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.
Within our Saiva Siddhanta Holy Scriptures the Saiva Agamas explain the basis of temple ceremonies and worship plus yoga and jnana. The Tirukural was considered by Gurudeva to be "the most accessible and relevant sacred text." In it are practical and helpful guidelines for our conduct in every day life. The point of family life is to gain steady improvement, forever, in self control in the midst of responsibilities in the fulfillment of family dharma. Meanwhile, not taking detachment too far but taking it in the sense of spiritually looking for happiness, not outside in other people or possessions, the world, but inside ourselves and then sharing it with family and friends. "We regard the writings of our satgurus as scripture."
Path to Siva, Lesson 20
Tirukural, Introduction and Contents
Tirukural, Chapter 15 Possession of Self-Control
"The temple enables us to feel the presence of God, Gods and devas." We use our inner eyes to see what's going on in the temple, the three worlds. In the temple we're being good dvaitists in the dimfi perspective, focused in bhakti upon God Siva. In meditation we're monists, in the shumif perspective. We claim our oneness with Siva, Sivoham, I am Siva. In surrender, shrinking the ego through devotion, we have a realization that we're not the doer, that Siva is doing it all. Siva's energy comes through our soul.