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 sandanam garland sold on streets.

There are several similarities between the measurement system used in Tamil Nadu and that used by the Indus Valley civilisation. A shift of Indian mathematicians to South India after the 12th century[1] could be a driving factor for homogenisation. However, this remains a hypothesis because study of ancient science has been neglected in India.[2][clarification needed] A large number of ancient manuscripts in Kerala and Tamil Nadu remain untranslated and unpublished.[1]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 = 4 Veesams
  • 1 Kuzhi = 144 sq ft
  • 1 Kuzhi = 0.331 cents
  • 1 Kāni = 400 kuzhis
  • 1 acre = 436 kuzhi
  • 1 ankanam = 8 sq yd/72 sq ft
  • 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 (moodai)
  • 21 marakkal = 1 Kottai
  • 22 maakaani = 100 g

1 padi = 1800 avarai pods = 12,800 miLagu seeds = 14,400 nel grains = 14,800 payaRu grains = 38,000 arisi grains = 115,200 sesame ellu 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
  • 4 padi= 1 marakkaal
  • 2 marakkaal (kuRuNi) = 1 padhakku
  • 2 padhakku = 1 thooNi
  • 21 Marakkal = 1 Kottai

Length[edit]

  • 1 Koan = (115.8953125 picometre)
  • 10 Koan = 1 Nunnanu (0.1158953125 nanometre)
  • 10 Nunnanu = 1 Anu (atom) (1.158953125 nanometre)
  • 8 Anu = 1 Kadhirthugal (9.271625 nanometre)
  • 8 Kadhirthugal = 1 Thusumbu (74.173 nanometre)
  • 8 Thusumbu = 1 Mayirnuni (0.593384 micrometre)
  • 8 Mayirnuni = 1 Nunnmanal (4.74707 micrometre)
  • 8 Nunnmanal = 1 Siru-kadugu (37.976563 micrometre)
  • 8 Siru-kadugu = 1 Yel (303.8125 micrometre or 0.3038125 millimetre)
  • 8 Yel = 1 Nel (2.4305 millimetre)
  • 8 nel = 1 viral = 8^8 aNu (atom) = 1.9444 centimetre
  • 12 viral = 1 saaN = 100 immi= 23.3333 centimetre = 9 inch
  • 2 saaN = 1 muzham = 46.6666 centimetre = 1.5 feet
  • 2 saan = 1 muzham
  • 2 muzham = 1 yard = 3 feet = 1 yard
  • 2 yard(yaar) = 1 paagam
  • 110 pagam = 1 furlong
  • 8 furlong = 1 mile
  • 5 furlong = 1 kilometre or 1000 metre
  • 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

Malaysian text elaborates 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
  • 100,000 = LATCHAM = Hundred Thousand = 10 5
  • 1,000,000 = KODI = One Million = 10 6
  • 10,000,000 = PATHU KODI = Ten Million = 10 7
  • 100,000,000 = NOORU KODI = Hundred Million = 10 8
  • 1,000,000,000 = AAYIRAM KODI = One Billion = 10 9

Fractions[edit]

  • 1 – ஒன்று – onRu
  • 3/4 = 0.75 – முக்கால் – mukkaal
  • 1/2= 0.5 – அரை – arai
  • 1/4 = 0.25 – கால் – kaal
  • 1/5 = 0.2 – நாலுமா – naalumaa
  • 3/16 = 0.1875 – மும்மாகாணி –mummaakaani
  • 3/20 = 0.15 – மும்மா – mummaa
  • 1/8 = 0.125 – அரைக்கால் – araikkaal
  • 1/10 = 0.1 – இருமா – irumaa
  • 1/16 = 0.0625 – மாகாணி (வீசம்) – maakaaNi (veesam)
  • 1/20 = 0.05 – ஒருமா – orumaa
  • 3/64 = 0.046875 – முக்கால்வீசம் – mukkaal veesam
  • 3/80 = 0.0375 – முக்காணி – mukkaaNi
  • 1/32 = 0.03125 – அரைவீசம் – araiveesam
  • 1/40 = 0.025 – அரைமா – araimaa
  • 1/64 = 0.015625 – கால் வீசம் – kaal veesam
  • 1/80 = 0.0125 – காணி – kaaNi
  • 3/320 = 0.009375 – அரைக்காணி முந்திரி – araikkaaNi munthiri
  • 1/160 = 0.00625 – அரைக்காணி – araikkaaNi
  • 1/320 = 0.003125 – முந்திரி – munthiri
  • 3/1280 = 0.00234375 – கீழ் முக்கால் – keel mukkal
  • 1/640 = 0.0015625 – கீழரை – keelArai
  • 1/1280 = 7.8125e-04 – கீழ் கால் – keel kaal
  • 1/1600 = 0.000625 – கீழ் நாலுமா – keel nalumaa
  • 3/5120 ≈ 5.85938e-04 – கீழ் மூன்று வீசம் – keel moondru veesam
  • 3/6400 = 4.6875e-04 – கீழ் மும்மா – keel mummaa
  • 1/2500 = 0.0004 – கீழ் அரைக்கால் – keel araikkaal
  • 1/3200 = 3.12500e-04 – கீழ் இருமா – keel irumaa
  • 1/5120 ≈ 1.95313e-04 – கீழ் வீசம் – keel veesam
  • 1/6400 = 1.56250e-04 – கீழொருமா – keelorumaa
  • 1/102400 ≈ 9.76563e-06 – கீழ்முந்திரி – keezh munthiri
  • 1/2150400 ≈ 4.65030e-07 – இம்மி – immi
  • 1/23654400 ≈ 4.22754e-08 – மும்மி – mummi
  • 1/165580800 ≈ 6.03935e-09 – அணு – aNu
  • 1/1490227200 ≈ 6.71039e-10 – குணம் – kuNam
  • 1/7451136000 ≈ 1.34208e-10 – பந்தம் – pantham
  • 1/44706816000 ≈ 2.23680e-11 – பாகம் – paagam
  • 1/312947712000 ≈ 3.19542e-12 – விந்தம் – vintham
  • 1/5320111104000 ≈ 1.87966e-13 – நாகவிந்தம் – naagavintham
  • 1/74481555456000 ≈ 1.34261e-14 – சிந்தை – sinthai
  • 1/1489631109120000 ≈ 6.71307e-16 – கதிர்முனை –kathirmunai
  • 1/59585244364800000 ≈ 1.67827e-17 – குரல்வளைப்படி –kuralvaLaippidi
  • 1/3575114661888000000 ≈ 2.79711e-19 -வெள்ளம் – veLLam
  • 1/357511466188800000000 ≈ 2.79711e-21 – நுண்மணல் –nuNNmaNal
  • 1/2323824530227200000000 ≈ 4.30325e-22 – தேர்த்துகள் –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 aka. 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 r /> 1. காலை (kaalai): 6 am-11 am
2. நண்பகல் (naNpagal): 11 am-2 pm
3. ஏற்பாடு (ERpaadu): 2 pm-6 pm
4. மாலை (maalai): 6 pm-11 pm
5. இடையாமம் (idaiyaamam): 10 pm-2 am
6. வைகறை (vaikaRai): 2 am-6 am

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. 

3. http://tvaraj.com/2012/03/06/fractions-used-by-ancient-tamils/

Tamil Measurements