The significance of 18

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 ||”

3 Responses to “The significance of 18”

  1. Prashanth K.P. Says:

    Absolutely fantastic. May I humbly pen some more on the number 18, with your anticipated permission.

    The significance of the Number 18 cascades to other predominantly important features of Hinduism too. Sabarimala is engulfed in the predominance of the number 18. It is believed that there are 18 steps to attain Moksha.

    There are many theories about the significance of 18
    steps in the pilgrimage to Sabarimala. It is believed
    that the steps represent 18 mountains surrounding the
    temple. On each step, the deity of the corresponding
    mountain has been installed. So when the devotee
    climbs the 18 steps to reach the sanctum sanctorum, he
    attains the punya of visiting all 18 hill gods.During
    the padipuja, deities of these 18 mountinas are
    propitiated.

    The 18 mountains are: Ponnambalamedu, Gowdenmala,
    Nagamala, Sundaramala, Chittambalamala, Khalgimala,
    Mathangamala, Myladummala, Sreepadamala, Devarmala,
    Nilakkalmala, Thalapparamala, Neelimala, Karimala,
    Puthuserrymala, Kalakettimala, Inchipparamala and
    Sabarimala.The 18 steps are also considered as five
    indriyaas _ eye, ear, nose, tongue and skin; eight
    rajas, kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, matasraya,
    aham and asooya; three gunas: satva guna, raja guna
    and tamo guna; and vidya and avidya.

    Similarly, 18 is considered as the code number to break
    into the soul of the Nature. The significance of 18
    can be traced back to the Vedic age.The first Veda,
    believed to be protected by Lord Brahma himself, had
    18 chapters. Later, Veda Vyasa divided it to create
    the four vedas: Rigveda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and
    Atharava Veda. Each of these vedas had 18
    chapters.Veda Vyasa also wrote 18 puranas and 18
    upa-puranas. The Bhagavad Gita has 18 chapters and the
    Kurukshetra war lasted 18 days.

    I once again humbly reiterate, I just shared what I read.

  2. Rammohan Says:

    Dear Sri Hariprasad and Sri Prshanth
    My humble namaskara to both of you. The significance of number 18 has to be given top most importance and should be
    spread to every one in this world. When you hear Sri Bannanje’s discourse on Bhima, it is simply fantastic, probably I have heard it more than 100 times so far, everytime you listen to it , my love and respect towards Lord Bhima is increasing every time. At one point he says, the sages used to que up and wait have Darshan of Bheema.
    Lets pray to him to part a fraction each of his 10 charecters to all of us.

    Warm Regards
    G.Rammohan


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