''Pranala'' - temple water spout - a simple inspiring feature of Hindu temple architecture

The architects of ancient India centuries ago were highly skilled,  imaginative and well-versed in civil  engineering with respect to design and load-bearing aspects. They also had richly  talented stone sculptors who could translate their dreams into reality. If you take a Hindu temple you will run into a plethora of stone sculptures of splendor and beauty,  tall  ornate pillars with strange creatures, vast mantaps of different sizes to conduct temple functions, tall towers - gopuras etc. They built  temples as per temple  shastras and strictly followed norms of temple architecture that define construction of various parts of the temple  in a particular fashion more than 1100 years ago. Among the various features of the temple, Pranala - water spout, a simple feature  to drain out the abhisheka water or liquid is an interesting one. . 

11CE Makara-Pranala (water spout),Shamlalji temple,GJ aupload.wikimedia.org

Above image: In Hindu mythology Makara is a sea creature roughly equal to the Zodiac sign of Capricorn............

In Hindu temple architecture, a pranala or pranalu  is a discharge outlet primarily attached to the wall of the sanctum or temple's jagati (platform). The main purpose of pranala  is to drain out the abhisheka water, milk, and other liquid poured over the main idols- either Moolavar stone idols or festival metal idols.  The holy water or other liquids poured over the idols will be collected outside and cleared periodically.   Ablution of Shiva linga in the sanctum- garbagriha in all Shiva temple is  a main puja ritual and at many temples it is  done  daily in the morning. On festival days abhisheka of Shiva linga is a must. The abhisheka water or liquid that exits on the prakara is  available to the worshippers 

According to historians the earliest  pranalas appeared in the  Shaka-Kushana period -3rd CE in northern India. Though the concept of pranala was adopted by many rulers including the Guptas as part of Hindu temple architecture, it was in the 8th century CE  talented sculptors came up with imaginative features and sculptured them in strange but striking forms - mostly in sea-animal forms. The pranalas continued to be used in the subsequent years, including the Gupta period. in the later years pranalas became part of Hindu temple architecture across India. 

Though  architectural tradition allows  several forms of Pranala - water outlet,  the most common is Makara Mukha (crocodile face). Go-Mukha (cow-face), Gaja Mukha (elephant) are rare.  In all historical Hindu temples invariably the common form adopted  is  Makara.   Makara pranala (or pranali) may come in different sizes.

Ancient texts on architecture -Samarangana Sutradhara(11th century),  Vishvakarma's Vastushastra, compendium on the Māru-Gurjara architecture (late 11th century) and Aparajita-prchchha    (12th to early 13th century), refers to the makara-pranala  depicting  the mythical sea-creature makara (also known as graha).

It  more or less resembles the European gargoyles fixed on the outer part of the buildings to drain out the rain water. But they adopt a vast spectrum of shapes and not confined to a few forms. 

Next to makara  the grasa-pranala is a common feature; this depicts the grasa,  also known as kirtimukha (mythical creature a swallowing fierce monster face with huge fangs, and gaping mouth, common in the iconography of Hindu temple architecture). Grasa-pranala which is common in south Indian temples   may be compared with Gorgons of the Greek mythology;  rare in north Indian temples. The simha-pranala, which depicts a lion, is similar to the grasa-pranala. 

Pranala at the Brihadisvara Temple Facebook 

Bhuta-pranala: depicts a bhuta or jambhaka, a goblin-like creature is a rare one and at Brihadeshwara temple, Thanjavur, a goblin is holding the long stone water spout on the northern prakara. The Koteshwara Temple in Srikakulam has a pranala in which the water spouts out of the bust of a Nandi figure.

water discharge chidambaramhiddentreasure.com
8th CE Kailasanathar  rock-cut temple.

Water outlet, 8th CE Shiva temple. reddit.com

Pranala : The water outlet of Shiva temple at Markand The temple was built in 8th Century ( about 1200 years old)

Black stone pranala 800-800 CE, Vellore 

Pranala Malava style Drainage outlet upload.wikimedia.org

Pranala, chidambaramhiddentreasure.com
Chidambaram temple.

Pranala water spout- Chola temple, GK.cholapuram?
dreamstime.com

water spout- crocodile holding fish, Konarak temple
agefotostock.com

Pranala in Aghoreshwara temple, KA. Facebook.com

Above image  Pranala, Nayak period. Aghoreswara temple, Shimoga dist., KA  Note Indira on an elephant Airavara

Makara-pranala at Borobudur, Indonesia
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Makara-pranala at Lakshmi Devi Temple
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Pranala,Someshwar temple in Bhangarh Fort
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A makara-pranala at the Hazara Rama temple
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water spout, Thanjavur Big temple, upload.wikimedia.org

Pranala at the Brihadisvara Temple,Thanjavur.  Facebook 

water spout, Thanjavur Big temple, upload.wikimedia.org

Above images:  Pranala at the Brihadisvara Temple, north prakara (outer court yard)  Thanjavur,Tamil Nadu -

https://www.chidambaramhiddentreasure.com/kailash-pranala-waterspout/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pranala