Category Archives: kirtimukha

Decorative in Indian Art : Kirtimukha images

 The word kiritimukha means ‘’face of glory’’  or ‘’glorious face’’ in Sanskrit . Hindu temples use the kirtimukha over the lintel arch of the garbagriha or inner sanctum; on the ramparts or on the vimana.

Kirtimukha is a monstrous disembodied head with a fierce face, protruding eyeballs,narrow forehead with two horns, ears of a lion,thick moustache,bulging cheeks,sharp fangs,rows of big teeth,wide open mouth and a protruding tongue. This monster was created from the third eye of Lord Shiva according to the Skandapurana to destroy the Daitya king, Jalandhara. The monster roared like thunder when intensely hungry and Lord Shiva asked him to eat his own body when he approached him. The monster followed the instructions and only his face was left. This impressed Lord Shiva and he gave the name Kirtimukha  to it.

Kirtimukha started being used as a decorative motif in temples. It began getting a place on the lintels of the gates of inner sanctum, at the corners of pillars or on top of vimana or temple towers.

They are also seen as part of iconography of Hindu deities. In parts of Western India they are called grasamukha and east of India they are referred to as rahumukha. In southeast Asia it is called Kala.

Similar motifs are found in Scythian, Hellenic and Chinese cultures. The main functions of a kirtimukha  is to ward off evil forces.

Some important kirtimukha representations in  art can be found  across south  India.  Western Chalukyan Temples in Karnataka have the kirtimukha with strings and foliage emerging from its mouth.image001.jpg

Pic by Dineshkannambadi at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kirtimukha images at the ornate and richly decorated Kasivisveswara temple at Lakkundi in Gadag district of present day Karnataka , built in the 11th century by Western Chalukya dynasty, in Dravidian style.


Pic by Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kirtimukha image at the Amruteshwara temple in Annigeri in Dharwad district of present day Karnataka. Annigeri is known for being the birthplace of Kannada poet Adikavi Pampa.The temple is made of potstone in Kalyani Chalukyan style, built in 11th century. 76 pillars support the roof and mythological figures dominate the walls.



Pic by Dineshkannambadi – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Kiritimukha at the Siddheswara temple at Haveri, built in 12th century in Dravidian style, has many loose sculptures of Hindu deities in it. The temple faces west unlike other Chalukyan temples. It is believed that the temple might initially have been a Vaishnavite temple but it is currently dedicated to Lord Shiva. The image of Surya(Sun God) exists below the kirtimukha.


Pic by Dineshkannambadi at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Kirtimukha image at the Mahadeva temple at Itagi in Koppal district of present day Karnataka, built in early 12th century by a commander of Vikramaditya VI,Western Chalukya ruler, named Mahadeva Dandanayaka. The temple built of green schist is dedicated to Shiva with beautiful sculptures and carvings on its walls, pillars and tower.


References :

  1. Suresh, K. M/Temples of Karnataka,Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan,2003.
  2. Foekema, Gerard/Architecture decorated with architecture : later medieval temples of Karnataka 1000-1300 A.D,new Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal,2003


Posted by : Soma Ghosh