Mahant (/məˈhʌnt/) is a religious superior, in particular the chief of a temple or the head of a monastery in Indian religions.[1]

James Mallinson, one of the few westerners to be named as a mahant,[2] describes the position of a mahant as a combination of an abbot and a brigadier.[3]


The Hindi word mahant comes from Prakrit mahanta-, Sanskrit mahat (accusative case: mahantam) meaning "great".[4]


Other titles for the word Mahant, serving in the context of a well known religious place, include priest or pundit—generally always being a gyani or pastor.[citation needed]

In other branches of Hinduism, the mahant is an ascetic who is the head and leader of the temple and has religious responsibilities as a preacher.[5] Mahant is a title of Bairagis and Goswamis.


In Sikh history, the mahants were the hereditary managers who controlled and held the door keys of Sikh gurdwaras. After the creation of the SGPC and the Nankana massacre involving Mahant Narayan Das, a law was passed handing over gurdwaras to reformer Sikhs.[6]


  1. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary (2nd ed., 2005), p. 1020.
  2. ^ "The making of a mahant: a journey through the Kumbh Mela festival". Financial Times. 8 March 2013.
  3. ^ Roughton, Nicole. ""Attending the Kumbh Mela at Nasik: some reflections from a SOAS mahant" by James Mallinson – South Asia Notes". Retrieved 2021-09-16.
  4. ^ Webster's Third New International Dictionary, p. 1361.
  5. ^ Raymond Brady Williams (2001). An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hinduism. Cambridge University Press. pp. 239. ISBN 052165422X.
  6. ^ Mahant Archived 2009-02-23 at the Wayback Machine