Śikhara, a Sanskrit word translating literally to "mountain peak", refers to the rising tower in the Hindu temple architecture of North India. Sikhara over the sanctum sanctorum where the presiding deity is enshrined is the most prominent and visible part of a Hindu temple of North India.
In south India, the equivalent term for "Sikhara" is "Vimanam". These are not to be confused with the elaborate gateway-towers of south Indian temples, called "Gopurams", which are perhaps the most prominent features of those temples.
While both Nagara and Dravida styles feature a tall and tapering tower, the dravidian style is highly ornate, as seen at the Tirupati temple (left). The "Nagar" style (right) is simpler and consists of a curvilinear dome. Very often, the cone-like shape is repeated several times, beginning with a broad base and tapering to the top; here is a fine example. In every style of Sikhara/Vimanam, the structure culminates with a "Kalasham", or sacred brass receptacle, at its peak. In the vesara style, the dome tends to be highly ornate and emegres from the Sukanasa or richly carved horizontally treated outer walls of the temple.