# Sri Lankan units of measurement

A number of different units of measurement were used in Sri Lanka to measure quantities like length, mass and capacity.^{[1]} Under the British Empire, imperial units became the official units of measurement^{[2]} and remained so until Sri Lanka adopted the metric system in the 1970s.^{[3]}^{[4]}

## Traditional units

Various units were used in Sri Lanka at different times and some only in certain regions. Some of these remained in use well into the colonial period.^{[1]}^{[5]} The following is only a partial list.

### Length

One covid was equal to 0.464 m (18.5 in^{[2]}).^{[1]} The bamba, still in use in 2016 yet, is the distance between a man's outstretched arms. It is roughly about 6 feet. "Bamba" usually use to measure depth in wells and pits etc... Units used in measuring road distances included the gavva and yoduna (plurals gavu and yojana - a yoduna was 4 gavu) and the hoo kiyana dura.^{[5]}

Area was often measured in terms of the land that could be sown with a specific amount of seed or rice, including the pala, amuna (4 pala) and kiriya (4 amunas) and the riyana. In one region, a kiriya was about 8 acres.^{[5]}

Prinsep, writing in 1840, states that "at ... Ceylon ... English measures only are used, or at least a cubit based on the English measure of 18 inches."^{[6]}^{:96}

### Weight

One candy or one bahar was equal to 226.8 kg,^{[1]} or 500 lbs,^{[6]}^{:86} or according to *The Indian Trader's Guide* 480 Dutch pounds or 520 pounds Avoirdupois.^{[7]}

Small weights could be measured in seeds, such as the tala, amu, vee ata (3 amu), madati (8 vee ata), majadi, maditi, kalanda and manjadi.^{[5]}

### Capacity

Different units were used for liquid and dry capacity.^{[2]}

#### Liquid

One seer was equal to 1.2 quarts and one parrah was equal to 6.75 gallons.^{[2]}

Another source suggests that a seer was equal to 1.86 imperial pints or 1.06 litres.
^{[8]}

#### Dry

One ammonam was equal to 203.4 l. Some other units are provided below:^{[1]}

1 parrah = 1/8 ammonam

1 seer = 1/288 ammonam.

The chundoo was equal to nearly half a pint.^{[2]}

Maccauly stated in 1818 that to the north of Colombo an *Ammonam* contained 16 *Parahs*, and 2.5 *Ammonams* equalled one *Acre*, but that to the south there were 8 *Parahs* to the *Ammonam*. He describes the *Parah* as a measure 16.7 inches wide and 5.6 inches deep.^{[7]}

Montgomery, writing in 1835, describes the interior measurement of a *Parrah* as a perfect cube of 11.571 inches, and the seer as a cylinder of depth 4.35 inches and diameter 4.35 inches.^{[9]}

## References

- 1 2 3 4 5 Washburn, E.W. (1926).
*International Critical Tables of Numerical Data, Physics, Chemistry and Technology*. New York: McGraw-Hil Book Company, Inc. p. 4. - 1 2 3 4 5 Clarke, F.W. (1891).
*Weights Measures and Money of All Nations*. New York: D. Appleton & Company. p. 23. - ↑ "History".
*Measurement Units and Services Department*. Measurement Units and Services Department. Retrieved 2 January 2015. - ↑ Cardarelli, F. (2003).
*Encyclopaedia of Scientific Units, Weights and Measures. Their SI Equivalences and Origins*. London: Springer. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-4471-1122-1. - 1 2 3 4 Pieris, Kamalika. "Weights and measures in ancient and medieval Sri Lanka". Daily News (Sri Lanka). Retrieved 3 January 2015.
- 1 2 Prinsep, James (1840).
*Useful tables, forming an appendix to the Journal of the Asiatic Society: part the first, Coins, weights, and measures of British India*. Bishop's College Press. Retrieved 2 January 2015. - 1 2 Maccauly, Thomas (1818).
*The Indian Trader's complete Guide, being a correct account of coins, weights,measures &c. &c. at the different settlements of India and adjacent native sovereignties of Asia.*Calcutta. p. 42. Retrieved 2 January 2015. - ↑ "Seer".
*Sizes, grades, units, scales, calendars, chronologies*. Retrieved 2 January 2015. - ↑ Montgomery, Martin (1835). "Ceylon".
*History of the British colonies: Vol 1: Possessions in Asia*(2nd ed.). Cochrane. p. 561. Retrieved 2 January 2015.