Reason behind using 108 as the Emergency Number

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108 was decided upon as the National Ambulance Number when the Indian Government established Public Private Partnership with companies that wanted to create a difference in the emergency medical service landscape of India. But why was 108 chosen for it? Why not 234 or 555? Many consider it disbelieving but there are lesser known facts, buried deep under mythology and history that buttress the number 108 in ways most of us can’t quite imagine. This article will take a multidisciplinary route to understand why 108 is a critical number.

  1. Sacred explanation: In Hinduism and Buddhism, the number 108 is believed to have mystical connotations. The sadhus use malas for incantation, which consists of 108 beads. One japa can be completed by chanting the mantra 108 times which in turn is measured by the 108 beads in the mala. Gods in Hinduism are considered to have 108 names too. In Ayurveda, there are ‘108 Marma’ points which are pre-requisite to giving life to a living being. In Karate, the ultimate Gōjū-ryū kata,Suparinpei, literally translates to 108, when translated from Chinese. Even in the Tantras there is a mention about this number, which is the reason that most consider 108 as a number with sacred origins.
  2. Science: The scientific explanation to 108’s significance is also very surprising. The Earth’s diameter at the equator is 7926 miles.

The diameter of the Sun is about 108 times, which is 865,000. The average or midpoint distance between Earth and Sun is 93,020,000 miles. That is 108 times the sun’s diameter.

The Moon’s diameter is 2,180 miles. The average distance from Earth to Moon is 238,800 miles. Again, this about 108 times the Moon’s diameter!

  1. Energy lines: It is believed that the human soul undergoes 108 stages on a journey. Chakras are nothing but the point at which energy lines intersect, and it is said that there are altogether 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra.
  2. Law: The uncanny similarity between the numbers for emergency medical service also extends to the legal discipline. Section 108 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 refers to the guide for presumption of death of a person if there is lack of evidence. If the person is not heard for seven years, then to prove that the person is dead, section 108 is invoked.
  3. Psychology: 108 is also psychologically enabling for a person to remember during a crisis. As soon as we see the dial-pad, the eye automatically looks at the left end of the screen to the first number, gradually goes down (to 0) and then moves to the left (to 8). Another explanation also talks about how culturally 1 refers to the male counterpart, 0 to the feminine which is the sole proprietor of the circle of life and 8 to infinity or eternity which means ‘everything’. Thus, life can be experienced in one-thing, nothing and everything depending upon the different states of consciousness.

These theories are believed by many and consequently debated often. However, history and numerology has made it evident that the number 108 has certain connotations that are hard to overlook. This was an attempt at re-surfacing them. If you have any other interesting facts to share, we would love to know.

Nevertheless, 108 is a number subconsciously imbibed in all of us human beings. This in itself is a strong reason for you to be a first responder and call 108 whenever you witness an emergency.

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