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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Sikhara, Zikhara, shikhara

Śikhara literally means ‘that which has a top’.

The words gopura, śikhara and vimāna are generally assumed to be synonymous but factually they are not. They can be explained as belows:

  • Gopura is the huge tower built over the entrance of big temples.
  • Vimāna is a small tower built over the garbhagṛha[1] to indicate the place where the chief deity is installed.
  • Śikhara is the uppermost tapering part of the Vimāna.

Over the śikhara, āmalaka[2] is built capped by a kalaśa.[3]


  1. Garbhagṛha means sanctum sanctorum.
  2. Āmalaka means myroballan-shaped structure.
  3. Kalaśa means finial.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore