The Pre-Saiva Mahakala of Ujjayini


  • Péter Száler Eötvös Loránd University



Bāṇa, Mahākāla, Kārtavīrya Arjuna, Ujjayinī, Sūrya, Kālaka


Ujjayini, one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage sites, is widely known as Siva’s city. The great deity of the famous Mahakala temple has been worshipped as its main patron until the present day. However, Phyllis Granoff has demonstrated that some early sources such as the Harivamsa (112.125–26) as well as the Brhatkathaslokasamgraha (1.4.) regard Mahakala as Siva’s gana, and therefore she concluded that Mahakala was originally a local god whom the Saivas step by step adopted at first as Siva’s gana, then as the hypostasis of the great deity himself. This article attempts to develop further Granoff’s hypothesis and tries to reconstruct, as far as possible, the figure of the so-called pre-Saiva Mahakala . In this way, it analyses the myths of the region, such as the Jaina tale of Kalaka, the Bana legends as well as the Kartavirya legends, and searches for common motives which may help to define the main characteristics of the local cult before Saivism became dominant.

Author Biography

Péter Száler, Eötvös Loránd University

Péter Száler (1991–) is a part-time lecturer of ELTE Department of Indian Studies (Budapest). He graduated with a master’s degree in Indian Studies (Sanskrit) from Eötvös Loránd University, and defended his PhD in classical antiquities (Sanskrit) at the same university in 2019. His research interests focus on Sanskrit epics and Hindu mythology.


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How to Cite

Száler, P. . (2021). The Pre-Saiva Mahakala of Ujjayini. Religions of South Asia, 15(1), 89–104.