Saturday, June 29, 2013

2. The Significance of the number 18.



For some unknown reason, the number 18 keeps appearing several times in the Mahabharata.

The Mahabharata has got 18 volumes (called parvas).- I mentioned this in my first post as well.

The Mahabharata war was waged for 18 days.

The two warring sides together had 18 Akshauhinis of army units between them. Of the 18 Akshauhinis, the Pandavas had only 7 and the Kauravas 11.The army had 4 divisions - Chariots, Elephants, Horses and Foot Soldiers. 

A basic unit comprising 1 chariot, 1 elephant, 3 horses and 5 soldiers was called Patti. 3 units of Patti made a Sena-Mukha. A Gulma was made of 3 units of Sena-Mukha and 3 units of Gulma, in turn, constituted a Guna. 

As you would have guessed, 3 units of Guna would give rise to a larger unit called  Vauhini, 3 units of a Vauhini to a Pritana, 3 units of Pritana to a Chamu and 3 units of Chamu to one Anikini. But then, we started with Akshauhini, if you would remember! Combine 10 units of Anikini and you will get an Akshauhini.

If you do the Math right, you will find that one Akshauhini had 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 65,610 horses and 109,350 soldiers. So, how many were there in 18 Akshauhinis? There were 393,660 chariots, 393,660 elephants, 1,180,980 horses and 1,968,300 foot soldiers. If you include the people mounting horses, elephants and chariots, the number of people engaged in the war comes to nearly 4 million. And the tragic thing is that almost all of them, bearing a few people on the side of the Pandavas were killed in the war!

Mahabharata is also known by another name Jaya. This Sanskrit word means victory. But Sanskrit alphabets also denote the numerical digits. 'Ya' stands for 1 and 'Ja' for 8. But the convention to depict numbers with alphabets is to write them in the reverse order. Thus 'JAYA', the other name by which Mahabharata is known, stands for the number 18!

One can also add that the Mahabharata has  about 1.8 million or 18 lakh words. You have the number 18 again, though it is only an approximate figure here.

Mercifully, I have not written 18 paragraphs about the significance of 18 in the Mahabharata, but only 8, including this!

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