Hinduism and the Total Number of Species or Life Forms on Planet Earth

Modern biologists today can list and name around 1.3 million species of life forms on planet earth. But modern biologists also agree that this number is a significant underestimate of the actual total number of species on this planet, so millions of species and life forms are yet to be identified, named, listed and studied. Even today every year around 15,000 new species and life forms are discovered which keeps adding to the number of known species mentioned above. For centuries Taxonomists around the world have been trying to get an approximate definitive figure about the total number of species on Earth and to list them all.  Now let us see what the ancient Hindu scriptures have to say about the total number of species on planet Earth.

Ancient Hindu Texts on Total Number of Life Forms

Bhagavadgita – 5000 year old text

The ancient Hindu text Bhagavadgita which which is atleast 5000 years old and dates back to the times of Mahabharatha says in (2.22) that just as one gives up an old shirt to put on a new one, the soul gives up an old body to acquire a new kind of a body (vasāmsi jirnāni yathā vihāya). And that a soul can be born as any of the 8.4 million species on this planet one of which is humans, the greatest of all life forms. Since being born as a human is such a rare opportunity, one should make complete use of this human life, and devout one’s lifetime to do good things, earn knowledge, help others, serve the society and try to attain moksha (salvation).

What is quite obviously hidden in this message is a statement which says that there are 8.4 million different life forms on this planet!

Padma Purana – 5000 year old text

Another ancient Hindu text Padma Purana which is also a contemporary of  Bhagavadgita not only says that there are 8.4 million different species on Earth, but also goes a step ahead and categorizes or classifies them as follows.

Jalaja (Water based life forms) – 0.9 million
Sthavara (Immobile implying plants and  trees) – 2.0 million
Krimayo (Reptiles) – 1.1 million
Pakshinam (Birds) – 1.0 million
Pashavah (terrestrial animals) – 3.0 million
Manavah (human-like animals) – 0.4 million

8.4 million life forms in all! The actual Sanskrit verse from the Padma Purana explaining the above numbers is as follows

jalaja nava lakshani, sthavara laksha-vimshati, krimayo rudra-sankhyakah, pakshinam dasha-lakshanam, trinshal-lakshani pashavah, chatur lakshani manavah

In other words these 5000 year old texts are not only suggesting that there are 8.4 million species or 8.4 million different life forms on earth, but have also categorized them!

Total Number of Life Forms estimated by Modern Science

As late as Aug 2011, a detailed study “estimated” (not discovered them all, but only calculated using a detailed mathematical analysis) the total number of species on planet earth to be around 8.7 million, plus or minus 1.3 million. Read this article on The New York Times, How Many Species? A Study Says 8.7 Million, but It’s Tricky.  What this means is that around 7 million species or life forms are yet to be discovered and cataloged! Also please note that it doesn’t have to be exactly 8.4 million species even today, because biodiversity on earth has changed in the past few thousand years with climate change, mass extinction, etc. Irrespective of whether the final number ends up near 8.4 million or not, this gives us a lot of insight into the scientific and analytic capabilities of our ancestors and proves that the ancients were as equally scientific tempered as the scientists of our age. Please note that the numbers quoted above are from texts which are atleast 5000 years old, a period which modern science says belongs to “Stone Age” !?

Look at the striking resemblance of the number 8.4 million life forms mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures, and the new number “8.7 million, plus or minus 1.3 million” arrived at using modern scientific analysis and decide for yourself. Be careful the next time you chose to ignore a number or a statement in an ancient text as myth or irrelevant.

Remember these lines from the 500 year old kannada dasara pada?
“ಎಂಭತ್ತ್ನಾಲ್ಕು ಲಕ್ಷ ಜೀವ ರಾಶಿಯನ್ನು ದಾಟಿ ಬಂದ ಈ ಶರೀರ…” which means that our human body evolved out of 8.4 million species.

Who said there is no science in spirituality, and who said that the ancients knew no science. They knew better than us, ain’t it? :)

  • sanshu

    well i want to know about{ Manavah (human-like animals) – 0.4 million} i searched in many sites they just mentioning few race like manava danav daytiya asur naga dev gandhrava gadur . yaksha…only i want to know about other race, creatures and its description except these if you ave information about other yoni race creatures kindly share it

  • Leenus

    All these precious knowledge was shared to us by Aliens (Gods). They also implanted their genes, periodically did genetical modifications among our ancestors. They grouped them. And each group was named as one specific Gothra and a dedicated deity/lord for that Gothra. That’s the paramount truth behind our blood lines. Ofcourse, we are evolved and signified primarily as per our Gothra and getting a new body/life but the new body/life is getting the shape as per cosmic influences that’s predicted through Astrology. So, Gothra and Astrology is the back-bones of Hinduism, a scientific religion.

    • Madhu K Agnihotri

      Get lost primitive moron..Go do some meditation rather pushing your bullshit ideas on to others..

      • John Moran

        I’m guessing you’re a primitive muslim.

      • murthy

        from where you learnt bullshit, little go beyond you know what was given to the mankind by our ancestors. Then you deserve the name Agnihotrim, the sirname came from such ancestors performed agyam hotrini agnimh.

  • nani_yuga

    Use Sanatana Dharma in place of Hinduism Gurudev or at least write it in brackets. :)

    • G G Chandrasekaran

      Both are same. Please refer “Basics on Hinduism” of Swami Viekananda’s sppech at Lahore [Reference book: Lectures from Colombo to Almora]

      • nani_yug

        Hinduism is only a century old term coined by colonial rulers, According to present Sringeri Sharada Peetham it is better we use Sanatana Dharma rather than Hindu. Hindu is word derived from Sindhu river. It is very narrow word to describe Sanatana Dharma.

        • John Moran

          Hindus were named by the Persians 3000-4000 years ago. It comes from the Indus river.

          • mur

            persians civilisation was due to indus river accepted. The Hindus from central asia or from mediterranean or Europe so far not yet established. pericians good at architecture and ruling. Architecture and administration were discussed much earlier in Rug Ved.

        • Dr murthy naidu

          sorry the Hindu nomin has not come from sindhu, you are talking sindhian evolution which is very recent. about 700 BCE
          Indian scholars codify and reinterpret the Upanishads, Vedas and formed on the basis of Hinduism.
          450 BCE to the mid of Dwapara yug The Bhagavad Gita, part of the Mahabharata has come out as to be practiced by Mankind.
          Please do not talk if you do not know really about the greatness of our ancient apics. Sindu river is not figured in Vedas, it is figured as Sarasvati River flowing through Thar deserts of Rajasthan. Now it is dried and scientifically proved that it is found in buried sands of the desert. It is antharvahini to form confluence of 3 river Ganga, Yamuna and Anthrvahini-Saraswathi. Please do not make statements with shallow understanding and modern miths.

      • nani_yug

        sorry less than 3 centuries old.

  • http://twitter.com/iCSM Suresh C

    Excellent article. I’ve listened to dasara padagaLu many times and I always had this question in my mind. Another question is when souls get moksha, does this number decreases?

    • itzguru

      That is unrelated to this, this number is not about the total number of individual beings, but about the total number of life forms (species) on this planet.

    • Lokesh

      In fact according to Dasara Padagalu “84 Laksha Jeeva Rashiyannu daatibanda ee shareera” also has the same meaning of 84 Lakh Species rather than souls

  • suchin kerlapur

    guru, was it a mathematical analysis when they wrote it 5000 yrs back. what do you suspect would have been their method?

    has the number of species gotto do anything with Fibonacci series? if the evolution has to have the symmetry that is. just a loud thought. if so, then its possible to come up with some definite number in some mulitples

    • itzguru

      In the Padma Purana the total number and other numbers are provided as statistics. The methodology of finding out these numbers is probably based on some even earlier texts or information which isn’t available today.

  • Sanjay

    Thanks but in the text from padam puran.. how do we understand the figures are mentioned in millions…thought its sanskrit..so is it in Sansrit these words means millions.

    • anon

      it uses the word ‘laksha’ which means lakh..

  • srivatsav

    Always a joy to read your posts. Keep them coming.

  • ajay

    but iam wondering from where you get these info

    • Umesh Raichur

      Ajayji, the answer would be
      ‘research’. Am i right guru?

      • itzguru

        Yes, reading lots of books is my source, and as your knowledge expands beyond textbooks, you will be able to link things across domains based on your understanding. For instance, there are many devout hindus who have studied the sacred texts, but have no knowledge of modern science and research, and then there are many who known modern science and research, but are not aware of the ancient texts. So for a person who reads everything from ancient texts to modern science, it becomes easy to link things across these domains as and when he comes across them. I saw the news item of a research based on modern science and it immediately rang a bell in my mind about having read a similar number in the ancient texts.

  • ajay

    as usual excellent