Mahānirvāṇa Tantra

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Tantras may be grouped among the secondary class of literature and quite popular even now. Even though the word ‘tantra’ means any science or body of knowledge, in actual usage it has got restricted to the works primarily devoted to the sect of Śakti or the Divine Mother.

The Mahānirvāṇa Tantra is an important and well-known work of the tantra group of literature that has been printed. The work now available is in 14 ullāsas or chapters. The total number of verses are 2517. It is in the form of a dialogue between Sadāśiva, the teacher, and his spouse Pārvatī, the disciple. Many scholars feel it is incomplete.

Contents of Mahānirvāṇa Tantra[edit]

The contents of the fourteen chapters may be summarized as follows:

  • Liberation of beings
  • Worship of Brahman
  • Supreme Brahman
  • Importance of kulācāra in the age of Kali
  • Revelations of mantras and elements of worship
  • Homa and other rites
  • Stotra and kavaca of Devi
  • Varṇāśrama-dharmas
  • Sanskāras or the purificatory sacraments
  • Śrāddhas or funeral/obsequial rites
  • Prāyaścittas or expiatory acts
  • Dāya-bhāga or division of property
  • Installation of images
  • Consecration of Śivaliṅgas
  • Four types of avadhutas or the perfected beings


There is a Sanskrit tīkā or commentary by Hariharānanda Bhāratī, the spiritual preceptor of the famous social reformer and founder of the Brahma Samāj, Rājā Rāmmohan Roy (CE 1772-1833). It is even suggested that this commentator revised the original text of the tantra itself to eliminate the unsavory aspects of it and bring it near to Vedānta philosophy.

There is an incomplete commentary (up to the 158th verse of the 6th chapter) by one Saṅkarācārya (CE 1886) published from Vārāṇasī. He gives an esoteric interpretation and criticizes other (earlier) commentators.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore