What is the significance of 108 in Hinduism?

By Madhavi Rathod | Published: May 17, 2019

We often come across the number 108 in Hinduism. Students are told to recite a mantra 108 times or to buy a mala with 108 beads. We even hear about people gathering to perform 108 Sun salutations. Why do Hindus consider this number considered to be so auspicious?

Here the primary reasons why you this figure has taken on such great significance:

  • The distance from the earth to the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Sun.

  • The Sun is 108 times the total diameter of the earth.

  • In Vedic astrology, we use nine planets (Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, North node Rahu, and South node Ketu). These are called the nava graha. There are the 12 signs of the zodiac (Aries to Pisces). Nine multiplied by 12 equals 108.

  • In Vedic astrology, there are 27 constellations or nakshatras. Each of them can occupy a particular direction (North, South, East, or West). So, 27 multiplied by four equals 108.

  • Vedic astrology is a lunar based tradition. The metal silver is correlated to the Moon. The atomic weight of silver is 108.

  • There are ancient Sanskrit texts called the Upanishads. Upanishads translates as “sitting near God”. These books expound on the Vedas. Most scholars believe agree that there are 108 Upanishads.

  • Many Indian deities have 108 names.

  • In the Sri Yantra, there are marma points or energy centers where three lines intersect. There are 54 of these intersections. Each intersection has a male and female quality (known and Shiva and Shakti). 54 multiplied by two is 108. The Sri Yantra is said to be a microcosm of the cosmos, as well as the human body.

The ancient Vedic sages were mathematicians. They devised our number system. The number 108 is known as a “Harshad number.” It is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits. 1+0+8 =9. 108 is divisible by 9. The word Harshad is translated as “joy giver”. Thus, you can understand how the Vedic sages felt that the number 108 represented the whole of existence in our universe.

You can incorporate this number in your practices, whether it be mantra japa, pranayama, or performing a particular asana in a week.

If you do not have a mala with 108 beads, it is ok to use one that has 27 beads and do four rounds. Alternately, you can utilize one with 54 beads and do two rounds. (Learn more in Meditating With Mala Beads.)


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Written by Madhavi Rathod

Madhavi Rathod

Madhavi Rathod is native of India who has spent the majority of her life in the U.S., while still retaining close ties to her culture. She is well versed in the sister sciences of Hatha Yoga: Ayurveda, Jyotish (Vedic astrology), Hasta Samudrika Shastra (hand analysis), and Vaastu Shastra.

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