Mahavrata, Mahāvrata, Maha-vrata: 14 definitions


Mahavrata means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit. 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

Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

[«previous next»] — Mahavrata in Purana glossary
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index

Mahāvrata (महाव्रत).—The performance of this vow leads one to the world of Gaurī.*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 101. 53.
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)

[«previous next»] — Mahavrata in Shaivism glossary
Source: Wisdom Library: Śaivism

Mahāvrata (महाव्रत) is the Sanskrit name of a deity presiding over Mahendra, 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 (e.g., Mahāvrata) 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.

Source: Kāpālikas

Mahāvrata (महाव्रत, “great observance”), also called kapālavrata or “observance of the skull”, lokātītavrata or “observance going beyond the world”, and mahāpāśupatavrata or “great Pāśupata observance”. The Lākulas were the first Śaiva sect to practice the mahāvrata, which required a full assimilation to Bhairava.

Te practice of the mahāvrata was preceded by Lākula initiation, after which the initiate was also required to understand and meditate on the cosmic hierarchy of 11 levels. These levels include and build on those taught by the Pāśupatas, and they are later extended upward and some-what changed by agamic Śaivas.

Source: Brill: Śaivism and the Tantric Traditions

1) Mahāvrata (महाव्रत) refers to the “great observance”, as mentioned in the Malhar or Junwani copper plate inscription (647CE, see Bakker 2000 and 2015; Sanderson 2012).—Accordingly, “[…] reaching the present Kali age, the venerable Lord Lakulīśa took up an incarnation and was born in the family of a Brahmin called Somaśarman. He was initiated into the Great Observance (mahāvrata) by him (?) [and became] the Moon of the World. Then by him, Musalīśa [was initiated], then, by the unbroken tradition starting with Soma, the local Master Rudrasoma, his disciple Tejasoma, whose pupil is the venerable Bhīmasoma […]”.

Note: Lakulīśa and others were most probably initiated into the Mahāvrata (mahāvrate) and not with/by the Mahāvrata (mahāvratena), for this observance is not known to be used as a rite of initiation in any Śaiva system. By the beginning of the seventh century, the mahāvrata certainly referred to the ritualized mimesis of Śiva’s expiation for cutting off Brahmā’s fifth head. [...] The Kāpālika Satyasoma in the Mattavilāsaprahasana (600–625CE) mentions that it was thanks to the practice of the mahāvrata that his Lord bearing the crescent moon on his head was purified of his sin, which he had committed by cutting Brahmā’s head. The verse clearly identifies Śiva’s mahāvrata as the expiation rite for a Brahmin slayer, and also shows that Kāpālikas were practising the mahāvrata in imitation of Śiva.

2) Mahāvrata (महाव्रत) refers to the “great observance”, according to the Guhyasūtra chapter 3.—Accordingly, “[...] If one torments the body with rain, cold and heat, …, devoted to recitation and meditation, this is called the Great Observance (mahāvrata). A woman skilled in the pleasures of love-making, endowed with beauty and youth; such a woman one should procure, holding one’s senses back from the objects of the senses, and one should kiss and embrace [her], placing the penis upon her sex while remaining focussed upon recitation and meditation—one performs [thus] the Sword-Blade Observance. If one should succumb to the control of desire, then one certainly falls into hell. [...]”.

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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Kavya (poetry)

[«previous next»] — Mahavrata in Kavya glossary
Source: Naisadhacarita of Sriharsa

Mahāvrata (महाव्रत) refers to a Vedic rite (which involves amorous relations between a religious student and a whore), and is mentioned in the Naiṣadha-carita 17.203.—The Mahāvrata takes place at the winter solstice at the end of the Gavāmayana sacrifice which lasted for a year. The sacrificers were required to observe the vow of chastity throughout this period, and the Mahāvrata is supposed to restore the power to return to the householder’s life. For this purpose a whore and a Brahmacārin of Magadha are brought together on the sacrificial altar. See Taittirīyasaṃhitā (Ānandāśrama ed.) 7.5.9.

This and a further custom of the same type associated with the Mahāvrata are regarded as calculated “to promote human fruitfulness”; and the Mahāvrata itself, in which Agni and the Sun are formally worshipped by the sacrificer, is believed to be “an attempt to stimulate the sun at the winter solstice both by worship and by magic”.

context information

Kavya (काव्य, kavya) refers to Sanskrit poetry, a popular ancient Indian tradition of literature. There have been many Sanskrit poets over the ages, hailing from ancient India and beyond. This topic includes mahakavya, or ‘epic poetry’ and natya, or ‘dramatic poetry’.

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In Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism)

Source: A Critical Study of the Vajraḍākamahātantrarāja (II)

1) Mahāvrata (महाव्रत) or Agnimukha is the name of a Kṣetrapāla (field-protector) and together with Jvālāmkukhī Devī [or Mahālakṣmī] they preside over Kollagiri: one of the twenty-four sacred districts mentioned in the 9th century Vajraḍākatantra (chapter 18). Their weapon is the khaḍga and their abode is the nimba-tree [or top of the mountain]. A similar system appears in the tradition of Hindu Tantrims, i.e., in the Kubjikāmatatantra (chapter 22), which belongs to the Śākta sect or Śaivism.

2) Mahāvrata (महाव्रत) is also mentioned as the Kṣetrapāla (field-protector) who, together with Pūtanā Devī they preside over Āmraka. Their weapon is the lāṅgala and gaya and their abode is the dāru-tree.

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)

[«previous next»] — Mahavrata in Jainism glossary
Source: Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 7: The Five Vows

Mahāvrata (महाव्रत) refers to “major vows” and represents one of the two types of vows (vrata) according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 7.2.—What is meant by major vows (mahāvrata)? Total abstinence from the five sins for ever is called major vows. How many types of major vows are there? There are five types of major vows namely non-violence (ahiṃsāmahāvrata), speaking the truth (satyamahāvrata), non stealing (acauryamahāvrata), celibacy (brahmacaryamahāvrata) and non-possession (aparigrahmahāvrata).

General definition book cover
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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

Sanskrit dictionary

[«previous next»] — Mahavrata in Sanskrit glossary
Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary

Mahāvrata (महाव्रत).—a. very devotional, rigidly observing vows. (-tam) 1 a great vow, a great religious observance; a vow for not taking even water for a month; महाव्रतं चरेद्यस्तु (mahāvrataṃ caredyastu) Mb.12.35.22 (com. mahāvrataṃ māsamātraṃ jalasyāpi tyāgaḥ).

2) any great or fundamental duty; प्राणैरपि हिता वृत्तिरद्रोहो व्याजवर्जनम् । आत्मनीव प्रियाधानमेतन्मैत्रीमहाव्रतम् (prāṇairapi hitā vṛttiradroho vyājavarjanam | ātmanīva priyādhānametanmaitrīmahāvratam) Mv.5.59; क्रतौ महाव्रते पश्यन् ब्रह्मचारी- त्वरीरतम् (kratau mahāvrate paśyan brahmacārī- tvarīratam) N.17.23.

Mahāvrata is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms mahā and vrata (व्रत).

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

Mahāvrata (महाव्रत).—adj., f. , one who has undergone great austerities, Chr. 17, 27; 40, 15 (read mahāvrataḥ).

Mahāvrata is a Sanskrit compound consisting of the terms mahā and vrata (व्रत).

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

Mahāvrata (महाव्रत).—1. [neuter] great vow.

--- OR ---

Mahāvrata (महाव्रत).—2. [adjective] having undertaken a great vow.

Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: Aufrecht Catalogus Catalogorum

1) Mahāvrata (महाव्रत) as mentioned in Aufrecht’s Catalogus Catalogorum:—poet. [Sūktikarṇāmṛta by Śrīdharadāsa]

2) Mahāvrata (महाव्रत):—śr. As p. 142.

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

1) Mahāvrata (महाव्रत):—[=mahā-vrata] [from mahā > mah] n. a gr° duty, fundamental duty (5 in number [according to] to the Jaina system), [Hemacandra’s Yoga-śāstra; Yoga-sūtra]

2) [v.s. ...] a gr° vow, [Sāhitya-darpaṇa]

3) [v.s. ...] a gr° religious observance, [Rāmāyaṇa; Purāṇa]

4) [v.s. ...] Name of a Sāman or Stotra appointed to be sung on the last day but one of the Gavām-ayana (applied also to the day itself or its ceremonies or [according to] to [commentator or commentary] to the Śastra following the Stotra), [Atharva-veda; Brāhmaṇa; Taittirīya-saṃhitā] etc.

5) [v.s. ...] the relig° usages of the Pāśupatas, [Prabodha-candrodaya [Scholiast or Commentator]; Horace H. Wilson]

6) [v.s. ...] mf(ā)n. one who has undertaken solemn religious duties or vows, performing a gr° vow, [Mahābhārata; Rāmāyaṇa] etc.

7) [v.s. ...] observing the rule of the Pāśupatas

8) [v.s. ...] also used to explain mahi-vrata (q.v.), [Nirukta, by Yāska; Sāyaṇa]

9) [v.s. ...] m. a Pāśupata, [Kathāsaritsāgara]

10) [v.s. ...] Name of a poet, [Catalogue(s)]

11) Mahāvrāta (महाव्रात):—[=mahā-vrāta] [from mahā > mah] (mahā-) mfn. accompanied by a gr° host (of Maruts; said of Indra), [Ṛg-veda]

[Sanskrit to German]

Mahavrata in German

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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 (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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