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Kirtimukha in Hinduism

Kirtimukha is a monstrous lion-face motif. In Hinduism, it glorifies the prowess of Rudra Shiva, Sodra and Agni or the king. In Hindu temple architecture, Kirtimukha was adopted as a decorative motif or pattern and to beautify the cornice moldings, doorways or other portions of the facade of the chaitya hall.

The terms pacavaktra, harivaktra, and kirtivaktra are synonyms of kirtimukha

Originally, kirtimukha meant a large chaitya window pattern or the big round opening to the interior caitya-mandapa or the cave of a temple with which the excavation or hollowing out of the rock started and remained as a conspicuous part of the entire artwork.

The earliest reference to Kirtimukha in Hindu religion is found in the Puranas. It is mentioned in Padma Purana (sa ca kirtimukha nama pingalo jatilo mahan Uttara Khanda XI 36 - 43 Patala Khanda CXII).

Two Sanskrit words, kirti (glory) and mukha (face) are joined to convey a different meaning - to denote decorative lion-ace on the facade of earlier caitya halls. The historial etymology of the term kirtimukha links the root ut-kr (to hollow out or to excavate) with kirti, a verbal noun from root kr to denote a modest and plainly excavated or hollowed out chamber in the original rock-cut caitya halls.

It is believed that Kirtimukha appeared from the body of Shiva. It is used to express valor and anger of the Rudra form of Shiva.

As per Shiva Purana I.21.50, the symbolism of kirtimukha is the wrath of God Rudra, born from his body or a fiery principle to express valor or anger. This concept is developed in the shilpa texts like Aparajita Prcha (CXXIX), Kashyapa Shilpa (XII.8, XIV.27), Manasra (XVIII.146;151) etc.

In ancient Hindu architecture Kirtimukha functions as an opening in the rock for the entering and passing of light and air into the dark interior of a large hall. In the temple architecture it was adopted as a decorative motif or pattern and to beautify the cornice moldings, doorways, or other portions of the facade of the caitya hall.

The Kirtimukha motifs are also found in Indonesia.