"Makara" is an integral part of Hindu and Buddhist temple architecture -01

Makara thorana halebeedu, KA. flickr.com

Above image: Makara-The mythical animal (Halebeedu, KA India)The Makara - a mythical animal with the mouth of a crocodile, ears of a cow, eyes of a monkey, body of a pig, feet of a lion and tail of a peacock. This symbol was extensively used in all the Hoysala temple Architecture.......................


Above image: Makara, Hoysaleshvara sur le Temple à Halebid à Karnataka,.....................

Among the legendary creatures often notecable in the Hindu and Buddhist temples of India and SE Asia, Yali and or Vyala and makara are  worthy of mention and their iconography is popular across many parts of Asia.  Makara,  being a familiar one, is supposedly a loyal and fierce protector of the places of worship.  It is said that  in old-Greek Makara implies  ‘the blessed ‘and is root of Greek names such as Makarios.

Besnagar Makara pillar capitalupload.wikimedia.org/

Above image:   The Makara, as the one found on a pillar capital at the site of the Heliodorus pillar, is associated with Pradyumna.[12nd century BCE. - Besnagar Makara pillar capital  Gwalior Museum...........................

Makara and Kirtimukha at Hindu temple in /upload.wikimedia.org

Experts argue that  depiction of  Makara   in Indian iconography as crocodile is incorrect . The  mythical creature has  a blend of  features of several sea and land or terrestrial animals. Its configuration and  appearance may differ  depending on the features of the animals and where they are set in place.   Makara, a mythical beast of both land and sea with fanciful features is not a monster 

A long and a probing snout and an elaborate and spread out tail are distinct parts of .all Makara.  One can see a bit variation in their iconography representing a composite figure with a weird combustion of  a trunk as that of an elephant, ears a cow, eyes of  fish, body  of a boar, bushy tail of a peacock with legs of lion.  Apart, Makara has a head of an antelope, an alligator, or a shark; with sharp rows of  teeth.

Makara thorana,/Kandariya Mahadev Temple, Khajuraho. twitter.com
Above image: Makara Torana from the Kandariya Mahadev Temple,  Khajuraho........................ 

The depiction of makara in places of worship, etc  varies  normally the toranas- archways at the entrance and doorways in the sanctum are some of the places where it is adorned with decorative patterns.  The Buddhist monuments  such as  the ancient Sanchi stupa   and its  gateway  are decorated elaborately with  Makara toranas.

Mythlok Makara head, /mythlok.com

Above image: This mythical sea creature has various parts - an elephant, a crocodile, and a serpent. Usually, statues of the Makara feature a 5-headed Naga carved into its mouth. The snake or Naga is often shown to be being swallowed by the angry Makara or crocodile. The head of the Makara is usually shown as an elephant’s trunk with 3 ruffs on the side.  In Thailand  Makara symbolizes the rich Hindu and Buddhist heritage. Today, traditional Thai architecture never fails to adopt decorative Makara on the staircases and entrances to most important places to keep the old customs and traditions alive.........................

 Makara may be depicted as if it is ready to pounce  and attack the intruder;  sometimes with a rider or without a rider.

 One can see makara in various positions in decorative motif - In some in standing posture  only the head along with the tail is detailed; no depiction of its entire body. Only its head could be detailed along  with its tail which  could be spread around  or hanging down to earth.

 It is to be noted that in temple architecture Makara’s face alone is used as an  architectural element  called  kirtimukha “glory face”to remind the devotees entering the temple or sanctum to shed their ego. 

The Hindu  festival of  Makara Sankranthi or Pongal as in Tamil nadu  (in December/ January)  marks the end of winter solstice and the entering of the Sun into the tenth house of the Zodiac heading toward the northern hemisphere. It is the dawn for the gods. It also is the birth of time; and the first day of the New Year.

Makara has close link with creation-process  and  is symbolic  of time and its cyclic nature. This is the reason why Makara is widely on display in Sun temples.

From iconography point of view  Makara, a native symbol of India, was  used as  a royal insignia and accepted as part of  embellishment and a symbol to remind us  to be  free from ego and respect time factor.

The impact of makara on the indian art forms is so much its symbols are found at various levels. A  little do we know that Makara is the  vahana  of Varuna, the goddesses Lakshmi, Ganga and Sarasvati. It is the banner on Kamadeva’s flag.  Gods such as Vishnu and others wear earrings in the shape of Makara (Makara-kundala).In astrology Makara is related to constellation of Capricorn (Makara-raasi) with Sea-Goat as its symbol.

The insignia or symbol of makara became popular in SE Asia. Sri Krishna comment  in the Bhagavad-Gita  that “I am Makara among the aquatics (jhasanam makarah) just as the Ganga among the rivers and Rama among the warriors”- (Gita .10.31) bears testimony to the importance of this strange  mythical creature makara whose iconic figure was popular in the west as well as in  the middle east.  The mystic symbolisms  are primarily due its combination of various features of  an aquatic animal, a serpent, an elephant and the dragon and these produce various legends.