A mahant // is a religious superior, in particular the chief priest of a temple or the head of a monastery. The Hindi word mahant is from Prakrit mahanta-, from Sanskrit mahat "great". Other titles for the word Mahant, serving in the context of a well known religious place, include priest or pundit, being generally always a Brahmin, gyani, or pastor. 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.
Mahant and Akhara
The top administrative body of each of the akhara is Sri Pancha (the body of five, a concept similar to the ancient elected-by-consensus republican-style Panchayat system), representing Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Ganesha. It is elected on every Kumbha Mela and the body holds its post for 4 years.
The head of the Akhara is the Acharya Mahamandaleshwara, followed by Mahamandaleshwara, Mandaleshwara and Sri Mahant respectively in the order of seniority, all of which can be considered Gurudeva (esteemed teacher) in their own right.
The word Acharya Mahamandaleshwara comes from the Acharya (Chief of spiritual order) + Maha (great or head) + Mandal (division) + Eshwara i.e. the Chief Divisional Leader of Spiritual order of the God.
The word Sri Mahant comes from the Sri (superior or senior) + mahant (leader) i.e. the Senior Leader of the Akhara.
- SGPC Glossary, "Mahant."