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The Significance and Symbolism of 1-0-8

November 2008
The Significance and Symbolism of 1-0-8

Is there a phone number in India that’s equivalent to 911? Yes, at least in some places, one can now call 108 for medical, fire and police emergencies. This initiative is the brainchild of three Hyderabad-based entrepreneurs, including the CEO of Satyam Computers. Seeing the need for such a helpline, Ramalinga Raju and his brothers sought advice from Stanford’s School of Medicine and set up the Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) in 2005.

Though limited in its reach, this pioneering service is being hailed as a model of efficiency and success that can be duplicated across India. There are ambitious plans to do just that. EMRI points out that over 1,110 ambulances respond to emergency calls in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand. By 2010, EMRI is expected to have 10,000 ambulances. With links to 6,000 hospitals, it currently handles over 4,500 calls a day.

Why 108 and not some other number? Here are some reasons listed by EMRI: (1) Primary number. (2) Lord Krishna danced with 108 Gopis in Brindavan. (3) Sanskrit has 54 characters, but the total comes to 108 because each character has a masculine and feminine form. (4) The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the earth. (5) The number is used in Islam to refer to God. (6) For Jains, the virtues of all five categories add up to 108. (7) In Japan, a bell is rung 108 times to usher in the new year, with each ring representing one of the 108 temptations that must be overcome to attain nirvana. (8) There are 108 karanas (key transitions) in Indian classical dance.

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