Surat globe symbol, a link to Google map., India
17th – 19th century

Surat was the principal trading port of the Mughal Empire. The Portuguese arrived in the early 1530's, followed by the British. The weights and measures of Surat thus showed a mixture of Indian, Arabic, Portuguese and English influences.

Mass

Fryer, writing in the late 17th century, wrote that the earlier system of weights had been:

   

maund

 

seer

40

pice

18

720

0.073
oz av

13.2
oz av

33
lb av

but that at the time of his visits:

   

maund

 

seer

40

pice

20

800

0.074
oz av

14.8
oz av

37
lb av

Except that for amber and coral, 18 pice to the seer was retained.

By 1687, the British East India Company had closed its Presidency in Surat, in favor of the one in Bombay. As trade increasingly left Surat for Bombay, the weights of Surat felt the effect of the standard of the East Indies Company's Bombay Factory. By the early 19th century:

         

candy

pucca maund or Bombay maund or Bengal Factory Maund

10

   

Surat maund

2

20

   

seer

40

80

800

 

pice

30

800

1600

16,000

based on 1 Surat maund = 37 lb 5 oz 5 1/3 dr av

21.168
g

423.352
g

16.9341
kg

33.8682
kg

338.6820
kg

Kelly (1835, page 119) adds a cautionary note:

But these weights are not constant; for, in the sale of many articles, the Maund, instead of 40 Seers, contains from 41 to 46 Seers; neither is the Candy always 20 Maunds. Thus, pepper and sandal-wood are sold by the Bombay Candy of 21 Bombay Maunds, and cotton by the Candy of 21 Surat Maunds. 

The Gazetteer (1877, page 210) notes:

In the year 1848 an attempt was made by government to introduce the Bengal system of weights and measures into Surat, but, in consequence of the opposition of the people, it was abandoned.

It then describes the following system:

                 

gálli

               

khándi

             

háro

2 6/7

4 2/7

           

man

7

20

30

         

ser

40

280

800

1200

     

achher

2

80

560

1600

2400

     

páser

2

4

161

1120

3200

6400

 

navtánk

2

4

8

320

2400

6400

12800

 

adhol

2

4

8

16

640

4800

12800

25600

rupee

5

10

20

40

1600

9600

25600

51200

10.63
g

26.58
g

53.15
g

106.3
g

212.6
g

425.2
g

17.01
kg

119.06
kg

340.16
kg

510.24
kg

             

bhár

         

large harra

1 1/7

         

candy

1 1/20

1 1/5

       

maunee

1 2/3

2

   

small harra

1 5/7

2 6/7

3

3  3/7

   

maund

7

12

20

21

24

 

seer

40

280

480

800

840

960

imperial pounds

 

37½

262½

450

750

787½

900

kilograms

 

17.008

119.055

204.09

340.16

357.166

408.19

Actually, it's not possible to give universally reliable metric equivalents for these units. For example, echoing Kelly, the Gazetteer notes,

In the case of cotton, one man is equal to 42 sers, and in that of spices, sugar, tobacco, and certain other articles, the man varies from 40 to 46 sers.

A few of these have been recorded in the literature. The maund of castor oil was 40¼ seers; the maund of coconuts, oil, ghee, cotton and spirits was 2 seers.

Cotton, in its raw state, or kápas, is measured by the bhár of 24 mans, and cleaned cotton by the khándi of 20 mans.

Goldsmiths' Weights
                 

seer

               

tola

35

             

pice

43¾

         

gudjana

1 3/5

2

70

        tank

1 1/8

1 4/5

78¾

       

massa

5 1/3

6

9 3/5

12

420

     

vall

2 2/3

14 2/9

16

25 3/5

32

1120

   

ruttee

3

8

42 2/3

48

76 4/5

96

3360

chonvel

6

18

48

256

288

460 4/5

576

20,160

Doursther 1840

21.09

126.5

3.7964

1.0124

12.149

425.20*

82½based on 83 valls = 1 troy oz

 

124.9
mg

374.7
mg

999.3
mg

5.330
g

5.996
g

9.593
g

11.99
g

419.7
g

*Doursther says = 15 avoirdupois ounces.

Jewel Weights
                tola      
              miskal

     
           

tank

1  1/18

4*

     
       

rupee Oranshwa

 

     
       

vall

8

32

     
     

mangere

1 19/21

     
   

carrack

 

     
 

ruttee

1 1/7

1 23/40

3

64½

24

96

     

vassa

20

21 6/7

60

480

1920

     

9.22
mg

184.4
mg

210.74
mg

331.92
mg

553.2
mg

11.89
g

4.4256
g

17.702
g

     

*Fryer says 3, but he is the only source that does so.

Length

Unit Commodity Equivalents English
inches
metric Source
viswasee dimensioned lumber   0. 3.45 mm  
  = 1/20 vussa = 4 1/5 tussos 4.88 12.395 mm  
vussa dimensioned lumber = 1/20 guz = 10 viswasees   34.5 mm Doursther
covid     18½   Kelly
hath only for bamboo netting (khapedo) = 18 tusso     Gazetteer
guz used by carpenters & masons = 24 tussoos 24   Doursther
lesser coveld     27   Fryer
gaj dimensioned lumber   27½   Gazetteer
  = 20 vussas = 200 viswasees 27 1/6   Doursther
guz     28 1/5   Kelly
bazaar guz     28   Kelly
darji's gaj (tailor's gaj) cotton, silk cloth, tape = 24 tass 28   Gazetteer
    = 24 tussoos 27 2/3   Doursther
English yard broadcloth, velvet, satin   36   Kelly
greater coveld broadcloth, velvet, satin   36   Fryer
vussa land measure = 84 tussoos 97 3/5   Doursther

John Fryer, A new Account, page 206.

Capacity

 

Land area

A bigha of 25,600 square feet was formerly the unit of land measure. The bigha was sub-divided into twenty wasa, and the wasa into twenty viswási. Since the introduction of the revenue survey, an acre of 43,560 square feet has been substituted for the bigha. The acre is sub-divided into forty gunthás, and the guntha into sixteen ánnás. The present acre is, therefore, equal to about one bigha and two-thirds, or, more strictly, to one bigha and fourteen-twentieths of a bigha.

Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, page 210.

Sources quoted

John Fryer.
A new Account of East-India and Persia…
London: Printed br R.R. for Ri. Chiswell, 1698.
Fryer traveled in the area between 1672 and 1681.

Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, prepared under orders of Government. Gujarat. Surat and Broach. Vol. II.
Bombay: Printed at the Government Central Press, 1877.

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