The Makara (Sanskrit; Javanese: Makårå) is a Hindu-Buddhist mythological sea creature. In Buddhist iconography, this mythological creature is always depicted with its trunk tilted up and its mouth spread wide open from which a lion emerges (Sanskrit: siṃha; Javanese: singå). The Makara resembles the mouth of the rākṣasa (Sanskrit: ‘giant’, ‘demon’) whom is ‘The Lord of Time’ (Sanskrit: Bhaṭṭāra Kāla, or Rāhu; Javanese: Batara Kala, or Kala Rao). Batara Kala’s manifestation in the form of Makårå is also a symbol of the Buddhist teaching of impermanence (Sanskrit: ‘anitya‘) since everything will be ‘eaten’ by time, or consumed by Kala Rao.
The Makara can be found in many ancient temples in Indonesia. The most common place where the Makara is depicted is at a temple’s gate. In this way, then, the Makara guards over the sacred place. This, of course, is a symbolical representation of Batara Kala’s spiritual duty as a Dharma Protector (Sanskrit: ‘Dharmapala‘).
In Hindu mythology, however, the Makara is the vehicle (Sanskrit: ‘vāhana’) of the water god Varuṇa and the goddess Gaṅgā (the river Ganges). In this context, then, the Makara depicted on corners of a temple wall also serves a more practical purpose, namely that of a (rain)water drainage system.