Mahanaga, Mahānāga: 8 definitions

Introduction

Introduction:

Mahanaga means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit. 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

Natyashastra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

Source: Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra

Mahānāga (महानाग) is a Sanskrit word referring to “great serpents”, a class of deities. Acording to the Nāṭyaśāstra 1.88-93, when Brahmā, Indra and all other gods went to inspect the playhouse (nāṭyamaṇḍapa) designed by Viśvakarmā, he assigned different deities for the protection of the playhouse itself, as well as for the objects relating to dramatic performance (prayoga).

As such, Brahmā assigned the Mahānāgas (eg., Śeṣa, Vāsukī and Takṣaka) to the fifth section (joint/knot, parva) of the Jarjara (Indra’s banner staf). The protection of the playhouse was enacted because of the jealous Vighnas (malevolent spirits), who began to create terror for the actors.

Natyashastra book cover
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Natyashastra (नाट्यशास्त्र, nāṭyaśāstra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition (śāstra) of performing arts, (nāṭya, e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nataka) and poetic works (kavya).

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Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

[«previous (M) next»] — Mahanaga in Purana glossary
Source: JatLand: List of Mahabharata people and places

Mahānāga (महानाग) is a name mentioned in the Mahābhārata (cf. I.31.11, I.35) and represents one of the many proper names used for people and places. Note: The Mahābhārata (mentioning Mahānāga) is a Sanskrit epic poem consisting of 100,000 ślokas (metrical verses) and is over 2000 years old.

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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In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names

1. Mahanaga Thera. The son of Madhuvasettha of Saketa. While the Buddha was at Anjanavana, Mahanaga saw the wonder wrought by Gavampati and entered the Order under him, attaining to arahantship in due course.

In the past he had given a dadima (pomegranate) fruit to Kakusandha Buddha (ThagA.i.442f).

Several verses uttered by him in admonition of the Chabbaggiya, because of their failure to show regard for their co religionists, are found in the Theragatha. Thag.vss.387-92.

2. Mahanaga. Son of Mutasiva and viceroy of Devanampiyatissa. His wife was Anula, for whose ordination Sanghamitta came over from Jambudipa (Mhv.xiv.56; Dpv.xi.6; xvii.75). His second wife was a foolish woman who tried to poison him in order to get the throne for her son. While he was building the Taraccha tank, she sent him some mangoes, the top one of which, intended for him, was poisoned. But it was her son who ate the mango and died. Mahanaga thereupon went to Rohana, where he founded the dynasty of that name at Mahagama. His son was Yatthalayaka Tissa. Mahanaga built the Nagamaha vihara and the Uddhakandara vihara. Mhv.xxii.2ff.

3. Mahanaga. A resident of Nitthulavitthika in Girijanapada. He was the father of Gothaimbara. Mhv.xxiii.49.

4. Mahanaga. Son of Vattagamani. He later came to be known as Coranaga. Mhv.xxxiii.45.

5. Mahanaga. See Mahadathika Mahanaga.

6. Mahanaga Thera. Incumbent of Bhutarama. As a mark of favour, Kanitthatissa built for him the Ratanapasada at Abhayagiri vihara. Mhv.xxxvi.7.

7. Mahanaga Thera. Incumbent of Samudda vihara. He was among those who accepted the gift of a meal by Prince Saliya, in his birth as a blacksmith. MT. 606.

8. Mahanaga Thera. Incumbent of Kalavallimandapa. He was among those who accepted the meal given by Saliya in his previous birth (MT. 606). He was one of the last to attain arahantship among those who left the world with the Bodhisatta in various births (J.iv.490). He did not sleep for seven years, after which he practised continual meditation for sixteen years, becoming an arahant at the end of that time. SNA.i.56; MA.i.209; SA.iii.155.

His fame was great, and there is a story of a brahmin who came all the way from Pataliputta to Kalavallimandapa in Rohana to visit him. The brahmin entered the Order under him and became an arahant (AA.i.384). Once, while Mahanaga was begging alms at Nakulanagara, he saw a nun and offered her a meal. As she had no bowl, he gave her his, with the food ready in it. After she had eaten and washed the bowl, she gave it back to him saying, Henceforth there will be no fatigue for you when begging for alms. Thereafter the Elder was never given alms worth less than a kahapana. The nun was an arahant. DhSA.399.

9. Mahanaga Thera.

context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

Mahānāga (महानाग) is a title given to the Bhikṣus that accompanied the Buddha when he went to Gṛdhrakūṭaparvata at Rājagṛha according to Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter VI). Accordingly, “Mahat means great, na indicates negation and agha means sin. The Arhats are said to be “without sin” because they have cut through the passions (kleśa)... Furthermore, Nāga means snake or elephant. Among the innumerable other Arhats, these five thousand Arhats are extremely powerful; this is why they are compared to a snake and an elephant. In the water, the snake is very strong; on earth, the elephant is very strong”.

Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Tibetan Buddhism

Mahānāga (महानाग) refers to a group of deities summoned by the Yamāntaka-mantra and mentioned as attending the teachings in the 6th century Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa: one of the largest Kriyā Tantras devoted to Mañjuśrī (the Bodhisattva of wisdom) representing an encyclopedia of knowledge primarily concerned with ritualistic elements in Buddhism. The teachings in this text originate from Mañjuśrī and were taught to and by Buddha Śākyamuni in the presence of a large audience (including Mahānāga).

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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Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[«previous (M) next»] — Mahanaga in Pali glossary
Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

mahānāga : (m.) a big elephant.

Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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Sanskrit dictionary

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Edgerton Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Dictionary

Mahānāga (महानाग).—‘great elephant’, epithet of śrāvakas: Mahāvyutpatti 1081; in Pali a thera of this name is known, and Senart assumes this name for Mahāga, q.v., of mss., Mahāvastu i.182.18.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Cappeller Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Mahānāga (महानाग).—[masculine] great serpent or elephant.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary

1) Mahānāga (महानाग):—[=mahā-nāga] [from mahā > mah] m. a great serpent, [Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa; Suparṇādhyāya]

2) [v.s. ...] a gr° elephant, [Harivaṃśa]

3) [v.s. ...] one of the elephants that support the earth, [Rāmāyaṇa]

4) [v.s. ...] Name of Vātsyāyana, [Demetrius Galanos’s Lexiko: sanskritikes, anglikes, hellenikes]

context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family (even English!). 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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