Unit of itinerant distance in India, from at least the 14ᵗʰ century



AI"N 16.

The Karóh or Kós.

The system of survey and measurement, as promoting the interests of civilization having deeply engaged the attention of His Majesty, directions were issued for the ascertainment of distances and their determination by the standard measure of the kós. The kos was fixed at 100 tanábs each consisting of 50 Ilahi gaz, or of 400 bans, each báạ of 12½ gaz. Both of these measurements give 5000 gaz to the kós.

Sher Khan fixed the kós at 60 jaribs, each of 60 Sikandari gaz which measurement is employed in the Delhi country. In Malwah it consists of 90 tanábs of 60 gaz each and in Gujarat is called the cow kós, that is, the greatest distance at which the ordinary lowing of a cow can be heard, which is put by experts at 50 jaribs. In Bengal it is called dhapiyah, which is the distance that a fast runner can traverse at one breath. Some assert that it is the distance within which a green leaf placed on the head of one who walks rapidly, will become dry.

In ancient tables of measurement by farsakh of distances and magnitudes, it is recorded that the circumference of the globe according to the method of the old geographers, was 8000 farsakh, but 6,800 of the modern school, while all agree in defining a farsakh as three kós. The former made the kos 3000 gaz, each gaz of 32 digits. The latter fixed it at 4000 gaz, each of 24 digits. The digit with both was the breadth of six ordinary barley-corns placed front to back in succession, and the breadth of each barley-corn was equal to the thickness of six hairs of the mane of a Turki horse. To short-sighted superficial observers, it would appear that these two systems differ in their estimate of the kós, but it is clear to the perspicacity of the far-seeing that their conclusion is the same, and the apparent difference is caused by the variance in the number of the digits… Each farsakh therefore consists of 12,000 gaz (of 24 digits) according to the measure of the moderns or of 9000 (of 32 digits) according to the gaz of the ancients.

According to the Hindu philosophers—… 2000 ḍanḍ make 1 karóh or kós … Some measure by the steps of a woman with a water-jar on her head and carrying a child in her arms, reckoning a thousand such steps to a kós.

Abul Fazl 'Allami.
H. S. Jarrett, trans.
The Ain I Akbari. Vol II, Book 3.
Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1891.


The people [in the Eastern Dwars] have a very vague idea of distance. They are acquainted with the word kos (about 2 miles), but they can never tell how many kos one place is distant from another. The general standard used in expressing distance with them is the time they take to perform a journey; for short distances, they say a place is so many arrow-shots off.

W. W. Hunter, 1879, vol 2, page 128.

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