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Ancient Units Of Measurements In Hinduism

Ancient units of measurements in trade, commerce and scientific investigations in Hinduism were known as Mana (meaning measure). From ancient times, Hindus had developed many systems of units for the fundamental quantities of length, weight and time. They further divided units for the measurement of other quantities like area, volume and velocity.

Explicit references to various types of units are found in the Vedanga Jyotisha (1300 BCE). In fact, the tradition of measurement goes further back to the Indus – Saraswati civilization (3000 BCE). The division marks, on the Lothal ivory scales for the length measurement, are the smallest (1.7 mm) known in the ancient world.

Numerous stone weights have been unearthed at Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Kalibangan, etc of this civilization (2600 BCE).

From Rig Veda, Ashtadhyayi of Panini, Mahabharata, Yajnavalkya Smriti, Charak Samhita, and Arthashastra of Kautilya we find several units of length and weights.

Compared with modern units, one finds that the smallest unit for length, called paramanu, is around one-third of an Angstrom. For measuring weights, the smallest unit ratti, is nearly equal to one-tenth of a gram.

Arthashastra of Kautilya (320 BCE) has described the various balances used in the time.

Regarding time measurement, Vedanga Jyotisha gives division and subdivisions of a day. Later systems divide the day into ghati, pala, and vipala, which are still used in the Hindu Ephemeris.

In Nyaya philosophy, kshana, the smallest unit of time, is equal to 2/45 of a second. The Hindu astronomers, however, were familiar with far smaller measures of time. Siddhanta Siromani (1150 CE) defines the smallest unit of time, named truti, which is equal to one-third of a microsecond, approximately.