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Thai Culture Guide >> Thai Mythology

Thai Mythology: Fauna of Himapan Forest

Perhaps the most popular realm in Thai mythology, Himapan Forest is the invisible woodland believed to exist in the Himalayas, in the India-Nepal border, just below the equally legendary Buddhist heaven. The fabled forest is home to a great number of mythical beasts that have become symbols of exemplary Thai traits. Some of such fabulous creatures are described below.

*GARUDA: Royalty and Supremacy*
Half human and half bird, Garuda has the torso and arms of a man and the head, wings, tail, and feet of an eagle. The king of all birds is the favored mount of Vishnu, a deity shared by both the Hindu and the Thai faiths. The Thai people honor Garuda as a symbol of royalty and supremacy. In fact, he represents the Thai monarchy or government, and an artist’s rendition of the majestic creature appears on Thai bank notes and on the royal flag of Thailand.

*NOK HASADEE: Ambivalence and Balance*
A gigantic elephant-headed bird, Nok Hasadee inhabits the tangled, thorny rattan-cane areas of Himapan, where he patiently waits in camouflage for ungulates—his favored prey. During heavy rains, especially when he is neither furious nor famished, Nok Hasadee fancies making noise by playing an enormous 'khawng wong yai' or, simply, smelling the scent of the forest with his proboscis. This is the reason many Thai natives, especially those of the Central Plains, view thunderstorms as one of Nok Hasadee’s destructive pranks. Nevertheless, they describe him as a paradoxical character—playful yet lonesome, childlike yet predatory.

*NAGA: Comfort and Safety*
A multiheaded serpent whose main head sports a beard and wears a typical pointed Thai crown, Naga inhabits the densest part of Himapan Forest. It is a half sibling yet a sworn enemy of Garuda. Naga is a familiar motif in Thai architecture, featured frequently on stair handrails of many temples. Thailanders regard the serpent as a symbol of comfort and safety.

*PRANORN PUGGSA: Agility and Dexterity*
The Thai folk derived the name of this creature from the Thai words ‘pranorn’ (monkey) and ‘pugg’ (bird or birdlike). Pranorn Puggsa has a monkey’s head, torso, and forelimbs; the lower body of a bird; and a prehensile feathered tail. Ambidextrous, he is excellent in climbing trees, moving from branch to branch with agility. Pranorn Puggsa fancies mangoes and apples. People describe him as “the tireless and spirited inhabitant of Himapan Forest.”

*RAJASI: Grandeur and Magnificence*
People depict Rajasi, the king of fierce forest mammals, as a lion whose mane, tail, and paws are burning with golden flames. Most inhabitants of Himapan Forest dread the lion king not for his slyness but for his splendor. Although Rajasi symbolizes grandeur and magnificence, many Thailanders, especially those who are living in the North, blame him for the forest fires.

*KINNARI: Gracefulness and Elegance*
Half human and half bird, Kinnari has the head, torso, and arms of a beautiful woman and the wings, tail, and feet of a swan. Her voice is enchanting and her gait graceful. She is sometimes depicted playing a 'khryang ditt,' making her a patroness of dance, poetry, and music. Many Thai parents encourage their daughters to emulate the gracefulness and elegance of the swan lady. A favorite subject of artists, Kinnari’s graceful form appears frequently in sculpture and murals.

*KINNON-NUA: Swiftness and Serenity*
Partly human and partly artiodactyl, Kinnon-nua has the torso and arms of a muscular man and the antlers and lower body of a deer. The swift creature roams Himapan Forest seasonally, safeguarding the realm’s endangered fauna and flora and promoting serenity. Whereas the satyr of Greek mythology plays the panpipe, Kinnon-nua plays the 'pi chawa.' The sylvan Thai native will readily regard him as a symbol of nature.

1. ambidextrous, adj. able to use both hands in equal ease.
2. artiodactyls, n. ungulates that include all types of deer, like antelopes and elks.
3. prehensile, adj. adapted for grasping.
4. proboscis, n. a long snout.
5. sylvan, adj. fond of wooded areas.
6. ungulates, n. hoofed mammals.

About the Author:

aLfie "eLf" vera mella was born in 1971 in Metro Manila, Philippines. He was a very inquisitive child who had shown fondness for reading and writing at an early age. He graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, but the literatus in him never left his heart. A true artist, eLf was the vocalist of a New Wave band, named Half Life Half Death, which served as the musical vehicle for his poetry. Before he left his beloved country in 2003, he was working as an editor of and writer for scholastic books and magazines. eLf is currently living in British Columbia, Canada, serving as a caregiver for his maternal grandfather. He may have left a well-loved work but for a noble reason, and he never ceased from doing what he loves most since childhood—writing. Virtually always home, he usually spends his solitary nights reading, researching, and writing about various subjects of his interest—chiefly, Culture, History, Literature, Mythology, Music, and Science—with New Wave music always lingering in the background like a gentle breeze on a quiet sea. A writer at heart, eLf started inditing his thoughts around the age of six; and he intends to continue documenting his feelings and ideas until his twilight. /