Samhara, aka: Saṃhāra; 9 Definition(s)


Samhara means something in Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Buddhism, Pali, 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

Shaivism (Shaiva philosophy)

Saṃhāra (संहार):—Eighth of the nine padas, or ‘fields of authority or qualification’ representing one of the nine groups of Dūtīs in the Dūtīchakra, according to the Kubjikāmata-tantra. The eighth group of Dūtīs is presided over by the Bhairava named Diṅmaheśvara.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Kubjikāmata-tantra
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.


1a) Saṃhāra (संहार).—A Bhairava god on the sixth parva of Geyacakra.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 19. 79.; 20. 92.

1b) The pralaya at the end of Kaliyuga; first covering by waters, next by tejas, then by ākāśa, then by bhūtadi, then by mahat, and lastly by avyakta;1 the period ending all manvantaras, each continuing for several yugas;2 impossible to be told in detail.3

  • 1) Vāyu-purāṇa 21. 11; 102. 4, 27-31;
  • 2) Vāyu-purāṇa 100. 118;
  • 3) Vāyu-purāṇa 61. 126-27.
(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.

Shilpashastra (iconography)

Saṃhāra (संहार) is the Sanskrit name of a form of Bhairava. According to the Rudrayāmala, there are eight main forms of Bhairava who control the eight directions of this universe. The term is used throughout Śilpaśāstra literature.

Saṃhāra has the following eight manifestations:

  1. Saṃhāra,
  2. Atiriktāṅga,
  3. Kālāgni,
  4. Priyaṅkara,
  5. Ghoranāda,
  6. Viśālākṣa,
  7. Yogīśa,
  8. Dakṣasaṃsthita.

All these have a color resembling the lightning; they should carry in their hands the kuṇḍa, the kheṭaka, the parigha (a kind of club) and bhiṇḍipāla.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Śilpa-śāstra
Shilpashastra book cover
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Shilpashastra (शिल्पशास्त्र, śilpaśāstra) represents the ancient Indian science (shastra) of creative arts (shilpa) such as sculpture, iconography and painting. Closely related to Vastushastra (architecture), they often share the same literature.

Natyashastra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

1) Saṃhāra (संहार, “conclusion”) refers to one of the “five segments” of the plot (itivṛtta or vastu) of a dramatic play (nāṭaka), according to the Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 21. It is also known by the name Nirvahaṇa. These five segments are assigned to the principal plot (ādhikārika).

2) Saṃhāra (संहार) or  Saṃharaṇa refers to one of the two limbs (aṅga) belonging to Khañjanātkuṭā type of song (dhruvā) defined in the Nāṭyaśāstra chapter 32.9-16. Accordingly, “depending on different conditions, the dhruvās are known to be of five classes”.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra
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).

Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar)

Saṃhāra (संहार).—Unnecessary contraction of the place (स्थान (sthāna))as also of the instrument (करण (karaṇa)), which results into a fault of utterance called पीडन (pīḍana); cf. विहार-संहायोर्व्यासपींडने (vihāra-saṃhāyorvyāsapīṃḍane) R. Pr.XIV.2.

(Source): Wikisource: A dictionary of Sanskrit grammar
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Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa) refers to Sanskrit grammar and represents one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas. Vyakarana concerns itself with the rules of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic analysis in order to establish the correct context of words and sentences.

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Saṃhāra (संहार, “expansion”) according to the 2nd-century Tattvārthasūtra 5.16.—How does the empirical soul with innumerable space point exist in one of the innumerable space-points of space? It is possible due to the capacity of expansion (saṃhāra) and contraction (visarpa) of the soul, like light. The empirical soul is of the size of the body it owns according to this capacity of expansion and contraction.

Is contraction (saṃhāra) and expansion (visarpa) nature of the soul or is it an attribute of kārmika bondage? Contraction expansion is not the nature of the sol. It is an attribute of the name karma associated with the soul. Do Siddhas have expansion and contraction? If not, why not? No, as they (Siddhas) is free from body-making karma. Contraction and expansion is an attribute of karma and not of the soul.

(Source): Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 5: The category of the non-living
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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.

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

saṃhāra : (m.) abridgement; compilation.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary
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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.

Marathi-English dictionary

saṃhāra (संहार).—m (S) Destroying or destruction (i. c. reduction into its original state) of the universe. 2 Extinction, exhaustion, consumption, extirpation, annihilation &c.; demolition of form, mode, or state, or destruction of being, in the widest acceptation; and, preëminently (in poetry and popularly), exterminating or extensive slaughter:--whether the act or the state. 3 S Collecting: also collectedness or a collection. 4 Abridging: also abridgedness or an abridgment. 5 Contracting or gathering together generally: also contracted or gathered state.

(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.

Sanskrit-English dictionary

Saṃhāra (संहार).—1 Drawing or bringing together, collecting; अनुभवतु वेणीसंहारमहोत्सवम् (anubhavatu veṇīsaṃhāramahotsavam) Ve.6; कृत्स्नं च धनसंहारं कुर्वन्ति विधिकारणात् (kṛtsnaṃ ca dhanasaṃhāraṃ kurvanti vidhikāraṇāt) Mb.12.2.8.

2) Contraction, compression, abridgment.

3) Withholding, drawing back, withdrawal (opp. prayoga or vikṣepa); समर्थो धारणे मोक्षे संहारे चासि पाण्डव (samartho dhāraṇe mokṣe saṃhāre cāsi pāṇḍava) Mb.3.4.15; Bhāg.1.7.27; प्रयोगसंहारविभक्तमन्त्रम् (prayogasaṃhāravibhaktamantram) R.5.57,45.

4) Restraining, holding back.

5) Destruction, especially of the universe, universal destruction; संहारे समनुप्राप्ते व्यादितास्य इवान्तकः (saṃhāre samanuprāpte vyāditāsya ivāntakaḥ) Rām.7.62.5.

6) Close, end, conclusion.

7) An assemblage, a group.

8) A fault in pronunciation.

9) A charm or spell for withdrawing magical weapons.

1) Practice, skill.

11) A division of hell.

Derivable forms: saṃhāraḥ (संहारः).

(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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