embankments, and heavily laden with silt, pours over the delta, filling the swamps, inundating the rice-fields, and converting the plains into a sea. In the dry weather the discharge of the Mahanadi dwindles to 1125 cub. ft. per second. Efforts have been made to husband and utilize the vast water supply thrown upon the Orissa delta during seasons of flood. Each of the three branches into which the parent stream splits at the delta head is regulated by a weir. Of the four canals which form the Orissa irrigation system, two take off from the Biropa weir, and one, with its branch, from the Mahanadi weir. On the 31st of December 1868 the government took over the whole canal works from the East Indian Irrigation Company, at a cost of £941,368. The canals thus taken over and since completed, are the high-level canal, the Kendrapara canal, the Taldanda canal and the Machgaon canal, irrigating 275,000 acres.
MAHANOY CITY, a borough of Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 56 m. N.E. of Harrisburg. Pop. (1890), 11,286; (1900), 13,504, of whom 3877 were foreign-born, mostly Slavs; (1910 census) 15,936. It is served by branches of the Lehigh Valley and the Philadelphia & Reading railways. The borough is situated in the valley of Mahanoy Creek, and has an elevation of 1240 ft. above the sea; Broad Mountain (1795 ft.), a ridge extending through Schuylkill county, overlooks it on the S.E. The valley is a part of the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania, fire clay abounds in the vicinity, and the borough’s principal industries are the mining and shipping of coal, and the manufacture of shirts and foundry products. Mahanoy City, originally a part of Mahanoy township (pop. in 1910, 6256), was incorporated as a borough in 1863.
MAHAR, the name of a servile caste in the Deccan, India. Their special function, apart from that of scavenger, is to act as village watchman, as guardian of the village boundaries, and as public messenger. In some parts they are also weavers of coarse cotton cloth. In 1901 their total number in all India was just under three millions.
MAHARAJPUR, a village in Gwalior state, Central India. Pop. (1901), 366. It was the scene of a battle (Dec. 29, 1843) in which Sir Hugh Gough, accompanied by the governor-general, Lord Ellenborough, defeated the insurgent army of the Gwalior state.
MAHĀVAṂSA, the Great Chronicle, a history of Ceylon from the 5th century B.C. to the middle of the 5th century A.D., written in Pali verse by Mahānāma of the Dīghasanda Hermitage, shortly after the close of the period with which it deals. In point of historical value it compares well with early European chronicles. In India proper the decipherment of early Indian inscriptions was facilitated to a very great extent by the data found only in the Mahāvaṃsa. It was composed on the basis of earlier works written in Sinhalese, which are now lost, having been supplanted by the chronicles and commentaries in which their contents were restated in Pali in the course of the 5th century. The particular one on which our Mahāvaṃsa was mainly based was also called the Mahāvaṃsa, and was written in Sinhalese prose with Pali memorial verse interspersed. The extant Pali work gives legends of the Buddha and the genealogy of his family; a sketch of the history of India down to Asoka; an account of Buddhism in India down to the same date; a description of the sending out of missionaries after Asoka’s council, and especially of the mission of Mahinda to Ceylon; a sketch of the previous history of Ceylon; a long account of the reign of Devānam-piya Tissa, the king of Ceylon who received Mahinda, and established Buddhism in the island; short accounts of the kings succeeding him down to Duṭṭha Gāmīin (Dadagamana or Dutegemunu); then a long account, amounting to an epic poem, of the adventures and reign of that prince, a popular hero, born in adversity, who roused the people, and drove the Tamil invaders out of the island. Finally we have short notices of the subsequent kings down to the author’s time. The Mahāvaṃsa was the first Pali book made known to Europe. It was edited in 1837, with English translation and an elaborate introduction, by George Turnour, then colonial secretary in Ceylon. Its vocabulary was an important part of the material utilized in Childer’s Pali Dictionary. Its relation to the sources from which it drew has been carefully discussed by various scholars and in especial detail by Geiger. It is agreed that it gives a reasonably fair and correct presentation of the tradition preserved in the lost Sinhalese Mahāvaṃsa; that, except in the earliest period, its list of kings, with the years of each reign, is complete and trustworthy; and that it gives throughout the view, as to events in Ceylon, of a resident in the Great Minster at Anurādhapura.
See The Mahāvaṃsa, ed. by Geo. Turnour (Colombo, 1837); ed. by W. Geiger (London, 1908); H. Oldenberg, in the introduction to his edition of the Dīpavamsa (London, 1879); O. Franke, in Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes (1907); W. Geiger, Dīpavamsa und Mahāvamsa (Leipzig, 1905, trans. by Ethel M. Coomaraswamy, Colombo, 1908). (T. W. R. D.)
MAHAYANA (“Great Vehicle”), the name given to the later Buddhism, the popular religion which embraced all the people and had its pantheon of Buddhas and Bodhisatvas, with attendant deities and demons, spacious temples and images, pompous ceremonial and noisy festivals. It was thus contrasted with the Hinayana (“Little Vehicle”) of the primitive Buddhism which had been only for the select few. (See Buddhism.)
MAHDI (Arab. “he who is guided aright”), a title assumed by the third Abbasid caliph (see Caliphate: Abbasids, § 3). According to Moslem traditionists Mahomet declared that one of his descendants, the imam of God, who would fill the earth with equity and justice, would bear the name of al-mahdi. The Sunnis hold that this mahdi has not yet appeared. The name of mahdi is also given by the Shiʽite Mahommedans to the last of the imams of the house of ʽAli. It was under the name of al-mahdi that Mokhtar proclaimed ʽAli’s son Mahommed as the opponent of the caliph Abdalmalik, and, according to Shahrastani, the doctrine of the mahdi, the hidden deliverer who is one day to appear and fill the oppressed world with righteousness, first arose in connexion with a belief that this Mahommed had not died but lived concealed at Mount Radwā, near Mecca, guarded by a lion and a panther. The hidden imam of the common Shiʽites is, however, the twelfth imam, Mahommed AbuʽI-Qasim, who disappeared mysteriously in 879. The belief in the appearance of the mahdi readily lent itself to imposture. Of the many pretenders to this dignity known in all periods of Moslem history the most famous was the first caliph of the Fatimite dynasty in North Africa, ʽObaidallah al-Mahdi, who reigned 909–933. After him was named the first capital of the dynasty, the once important city of Mahdia (q.v.). Another great historical movement, headed by a leader who proclaimed himself the mahdi (Mahommed ibn Abdallah ibn Tumart), was that of the Almohades (q.v.). In 1881 Mahommed Ahmed ibn Seyyid Abdullah (q.v.), a Dongolese, proclaimed himself al-mahdi and founded in the eastern Sudan the short-lived empire overthrown by an Anglo-Egyptian force at the battle of Omdurman in 1898. Concurrently with the claim of Mahommed Ahmed to be the mahdi the same title was claimed by, or for, the head of the Senussites, a confraternity powerful in many regions of North Africa.
MAHDIA (also spelt Mehdia, Mehedia, &c.), a town of Tunisia, on the coast between the gulfs of Hammamet and Gabes, 47 m. by rail S.S.E. of Susa. Pop. about 8000. Mahdia is built on a rocky peninsula which projects eastward about a mile beyond the normal coast line, and is not more than a quarter of a mile wide. The extremity of the peninsula is called Ras Mahdia or Cape Africa—Africa being the name by which Mahdia was designated by Froissart and other European historians during the middle ages and the Renaissance. In the centre of the peninsula and occupying its highest point is a citadel (16th century); another castle farther west is now used as a prison and is in the centre of the native town. The European quarter and the new port are on the south-west side of the peninsula. The port is available for small boats only; steamers anchor in the roadstead about a quarter of a mile from the shore. On the south-east, cut out of the rock, is the ancient harbour, or cothon, measuring about 480 ft by 240 ft., the entrance being 42 ft. wide. There are manufactories of olive