Episode # 27 – Statistics behind “AKSHAUHINI” – A unit measuring the strength of an army!!!

In the previous episode, we had witnessed a short accord on the significance of Kurukshetra, where the Mahabharata war took place. It is this very place wherein “Dharma” took a re-birth after decades and centuries of being pushed towards a corner. It is this place which saw the birth of the revered Bhagawad Gita from Bhagawan Krishna Himself, which contains all aspects of “Dharma” packed into it. We’re going to witness this in a bit more detail when the time comes. However for now, as we witness the significance of Kurukshetra, we’ve seen yesterday as to how Bhagawan Parasurama had a role to play in this. It was He who ensured that this place becomes a “Punya-Kshetra” along with many others in our Bhaarata Desha. 

As we had witnessed this part of the event, we’ve also seen that these words came from Sage Pouranika, as he was addressing a group of great sages who had assembled at Naimishaaranya. The sages were requesting Sage Pouranika to explain something about this place called “Samantha-Panchakam” because, Sage Pouranika had initially mentioned to them that he had been to this place recently. In fact, this is how the entire Mahabharata text is built. One event would lead into another event. Or, there might be some context that might just find one mention in one “Parva”. Many “Parvas” later, someone would recollect this context and ask for some more details of it. Thus, it would start from where this context had found mention in some previous “Parvas” and move on from there. This is why in the “Mahabharata” text, we would find events being narrated in “bits and pieces” here and there. This is in stark contrast with the Ramayana, wherein we had one full story of Bhagawan Rama that runs entirely in a uni-directional angle right from the “Bala Kanda” till the “Yuddha Kanda”. This is why I’m repeatedly urging readers to take down notes then and there as we’re discussing things. 

Continuing thus with the description, Sage Pouranika says that it is at this time when the Dwaapara Yuga and the Kali Yuga meet, there was a huge war between two great clans! Along with the people who make up for these clans, there were eighteen “Akshauhinis” of the army that would fight each other. As Sage Pouranika was describing thus, there was an immediate question here – “What is “Akshauhini”? You had mentioned that the Kauravas had eleven “Akshauhinis” of the army and the Paandavas had seven of them. Now tell us how do we measure “Akshauhini”? What is the statistical background behind it?” As this question comes up all of a sudden, Sage Pouranika leaves the previous story in the middle, and starts answering this question. 

Sage Pouranika is now going to describe the arithmetic behind “Akshauhini”. Before we go into the details of “Akshauhini”, we should understand an important sub-unit of it, called “Patthi”. This is like having “Meter” as one bigger measurement and “Centimeter” as a smaller measurement for “Meter”. Thus, one “Patthi” comprises the following: One chariot, one elephant, five foot soldiers and three horses. Three such “Patthis” combine to form one “Sena-Mukham”. Three “Sena-Mukhams” combine to form one “Gulmam”. Three such “Gulmams” combine together to form one “Vaahini”. Three such “Vaahinis” combine to form one “Pruthana”. Three “Pruthanas” come together to form one “Aneekini”. Ten such “Aneekinis” combine together to form one “Akshauhini”. I hope readers are able to comprehend this. Like I had mentioned before, it is like having “millimeters”, “centimeters”, “meters”, “kilometers”, etc. The “Kilometer” is like the “Akshauhini”, which is the biggest unit of measurement. 

Thus from this, we can figure out how huge one “Akshauhini” army was. As Sage Pouranika explains this, he quickly calculates the final numbers within himself and explains it. He says that one “Akshauhini” of the army comprises of 21,870 chariots, 21,870 elephants, 1,09,350 foot soldiers and 65,510 horses. With this, we can calculate the number of chariots, elephants, horses and foot soldiers for 18 “Akshauhinis”. I’m not going to do it right now! It is for readers to calculate. If we start calculations here, I would be ending up in taking a class on statistics! 🙂 But the point here is that, it is for all of us to see the enormity of the war that took place at Kurukshetra, and the enormity of the destruction that also came along with it. We’ve to remember one thing here – Out of so many people, elephants, etc. Only 10-12 of them survived at the end. We can see here that the entire army of crores of people were completely destroyed in just 18 days! 

As Sage Pouranika explains thus, the sages started doing the calculations. Everything turned out to revolve around this number called “eighteen”. In other words, there were 18 “Akshauhinis” of the army. The war took place for 18 days. The number of “Parvas” in the Mahabharata text is 18. Similarly, the Bhagawad Gita comprises 18 Adhyaayas! So these sages were puzzled as to what is behind this number 18! Why is everything adding up to 18 and not any other number? This is an interesting observation, isn’t it? Again, Sage Pouranika has to deviate from the main narrative to answer this question! We shall wait till the next episode to find out Sage Pouranika’s answer on this! Stay tuned! 🙂 

Published by Dr. Jeayaram

Holds a PhD in Management Psychology from Universite Paris Saclay, Paris, France. Also an Asst. Professor of Human Resources management at Bharatidhasan Institute of Management (BIM) Trichy, India A professional South Indian classical musician (singer) performing concerts. Through this blog, I'm trying to bring out the richness of Indian culture & values and I request your support and feedbacks in making this humble effort a success!!

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