Mahakala, aka: Mahākāla, Mahākalā, Maha-kala; 14 Definition(s)

Introduction

Mahakala means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Shaktism (Shakta philosophy)

[Mahakala in Shaktism glossaries]

Mahākāla (महाकाल):—One of the persons joining Śiva during the preparations of the war between Śankhacūḍa and the Devas, according to the Devī-bhāgavata-purāṇa (9.20.22-53). All persons attending were remained seated on beautiful aerial cars, built of jewels and gems. The war was initiated by Puṣpadanta (messenger of Śiva) who was ordered to restore the rights of the Devas. .

(Source): Wisdom Library: Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam

Śiva, as Mahā-kāla is eternal time, he’s the substratum from which arise all the secondary cycles of time and the energies which rule them — beginning with the cycles of evolution and involution of the cosmos and including all the cycles which govern everything from the sub-atomic particles to the galaxies, including the cycles which rule the existence of every single species of life, and it’s each and every moment. The most representative division of the cycle of time is the alternation of day and night which are constant reminders of the rhythmic universal patterns of projection and dissolution of all that exists.

(Source): Red Zambala: The 10 Great Wisdom Goddesses
Shaktism book cover
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Shakta (शाक्त, śākta) or Shaktism (śāktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devi) is revered and worshipped. Shakta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various Agamas and Tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

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Purana

[Mahakala in Purana glossaries]

Mahākāla (महाकाल) is the name of a gaṇa (attendant of Śiva), mentioned in the Skandapurāṇa 4.2.53. In this chapter, Śiva (Giriśa) summons his attendants (gaṇas) and ask them to venture towards the city Vārāṇasī (Kāśī) in order to find out what the yoginīs, the sun-god, Vidhi (Brahmā) were doing there.

While the gaṇas such as Mahākāla were staying at Kāśī, they were desirous but unable of finding a weakness in king Divodaśa who was ruling there. Kāśī is described as a fascinating place beyond the range of Giriśa’s vision, and as a place where yoginīs become ayoginīs, after having come in contact with it. Kāśī is described as having both the power to destroy great delusion, as well as creating it.

The Skandapurāṇa narrates the details and legends surrounding numerous holy pilgrimages (tīrtha-māhātmya) throughout India. It is the largest Mahāpurāṇa composed of over 81,000 metrical verses, with the core text dating from the before the 4th-century CE.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Skanda-purāṇa

1) Mahākāla (महाकाल).—A Śiva pārṣada. Mahābhārata, Sabhā Parva, Chapter 10, Verse 34 mentions that Śiva Pārṣadas known as Mahākālas flourished in the assembly of Kubera.

2) Mahākāla (महाकाल).—A sacred place situated in the Śiprā river valley in Ujjain. The Śivaliṅga installed in this place is called "Mahākāla." Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapter 82, Verse 49 says that those who take a bath in the Koṭitīrtha at this place, get the same effect as that of an Aśvamedha yāga.

(Source): archive.org: Puranic Encyclopaedia

1a) Mahākāla (महाकाल).—A son of Guhāvasa, the avatār of the 17th dvāpara.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 23. 177.

1b) A Gaṇeśvara; an attendant of Śiva; with Mahākāli engaged in the service of Lalitā as one of her guardsmen; he is served by servants like Kālamṛtyu; in charge of the first entrance to Śrīpuram; other Śaktis attached to him are Mahāsandhya and Mahāniśā in the Trikoṇa and five Śaktis on the Pañcakoṇa as also those on the ṣoḍaśa patra and nāga patra; his seat is Kālacakra.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 41. 26; Matsya-purāṇa 183. 64; 192. 6; 266. 42; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 32. 23; IV. 30. 75; 32. 2, 40; 34. 89.

1c) Sacred to Maheśvarī.*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 13. 41.

1d) A place sacred to Śiva.*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 181. 26.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

[Mahakala in Shaivism glossaries]

1) Mahākāla (महाकाल) is the Sanskrit name of a deity presiding over Ujjayini, one of the sixty-eight places hosting a svāyambhuvaliṅga, which is one of the most sacred of liṅgas according to the Śaivāgamas. The list of sixty-eight svāyambhuvaliṅgas and presiding deities (eg., Mahākāla) is found in the commentary on the Jirṇoddhāra-daśaka by Nigamajñānadeva. The word liṅga refers to a symbol used in the worship of Śiva and is used thoughout Śaiva literature, such as the sacred Āgamas.

2) Mahākāla (महाकाल) is the name of a teacher to whom the Kāpālika doctrine was revelead, mentioned in the Śābaratantra. The disciple of Mahākāla is mentioned as being Carpaṭa. The Śābara-tantra is an early tantra of the Kāpālika sect containing important information about the evolution of the Nātha sect. It also lists the twelve original Kāpālika teachers (eg., Mahākāla). Several of these names appear in the Nātha lists of eighty-four Siddhas and nine Nāthas.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Śaivism

Mahākāla (महाकाल) is the name of a deity who received the Vātulāgama from Śiva through the mahānsambandha relation, according to the pratisaṃhitā theory of Āgama origin and relationship (sambandha). The vātula-āgama, being part of the eighteen Rudrabhedāgamas, refers to one of the twenty-eight Siddhāntāgamas: a classification of the Śaiva division of Śaivāgamas. The Śaivāgamas represent the wisdom that has come down from lord Śiva, received by Pārvatī and accepted by Viṣṇu.

Mahākāla obtained the Vātulāgama from Devavibhava who in turn obtained it from Sadāśiva through parasambandha. Mahākāla in turn, transmitted it to through divya-sambandha to the Devas who, through divyādivya-sambandha, transmitted it to the Ṛṣis who finally, through adivya-sambandha, revealed the Vātulāgama to human beings (Manuṣya). (also see Anantaśambhu’s commentary on the Siddhāntasārāvali of Trilocanaśivācārya)

(Source): Shodhganga: Iconographical representations of Śiva
Shaivism book cover
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Shaiva (शैव, śaiva) or Shaivism (śaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshiping Shiva as the supreme being. Closely related to Shaktism, Shaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including Tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

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Katha (narrative stories)

[Mahakala in Katha glossaries]

Mahākāla (महाकाल) is the name of a deity and/or his cementary (śmaśāna) near the river Gandhavatī near Ujjayinī, according to the Kathāsaritsāgara, chapter 102. Accordingly, “... then he [Mṛgāṅkadatta] reached the River Gandhavatī, and dispelled his fatigue by bathing in it; and after crossing it, he arrived with his companions in that cemetery of Mahākāla. There he beheld the image of mighty Bhairava, black with the smoke from neighbouring pyres, surrounded with many fragments of bones and skulls, terrible with the skeletons of men which it held in its grasp, worshipped by heroes, frequented by many troops of demons, dear to sporting witches”.

The Kathāsaritsāgara (‘ocean of streams of story’), mentioning Mahākāla, is a famous Sanskrit epic story revolving around prince Naravāhanadatta and his quest to become the emperor of the vidyādharas (celestial beings). The work is said to have been an adaptation of Guṇāḍhya’s Bṛhatkathā consisting of 100,000 verses, which in turn is part of a larger work containing 700,000 verses.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Kathāsaritsāgara
Katha book cover
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Katha (कथा, kathā) refers to narrative Sanskrit literature often inspired from epic legendry (itihasa) and poetry (mahākāvya). Some Kathas reflect socio-political instructions for the King while others remind the reader of important historical event and exploits of the Gods, Heroes and Sages.

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In Buddhism

(Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

[Mahakala in Tibetan Buddhism glossaries]

Mahākāla (महाकाल) is the name of an ancient Tibetan tantric deity.—Mahākāla was probably borrowed by the Buddhists from the Shivaite Tantras and reinterpreted as an emanation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. He belongs to the class of the Dharma Protectors, those of the supramundane type. His functions are to eliminate both outer and inner obstacles for life and practice of the Buddhists such as enemies, diseases, personal afflictions, etc.

(Source): academia.edu: A Collection of Tantric Ritual Texts
Tibetan Buddhism book cover
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Tibetan Buddhism includes schools such as Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu and Gelug. Their primary canon of literature is divided in two broad categories: The Kangyur, which consists of Buddha’s words, and the Tengyur, which includes commentaries from various sources. Esotericism and tantra techniques (vajrayāna) are collected indepently.

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In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

[Mahakala in Jainism glossaries]

Mahākāla (महाकाल) refers to a class of piśāca deities according to both the Digambara and Śvetāmbara traditions of Jainism. The piśācas refer to a category of vyantaras gods which represents one of the four classes of celestial beings (devas).

The deities such as Mahākālas are defined in ancient Jain cosmological texts such as the Saṃgrahaṇīratna in the Śvetāmbara tradition or the Tiloyapaṇṇati by Yativṛṣabha (5th century) in the Digambara tradition

(Source): Wisdom Library: Jainism

Mahākāla (महाकाल) refers to one of the two Indras (lords) of the Piśāca class of “peripatetic celestial beings” (vyantara), itself a main division of devas (celestial beings) according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 4.6. Kāla and Mahākāla are the two lords in the class ‘goblin’ peripatetic celestial beings.

(Source): Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 4: The celestial beings (deva)
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

[Mahakala in Marathi glossaries]

mahākāla (महाकाल).—m (S) in poetry mahākāḷa m A name or form of Shiva in his character of the destroying deity, Time personified. Ex. ma0 ubhā cirīna bāṇīṃ ||. 2 One of the lingams of Shiva.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary
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Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

[Mahakala in Sanskrit glossaries]

Mahākalā (महाकला).—the night of the new moon.

Mahākalā is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms mahā and kalā (कला).

--- OR ---

Mahākāla (महाकाल).—

1) a form of Śiva in his character as the destroyer of the world; महाकालं यजेद्देव्या दक्षिणे धूम्रवर्णकम् (mahākālaṃ yajeddevyā dakṣiṇe dhūmravarṇakam) Kālītantram.

2) Name of a celebrated shrine or temple of Śiva (Mahākāla) (one of the 12 celebrated Jyotirliṅgas) established at Ujjayinī (immortalized by Kālidāsa in his Meghadūta, which gives a very beautiful description of the god, his temple, worship &c., together with a graphic picture of the city; cf. Me.3-38; also R.6.34); महाकालनिवासिनं कालीविलासिनमनश्वरं महेश्वरं समाराध्य (mahākālanivāsinaṃ kālīvilāsinamanaśvaraṃ maheśvaraṃ samārādhya) Dk.1.1.

3) an epithet of Viṣṇu.

4) Name of a kind of gourd.

5) Name of Śiva's servant (nandi). °पुरम् (puram) the city of Ujjayinī. °फलम् (phalam) a red fruit with black seeds; पक्वं महाकालफलं किलासीत् (pakvaṃ mahākālaphalaṃ kilāsīt) N.22.29.

Derivable forms: mahākālaḥ (महाकालः).

Mahākāla is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms mahā and kāla (काल).

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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