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India.[2][clarification needed] A large number of ancient manuscripts in Kerala and Tamil Nadu remain untranslated and unpublished.[1]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 kuḻigaḷ = 1 miy = 66.6666 millisecond-the time taken by the young human eyes to flap once.
  • 2 kaṇṇimaigaḷ (கண்ணிமைகள்) = 1 kainoḍi (கைநொடி) = 0.125 second
  • 2 kainodi = 1 māttirai (மாத்திரை) = 0.25 second
  • 6 (base 8) or 6 miygaḷ = 1 ciṟṟuḻi (noḍi) சிற்றுழி (நொடி) = 0.40 second-the time taken for a bubble (created by blowing air through a bamboo tube into a vessel 1 cāṇ high, full of water) to travel a distance of one cāṇ (சாண்).
  • 2 māttiraigaḷ = 1 kuṟu (குறு) = 0.50 second
  • 2 (base 8) or 2 noḍigaḷ = 1 viṉāḍi வினாடி = 0.80 second-the time for the adult human heart to beat once
  • 212 noḍigaḷ = 2 kuru = 1 uyir உயிர் = 1 second
  • 5 noḍigaḷ = 2 uyir = 1 cāṇigam சாணிகம் = 1/2 aṇu அணு = 2 seconds
  • 12 (base 8) or 10 noḍigaḷ = 1 aṇu = 4 seconds
  • 6 (base 8) or 6 aṇukkaḷ = 12 cāṇigam = 1 tuḷi துளி = 1 nāḻigai-viṉāḍi நாழிகை வினாடி = 24 seconds
  • 12 (base 8) or 10 tuḷigaḷ = 1 kaṇam கணம் = 4 minutes
  • 6 (base 8) or 6 kaṇangaḷ = 1 nāḻigai = 24 minutes
  • 12 (base 8) or 10 nāḻigaigaḷ = 4 cāmam சாமம் = 1 ciṟupoḻutu சிறுபொழுது = 240 minutes = 4 hours
  • 6 (base 8) or 6 ciṟu-poḻutugaḷ = 1 nāḷ நாள் (1 day) = 24 hours
  • 7 nāṭkaḷ = 1 vāram வாரம் (1 week)
  • 15 nāṭkaḷ = 1 aḻuvam அழுவம் (1 fortnight)
  • 29.5 nāṭkaḷ = 1 tingaḷ திங்கள் (1 lunar month)
  • 2 tingaḷ = 1 perum-poḻutu பெரும்பொழுது (1 season)
  • 6 perum-poḻutugaḷ = 1 āṇdu (1 year)
  • 64 āṇdugaḷ = 1 vaṭṭam வட்டம் (1 cycle)
  • 4096 (=8^4) āṇdugaḷ = 1 ōḻi ஊழி (1 epoch)

Area Measurement[edit]

  • 1 Marakkal vēdaipadu (seeds required for planting rice) = 8 cents
  • 12.5 Marakkal vēdaipadu = 100 cents (one acre)
kuṟuṇi குறுணி = 8 cents
patakku பதக்கு = 16 cents
mukkuṟuṇi 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 Vīsam = 6*6 sq ft = 36 sq ft
  • 1 Kuḻi = 4 Vīsams
  • 1 Kuḻi = 144 sq ft
  • 1 Kuḻi = 0.331 cents
  • 1 Kāni = 400 kuzhis
  • 1 acre = 302 kuzhi
  • 1 ankanam = 8 sq yd/72 sq ft
  • 1 Mā = 100 kuzhi = 14400 sq ft
  • 1 Kāni = 4 Mā = 57600 sq ft
  • 1 kāni = 132 cents = 1.32 acre
  • 1 acre = 75.625 kuzhi
  • 1 Veļi = 5 kāni = 20 Ma = 6.62 Acre = 2.679 hectares
  • 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 nal eḍai (நல் எடை) = 1 kuṉṟimaṇi (குன்றிமணி)
  • 2 kuṉṟimaṇi (குன்றிமணி) = 1 māñcāḍi (மாஞ்சாடி)
  • 1 māñcāḍi (மாஞ்சாடி) = 1 paṇaveḍai (பணவெடை)
  • 5 paṇaveḍai (பணவெடை) = 1 kaḻañcu (கழஞ்சு)
  • 8 paṇaveḍai (பணவெடை) = 1 varāgaṉeḍai (வராகனெடை)
  • 20 paṇaveḍai (பணவெடை) = 4 kaḻañcu (கழஞ்சு) = 1 kaqhsu (கஃசு)
  • 80 paṇaveḍai (பணவெடை)= 16 kaḻañcu (கழஞ்சு)= 4 kaqhsu (கஃசு)= 1 palam (பலம்)
  • 1.5 Kaḻañcu (கழஞ்சு) = 8 grams or one sovereign/pavun.

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

Goods weights[edit]

  • 32 kuṉṟimaṇi = 1 varāgaṉeḍai
  • 10 varāgaṉeḍai = 1 palam
  • 40 palam = 1 veesai
  • 1000 palam = 1 kā
  • 6 veesai = 1 tulām
  • 8 veesai = 1 maṇangu
  • 20 maṇangu = 1 pāram.

Grain volume[edit]

  • 1 kuṇam = smallest unit of volume
  • 9 kuṇam = 1 mummi
  • 11 mummi = 1 aṇu
  • 7 aṇu = 1 immi
  • 7 immi = 1 uminel
  • 1 sittigai = 7 uminel
  • 360 nel = 1 sevidu
  • 5 sevidu = 1 āḻākku
  • 2 āḻākku = 1 uḻakku
  • 2 uḻakku = 1 uri
  • 2 uri = 1 padi
  • 8 padi = 1 marakkaal (kuṟuṇi)
  • 2 marakkāl (kuṟuṇi) = 1 padakku
  • 2 padakku = 1 tōṇi
  • 5 marakkāl = 1 paṟai
  • 80 paṟai = 1 karisai
  • 48 padi = 1 kalam
  • 96 padi = 1 pothi (mōdai)
  • 21 marakkal = 1 Kottai
  • 22 mākāni = 100 g

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

Fluid volume[edit]

  • 5 sevidu = 1 āḻākku
  • 2 mahani = 1 āḻākku (arai kal padi)
  • 2 āḻākku = 1 uḻakku (Kal padi)
  • 2 uḻakku = 1 uri (Arai padi)
  • 2 uri = 1 padi
  • 4 padi= 1 marakkaal
  • 2 marakkāl (kuṟuṇi) = 1 padakku
  • 2 padakku = 1 tōṇi
  • 21 Marakkal = 1 Kottai

Length[edit]

  • 1 Koan = (115.8953125 picometre)
  • 10 Koan = 1 Nunnanu (0.1158953125 nanometre)
  • 10 Nunnanu = 1 Aṇu (atom) (1.158953125 nanometre)
  • 8 Aṇu = 1 Kadirtugal (9.271625 nanometre)
  • 8 Kadirtugal = 1 Tusumbu (74.173 nanometre)
  • 8 Tusumbu = 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 aṇu (atom) = 1.9444 centimetre
  • 12 viral = 1 sāṇ = 100 immi= 23.3333 centimetre = 9 inch
  • 2 sāṇ = 1 muḻam = 46.6666 centimetre = 1.5 feet
  • 2 sāṇ = 1 muḻam
  • 2 muḻam = 1 yard = 3 feet = 1 yard
  • 2 yard(yaar) = 1 pāgam
  • 110 pāgam = 1 furlong
  • 8 furlong = 1 mile
  • 5 furlong = 1 kilometre or 1000 metre
  • 625 pāgam = 1 kādam = 5000 sāṇ = 1166.66 metres = 1.167 kilometre

Likeness (Sārttal)[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

The following are the traditional numbers of the Ancient Tamil Country, Tamizhakam.

Rank 101 102 103 104 105 106 109 1012 1015 1018 1020 1021
Words பத்து நூறு ஆயிரம் பத்தாயிரம் நூறாயிரம் மெய்யிரம் தொள்ளுண் ஈகியம் நெளை இளஞ்சி வெள்ளம் ஆம்பல்
Character ௰௲ ௱௲ ௲௲ ௲௲௲ ௲௲௲௲ ௲௲௲௲௲ ௲௲௲௲௲௲ ௱௲௲௲௲௲௲ ௲௲௲௲௲௲௲
Reading pathu nūru āyiram pattāyiram nūraiyiram meiyyiram tollun īkiyam neļai iļañci veļļam āmpal

Tamil texts also elaborate the following sanskritized version :

  • 1 ONDRU = One = 10 0
  • 10 = PATU = Ten = 10 1
  • 100 = NŌRU = Hundred = 10 2
  • 1,000 = ĀYIRAM = One Thousand = 10 3
  • 10,000 = PATĀYIRAM = 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 = ARPUTAM = One Billion = 10 9
  • 10,00,00,00,000 = PATU ARPUTAM = Ten Billion = 10 10
  • 1,00,00,00,00,000 = NIGARPUTAM = Hundred Billion = 10 11
  • 10,00,00,00,00,000 = PATU NIGARPUTAM = One Trillion = 10 12
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,000 = KUMBAM = Ten Trillion = 10 13
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATU 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 = PATU 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 = PATU NIKARPAM = Hundred Quintillion = 10 20
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATUMAM = One Sextillion = 10 21
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATU PATUMAM = 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 = PATU 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 = PATU 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 = PATU 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 = PATU PARARTTAM = Hundred Nonillion = 10 32
  • 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PŌRIYAM = One Decillion = 10 33
  • 10,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 = PATU PŌRIYAM = 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 = PATU 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 = PATU = Ten = 10 1
  • 100 = NŌRU = Hundred = 10 2
  • 1,000 = ĀYIRAM = One Thousand = 10 3
  • 10,000 = PATĀYIRAM = Ten Thousand = 10 4
  • 100,000 = LATCHAM = Hundred Thousand = 10 5
  • 1,000,000 = PATU LATCHAM = One Million = 10 6
  • 10,000,000 = KODI = Ten Million = 10 7
  • 100,000,000 = PATU KODI = Hundred Million = 10 8
  • 1,000,000,000 = NŌRU KODI = One Billion = 10 9

Fractions[edit]

  • 1 – ஒன்று – onRu
  • 3/4 = 0.75 – முக்கால் – mukkāl
  • 1/2= 0.5 – அரை – arai
  • 1/4 = 0.25 – கால் – kāl
  • 1/5 = 0.2 – நாலுமா – nālumā
  • 3/16 = 0.1875 – மும்மாகாணி –mummākāṇi
  • 3/20 = 0.15 – மும்மா – mummaa
  • 1/8 = 0.125 – அரைக்கால் – araikkāl
  • 1/10 = 0.1 – இருமா – irumā
  • 1/16 = 0.0625 – மாகாணி (வீசம்) – mākāṇi (vīsam)
  • 1/20 = 0.05 – ஒருமா – orumā
  • 3/64 = 0.046875 – முக்கால்வீசம் – mukkāl vīsam
  • 3/80 = 0.0375 – முக்காணி – mukkāṇi
  • 1/32 = 0.03125 – அரைவீசம் – araivīsam
  • 1/40 = 0.025 – அரைமா – araimā
  • 1/64 = 0.015625 – கால் வீசம் – kaal vīsam
  • 1/80 = 0.0125 – காணி – kāṇi
  • 3/320 = 0.009375 – அரைக்காணி முந்திரி – araikkāṇi muntiri
  • 1/160 = 0.00625 – அரைக்காணி – araikkāṇi
  • 1/320 = 0.003125 – முந்திரி – muntiri
  • 3/1280 = 0.00234375 – கீழ் முக்கால் – kīḻ mukkal
  • 1/640 = 0.0015625 – கீழரை – kīḻarai
  • 1/1280 = 7.8125e-04 – கீழ் கால் – kīḻ kāl
  • 1/1600 = 0.000625 – கீழ் நாலுமா – kīḻ nalumā
  • 3/5120 ≈ 5.85938e-04 – கீழ் மூன்று வீசம் – kīḻ mūndru vīsam
  • 3/6400 = 4.6875e-04 – கீழ் மும்மா – kīḻ mummā
  • 1/2500 = 0.0004 – கீழ் அரைக்கால் – kīḻ araikkāl
  • 1/3200 = 3.12500e-04 – கீழ் இருமா – kīḻ irumā
  • 1/5120 ≈ 1.95313e-04 – கீழ் வீசம் – kīḻ vīsam
  • 1/6400 = 1.56250e-04 – கீழொருமா – kīḻ orumā
  • 1/102400 ≈ 9.76563e-06 – கீழ்முந்திரி – kīḻ muntiri
  • 1/2150400 ≈ 4.65030e-07 – இம்மி – immi
  • 1/23654400 ≈ 4.22754e-08 – மும்மி – mummi
  • 1/165580800 ≈ 6.03935e-09 – அணு – aṇu
  • 1/1490227200 ≈ 6.71039e-10 – குணம் – kuṇam
  • 1/7451136000 ≈ 1.34208e-10 – பந்தம் – pantam
  • 1/44706816000 ≈ 2.23680e-11 – பாகம் – pāgam
  • 1/312947712000 ≈ 3.19542e-12 – விந்தம் – vintam
  • 1/5320111104000 ≈ 1.87966e-13 – நாகவிந்தம் – nāgavintam
  • 1/74481555456000 ≈ 1.34261e-14 – சிந்தை – sintai
  • 1/1489631109120000 ≈ 6.71307e-16 – கதிர்முனை –katirmunai
  • 1/59585244364800000 ≈ 1.67827e-17 – குரல்வளைப்படி –kuralvaḷaippiḍi
  • 1/3575114661888000000 ≈ 2.79711e-19 -வெள்ளம் – veḷḷam
  • 1/357511466188800000000 ≈ 2.79711e-21 – நுண்மணல் –nuṇmaṇal
  • 1/2323824530227200000000 ≈ 4.30325e-22 – தேர்த்துகள் –tērttugaḷ

Currency[edit]

  • 1 pal (wooden discs/sea shellots) = (approximately) 0.9 grain
  • 8 (or 10 base 8) paṟkaḷ = 1 senkāṇi (copper/bronze) = 7.2 grains(misinterpretted by Roman accounts as 10 base 10 paRkal = 9 grains)
  • 1/4 senkāṇi = 1 kālkāṇi (copper) = 1.8 grains (misinterpretted by Roman accounts as 2.25 grains)
  • 64 (or 100 base 8) paṟkaḷ = 1 KaaNap-pon aka. Kāsu panam(gold) = 57.6 grains
  • 1 Roman dinarium was traded on par with 2 Kāṇappon plus 1 Senkāṇi(=124 grains).
  • 18 Ana = 2.85 Rupee, 16 Ana = 1 Rupee, 1 Ana = 3 Tuṭu, 1/4 Ana = 3/4 (mukkal) tuṭu

Divisions of a Day[edit]

சிறுபொழுது (Daily r /> 1. காலை (kālai): 6 am-10 am
2. நண்பகல் (naṇpagal): 10 am-2 pm
3. ஏற்பாடு (ēṟpāḍu): 2 pm-6 pm
4. மாலை (mālai): 6 pm-10 pm
5. இடையாமம் (iḍaiyāmam): 10 pm-2 am
6. வைகறை (vaikaṟai): 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