In the Presidency of Madras, India, a unit of capacity, 831 cubic inches. In Madras: chart symbol. In Chingleput: chart symbol. In Coimbatore: chart symbol. Also spelled merkal.



According to the book above mentioned, dated 1778, the 'measure' or 'puddy' of Madras town is said to be 2 lb. 10 oz. avoir., which is equal to 102 of the present tolahs; and 8 of these to a mercaul and 400 mercauls to a garce. It is supposed that the weight refers to the weight of a measure filled with rice. The garce is also said to be 9,256½ lb. of grain.

According to the almanac of A.D. 1795, the cubical content of this measure or puddy is defined, viz., 93¾ cubic inches, and the mercaul of 8 puddies = 750 cubic inches. This is probably the same 'measure' as that mentioned in the book of 1778. Late trials have shown that a vessel of 93¾ cubic inches holds about 106 tolahs' weight of rice, when struck.

The dimensions of the 'measure' and 'mercaul,' as given in the almanac of A.D. 1795, have been repeated in successive almanacs to a very late date, but have been disused half a century and more. The fact is that in 1801 the clerk of the market introduced a mercaul of 832 cubic inches or thereabouts, which was transferred to the Collector's office in 1812 A.D., and though lost, its duplicates are used as standards for stamping the mercauls of the bazaars with the Government seal. The measure (transferred at the same time) is found to be ¼ of 832, or 104 cubic inches. The capacity of the mercaul of A.D. 1801 is known from the correspondence of that date with the Military Board, who wished to have it somewhat less, so as to hold 23 1/7 lb. of rice or 1/800 [sic, but an error, should be 1/400-ed.] of the garce of 9,256½ lb. whereas the police mercaul was then found to contain (struck) ahout 24¼ lb. of rice. Major DeHaviland (1819) had occasion to examine three stamped mercauls, and found them to contain on an average 30¼ lb. of water, and 24½ lb. of rice.

It seems that the dimensions of the measure and mercaul have not altered since 1801, for the standards used by the Collector were gauged in 1854 and 1858 at the mint and by the treasury scales, and gave the following results :-

  Puddy Mercaul
Depth in inches 5.9 10.2
Diameter in inches 4.75 10.25
Content in cubic inches 104 832
Weight of water at 82° in tolahs 146 1,164
Weight of water at 82° in lb. 3.76 30.00
Weight of rice (struck) in tolahs 117 940
Weight of rice (struck) in lb. 3.01 24¼
Weight of rice when liberally heaped in tolahs 128 1024
Weight of rice when slightly topped in tolahs 120 960

None of these measures are perfect cylinders. The content was obtained by weighing their content of water, allowing 100 cubic inches to every 140 tolahs' weight of water at 82°. The mean depths and diameters are given.

The measure of 94¾ cubic inches and the mercaul of 750 have not been in use in Madras or in the provinces, within memory.

The tentative 'mercaul' declared by Government in the Gazette of 20th October 1846 to be the official standard for the Government departments has a capacity of 800 cubic inches, and the 'measure' or 'paddy,' 100 cubic inches; but these measures are now in use in no bazaar in the country; and in the town of Madras, the Government in 1853 authorized the stamping by the Collector of the customary mercaul and measure of 832 and 104 cubic inches respectively. Even in the Custom-house these 'customary' measures are in use.

The committee, who in 1841 recommended the Government to adopt the mercaul of 800 cubic inches, were under the impression that it was very nearly the capacity of the 'customary' mercaul; but by some oversight they calculated the capacity of the stamped mercals sent to them for inspection from their measurement as cylinders, instead of from their content of water. They were fully aware that these mercauls were not true cylinders, and they actually ascertained the weight of water they contained to be on the average 29 lb. 13 oz. avoir., which at a temperature of 82° gives a capacity of 829 cubic inches; and there is no doubt these stamped mercauls were intended to be duplicates of the standard of 832 cubic inches in the Collector's office. It is usual to test measures from the Collector's standard, by filling them with grain, and this gives rise to frequent discrepancies.

Manual of the Administration of the Madras Presidency… Volume II.
Madras: Printed by E. Keys, at the Government Press, 1885.
Page 514.

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