In Bengali culture, we use 108 lotuses and 108 diyas to pray to Devi Durga on the main day of Durga Puja known as ‘Durga Ashtami’. In Hinduism and in Buddhism, the jap mala contains 108 beads or stones for chanting prayers or meditation. In short, in ways more than one, the number ‘108’ has been intrinsically entwined into our cultures and lives.
Ever wondered why is it so? Why is there such widespread appearance of this particular number? Why is it treated auspicious by one and all? According to the students of religious studies, this is a mysterious number that magically connects the ancient and the modern. And that is not all! Here’s furnishing you a detailed glossary of reasons that will strengthen your belief in the number all the more:
1. According to our Vedic cosmology, 108 is the basis of all creation.
It is the representation of our existence and our universe as a whole. This is properly exemplified when we try to understand the basis behind each number: the number ‘one’ signifies God’s consciousness, the number ‘zero’ signifies null or void, while the number ‘eight’ is the embodiment of infinity. In short, the number 108 is everything that we are about.
2. The number’s connection to astronomy.
In Vedic cosmology (and modern science), it is believed that the distance between the earth and the sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun, while the distance between the earth and the moon is 108 times the diameter of the moon. Furthermore, the diameter of the sun is 108 times that of the earth.
And the Sanskrit language has 54 alphabets. And when you multiply 54 and 2, you’re left with the product 108.
3. Talking about how important the number 108 is to different religions, it is to be noted that the ancient prayer beads of the Tibetan monks – known as the mala – also have 108 beads.
This is because according to the Tibetan culture, there are 108 different types of meditation. Interestingly, a copy of the famous ‘Gandjour’ contains 108 volumes of doctrines based on the life of Lord Buddha.
4. Not just the prominent religions in the world but even the most mysterious and archaic societies in China, Hung League, considers the number 108 as auspicious.
One of its major rituals concerns planting 108 different types of plants in a pot. Another ritual revolves around planting 108 groves of red bamboo in a pot.
5. Most rituals in India, not just in Hinduism but in Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism as well, have something connected to this number for auspiciousness.
6. The number 108 holds special importance in Hindu astrology, too.
According to the norms laid down by Hindu astrology, there are 12 rashis or zodiacs and 9 navagrahas or planets. So, if one multiplies the total number of zodiacs and the planets, the product is 108. Furthermore, there are 27 nakshatras or Lunar Mansions, which are further divided into 4 quarters or padas. Now, if you again multiply these two numbers, you get the auspicious number of 108 as the product.
7. If you have been to Kathmandu, one of the largest seats of Buddhism, you would have perhaps been to the auspicious Bodnath (Boudhnath) Stupa which is crafted with 108 images of Lord Buddha.
8. One of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments, the Sarsen Circle Stonehenge, has a diameter of 108 meters.
Despite it being located in the UK, which is very, very far away from Asia, each column of the Stonehenge is surprisingly similar to PhNom Bakheng – an ancient Shiva temple in Cambodia and also a symbolic representation of Mount Meru. Surprisingly (or not, after reading this article), this temple has 108 adorning towers.
9. Jean Filliozat of the Ecole Francaise, French expert on Indian cosmology and astronomy, revealed a deep symbolical meaning hidden in PhNom Bakheng.
Concentrating on the portion that deals with the number 108, it has been found out that the temple is decorated with 108 surrounding towers with the central one representing the axis of the world and the 108 smaller ones represent the four lunar phases, each with 27 days. The seven levels of the monument represent the seven heavens and each terrace contains 12 towers which represent the 12-year cycle of Jupiter.
10. Talking further about the significance of ‘108’, it is assumed that each person has 108 different types of feelings.
36 of them are tied to the past, 36 to the present while the rest 36 belong to the future. Furthermore, according to Marma Adi and Ayurveda therapy, there are 108 pressure points in human body.
11. And believers in God say that there are 108 paths to God.
The list on the significance of the number 108 can go long and long for there’s no end to it. This number has accompanied humanity since its inception, and will perhaps be there till eternity.