Impact of Vedic Culture on Society

by Kaushik Acharya | 2020 | 120,081 words

This page relates ‘Samucitameya (Land Measures)’ of the study on the Impact of Vedic Culture on Society as Reflected in Select Sanskrit Inscriptions found in Northern India (4th Century CE to 12th Century CE). These pages discuss the ancient Indian tradition of Dana (making gifts, donation). They further study the migration, rituals and religious activities of Brahmanas and reveal how kings of northern India granted lands for the purpose of austerities and Vedic education.

Samucitameya (Land Measures)

Samuchitameya literally means “properly measured or measured by the standard measure.” The Senakapat inscription of Śivagupta Bālarjuna[1] says that the two hālis of land in the village Gudasarkāra along with Kṛṣṇa-talā was granted to a brāhmaṇa. [2] The Devagiri plates of Kadamba Mrigesavarman, as can be expected, refers to a grant of land forty nivarttanas in extent, which was krṣṇa-bhūmi. [3] Some of these measurements and land-related terms have been used during land grants


The meaning of the term piṭaka is obscure. It seems to have been a term in local parlance. The first mention is found in Bhavnagar Plates of Dhruvasena IV-A (c. 64546CE)[4] issued by the King Dhruvasena IV of Maitrakas of Valabhī dynasty. From the statement of the total area of land including that occupied by the vāpi and the six piṭakas, in the above charter, as a hundred and twenty padāvarttas it can be understood that piṭaka was synonymous with padāvartta. [5] Likewise , Māṅkaṇī Plates of Taralasvāmin (c. 59596 CE)[6] of Kaṭaccuri dynasty refers a grant of a field capable of sown with a piṭaka of paddy. Piṭaka actually means a box or a basket. It is rarely found to refer to a standard measure.

Hāli / Hala:

It was asimultaneous land measurement,the same as hala. Hala literally means a plaugh, perhaps an area of land cultivated by one hāla in one day. We find this term for the very first time in Katni Plates of jayanātha a (c. 501–02 CE)[7] issued by The King Jayanātha of the Uchchakalpa dynasty that mentioned ten hāla of land in a village. D.C. Sircar defined hāli in his book Indian Epigraphical Glossary as it can be found in ancient inscriptions commonly written in Sanskrit.[8]

Nivartana/ Nivarttana:

The earliest reference to nivartana is found in the Satavahana inscriptions of the 2nd century CE. In our discussion, Pāndhurnā Plates of Pravarasena II (c. 449 CE)[9] issued by the King Pravarasena (II) of Vākātaka (main) dynasty first mentioned this technical term for land measurement.One nivartana is equal to 2.975 acres (12039.398 square Metres).[10] , [11]

Padāvartta/ Pādāvartta:

This is a popular most early-medieval land measurement that generally used in western India, especially in Maitraka grants. Itseems to have denoted initially an area of land that could be circumambulated by a man during a fixed period of time, possibly a day. In due course, it is stated to have denoted a land measure “an area of 100 padāvarttas being 100 feet each way, i.e. 10,000 square feet.[12]

Footnotes and references:


Senakapat Inscription of the time of Sivagupta-Balarjuna, USVAE, vol. IV, part I, no. 84.


Ibid., vol. III, no. 124.


Loc. cit.


Ibid., vol. IV, part I, pp. 560-568.


IA, vol. I, p.16.


Ibid., vol. IV, part I, pp.19-23.


Ibid., vol. III, pp. 305-308.


Contemporary land measure, hāli or hala is found used in the inscriptions of the Gangas of Kaliñga and an inscription of the panduvamsis of South Kośala mainly. The land measure was probably used in Kaliñga from the 6th to the 12th century. It is evident from the inscriptions that the plot size endowed to the beneficiaries ranged between one and six halas.

The land measure hala means a plough share but is also used to denote a measure of land. In the latter case, it represents the amount of area which can be conveniently ploughed or instead cultivated with the help of one plough or one pair of bullocks annually. But it is difficult to determine the exact area of land indicated by a hala, and in no case, it could have been the same everywhere because the size of the plough, the condition of the soil, and the physic and number of bullocks engaged for the purpose were bound to differ from place to place.

Moreover, Manu refers to various kinds of ploughs. His commentator Kullukabhaṭṭa explains that the land measure using plough drawn by eight bullocks was known as dharmahala, that drawn by six for the cultivators as madhyamahala, by four for the householders as grihastahala and the one drawn by three bullocks used for brāhmaṇas was known as brahmahala (Manusmṛti, 7, 119). In the present state of our knowledge, it is difficult to ascertain whether there was any difference between the hala measure granted to brāhmaṇa donees and the religious establishments in the early medieval Odisha.

In this connection it may be pointed out that in other areas of India, bhikṣuhala, bhogahala, brahmahala, brihadhala, etc., occur which may refer to the specific number of bullocks to be used to indicate a plough share in respect of the donees such as a Buddhist Saṃgha, an official, a brāhmaṇa and the like (P. Niyogi, Contribution to the Economic History of Northern India, 1962, p. 34). Similar expressions are not coming from the Odishan epigraphs. Yet, in one of the Gaṇga charters, we come across a phrase halasya bhūmibrahmadey-danḍa mana-mita, which has been translated by Hultzsch as one plough of land measured by the rod used for the brahmadeyas had been granted to the donee (EI, vol. XVIII,307-11, text line 12-13). But here brahmadeya-danḍa may mean the prescribed number of bullocks to be used to indicate a plough share in respect of a brahmadeya village.


USVAE, vol. III, pp. 184-186.


Arga Plates of Kapilavarman, USVAE, vol. III. p. 15.


The earliest reference to nivartana is found in the Satavahana inscriptions of the 2nd century CE (D.C. Sircar, Select Inscriptions bearing on Indian History and Civilization, I, pp. 191-94) and it was also prevalent in the western (USVAE, vol. IV, part I, nos. 12. Baloda Plates of Tivaradeva, 13. Vappaghoshavata Grant of Jayanaga, 21. Biruda Inscription at Pallavaram, 22. Biruda Inscription at Kanchipuram, 23. Thalner Plates of Bhanushena-A & B, etc.) and southern [P. Sreenivasachar, Corpus of Inscriptions of Telangana District, 206-208; South Indian Inscriptions part of India in the later centuries. But the Rithapur grant is the only inscription of Odisha where we come across this technical term nivartana.

The exact area measuring a nivartana in a particular locality cannot be ascertained because the ancient literary texts widely differ on the point [D.C. Sircar, Indian Epigraphy, pp. 409-10 and Saradha S. Srinivasan, “Area Measures in Gujarat as Gleaned from Epigraphical Sources,” in Journal of The Epigraphical Society of India, pp. 17, 38-44]. But there has been a near unanimity among the ancient authorities regarding the area of a nivartana in comparison to that of a go-carma. It has been mentioned that a Nivartan is one-tenth of a go-carma. Go-carma finds mention in the inscriptions of the 6th-7th century while quoting benedictory and imprecatory verses from the Vyasa-gita [S.N. Rajaguru, “Jayarampur copper plate grant of the time of Gopachandra, Year 1”, in OHRJ, pp. 206-29, text line 46; R.C. Majumdar, “Midnapur plate of Maharaja Somadatta,” in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, Letters, pp. 11, 3-8, text line)].

It is generally taken to be equal to 150 cubits square. But more specific information is available from a 13th-century inscription where an area of 18 vatis of land is referred to as equivalent to one go-carma (“Nagari Plates of Anangabhima III”, in EI, vol. XXVIII, pp. 23558, text line 136). As will be shown below a vati is now regarded as equal to 20 acres, and hence 18 vatis is equal to (20 x 18 =) 360 acres which is also the extent of a go-carma. If a nivartana is equal to one-tenth of a go-carma, then it comes to about (360/10=) 36 acres of land. But what it exactly amounted to either in the 6th-7th or 13th century cannot be determined precisely D.C. Sircar, who edited the said Ganga inscription of the 13th century believed that the go-carma mentioned in the record could be equivalent to that area which was recognized by such authorities as Parāśara and Bṛhaspati (ibid., pp. 235-58, text line 245). According to Brhaspati a nivartana was an area of 300x300 square cubits or about 4 3/4 acres. A go-carma, which was ten times a nivartana, could be (4 3/4x10) 47 1/2 acres in extent.


D.C. Sircar, op. cit., p. 225.

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