''Kirtimukha", a traditional part of Hindu temple architecture, wards off devotees from ego and greed!!

 Kirtimukha  in a Hindu temple Alamy.com

Madurai Meenakshi temple, TN Kirtimukha thegoodlifewithiq.com

Above image: Kirtimukha - "A symbol of reabsorption and renewal".  The pretty old  Madurai Meenakshi temple has four tall richly ornate massive gopurams (gateway towers) facing the four cardinal directions. Each of them  has  two kirtimukha atop.  This one above is on the northern gopuram of the ancient temple.........

If you visit any Hindu temple in south India you can not miss a horrid or an odious creature with popped up eyes, erect ears, protruding  curved teeth, puffed cheeks, sharp fangs,  thick moustache, fanciful horns, etc., as a sort of decorative feature  on the nasika of gopura - tower  or over the lintel of the entrance gate to the inner sanctum.  Some authors have compared the Kirtimukha with the Greek myth of Ouroboros, a symbol of perpetual cyclic renewal of life and eternity. "The ouroboros is part of Hindu iconography, as in this drawing of a tortoise supporting elephants upon which the Earth rests, enclosed by the serpent, Asootee" (https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20171204-the-ancient-symbol-that-spanned-millennia).

The Scythian, Hellenic, Chinese art traditions have similar  decorative motifs.  Such a weird and ghostly quite visible fearsome face is  incongruous in a place of worship  where divinity lives. 

Kirtimukha on the gopura.Amrutesvara temple, KA 

Above image: Kirtimukha sculptures on shikhara (tower) of Amrutesvara temple at Amruthapura, Chikkamagaluru district, Karnataka. Photo credit: Dinesh Kannambadi

Greek Ouroboros bbc.com

Kirtimukha ( word rooted in Sanskrit - kīrtimukha, meaning "glorious face"; word mukha  refers to the face while kīrti means "fame, glory"), is an interesting iconographic element  in Hinduism. Its depiction of a swallowing fierce monster face with huge fangs, and gaping mouth, is quite conspicuous. This fearsome face is ubiquitous  as far as the Hindu temple architecture is concerned.  It is also found expression  in the Hindu and  Buddhist temples  of Southeast Asia. It is its  ornamental motif in art that goes  down into the roots of the Skanda Purana and Shiva Purana - Yuddha khand of Rudra Samhita, makes it stand apart among the  other Hindu legendary creatures being displayed on the Hindu temple towers, particularly in the south. In Kalinga  temple architecture, the Kirtimukha motif is common and known as vajra-mastaka and is depicted on the  spire of the temple. In Hoysala temples  the Kirtimukha motif is carved in many places  from the base of the outer layer of the temple to the beak like projection at the base of the Shikhara of the temple.At the temples of Tamil Nadu (Dravida design style), Kirtimukha motif can be found of the gopura,vimana, base of the pillars and at the base of water wall. It is also well set on the door lintel in the inner sanctuary of the main shrine.

Kirtimukha,Kasivisvesvara Temple,Lakkundi, Gadag district,
KA, (Wikipedia

The underlying philosophical connotations emphasise the following: 

 01. The depiction of the kirtimukha  as a carved stone figure in the facade of the temple on the gopura  cautions the devotees entering the place of divinity  to be free from  ego, the most destructive element in the human trait. Ego hidden in the deeper part of your mind, will never let you grow in status/ stature. Nor does it help  you retain your prestige and prosperity. 

Kirtimukha is a symbol of time in.pinterest.com

  Kirtimukha is a symbol of a guardian in.pinterest.com

02. Kirtimukha is a symbol of a guardian of your mind that is prone to committing mistakes.  It  checks the flow of mind process and reminds you to persevere  and use discretionary powers before taking action. It helps you sharpen your wisdom and intellect.

03. Kirtimukha implies space-time continuum is a continuous process and the time lost can not be regained

04. It is a common feature on the upper door frame of  main entry  doorways  of  the old houses, and palaces in India and South East Asia. Kirti-mukha meaning “the face-of-glory” represents the core of the time factor and its transitory nature.  It is Kalamukha, symbolizes time that devours everything.

05. Every thing on earth falls within the realm of  time and space and all things in the universe undergo changes -,destruction and construction.

06. Every thing on earth is subject to  constant change. So are your money  power, wealth, beauty, youthfulness, etc.  Kirtimukha reminds  you of your restricted time on earth and the importance of leading a blissful life without any ego.   

07.  bSilpaśāstra texts like the Mānāsara, describe the Kirtimukha  as a protective motif that can be carved on all parts of the temple like the pillars, the Shuknasi and the layers of the jagati.  In some cases the Kirtimukha has a link with the makara (crocodile) motif, especially in South-East Asia and Odisha.

08. Beginning as Siva’s jata mukuta or crown of matted hair as a protective motif, it became popular in the 6th century CE..

According the legend of  Kirtimukha when the great king Jalandhara, armed with  extraordinary powers got  through severe penance on Shiva, at one stage driven by arrogance  asked  Rahu, to  eclipse the moon, to challenge Shiva. Shiva in rage opened his third eye and created a fearsome lion. When Rahu resented his mistake, Shiva made the monster  feed on the flesh of its own feet and hands. Kirtimukha began to eat its  own body and finally Shiva stopped him near his face and called  him Face of Glory and  God Shiva wanted his fearsome  face always set  at the  sanctum door or on the gopura of his temples. The belief has been that  whosoever worship the Kirtimukha would  be free from ego, pride, desires and sins as they are devoured by  Kirtimukha. When the devotees enter the garbhagriha free of all bad traits with a new soul, they will get blessed by the grace of the almighty.  Suffice to say that  Kirtimukha is a symbol of Shiva himself.

This is the reason why at countless Hindu temple of south India both big and small, the Kirtimukha is often used as a  prime motif surmounting the pinnacle of a temple or the image of a deity. According to Zimmer, historian , "Kirtimukha serves primarily as an apotropaic demon-mask, a gruesome, awe-inspiring guardian of the threshold."

Its sculptural similarity with the lion face (Simhamukha) and in the case of a Kirtimukha  the act of swallowing is the key element. it is only a face, indeed very often only the upper jaw and top of the face is visible.  Some authors have compared the Kirtimukha with the Greek myth of Ouroboros

So it is imperative to know from kirtimukha that ego is essentially self destructive and has the  power to  sustain  itself by consuming everything in the person in whom it resides. "Kirtimukha is thus a ''threshold guardian  of maturity and of wisdom''.