By Swami Harshananda
Prākāra literally means ‘surrounding wall’.
A temple is often surrounded by a high wall or enclosure called ‘prākāra’. It is like a fort protecting the temple. Built of such materials as stone or brick or even wood, it often contains the gopurams or main entrance gates which may vary from number one to four. The Śrīrangam temple of Ranganātha in Tamil Nadu has seven prākāras. The prākāra may also provide accommodation for the shrines of parivāradevatās of the main god. In the prākāras of old temples, artistically carved designs and even inscriptions have been found. In the Sāñkhāyana Śrautasutras, it denotes a walled mound supporting a raised platform called prāsāda for spectators. The word is sometimes used to denote the fourth court of a big house or temple generally divided into five courts or areas.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore