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India weight and measurement history

India uses metric system. Historically, British System, and Akbar system were used for nearly five previous centuries

 

History

I do not plan to cover ancient systems. Last four weights and Measure Systems of significance are as follows:

1. Pre- Akbar

2. Akbar period

3. British System

4. Metric system

 

During pre-Akbar period, weights and measure system varied from region to region, commodity to commodity, and rural to urban areas. The weights were based on the weight of various seeds (specially the wheat berry and Ratti) and lengths were based of the length of arms and width of fingers. Akbar realized a need for a uniform system. He elected the barley corn. Unfortunately, this did not replace the existing system. Instead, it just added another system.

British entered India as traders. They accepted barley corn as a unit 'Grain' for weighing gold. They minted coins using wheat berry as the standard. Eventually, British introduced their own system for weighing gold (Troy ounce), commodities (Pound/Cwt/Ton). Now, the roads had Furlong and Mile markers. In 1939, Government of India passed the Standards of weights Act, that came into effect in 1942. This allowed Tola/Seer/Maund system to coexist with Pound/Cwt/Ton system.

In 1941, the Punjab Weight and Measures act provided a sense of uniformity. In 1956, Government of India passed a Standards of Weights and Measures system to introduce metric system based on Punjab Act. The metric  would begin in October 1958, making metric weight mandatory by October 1960, and the metric measures mandatory by April 1962.

 

Current Conversion Standard

In 1956, For metric conversion, Government of India defined the Seer as follows:

One Seer = 0.93310 kilogram exact

The UN (1966) set One Seer = 2.057 pounds on average. This is approximately 2 pounds and One ounce

1 Maund = 40 Seer  = 100 Troy Pounds Exact

1 Seer = 80 Tola

1 Tola = 11.66375 gram

 

Pre Akbar System

I have included the weights and measures systems popular in North India. There were different system in Bengal, South, and Bombay. I have used some of the nomenclature that was prevalent in North India during 1940s, 50s, and 60s as I remember it.

1 Dhan (weight of one wheat berry) = 4 Grain of Rice

1Ratti = 4 Dhan

Ratti is seed of a  plant 'Abrus precatorius'. It is pretty red with a black spot. Abul Fazl refers to it as 'Surkh' in Ain I Akbar. During Raj, the British called it 'Crab's eye'.

1 Masha = 8 Ratti

1 Tola = 12 Masha = 96 Ratti

1 Tak = 24 Ratti = 96 Dhan

Conversion

1 Tola = 11.66375 gram

3.75 Troy ounce = 10 Tola

Weight of 64 Dhan (Wheat berries) = Weight of 45 Jau (Barley corns)

Weight of 1 Barley corn = 64.79891 milligrams

 

Commodity  Weight System

1 Tola = 4 Siki

1 Kancha = 5 Siki

1 Chhatank = 4 Kancha

1 Chattank = 5 Tola

1 Adh-pav = 2 Chhatank = 1/8 Seer

1 Pav = 2 Adh-pav = Seer  Pav means

1Adher = 2 Pav = Seer

In Hindi Seer = Adha () Seer, or Adher

1 Ser = 2 Adher = 4 Pav = 16 Chattank = 80 Tola = 933.1 grams

 

1 Savaser = 1 Ser + 1 Pav (1 Seer)

1Savasher weighed 30 Imperial rupees

In Hindi 1 Seer = Sava (1) Seer, or Savaser

1 Dhaser = 2 Savaser = 2 Seer

In Hindi 2 Seer = Dhai (2) Seer, or Dhaser

1 Paseri = 2 Adisari = 5 Seer

In Hindi 5 Seer = Panch(5) Seer, or Paseri for short

1 Daseri = 2 Pasri = 10 Seer

In Hindi 10 Seer = Das(10) Seer, or Daseri for short

1 Maund = 4 Daseri = 8 Pasri = 40 Seer

 

Rice and Grains Volume Measures

Grains were not weighed. Special hour-glass shaped measure were used to determine the volume.

Smallest unit = 1 Nilve

1 Kolve = 2 Nilve

1 Chipte = 2 Kolve

1 Mapte = 2 Chipte

1 Ser = 2 Mapte

 

Liquid Volume Measures

These were hour glass shaped measure used for Milk, Ghee, Oils. The bottom was round like an inverted dome, the top was like flared rim. This shape helped in pouting the liquids.

1 Pav = 4 Chhatank

1 Seer = 4 Pav

1 Maund = 40 Seer

 

Length Measure

Measure of length is Gaz. To interpret Gaz, depends on what you are measuring and where you are. Bengal: 36", Bombay:27", Madras: 33", Government Average: 33". The hand measurements were used.

 

1 Girah = width of 3 fingers (Anguli)

1 Hath (elbow too the end of the middle finger) = 8 Girah

1 Gaz = 2 Hath

One Hath was approximately 18"

 

One Kathi = 5 5/6 hats

One Pand = 20 Kathi

One Begah = 20 pand

 

Two Karam = 3 Gaz

3 Karams = 1 Kan

3 Square Kans = 1 Marla

20 Marlas = 1 Kanal

8 Kanals = 1 Ghamaon

9 Kanals 12 Marlas  = 1 Acre

4 Kanals = 1 Begah

 

Akbar Weights and Measures

India Akbar weight and measure system

Akbar wanted to standardize the weights and measurements around the Barley corn (Jau). For weights, he would use the weight of Jau. The width of the Jau was used to set the standard for length.

1. Length: Ilahi Gaz (33" to 34")

2. Commodity weight: Ser

3. Commodity Spices: Dam Dam was a copper coin. It was used as a weight as well as currency

Dam = 20 grams

4. Gold and expensive spices: Misqal. = 6.22 gram

 

British System

Weight Gold

British used weight of wheat berries as a standard to make currency coins. British chose Barley corn to weigh gold same as Akbar.

One Troy ounce = 480 Barley corn

1 Troy Ounce = 120 carats

1 Troy pound = 12 Troy ounce

In 1878, Troy Pound was abolished

Conversions

Weight of 1 Barley corn = 64.79891 milligrams

Weight of 1 Wheat berry = 45.561732 milligram

One Troy Ounce = 31.1034768 grams

64 Wheat berries = 45 Barley corns

3.75 Troy ounce = 10 Tola

 

Commodity weight

20 CWT = 1 Ton avoirdupoi = 40 Bushell = 160 Stones

4 Stones = 1 Bushell = 56 Pound

1 hundredweight (cwt) = 112 Pounds = 2 Bushell + 8 Stones
14 Pounds avoirdupois = 1 Stone avoirdupois
16 Ounces avoirdupois = 1 Pound avoirdupois

Conversion

1 Ounce avoirdupois = 28.349523 grams approx.
1 Pound avoirdupois = 453.59237 grams
1 Ton avoirdupois = 2240 pounds avoirdupois
Weight of 1 Barley corn = 64.79891 milligrams

One Troy Ounce = 31.1034768 grams

3.75 Troy ounce = 10 Tola

Length

In 1950s, Mile and Furlong were common markers on the roads in India.

Minimum length = 1 Inch

No-one can say how it evolved. Yinch was the thickness of the thumb, is not quite an inch.

1 Foot = 12"

1 Yard = 3 Feet

1 Furlong = 660 feet

1 Mile = 1,760 yards, or 5,280 feet

1 Mile = 8 Furlong

1 Chain = 22 yard

1 Acre = (1 Chain) x (1 Furlong)

Conversion

1" = Span of 6 Barley corns side by side by thickness, It really does not work.

1 inch = 2.54 centimeters

1 Foot = 30.48 cm

1 Yard = 0.914 meter

1 Mile = 1.61 Kilometer

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