We asked our master buildeer, Selvanathan Sthapati, to explain the faces on Iraivan. Here is his response, received today from India:
With regard to swami's question of Mahanaasi / kirtimukha -- the difference in this two terms is as follows;
Mahanasi means a big(maha) nose(naasi).This architectural form is seen on the gopuras and the vimanas. The shape is based on the face of lion and it is believed in tradition that this terrifying naasi form observes all the bad omen/evil things in and around the temple premises. This is the main reason that this form is created on the vimanas and gopuram.
These protective faces are common throughout the Hindu world.
Kirtimukha means Face of Glory or Fame. It is a hip ornamental feature seen on the dress of the gods and goddesses. This feature is based on the lion face with highly rich ornamentation.
There are dozens of these Mahanaasi on Iraivan temple.
In Bali, Hindus make special masks that are fearsome to the asuras and delightful to the devas.
What right-thinking asura would get near these three?
These are another ornamental feature that decorate the walls of the temples.
In fact, everywhere you look in Iraivan you see this.
You can hear these mahanaasi roar. Look closely, that is their roar artistically flowing from the mouth.
The small ones (as per swami's photos) are the chutra nasis (small nasikoodus) meaning a form with the outline of Mahanaasi but without lion face.
May all be protected by dharma.
May all be protected by their good karma.
May all be protected from harm.
"Temples with multiple deities can be confusing, especially for today's Hindu youth. For clarity, we need to bring forward a more precise understanding of the different Hindu denominations and how the different Gods are viewed from within each denomination. For spiritual advancement it is best to focus on one deity and get to the vibration that deity. When we hear teachings from various Hindus, it is important to understand and identify which denomination they are speaking from. This will avert confusion when that teaching gets contradicted in a different context where someone is talking about the same subject but from a different philosophical background."
Bodhinatha reviews the main characteristic of Saivite philosophy and practice with an indepth focus on the four stages of religions evolution, chariya, kriya, yoga and jnana. He highlights how this shows that Saiva Siddhanta is unique and quite from the modern practice of Hinduism as Vedanta