The historical and cultural significance of fourteen, the number

For my previous article, I came across the Nyāsaviṃśati of Śrī Vedānta Deśika where he listed the 14 qualities of an ācārya. Fourteen is an interesting number. Historically, Jambūdvīpa has had a lot of fourteens. The Devatās, ṛṣis, and the people of this land are seemingly somehow biased towards the number. A simple dictionary search reveals a lot to a curious seeker. Let’s look at some of the fourteens I could weed out from our vast history. Most of the following information has been extracted from The Revised and enlarged edition of Prin. V. S. Apte’s The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary.

Note: This is as an introductory enumerative article. Each of the individual fourteens will be dealt with in the form of dedicated standalone articles separately in the future.

The Vidyās

Vidyā translates to “Knowledge, learning, lore, science” (1 p. 140). The Vidyās are enumerated and listed differently by different sources. Usually, the Vidyās are enumerated to be 14. The following śloka elaborates (1 p. 694):

षडङ्गमिश्रिता वेदा धर्मशास्त्रं पुराणकम् ।

मीमांसा तर्कमपि च एता विद्याश्चतुर्दश ॥

“(The) six aṅgas (of the Veda) together with (the) Veda, (the) dharmaśāstra, (the) purāṇa(s), (the) mīmāmsa, and tarka – these (are) (the) fourteen Vidyās.” (Translation mine)

This means that the 6 vedāṅgas, 4 Vedas, entire dharmaśāstra, all purāṇas, mīmāmsa, and tarka add up to 14.

The Pūrvas

The Pūrvas form a ”… group of fourteen Jaina canonical texts, now extinct” (2). These canonical texts are said to be fourteen in number. (1 pp. 19,287,324,413) They dealt with a wide variety of subjects regarding the entire universe.


In alaṅkāra śāstra, i.e. the ‘science of figure of speech’ (3), alaṅkāra or literary embellishment can be of two types – śabda (word/sound) or artha (sense/meaning). Of these two, arthālaṅkāra has been mentioned to be of 14 types. Keśavamiśra, in his Alaṃkāraśekhara, (1 pp. 224-225) writes the following ślokas:

उपमारूपकोत्प्रेक्षाः समासोक्तिरपह्नुतिः ।

समाहितं स्वभावश्च विरोधः सारदीपकौ ॥

सहोक्तिरन्यदेशत्वं विशेषोक्तिर्विभावना ।

एवं स्युरर्थालकारा- श्चतुर्दश न चापरे ॥

The fourteen arthālaṅkāras listed above are upamā, rūpaka, utprekṣā, samāsa, ukti, apahnuti, samāhita, svabhāva,  virodha, sāradīpaka, sahokti, anyadeśatva, viśeṣokti, and vibhāvanā.

The Manus

The Manus were “…progenitors or sovereigns of the earth…” (1 p. 1235) and were fourteen in number. Their names in order are:- Svāyaṃbhuva, Svārociṣa, Auttami, Tāmasa, Raivata, Cākṣuṣa, Vaivasvata, Sāvarṇi, Dakṣasāvarṇi, Brahmasāvarṇi, Dharmasāvarṇi, Rudrasāvarṇi, Raucya-Daivasāvarṇi and Iṃdrasāvarṇi. (1 p. 1235)


A Pīṭhanāyikā is a girl who is fourteen years old (then an age prior to the onset of menstruation) who represents the main deity during the festival of Devi Durgā. (1 p. 124)


Chandas, prosody, is one of the six vedāṅgas. The knowledge of this field is critical for anyone involved in Sanskrit literature or Vedic studies. Praharaṇakalikā is a metre that has fourteen syllables in each pāda (quarter) of the śloka under consideration. (1 p. 1122)

The Ratnas

During the struggle to obtain amṛta when Lord Viṣṇu assumed the kūrmāvatara, fourteen ratnas were churned out of the Kṣīrasāgara. Their names have been rendered memorable in this maṅgalāṣṭaka (1 p. 693):

लक्ष्मीः कौस्तुभपारिजातकसुरा धन्वन्तरिश्चन्द्रमा गावः कामदुघाः सुरेश्वरगजो रम्भादिदेवाङ्गनाः ।

अश्वः सप्तमुखो विषं हरिधनुः शङ्खो$मृतं चाम्बुधे रत्नानीह चतुर्दश प्रतिदिनं कुर्युः सदा मङ्गलम् ॥

The 14 ratnas are: Devi Lakṣmī, the kaustubha maṇi, the pārijāta tree, Surā (alcohol), Dhanvantari (the Vaidya of the Devas), the moon, Kāmadhenu and other wish-fulfilling cows, Airāvata (the elephant mount of Indra), Rambhā and other apsaras, Uccaiśravas (a seven headed horse), Halāhala (poison), Śārṅga (the bow of Lord Viṣṇu), Śaṅkha (the conch of Lord Viṣṇu), and Amṛta.

The Lokas/Bhuvanas

The world was divided into fourteen lokas/bhuvanas by our Ancients. There are seven higher realms rising from the earth one above the other, i. e. bhūrloka, bhuvarloka, svarloka, maharloka, janarloka, taparloka, and satyaloka or brahmaloka. Then there are seven lower realms descending from the earth one below the other; i. e. atala, vitala, sutala, rasātala, talātala, mahātala, and pātāla. (1 p. 1372)

Rāma’s exile

This is rather a very obvious reference to the number fourteen. Almost every  Hindu grows up hearing about the hardships faced by Rāma during his fourteen years of exile. Those fourteen years practically form the major chunk of the epic. This fourteen year exile has been referred to by the dictionary at least five times. (1 pp. 65,1185,1237,1339,1353)


A dictionary can teach a wide variety of things. One word can lead to a multipronged forward leap in any research. My search for the word fourteen has lead me and fortunately you, the reader, also into learning far more than what was expected. Detailed articles describing each of the above fourteens are to follow soon.


  1. Apte, Vaman Shivaram. Revised and enlarged edition of Prin. V. S. Apte’s The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary. Poona : Prasad Prakashan, 1957-1959.
  2. Purva. Encyclopedia (of Jainism). [Online] [Cited: July 18, 2017.]
  3. Harshananda, Swami. Alaṅkāra-śāstra. Hindupedia. [Online] [Cited: July 18, 2017.] Originally from The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore.ṅkāra-śāstra.
  4. Cover Picture Source –