Kautilya Arthashastra

by R. Shamasastry | 1956 | 174,809 words | ISBN-13: 9788171106417

The English translation of Arthashastra, which ascribes itself to the famous Brahman Kautilya (also named Vishnugupta and Chanakya) and dates from the period 321-296 B.C. The topics of the text include internal and foreign affairs, civil, military, commercial, fiscal, judicial, tables of weights, measures of length and divisions of time. Original ...

Chapter 19 - The Superintendent of Weights and Measures

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

The superintendent of weights and measures shall have the same manufactured.

10 seeds of māṣa (Phraseolus radiatus) or
5 seeds of guñja [1] (Abrus precatorius).. = 1 suvarṇa-māṣa.
16 suvarṇa-māṣas.. = 1 suvarṇa or karṣa
4 karṣas.... = 1 pala.
88 white mustard seeds = 1 silver-māṣa.
16 silver-māṣas or 20 saibya seeds = 1 dharaṇa.
20 grains of rice = 1 dharaṇa of a diamond. [2]

Ardha-māṣa (half a māṣa), one māṣa, two māṣas, four māṣas, eight māṣas, one suvarṇa, two suvarṇas, four suvarṇas, eight suvarṇas, ten suvarṇas, twenty suvarṇas, thirty suvarṇas, forty suvarṇas and one hundred suvarṇas are different units of weights.

Similar series of weights shall also be made in dharaṇas.

Weights (pratimānāni) shall be made of iron or of stones available in the countries of Magadha and Mekala; or of such things as will neither contract when wetted, nor expand under the influence of heat.[3]

Beginning with a lever of six aṅgulas in length and of one pala in the weight of its metallic mass, there shall be made ten (different) balances with levers successively increasing by one pala in the weight of their metallic masses, and by eight aṅgulas in their length.[4] A scale-pan shall be attached to each of them on one or both sides.

A balance called samavṛttā, with its lever 72 aṅgulas long and weighing 53 palas in its metallic mass, shall also be made. A scale-pan of 5 palas in the weight of its metallic mass being attached to its edge, the horizontal position of the lever (samakaraṇa) when weighing a karṣa shall be marked (on that part of the lever where, held by a thread, it stands horizontal). To the left of that mark, symbols such as 1 pala, 12, 15 and 20 palas shall be marked. After that, each place of tens up to 100 shall be marked. In the place of Akṣas,[5] the sign of Nāndi[6] shall be marked.

Likewise a balance called parimāṇi, of twice as much metallic mass as that of samavṛttā and of 96 aṅgulas in length, shall be made. On its lever, marks such as 20, 50 and 100 above its initial weight of 100 shall be carved.[7]

20 tulas = 1 bhāra.[8]
10 dharaṇas = 1 pala.[9]
100 such palas = 1 āyamānī (measure of royal income).

Public balance (vyāvahārikā), servants’ balance (bhājini), and harem balance (antaḥpurabhājinī) successively decrease by five palas (compared with āyamānī).[10]

A pala in each of the above successively falls short of the same in āyamānī by half a dharaṇa.[11] The metallic mass of the levers of each of the above successively decreases in weight by two ordinary palas and in length by six aṅgulas.[12]

Excepting flesh, metals, salt and precious stones, an excess of five palas (prayāma) of all other commodities (shall be given to the king) when they are weighed in the two first-named balances.[13]

A wooden balance with a lever 8 hands long, with measuring marks[14] and counterpoise weights shall be erected on a pedestal like that of a peacock.

Twenty-five palas of firewood will cook one prastha of rice.[15] This is the unit (for the calculation) of any greater or less quantity (of firewood).

Thus weighing balance and weights are commented upon.


200 palas in the grains of māṣa = droṇa, which is an āyamāna, a measure of royal income.
187½ palas in the grains of māṣa = 1 public droṇa.
175 palas in the grains of māṣa = 1 bhājanīya, (servants’ measure).
162½ palas in the grains of māṣa = 1 antaḥpurabhājanīya (harem measure).

Āḍhaka, prastha, and kuḍumba are each one-fourth of the one previously mentined.[16]

16 droṇas = 1 vārī.
20 droṇas = 1 kumbha.
10 kumbhas = 1 vaha.

Cubic measures shall be so made of dry and strong wood that, when filled with grains, the conically heaped-up portion of the grains standing on the mouth of the measure is equal to one-fourth of the quantity of the grains (so measured); or the measures may also be so made that a quantity equal to the heaped-up portion can be contained within (the measure).[17]

But liquids shall always be measured level to the mouth of the measure.

With regard to wine, flowers, fruits, bran, charcoal and slaked lime, twice the quantity of the heaped-up portion (i.e. one-fourth of the measure) shall be given in excess.[18]

paṇas is the price of a droṇa.
¾ paṇa is the price of an āḍhaka.
6 māṣas is the price of a prastha,
1 māṣa is the price of  akuḍumba.

The price of similar liquid measures is double the above.

20 paṇas is the price of a set of counter-weights.
6 paṇas „ of tulā (balance).[19]

The superintendent shall charge four māṣas for stamping weights or measures. A fine of 27¼ paṇas shall be imposed for using unstamped weights or measures.

Traders shall every day pay one kākaṇi to the superintendent towards the charge of stamping the weights and measures.

Those who trade in clarified butter shall give (to purchasers) 1/32th part more as taptavyājī (i.e. compensation for decrease in the quatitity of ghee owing to its liquid condition). Those who trade in oil shall give 1/64th part more as taptavyāji.

(While selling liquids, traders) shall give part more as mānasrāva (i.e. compensation for diminution in the quantity owing to its overflow or adhesion to the measuring can).

Half, one-fourth, and one-eighth parts of the measure, kumbha, shall also be manufactured.

84 kuḍambas of clarified butter are held to be equal to a vāraka of the same;
64 kuḍambas make one vāraka of oil (taila); one-fourth of a vāraka is called ghaṭikā, either of ghee or of oil.[20]

[Thus ends Chapter XIX, “The Superintendent of Weights and Measures,” in Book II, “The Duties of Government Superintendents” of the Arthaśāstra of Kauṭilya. End of the fortieth chapter from the beginning.]

Footnotes and references:


Each guñja berry averages about 1 5/16th grains, troy.


That is, one dharaṇa of a diamond is equal to 20 grains of rice.


That is, neither rises in weight owing to absorption of moisture nor falls lower in weight when dry.


Thus the second balance will be 14 aṅgulas long and of two palas weight; and the tenth balance 78 aṅgulas long and of ten palas weight.—Com.


Place of five and multiples of five.—Com.


The symbol of Svastika.—Com.


Before the mark of first hundred, marks such as 1, 2, etc., up to 100 shall also be made.—Com.


One tula=100 palas.—Com.


This pala (rather dharaṇapala, to distinguish it from the former) is greater by one karṣa than the usual pala.—Com.


That is, public balance weighs 95 dharaṇa palas; servants’ balance, used in weighing things payable to the king’s servants, 90 dharaṇa palas; and harem balance, used in weighing things payable to the queens and princes, weighs 85 dharaṇa palas.—Com.


10 dharaṇas = 1 pala in āyamanī.
9½ dharaṇas = 1 pala in public balance.—Com.
9 dharaṇas = 1 pala in servants’ balance.
8½ dharaṇas = 1 pala in harem balance.—Com.


Āyamānī is 72 inches long and weighs 53 palas in its mass.
Public balance is 66 inches long and weighs 51 palas in its mass.
Servants’ balance is 60 inches long and weighs 49 palas in its mass.
Harem balance is 54 inches long and weighs 47 palas in its mass.


Samavṛttā and Parimāṇī.—Com.


Marks such as 1, 2, 3 palas, etc.—Com.


See Chap. VIII, Part II, Daśakumāracarita, for Dandi’s sarcastic remarks on this and other points of the Arthaśāstra.


1 āḍhaka is equal to one-fourth droṇa.
1 prastha „ one-fourth āḍhaka.
1 kuḍumba „ one-fourth prastha.


Antaśśikhā vā: measures can be so made that grains can be measured level to the mouth.


Hence in the case of these things, five kuḍumbas make one prastha.—Com.


One-third paṇa is the price of the balance first described, and in proportion to the length and weight of the lever, the price of the tenth balance will be 1⅓ paṇas.—Com.


In śloka-metre.

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