story of kirtimukha

Story of Kirtimukha

Unveiling the Mystical Guardian of Hindu Mythology

Kirtimukha, often spelled “Kirtimukhi” or “Kala,” is a frequently used motif in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain art and iconography, especially in India and other South Asian countries. It is sometimes shown as a fierce and grotesque face or mask, with huge, bulging eyes, pointed teeth, and a wide-open mouth. The visage is occasionally enveloped by flames or has flames erupting from its mouth. Discover the Story of Kirtimukha, a fascinating figure in Hindu mythology. Learn its origins, symbolism, and cultural importance in this blog.

significance of kirtimukha
Story of Kirtimukha 7

Kirtimukha is frequently used as a decorative element in temples, palaces, and other religious and spiritual structures. It is frequently seen at the top of arches, gateways, or temple towers (shikhara). In some cases, it acts as a protective guardian, repelling evil spirits or harmful energy.

“Kirtimukha” refers to “face of glory” or “face of fame” in Sanskrit. It is thought to represent both the destructive and restorative parts of the world. The design is associated with the Hindu god Shiva and is frequently utilized in Shiva worship.

Story Of Kirtimukha

Kirtimukha has a long history of cultural and religious significance in South Asian art and mythology, and it remains an intriguing aspect of the region’s traditional architectural and religious iconography.

Kirtimukha in temples

Kirtimukha’s story is strongly rooted in Hindu mythology and serves as a symbol for the cyclical process of creation and destruction. There are various versions of the narrative, but one of the most well-known features the demon king Rahu.

Jalandhara (also known as Jalandhar or Vriddhakshatra) was a demon ruler in Hindu mythology. Jalandhara was a very powerful and arrogant demon who earned enormous power via meditation and a gift from Lord Shiva. With his newfound power, he wreaked havoc on the universe and threatened the Gods.

Origin Of Kirtimukha

This tale begins with the asura king Jalandhara, who had amassed incredible powers through rigorous austerities. Filled with pride, Jalandhara sent his messenger, the monstrous Rahu, who was known for eclipsing the moon, to challenge Lord Shiva. The challenge was simple yet audacious: Jalandhara demanded that Shiva give up his radiant bride, Parvati.

In response to this audacious demand, Shiva unleashed his formidable power by originating a fearsome, emaciated, and ravenous lion from his third eye. This sight terrified Rahu, who begged Shiva for mercy. Shiva, displaying his benevolence, agreed to spare Rahu but set a unique condition. He suggested that the ravenous lion should sustain itself by consuming its own flesh, starting with its tail and limbs.

Kirtimukha, obedient to Shiva’s directive, began devouring its own body until only its face remained. Impressed by Kirtimukha’s compliance and determination, Shiva named it the “glorious face” and ordained that it should forever guard the entrances of his temples. Consequently, Kirtimukha became a potent symbol of Shiva himself.

In South Indian architecture, Kirtimukha is frequently employed as a decorative motif crowning the summits of temples or adorning images of deities. It serves as a fearsome guardian, warding off malevolent forces from sacred spaces. Often confused with the lion face (Simhamukha), the key distinction is that Kirtimukha is depicted in the act of self-consumption, representing the concept of “all-consuming.”

This monstrous visage, with its protruding eyes, often embellishes the lintel above the inner shrine’s entrance in Hindu temples, signifying the transition into the sacred realm. In Dravidian architecture and other styles, Kirtimukha crowns gavaksha motifs (kudu, nasi). Typically, only the upper jaw and face are visible, although some depictions include its arms. Occasionally, the motif is found within the matted hair of Lord Shiva.

Notably, some scholars draw parallels between Kirtimukha and the Greek myth of Ouroboros, highlighting their shared themes of self-consumption and cyclical renewal.

The Significance of Kirtimukha

In Hindu mythology, the narrative of Kirtimukha represents cosmic order and the cyclical nature of creation and destruction. It emphasizes the idea that sometimes disastrous powers are required to restore cosmic balance. Kirtimukha is seen as a defender and a guardian, preventing evil and maintaining cosmic balance. The term “Kirtimukha” means “face of glory” or “face of fame,” highlighting the function it plays in securing the Gods’ glory and fame.

Kirtimukha is frequently shown with its mouth open, eating everything in its path, including its own body, to represent the devouring and regeneration parts of existence. It is also associated with Lord Shiva, who in Hindu mythology is both the destroyer and the preserver.

The story illustrates Hindu mythology’s intricate and complex nature, as well as how it utilizes symbolism to convey essential philosophical and spiritual principles.

Kirtimukha importance

Kirtimukha is frequently put on the heads or crowns of Hindu deities for a variety of symbolic and philosophical reasons:

Kirtimukha is seen as a protecting guardian or a guardian of thresholds. Placing it on the heads of sculptures, particularly at temple or holy area entrances, is thought to ward off evil spirits, negative energies, and harmful forces. It acts as a protective barrier, allowing only people with good intentions to access the sacred place.

Kirtimukha in ancient sculptures

Auspiciousness: Kirtimukha has a connection with Lord Shiva, a significant Hindu god. It is thought that putting this design into sculptures of other deities brings the blessings and auspiciousness of Lord Shiva to the worshippers. It symbolizes the deity being representative of divine power and protection.

Cosmic Balance: Kirtimukha’s role in the defeat of the demon Jalandhara emphasizes the concept of cosmic balance and the elimination of negative energies in order to maintain cosmic harmony. Placing Kirtimukha on God sculptures will serve as a reminder of the deity’s function in preserving this balance and keeping followers safe.

Cyclical Nature of Life: Kirtimukha’s open mouth, which devours everything, represents the cyclical aspect of existence, in which creation and destruction are inseparable. This design is frequently used in deity sculptures to remind worshippers of the brief nature of life and the necessity of leaving one’s connection to the earthly world.

Artistic Expression: Kirtimukha is a sculptor who can add exquisite and intriguing features to sculptures. Its ferocious and monstrous look contrasts with the deity’s peaceful and divine characteristics, producing an eye-catching visual element in the artwork.

Kirtimukha is a symbol of protection, auspiciousness, and cosmic order that is attached to the heads of God sculptures. In Hindu religious art and architecture, it provides both a functional and symbolic function, increasing the spiritual and visual experience of worshippers and visitors to places of worship.


What is Kirtimukha?

Kirtimukha is a symbolic motif in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain art and architecture, often depicted as a fierce and grotesque face or mask with a wide-open mouth, sharp teeth, and bulging eyes.

What does the name “Kirtimukha” mean?

“Kirtimukha” can be translated as “face of glory” or “face of fame” in Sanskrit.

What is the significance of Kirtimukha in Hindu mythology?

Kirtimukha is associated with Lord Shiva and symbolizes the cyclical nature of creation and destruction. It is often linked to the defeat of the demon king Jalandhara.

Where is Kirtimukha typically found in art and architecture?

Kirtimukha is commonly used as a decorative element in the architecture of temples, palaces, and sacred structures. It is often placed at the apex of arches, doorways, or temple towers.

Why is Kirtimukha added to the heads of God sculptures?

Kirtimukha is added to God’s sculptures for protective symbolism, to bring auspiciousness, and to symbolize the cosmic balance and the cyclical nature of life.

Is Kirtimukha exclusive to Hinduism, or is it found in other religions as well?

While Kirtimukha is prominently featured in Hinduism, it can also be found in Buddhist and Jain art and iconography, particularly in regions influenced by Indian culture.

Does Kirtimukha have variations in its depiction?

Yes, there can be variations in the way Kirtimukha is depicted, with different artists and regions offering their own artistic interpretations.

Is Kirtimukha still relevant in contemporary art and architecture?

Yes, Kirtimukha remains relevant in contemporary art and architecture, especially in the context of traditional and religious structures.

Are there any specific rituals or prayers associated with Kirtimukha?

Kirtimukha is primarily used as a decorative and symbolic element, but it may also be associated with specific rituals or prayers in certain traditions or temples.

Can Kirtimukha be seen in other forms of art, such as paintings and sculptures?

Yes, Kirtimukha can be found in various forms of art, including paintings, sculptures, and other forms of visual art, both as a standalone motif and as a part of larger compositions.

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