives us the clue of why these people were closely related to Gandharvas and Apsaras since even the later two were involved in music and dance. Bhagvata Purana says that Ram was worshiped in the Kimpurushvarsha.


  1. What do you think of Kinnara people being Kinnauri people of Himachal Pradesh?

  2. The word Canara kanarese south Kanara north Canara (the Konkani)in West coast of Karnataka state...any remote chance for KINNARA.because they are good singers of devotional songs...for eg lata Mangeshkar. In today's India we have Goa Konkan Maharashtra Karnataka but say 5000 years back only one small living area between dandakaranya the dense forest and Arabian sea and Lanka.