Tamil units of measurement

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Measurements in ancient Tamil-speaking South India were widely different from modern day metric and imperial systems. These ancient measurement systems spanned systems of counting, distances, volumes, time, weight as well as tools used to do so. While India is one of the countries to use the metric system International System of Units (Tamil Nadu state included), some of these older day measurement systems, especially those of counting are used in the present day.

Other units that have persisted are those of area – the 'ma' (not to be confused with the dollar-cent) and the ‘ground’, both used to measure land and the ‘molam’ which has been relegated to measuring the length of a jasmine garland sold on streets.

There are several similarities between the measurement system used in Tamil Nadu and that used by the Indus Valley civilization. A shift of Indian mathematicians to South India after the 12th century[1] could be a driving factor for homogenization. However, this remains a hypothesis because study of ancient science has been neglected in India.[2] A large number of ancient manuscripts in Kerala and Tamil Nadu remain untranslated and unpublished.[1]

Units of time in ancient Tamil history[edit]

  • 12(base 8) or 10 kuzhigaL= 1 miy= 66.6666 millisecond-the time taken by the young human eyes to flap once.
  • 2 kaNNimaigaL (கண்ணிமைகள்)= 1 kainodi (கைநொடி)= 0.125 second
  • 2 kainodi= 1 maatthirai (மாத்திரை) = 0.25 second
  • 6(base 8) or 6 miygaL= 1 siRRuzhi(nodi) சிற்றுழி (நொடி)= 0.40 second-the time taken for a bubble (created by blowing air through a bamboo tube into a vessel 1 saaN high, full of water) to travel a distance of one saaN (சாண்).
  • 2 maatthiraigaL= 1 kuru (குறு) = 0.50 second
  • 2(base 8) or 2 nodigaL= 1 vinaadi வினாடி = 0.80 second-the time for the adult human heart to beat once
  • 212 nodigaL= 2 kuru= 1 uyir உயிர் = 1 second
  • 5 nodigaL= 2 uyir= 1 saNigam சாணிகம் = 1/2 aNu அணு = 2 seconds
  • 12(base 8) or 10 nodigaL= 1 aNu= 4 seconds
  • 6(base 8) or 6 aNukkaL= 12 saNigam= 1 thuLi துளி = 1 naazhigai-vinaadi நாழிகை வினாடி = 24 seconds
  • 12(base 8) or 10 thuLigaL= 1 kaNam கணம் = 4 minutes
  • 6(base 8) or 6 kaNangaL= 1 naazhigai= 24 minutes
  • 12(base 8) or 10 naazhigaigaL= 4 saamam சாமம் = 1 siRupozhuthu சிறுபொழுது = 240 minutes= 4 hours
  • 6(base 8) or 6 siRu-pozhuthugaL= 1 naaL நாள் (1 day)= 24 hours
  • 7 naaTkaL= 1 kizhamai கிழமை (1 week)
  • 15 naaTkaL= 1 azhuvam அழுவம் (1 fortnight )
  • 29.5 naaTkaL= 1 thingaL திங்கள் (1 lunar month)
  • 2 thingaL= 1 perum-pozhuthu பெரும்பொழுது (1 season)
  • 6 perum-pozhuthugaL= 1 AaNdu (1 year)
  • 64 aaNdugaL= 1 vattam வட்டம் (1 cycle)
  • 4096(=8^4) AaNdugaL= 1 Oozhi ஊழி (1 epoch)

Area Measurement[edit]

  • 1 Marakkal vaedaipadu (seeds required for planting rice) = 8 cents
  • 12.5 Marakkal vaedaipadu = 100 cents (one acre)
குறுணி =   8 cents 
பதக்கு   = 16 cents 
முக்குறுணி = 24 cents  

Area calculation and Measurement Chart .

  • 1 hectare = 2 acre 47 cent
  • 1 hectare = 10,000 sq.m.
  • 1 acre = 0.405 hectare
  • 1 acre = 4046.82 sq.m.
  • 1 acre = 43,560 sq.ft.
  • 1 acre = 100 cent = 4840 sq.gejam
  • 1 cent = 435.6 sq.ft.
  • 1 cent = 40.5 sq.m
  • 1 ground = 222.96 sq.m. = 5.5 cent
  • 1 ground = 2400 sq.ft.
  • 1 Veesam = 6*6 sq ft = 36 sq.ft.
  • 1 Kuzhi = 16 Veesams
  • 1 Kuzhi = 576 sq.ft.
  • 1 Kuzhi = 1.32231405 cents
  • 1 Kāni = 100 kuzhis = 57600 sq.ft. (576*100 sq.ft)
  • 1 acre = 300 kuzhi
  • 1 ankanam = 8 Sq. yard/72 Sq. Feet
  • 1 Mā = 100 kuzhi = 10000 sq.ft. (Not 10000 sq.ft. but 14400 sq.ft When 1 Kuzhi = 144 sq.ft)
  • 1 Kāni = 4 Mā = 40000 sq.ft. (Not 40000 sq.ft. but 57600 sq.ft)
  • 1 kāni = 132 cents = 1.32 acre
  • 1 acre = 75.625 kuzhi
  • 1 Veļi = 7 kāni = 6.43 acres = 2.6 hectares ( 1 Veli = 20 Ma = 5 kani only not 7 kani)
  • 1 dismil =2.5 cent
  • 1 furlong = 660 feet = 220 kejam
  • 1 kilometre = 5 furlong
  • 1 link / chain = 0.66 foot = 7.92 inch
  • 1 kejam = 9.075 sq.ft.
  • 1 mile = 8 furlong
  • 1 ares = 1076 sq.ft. = 2.47 cent
  • 1 chain = 22 kejam
  • 1 furlong = 10 chain
  • 1 kejam = 0.9144 metre
  • 1 township = 36 sq.mile
  • 1 sq.mile = 640 acre
  • 1 cent = 48.4 sq.kejam

Units of ancient trade[edit]

Balance weights[edit]

Gold weights[edit]

  • 4 nel edai (நல் எடை) = 1 kunRimaNi (குன்றிமணி)
  • 2 kunRimaNi (குன்றிமணி) = 1 manchaadi (மாஞ்சாடி)
  • 1 manchaadi (மாஞ்சாடி) = 1 paNavedai (பணவெடை)
  • 5 paNavedai (பணவெடை) = 1 kazhanchu (கழஞ்சு)
  • 8 paNavedai (பணவெடை) = 1 varaaganedai (வராகனெடை)
  • 20 paNavedai (பணவெடை) = 4 kazhanchu(கழஞ்சு) = 1 kaqhsu (கஃசு)
  • 80 paNavedai (பணவெடை)= 16 kazhanchu(கழஞ்சு)= 4 kaqhsu (கஃசு)= 1 palam (பலம்)
  • 1.5 Kazhanchu(கழஞ்சு) = 8 grams or one sovereign/pavun.

The above is not in line with South Indian Inscriptions. 2 குன்றிம = 1 மஞ்சாடி 20 மஞ்சாடி = 1 கழஞ்சு Ceylon Currency and Coins by H W Codrington page 10 too agrees with 20 manjadi = 1 kazanju.

Goods weights[edit]

  • 32 kunRimaNi= 1 varaaganedai
  • 10 varaaganedai= 1 palam
  • 40 palam= 1 veesai
  • 1000 palam =1 kaa
  • 6 veesai= 1 thulaam
  • 8 veesai= 1 maNangu
  • 20 maNangu= 1 paaram.

Grain volume[edit]

  • 1 kuNam = smallest unit of volume
  • 9 kuNam = 1 mummi
  • 11 mummi = 1 aNu
  • 7 aNu=1 immi
  • 7 immi = 1 uminel
  • 1 sittigai = 7 uminel
  • 360 nel= 1 sevidu
  • 5 sevidu = 1 aazhaakku
  • 2 aazhaakku = 1 uzhakku
  • 2 uzhakku = 1 uri
  • 2 uri = 1 padi
  • 8 padi = 1 marakkaal(kuRuNi)
  • 2 marakkaal(kuRuNi) = 1 padhakku
  • 2 padhakku = 1 thooNi
  • 5 marakkaal = 1 paRai
  • 80 paRai = 1 karisai
  • 48 padi = 1 kalam
  • 96 padi = 1 pothi(mootai)
  • 21 marakkal = 1 Kottai
  • 22 maakaani = 100 gms

1 padi = 1800 avarai pods = 12,800 miLagu seeds = 14,400 nel grains = 14,800 payaRu grains = 38,000 arisi grains = 115,200 sesame seeds

Fluid volume[edit]

  • 5 sevidu = 1 aazhaakku
  • 2 mahani = 1 aazhakku (arai kal padi)
  • 2 aazhaakku = 1 uzhakku (Kal padi)
  • 2 uzhakku= 1 uri (Arai padi)
  • 2 uri= 1 padi
  • 8 padi= 1 marakkaal
  • 2 marakkaal(kuRuNi)= 1 padhakku
  • 2 padhakku= 1 thooNi
  • 21 Marakkal = 1 Kottai

Length[edit]

  • 10 koaN= 1 nuNNaNu
  • 10 nuNNaNU= 1 aNu(atom)
  • 8 aNu= 1 kathirtthugaL
  • 8 kathirtthugaL= 1 thusumbu
  • 8 thusumbu= 1 mayirnuni
  • 8 mayirnuni= 1 nuNmaNal
  • 8 nuNmaNal= 1 siRu-kadugu
  • 8 siRu-kadugu= 1 eL
  • 8 eL= 1 nel
  • 8 nel= 1 viral= 8^8 aNu(atom)= 1.9444 centimetre
  • 12 viral= 1 saaN= 100 immi= 23.3333 centimetre
  • 2 saaN= 1 muzham= 46.6666 centimetre
  • 2 muzham= 1 kajam
  • 220 kajam=1 furlong
  • 8 furlong=1 mile
  • 5 furlong= 1 kilo Meter or 1000 meter
  • 4 muzham= 1 paagam
  • 625 paagam= 1 kaadham= 5000 saaN= 1166.66 metres= 1.167 kilometre

Likeness (Saartthal)[edit]

Likeness has attributes of tone, sound, colour and shape for comparison of a given substance with a known standard.

Whole numbers[edit]

Old Tamil numerical characters

  • 1= onRu
  • 10= patthu
  • 100= nooRu
  • 1000= aayiram
  • 10,000= pathaayiram
  • 100,000= nooRaayiram
  • 1000,000= meiyiram
  • 10^9= thoLLunn
  • 10^12= eegiyam
  • 10^15= neLai
  • 10^18= iLanji
  • 10^20= veLLam
  • 10^21= aambal

Tamil texts elaborate the following version:

  • 1 = ONDRU = One = 10 0
  • 10 = PATHU = Ten = 10 1
  • 100 = NOORU = Hundred = 10 2
  • 1,000 = AAYIRAM = One Thousand = 10 3
  • 10,000 = PATHAAYIRAM = Ten Thousand = 10 4
  • 1,00,000 = LATCHAM = Hundred Thousand = 10 5
  • 10,00,000 = PATHU LATCHAM = One Million = 10 6
  • 1,00,00,000 = KODI = Ten Million = 10 7
  • 10,00,00,000 = PATHU KODI = Hundred Million = 10 8
  • 1,00,00,00,000 = ARPUTHAM = One Billion = 10 9
  • 10,00,00,00,000 = PATHU ARPUTHAM = Ten Billion = 10 10
  • 1,00,00,00,00,000 = NIGARPUTHAM = Hundred Billion = 10 11
  • 10,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU NIGARPUTHAM = One Trillion = 10 12
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,000 = KUMBAM = Ten Trillion = 10 13
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU KUMBAM = Hundred Trillion = 10 14
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = GANAM = One Quadrillion = 10 15
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU GANAM = Ten Quadrillion = 10 16
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = KARPAM = Hundred Quadrillion = 10 17
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU KARPAM = One Quintillion = 10 18
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = NIKARPAM = Ten Quintillion = 10 19
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU NIKARPAM = Hundred Quintillion = 10 20
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHUMAM = One Sextillion = 10 21
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU PATHUMAM = Ten Sextillion = 10 22
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = SANGGAM = Hundred Sextillion = 10 23
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU SANGGAM = One Septillion = 10 24
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = VELLAM = Ten Septillion = 10 25
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU VELLAM = Hundred Septillion = 10 26
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = ANNIYAM = One Octillion = 10 27
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU ANNIYAM = Ten Octillion = 10 28
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = ARTTAM = Hundred Octillion = 10 29
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU ARTTAM = One Nonillion = 10 30
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PARARTTAM = Ten Nonillion = 10 31
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU PARARTTAM = Hundred Nonillion = 10 32
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = POORIYAM = One Decillion = 10 33
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU POORIYAM = Ten Decillion = 10 34
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = MUKKODI = Hundred Decillion = 10 35
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATHU MUKKODI = One Undecillion = 10 36
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = MAHAYUGAM = Ten Undecillion = 10 37

Fractions[edit]

  • 1= onRu
  • 3/4= mukkaal
  • 1/2= arai / paadhi
  • 1/4= kaal
  • 1/5= naalumaa
  • 3/16= mummaahani or mundaani மும்மாகாணி/முண்டாணி
  • 3/20= moonRumaa
  • 1/8= araikkaal
  • 1/10= irumaa
  • 1/16= maakaaNi மாகாணி )
  • 1/20= orumaa
  • 3/64= mukkaal veesam
  • 3/80= mukkaaN
  • 1/32= araimaakaani அரைமாகாணி
  • 1/40 araimaa
  • 1/64= kaal maakani கால்மாகாணி
  • 1/80= kaaNi
  • 3/320= araikkaaNi munthiri
  • 1/160= araikkaaNi
  • 1/320= munthiri
  • 1/102,400= keezh munthiri
  • 1/2,150,400= immi
  • 1/23,654,400= mummi
  • 1/165,580,800= aNu
  • 1/1,490,227,200= kuNam
  • 1/7,451,136,000= pantham
  • 1/44,706,816,000= sggtta
  • 1/312,947,712,000= vintham
  • 1/5,320,111,104,000= naagavintham
  • 1/74,481,555,456,000= sinthai
  • 1/1,489,631,109,120,000= kathirmunai
  • 1/59,585,244,364,800,000= kuralvaLaippidi
  • 1/3,575,114,661,888,000,000= veLLam
  • 1/357,511,466,188,800,000,000= nuNNmaNl
  • 1/2,323,824,530,227,200,000,000= thaertthugaL

Currency[edit]

  • 1 pal (wooden discs/sea shellots)= (approximately) 0.9 grain
  • 8 (or 10 base 8) paRkaL =1 senkaaNi (copper/bronze) = 7.2 grains(misinterpretted by Roman accounts as 10 base 10 paRkal =9 grains)
  • 1/4 senkaaNi =1 kaalkaaNi (copper) =1.8 grains(misinterpretted by Roman accounts as 2.25 grains)
  • 64 (or 100 base 8) paRkaL = 1 KaaNap-pon a.k.a. Kaasu panam(gold) = 57.6 grains
  • 1 Roman dinarium was traded on par with 2 KaaNappon plus 1 SenkaaNi(=124 grains).
  • 18 Ana = 2.85 Rupee, 16 Ana = 1 Rupee, 1 Ana = 3 Thuttu, 1/4 Ana = 3/4 (mukkal) thuttu

Divisions of a Day[edit]

சிறுபொழுது (Daily Divisions):
1. காலை (kaalai): 6AM-10AM
2. நண்பகல் (naNpagal): 10AM-2PM
3. ஏற்பாடு (ERpaadu): 2PM-6PM
4. மாலை (maalai): 6PM-10PM
5. இடையாமம் (idaiyaamam): 10PM-2AM
6. வைகறை (vaikaRai): 2AM-6AM

See Also[edit]

Tamil Calendar

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Indian Institute Of Science, Landmarks of Science in Early India - Michael Danino
  2. ^ Gupta, Jayanta (September 4, 2003). "Manuscripts narrate a tale of neglect". Times of India (Kolkata: Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.). Retrieved 19 May 2012. 

Tamil Measurements