While it is well known that the number 18 is a very significant number in our shastras, the exact reason for the significance of this number was not clear. My previous post on this number and Gautham’s post in his blog got me more thinking. I recalled reading the significance of 18 somewhere but could not figure out where. Finally, I traced it to the excellent book “Ankeyalli Adhyatma” by Sri Bannanje Govindacharya. In this book, Sri Bannanje has explained the significance of various numbers in our Shastras. And he has a beautiful explanation for 18 as well.
The number 18 represents Bhagavanta Himself. To reach Him, 17 other things are to be overcome. Only then, one reaches the 18th that is completely independent and outside of these 17. The first 15 of these are Panchabhutas, Indriyas, Manas, Anna, Veerya, Tapassu, Mantra, Karma, Loka, Nama and Shraddha. The 16th is the Jiva himself who is entwined by the 15. The 17th is Prakruti. And finally, the 18th is Bhagavanta Himself.
Sri Madhvacharya has also demonstrated how the Pandavas and Draupadi represent 17 and Krishna represents 18.
- Yudhishthira : Dharma
- Bhima : Bhakti, Jnana, Vairagya, Prajna, Medhashakti, Dhruti, Sthithi, Yoga, Prana and Bala*
- Arjuna : Shravana, Manana and Nididhyasana
- Nakula-Sahadeva : Sheela and Vinaya
- Draupadi : Spiritual knowledge (Adhyatma Vidya)
And Sri Krishna, of course, is Para tattva personified. Hence, the significance of 18 in the Mahabharata.
* There is a shloka in the Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya which explains these ten qualities of Bhima. Chapter 2, Shloka number 141.
“Bhaktirjnanam savairagyam prajnaa medhaa dhrutih stithihi |
Yogah praNO balam chaiva vrukOdara iti smrutaha ||”