History of measurement systems in India

History of measurement systems in India

Various indigenous systems of measurement have been developed and employed in India over the ages. This page presents a brief overview of the history of measuring systems in India.

Indigenous systems

The "Manusmriti," an ancient Indian text, sets out the following as being among the duties of a king::"The king should examine the weights and balances every six months to ensure true measurements and to mark them with the royal stamp." -- "Manusmriti", 8th Chapter, Shloka 403.Thus, the need to standardize and authenticate weights and measures was felt in India at a very early epoch. Both archeological and textual evidence obtains to affirm the existence, at various points of time, of well-defined measurement systems in India.

Harappan period

In the Harappan era, which is nearly 5000 years old, one finds excellent examples of town planning and architecture. The length, breadth and width of the bricks used in this era were in the ratio 4:2:1. In the modern system, this is known as the English Bond system. The sizes of the bricks were the same all over the region.1

Iron Age India

= Mauryan period = **(GOPALAKRISHNA)**In the time of Chandragupta Maurya, some 2400 years ago, there was a well - defined system of weights and measures. The government of that time ensured that everybody used the same system. According to this system, the smallest unit of length was "Parmanu". The different units of measurements were defined as follows ref|arth:

8 "Parmanu" = 1 "Rajahkan" (dust particle coming from the wheel of a chariot)
8 "Rajahkan" = 1 "Liksha" (egg of lice)
8 "Liksha " = 1 "Yookamadhya"
8 "Yookamadhya" = 1 "Yavamadhya"
8 "Yavamadhya" = 1 "Angula"
8 "Angula" = 1 "Dhanurmushti"

In the Indian medical system, Ayurveda, the units of mass and volume were well defined.

Mughal period

The measurement system during the time of the Mughal emperor, Akbar, is described in "Ain - i - Akabari" by Abul Fazl. During this period the "gaz" was the measure of length. Each "gaz" was divided into 24 equal parts and each part was called a "Tassuj". This system was extensively used for land records, for construction of buildings, houses, wells, gardens and roads. The "gaz" was widely used till the introduction of the metric system in India in 1956.

British period

Although indigenous systems of measurement prevailed during the British period, the government made efforts to achieve uniformity in weights and measures. The British rulers sought to connect the Indian weights and measures to those being used in Great Britain at that time, which were inch, foot, yard for length and grain, ounce, pounds for weight. A compromise was reached in the system of measurements which continued until adoption of the metric system. (Metric conversions derived from Prinsep, 67):

1 'Ratti" = 0.122 grams8 "Ratti" = 1 "Masha" = 0.972 grams
12 "Masha" = 1 "Tola" = 11.662 grams
5 "Tola" = 1 "Chhatank" = 58.31 grams
16 "Chhatank" = 1 "Seer" = 933.005 grams
40 "Seer" = 1 "Maund" = 100 Pounds troy (exact) = 37320.182 grams

Introduction of metric system

After independence in 1947, it was realized that for fast industrial growth of the country, it would be necessary to establish a modern measurement system in the country. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister of India, took keen interest in this matter. The Lok Sabha in April 1955 resolved : "This house is of the opinion that the Government of India should take necessary steps to introduce uniform weights and measures throughout the country based on metric system".

The Metric system was thus introduced in India in 1956. See Metrication in India for more on this topic.

See also

* Metrication in India
* History of measurement
* Indian science and technology


Reference :
Kautilya's Arthashastra
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=LTYGAAAAQAAJ&dq=indian+weights+and+measures+&psp=1/ Prinsep, James. "Useful Tables, Forming an Appendix to the Journal of the Asiatic Society." 2nd ed. Calcutta: Bishop's College Press, 1840.]

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