The origin of Kirtimukha lies in the Yuddha Khanda of the Rudra Samhita. Birthed from the wrath of Lord Shiva, it was a ravenous, all-consuming makara (a mythical aquatic creature of Hindu lore). The beseeches of Lord Rahu, who was sent by King Jalandhara to provoke Him in the first place, pacified the temper of Shiva. At this point, the makara ended up consuming its own self and did not stop till its own mandible. It earned from Shiva the name of Kirti, which means glory, and came to be known as the Kirtimukha (‘mukha’ means face).
Kirtimukha is a frequent motif in Indian art and architecture. It is to be found at temple entrances as well as in iconography, from the classical to the contemporary. A ferocious pair of eyes and just the maxilla, the image of the Kirtimukha is not for the faint-hearted. A standalone handheld wall-hanging composition such as the one you see on this page is apt for adding meaning to the entrance of one’s home or office temple.
It is a complex, skilfully executed sculpture. Characterised by perfect symmetry and an unusual silhouette punctuated by space. There is a panchanaga (five-hooded snake) on top of the Kirtimukha’s head and at its base nestles the seated figure of Lord Ganesha. It is the miniscule Ganesha figurine that adds tranquility and balance to the work.
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