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Kinnara

Gilded, lacquered wood and glass inlays

Burma/Myanmar, Mandalay Period: c. 19th Century
BC 87.01.01.00; Northern Illinois University
Konrad and Sarah Bekker Collection

Kinnara and their female counterparts kinnari, are mythical creatures who are thought to live in the Himalayas and who came to Burma with the spread of Buddhism. They are half-human, half-bird dancers, musicians, and choristers. Benevolent spirits, the Kinnara as well as their Kinnari consorts, are known to watch over humans in times of danger. The particularly fine pair of monumental Kinnara and Kinnari figures in the NIU Burma Collection are covered with a mosaic of colored glass, a technique typical of the Mandalay style. Note that in this pair, the male kinnara wears a salwé, the regal breastpiece and his legs are those of a human.