4

I am interested to know about ancient weights and measures mentioned in Hinduism scriptures.

Can anyone throw light on this subject?

3

We find mention and explanation of traditional Indian units of measurement of mass or weight , Time , distance ,length etc. many a times throughout Hinduism scriptures like Itihasa Puranas .

Some of the names of measures of weights mentioned are -

Ratti रत्ती - Sanskrit: raktika , Bhara भार , Krishnala कृष्णलं , Dhrana धारण , Nishka निष्क ,Mashaka , Yava यव , prastha प्रस्थ etc.

Names of measures of time from the atomic level to kalpa is also mentioned in scriptures the names of some of them are -:

Truti त्रुटी , vedha वेध , Lava लव , Nimisha निमिष , kshana क्षण , Kashtha काष्ठ , Laghu लघु , Nidika नाडीका , Muhurta मुहूर्त , Prahara प्रहर etc.

In the topic of distance , length etc. the measures mentioned are - : Yojana योजन , hasta हस्त , Angula अंगुल , krosha क्रोश etc.- :


Keeping weights and measures were traditional job of Vaishyas during ancient times as described in Manu Smriti.

बीजानामुप्तिविद् च स्यात् क्षेत्रदोषगुणस्य च ।
मानयोगं च जानीयात् तुलायोगांश्च सर्वशः ॥ ३३० ॥

bījānāmuptivid ca syāt kṣetradoṣaguṇasya ca | mānayogaṃ ca jānīyāt tulāyogāṃśca sarvaśaḥ || 330 ||

He should be acquainted with the manner of sowing seeds, with the good and bad qualities of the soil; he should know all kinds of weights and measures.—(330)


Measure Of length and breadth of land

In Valmiki Ramayana we find a unit called Yojana with which a land could be measured at length and breadth .

आयता दश च द्वे च योजनानि महापुरी |
श्रीमती त्रीणि विस्तीर्णा सुविभक्तमहापथा || 1.5.7||

aayataa dasha cha dve cha yojanaani mahaapurii |
shriimatii triiNi vistiirNaa su vibhak{}taa mahaapathaa ||

That glorious city with well-devised highways is twelve yojana-s lengthwise and three yojana-s breadth wise.

In the below commentary we find the author explaning Yojana and other measures of land. Yojana is an ancient measure of distance, where one yojana roughly equals to 8 to 10 miles. Its account is like this : 1 angula is 3/4 inch; 4 angula-s are = one dhanu graha - bow grip; 8 angula-s are = one dhanu muSTi - fist with thumb raised; 12 angula-s are = 1 vitasti - distance between tip of thumb and tip of last finger when palm is stretched; 2 vitasti-s = 1 aratni -s - cubit; 4 aratni-s = one danDa, dhanuS - bow height - 6 ft ; 10 danDa-s = 1 rajju 60 ft ; 2 rajju-s = 1 paridesha - 120 ft ; 2, 000 dhanuS-s = one krosha , and also called goraTa - 4, 000 yards ; 4 krosha-s = 1 yojana - thus one yojana is 9 to 10 miles. But the British Revenue measurement scaled it down to 5 miles, and all the dictionaries say that one yojana is 5 miles. But traditionally it is held as 10 miles. More info on these measures can be had from The Artha Shaastra of Kautilya - a republication of Penguin.


An basic unit of measurement of area called " Hasta" or "Cubit" for land measurement is also mentioned in Mahabharata- Sabha Parva-Chapter 3- Verse 23.

P.5 And the palace that Maya built consisted of columns of gold, and occupied, O monarch, an area of five thousand cubits.


One measure of weight called " Bhara ,भार" is found in Bhagavata Purana.

दिने दिने स्वर्णभारानष्टौ स सृजति प्रभो ।
दुर्भिक्षमार्यरिष्टानि सर्पाधिव्याधयोऽशुभा: ।
न सन्ति मायिनस्तत्र यत्रास्तेऽभ्यर्चितो मणि: ॥ SB 10.56.11 ॥

Each day the gem would produce eight bhāras of gold, my dear Prabhu, and the place in which it was kept and properly worshiped would be free of calamities such as famine or untimely death, and also of evils like snake bites, mental and physical disorders and the presence of deceitful persons.

Here Prabhupada is explaining the Bhara - : “Four rice grains are called one guñjā; five guñjās, one paṇa; eight paṇas, one karṣa; four karṣas, one pala; and one hundred palas, one tulā. Twenty tulās make up one bhāra.” Since there are about 3,700 grains of rice in an ounce, the Syamantaka jewel was producing approximately 170 pounds of gold every day.


A unit of measurement of distance called krusha is mentioned in Valmiki Ramayana Book II : Ayodhya Kanda Chapter[Sarga] 90

द्भरद्वाज आश्रमम् दृष्ट्वा क्रोशाद् एव नर ऋषभः |
बलम् सर्वम् अवस्थाप्य जगाम सह मन्त्रिभिः || 2.90.1 ||

dbharadvaaja aashramam dR^iShTvaa kroshaad eva nara R^iShabhaH |
balam sarvam avasthaapya jagaama saha mantribhiH || 2-90-1 ||

This Krosha is said to be approximately 2 km of distance according to scholors.


Manusmriti is having one section solely dedicated to measures in connection with silver and gold for business transactions.

Lets see some of the verses -:

पलं सुवर्णाश्चत्वारः पलानि धरणं दश ।
द्वे कृष्णले समधृते विज्ञेयो रौप्यमाषकः ॥ 8.135 ॥

palaṃ suvarṇāścatvāraḥ palāni dharaṇaṃ daśa |
dve kṛṣṇale samadhṛte vijñeyo raupyamāṣakaḥ || 8.135 ||

Four ‘gold-pieces’ make one ‘pala,’ ten palas one ‘dharaṇa’; and two ‘guñja-berries’ of equal weight should be known as one ‘silver-bean.’—(135)


धरणानि दश ज्ञेयः शतमानस्तु राजतः ।
चतुःसौवर्णिको निष्को विज्ञेयस्तु प्रमाणतः ॥ 8.137 ॥

dharaṇāni daśa jñeyaḥ śatamānastu rājataḥ |
catuḥsauvarṇiko niṣko vijñeyastu pramāṇataḥ || 8.137 ||

Ten ‘dharaṇas’ are to be known as the ‘silver śatamāna’ (centimetre); and the ‘niṣka’ should be understood as four ‘gold-pieces’ in weight.—(137)


Similarly a measure of mass called Prastha is also mentioned in Mahabharata in famous story between a Mongoose and Yudhisthira at his Ashwamedha Yajna.

सक्तुप्रस्थेन वो नायं यज्ञस्तुल्यो नराधिपा : |
उच्छवृत्तेर्वादान्यस्य कुरुक्षेत्रनिवासिन: ||7 ||

Ye kings, this great sacrifice is not equal to a prastha of powdered barley given away by a liberal Brahmana of Kurukshetra who was observing the Unccha vow.'

This prastha is also known as "ser सेर" a unit of very nominal measure of mass.


Measure of Time

Very minute measures of time at atomic level are also very well discussed in Hinduism scriptures like puranas like Vishnu and Bhagavata etc. Vishnu Purana

Oh best of sages, fifteen twinklings of the eye make a Kásht́há; thirty Kásht́hás, one Kalá; and thirty Kalás, one Muhúrtta 3. Thirty Muhúrttas

P. 23 constitute a day and night of mortals: thirty such days make a month, divided into two half-months: six months form an Ayana (the period of the sun's progress north or south of the ecliptic): and two Ayanas compose a year.


Bhagavata Purana - :

त्रसरेणुत्रिकं भुङ्क्ते य: काल: स त्रुटि: स्मृत: ।
शतभागस्तु वेध: स्यात्तैस्त्रिभिस्तु लव: स्मृत: ॥ SB 3.11.6 ॥

trasareṇu-trikaṁ bhuṅkte yaḥ kālaḥ sa truṭiḥ smṛtaḥ
śata-bhāgas tu vedhaḥ syāt tais tribhis tu lavaḥ smṛtaḥ

The time duration needed for the integration of three trasareṇus is called a truṭi, and one hundred truṭis make one vedha. Three vedhas make one lava.

And in the subsequent verses .


We can see the approximate values of all the measures of masses provided in Manu Smriti.
And here is a book Ancient Indian weights by Thomas, Edward
Below is a table of the different weight units in relation to one another and their values .

enter image description here

  • 1
    This is just a brief answer as the topic is vast and there are various other text also which are discussing different weights and measures , also i have not included the verses mentioning the values of measures from scriptures because they differ slightly from text to text and i am only quoting from Hinduism scriptures.I will try to update answer from time to time adding any content I found which will be useful. ,The explanation of values are also present in scriptures , I will try to look for most authentic one and will quote them in answer afterwards. – SwiftPushkar Aug 11 '19 at 11:28
  • 1
    BTW if you have any suggestion or want addition of anything in answer pls. feel free. – SwiftPushkar Aug 11 '19 at 11:29
  • 1
    @srimannarayanakv - Yeah , that is why I said that there is slightly different description in different texts , many other texts like ArthaShastra of Chanakya are also discussing this topic. And its difficult to tell which one is more correct. I will try to find another list or table and will update the answer. – SwiftPushkar Aug 11 '19 at 11:39
  • 1
    @srimannarayanakv BTW i just found out that for Raktikā is another name of Krishnala , so in the table substitute Raktikā for Krishnala. See P14 - It is said in the Gautama Dharmasutras. - wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/gautama-dharmas%C5%ABtra/d/… – SwiftPushkar Aug 11 '19 at 11:57
  • 1
    Manu VIII, 330. Kṛṣṇala is another name for Raktikā, p. 241 used also by Yājñavalkya I, 362. It equals 0.122 grammes of the metrical system – SwiftPushkar Aug 11 '19 at 11:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .