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Maheshvara, aka: Maheśvara, Māheśvara; 5 Definition(s)


Maheshvara means something in 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.

The Sanskrit terms Maheśvara and Māheśvara can be transliterated into English as Mahesvara or Maheshvara, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism

Kathā (narrative stories)

Maheśvara (महेश्वर) is mentioned in as the “chief of things animate and inanimate”. His dwelling place is the mountain-peak Kailāsa, located within Himavat, according to the Kathāsaritsāgara, chapter 1. Accordingly, “There (Kailāsa) dwells Maheśvara the beloved of Pārvatī, the chief of things animate and inanimate, attended upon by Gaṇas, Vidyādharas and Siddhas. In the upstanding yellow tufts of his matted hair the new moon enjoys the delight of touching the eastern mountain yellow in the evening twilight.”

The Kathāsaritsāgara (‘ocean of streams of story’) is a famous Sanskrit epic story revolving around prince Naravāhanadatta’s quest to become the emperor of the Vidhyādharas. 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: KathāsaritsāgaraKathā book cover
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Kathās (कथा) are special kind of Sanskrit literature: they are a kind of a mix between Itihāsa (historical legends) and Mahākāvya (epic poetry). Some Kathās reflect socio-political instructions for the King while others remind the reader of the historical deeds of the Gods, sages and heroes.

Śaivism (Śaiva philosophy)

1) Maheśvara (महेश्वर) is a Sanskrit word referring to one of the sixty-eight places hosting a svāyambhuvaliṅga, one of the most sacred of liṅgas according to the Śaivāgamas. The presiding deity residing over the liṅga in this place (Maheśvara) is named Oṃkāra.

2) Maheśvara (महेश्वर) is also the name of a deity presiding over Prayāga, Viśvamadhya and Dīpta, three 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 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: Wisdom Library: ŚaivismŚaivism book cover
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Śaiva (शैव, shaiva) or Śaivism (shaivism) represents a tradition of Hinduism worshipping Śiva as the supreme being. Closeley related to Śāktism, Śaiva literature includes a range of scriptures, including tantras, while the root of this tradition may be traced back to the ancient Vedas.

Nāṭyaśāstra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

Maheśvara (महेश्वर) is the Sanskrit name for a deity to be worshipped during raṅgapūjā, according to the Nāṭyaśāstra 3.1-8. Accordingly, the master of the dramatic art who has been initiated for the purpose shall consecrate the playhouse after he has made obeisance (eg., to Maheśvara).

Source: Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstraNāṭyaśāstra book cover
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Nāṭyaśāstra (नाट्यशास्त्र, natya-shastra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition of performing arts, (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 (nāṭya) and poetic works (kāvya).


1a) Maheśvara (महेश्वर).—(Śiva): cursed the seven sages to be born in every epoch;1 got vṛṣa (bull) from Surabhī for his standard;2 lived long in his father-in-law's house after marriage; Meru insulted him as poor and useless when Umā insisted on her husband to go to his house; he went to Benares after which it became Avimukta;3 also Brahmā;4 Stambha; Kāpāli on earth for having removed one face of Brahmā; to get rid of this brahmicide Śiva's service to Kāmākṣī at Kāñcī; blessed for his samādhi; bathed in Pañcasaras and found himself at Kāśi, from there to Kāñcī; Jyotirmayibhikṣa given; the Kapāla dropped out and he was relieved;5 blessed Kubera to be the lord of the Yakṣas for his penance at the confluence of the Narmadā and the Kāverī.6 Praise of, by Kāvya.7

  • 1) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 27. 47; III. 1. 9.
  • 2) Ib. III. 3. 78-79.
  • 3) Ib. III. 31. 35. 67. 32, 60.
  • 4) Ib. IV. 1. 203; 2. 221, 257; 4. 35, 73; 7. 49; 14. 18.
  • 5) Ib. IV. 40. 52-59.
  • 6) Matsya-purāṇa 181. 3-5; 185. 12; 189. 10.
  • 7) Vāyu-purāṇa 97, 162-202.

1b) As cosmos; hence acintyātma but the source of all beings; Brahmanas from face, Kṣatriyas, from breast, Vaiśyas from the thighs and Śūdras from the feet;1 created the world, men, devas, asuras, constellation, night, day, Vedas, etc.;2 the smallest atom among the prakṛtis, never failing, absolute; formless, and of form; the darkness becomes illumination by the contact of tejas;3 the six angas of; all wise, all satiating, ever arousing, all free, eternally powerful, and of undiminished strength;4 a Mahāyogi;5 Lokeśa, worshipped in different ways.6

  • 1) Vāyu-purāṇa 9. 122.
  • 2) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa I. 5. 95.
  • 3) Vāyu-purāṇa 101. 226.
  • 4) Ib. 12. 31-3.
  • 5) Ib. 21. 36.
  • 6) Ib. 49. 171.

1c) Born of Pradhāna and Puruṣa; father of world creation;1 the universe as limbs of.2

  • 1) Vāyu-purāṇa 103. 36.
  • 2) Ib. 103. 71-3.

2) Māheśvara (माहेश्वर).—The 29th Kalpa in which Tripuram was burnt.*

  • * Matsya-purāṇa 290. 10.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana IndexPurāṇa book cover
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The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Maheśvara (महेश्वर) is the name of class of mahoraga gods according to the Digambara tradition, while the Śvetāmbara does not recognize this class. The mahoraga refer to a category of vyantaras gods which represents one of the four classes of celestial beings (devas). The mahoragas are are dark or black in complexion and the Nāga is their caitya-vṛkṣa (sacred-tree).

The deities such as the Maheśvaras 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

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