Unit systemArthashastra
Unit oflength
1 Yojan in ...... is equal to ...
   SI units   12.8 km
   Imperial/US units   2.7 mi

A yojana (Devanagari: योजन; Thai: โยชน์; Burmese: ယူဇနာ) is a measure of distance that was used in ancient India, Thailand and Myanmar. A yojana has been estimated to be label a distance somewhere between 3.5 and 15 km.[1][2]

Edicts of Ashoka (3rd century BCE)

Ashoka, in his Major Rock Edict No.13, gives a distance of 600 yojanas between the Maurya empire, and "where the Yona king named Antiyoga (is ruling)", identified as King Antiochus II Theos, whose capital was Babylon. A range of estimates, for the length of a yojana, based on the ~2,000 km from Baghdad to Kandahar, on the eastern border of the empire, to the ~4,000 km to the Capital at Patna, have been offered by historians.[3][1]

....And this (conquest) has been won repeatedly by Devanampriya both [here] and among all (his) borderers, even as far as at (the distance of) six hundred yojanas where the Yona king named Antiyoga (is ruling), and beyond this Antiyoga, (where) four kings (are ruling), (viz, the king) named Tulamaya, (the king) named Antekina, (the king) named Maka, (and the king) named Alikyashudala, (and) likewise towards the south, (where) the Cholas and Pandyas (are ruling), as far as Tamraparni.

— 13th Major Rock Edict. Translation by E. Hultzsch (1857–1927). Published in India in 1925. Inscriptions of Asoka p.43. Public Domain.

Yojana as per Vishnu Purana

Yojana is defined in Chapter 6 of Book 1 of the Vishnu Purana (one of the eighteen Mahapuranas) as follows:[4]


Measurement Equals to... (in Hindu measurement) Notes
10 paramanu 1 parasúkshma Paramanu refers to atom.[5]
10 parasúkshmas 1 trasarenu 1.9 nanometers (atoms are 0.1–0.5 nm)
10 trasarenus 1 mahírajas (particle of dust) 19 nanometers
10 mahírajas 1 bálágra (hair's point) 0.19 microns, aka 190 nanometers
10 bálágra 1 likhsha 1.9 microns
10 likhsha 1 yuka 0.019 mm (19 microns)
10 yukas 1 yavodara (heart of barley) 0.19 mm
10 yavodaras 1 yava (barley grain of middle size) 1.9 mm
10 yava 1 aṅgula (finger-breadth) 1.89 to 1.91 cm or approx 3/4 inch – here angula does not mean 1 inch rather 3/4 inch
6 fingers 1 pada (the breadth of a foot) other sources define this unit differently: see Pada (foot)
2 padas 1 vitasti (span or distance between the tip of the forefinger and wrist)[6] ~ 22.86 cm (9 inches)
2 vitasti 1 hasta (cubit) ~ 45.7 cm (18 inches)
2 hastas 1 náriká ~ 91.5 cm (36 inches / 3 feet)
2 nárikás 1 dhanu ~ 183 cm (72 inches / 6 feet)
1 paurusa a man's height with arms and fingers uplifted (standing reach)[7] ~ 192 cm (75 inches)[8]
2,000[citation needed] dhanus 1 gavyuti (distance at which a cow's call or lowing can be heard, 52 – 79 dB, between −65 – 50 Celsius, at 0 – 2000 meters altitude[9][10][11]) 12,000 feet (3.7 km)[citation needed]
4 gavyutis 1 yojana 3.3 to 15 kilometers[2]

Variations on length

The length of the yojana varies depending on the different standards adopted by different Indian astronomers. In the Surya Siddhanta (late 4th-century CE–early 5th-century CE), for example, a yojana was equivalent to 8.0 km (5 mi),[12] and the same was true for Aryabhata's Aryabhatiya (499).[13] However, 14th-century mathematician Paramesvara defined the yojana to be about 1.5 times larger, equivalent to about 13 km (8 mi).[12] A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada gives the equivalent length of a yojana as about 13 km (8 mi)[14] throughout his translations of the Bhagavata Purana. Some[who?] other traditional Indian scholars give measurements between 6.4 km and 8 km (4–5 miles) or thereabouts.[citation needed] In The Ancient Geography of India, Alexander Cunningham says that a yojana is traditionally held to be between 8 and 9 miles and calculates by comparison with Chinese units of length that it could have been between 6.7 mi (10.8 km) and 8.2 mi (13.2 km).[15]

See also


  1. ^ a b Thapar, Romila (1997). Aśkoa and the decline of the Mauryas (PDF) (Revised ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 250–266.
  2. ^ a b Gupta, C. C. Das (1951). "A NOTE ON AN EXPRESSION IN ROCK EDICT XIII OF AŚOKA". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 14: 68–71. ISSN 2249-1937.
  3. ^ Inscriptions of Asoka p.43
  4. ^ Vishnu Purana, Translated to English: 45:6 In the other three Puráńas, in which this legend has been found, the different kinds of inhabited places are specified and p. 46 introduced by a series of land measures. Thus the Márkańd́eya states, that 10 Paramáńus = 1 Parasúkshma; 10 Parasúkshmas = 1 Trasareńu; 10 Trasareńus = 1 particle of dust, or Mahírajas; 10 Mahírajasas = 1 Bálágra, 'hair's point;' 10 Bálágras = 1 Likhyá; 10 Likhyás= 1 Yúka; to Yúkas = 1 heart of barley (Yavodara); 10 Yavodaras = 1 grain of barley of middle size; 10 barley grains = 1 finger, or [an] inch; 6 fingers = a Pada, or foot (the breadth of it); 2 Padas = 1 Vitasti, or span; 2 spans = 1 Hasta, or cubit; 4 Hastas = a Dhanu, a Danda, or staff, or 2 Nárikás; 2,000 Dhanus = a Gavyúti; 4 Gavyútis = a Yojana. The measurement of the Brahmanda Purana is less detailed. A span from the thumb to the first finger is a Pradeśa; to the middle finger, a Nála; to the third finger, a Gokerna; and to the little finger, a Vitasti, which is equal to twelve Angulas, or fingers; understanding thereby, according to the Váyu, a joint of the finger; according to other authorities, it is the breadth of the thumb at the tip. (A. R. 5. 104.) The Váyu, giving similar measurements upon the authority of Manu, although such a statement does not occur in the Manu Sanhitá, adds, that 21 fingers = 1 Ratni; 24 fingers = 1 Hasta, or cubit; 2 Ratnis = 1 Kishku; 4 Hastas = 1 Dhanu; 2,000 Dhanus = l Gavyúti; and 8,000 Dhanus = 1 Yojana. Durgas, or strongholds, are of four kinds; three of which are natural, from, their situation in mountains, amidst water, or in other inaccessible spots; the fourth is the artificial defences of a village (Gráma), a hamlet (Khet́aka), or a city (Pura or Nagara), which are severally half the size of the next in the series. The best kind of city is one which is about a mile long by half a mile broad, built in the form of a parallelogram, facing the northeast, and surrounded by a high wall and ditch. A hamlet should be a Yojana distant from a city: a village half a Yojana from a hamlet. The roads leading to the cardinal points from a city should be twenty Dhanus (above 100 feet) broad: a village road should be the same: a boundary road ten Dhanus: a royal or principal road or street should be ten Dhanus (above fifty feet) broad: a cross or branch road should be four Dhanus. Lanes and paths amongst the houses are two Dhanus in breadth: footpaths four cubits: the entrance of a house three cubits: the private entrances and paths about the mansion of still narrower dimensions. Such were the measurements adopted by the first builders of cities, according to the Puráńas specified.
  5. ^ "Legends of Science: Kanada – Discoverer of the Atom". 18 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Sanskrit Dictionary".
  7. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (2017-04-17). "Paurusha, Pauruṣa: 21 definitions". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 2023-04-28.
  8. ^ Andy (2017-03-08). "What is Standing Reach – And How do You Measure it Correctly?". The Hoops Geek. Retrieved 2023-04-28.
  9. ^ Weeks, C. A.; Brown, S. N.; Lane, S.; Heasman, L.; Benson, T.; Warriss, P. D. (2009-09-12). "Noise levels in lairages for cattle, sheep and pigs in abattoirs in England and Wales". The Veterinary Record. 165 (11): 308–314. doi:10.1136/vr.165.11.308. ISSN 0042-4900. PMID 19749207.
  10. ^ "| How Things Fly". howthingsfly.si.edu. Retrieved 2023-04-28.
  11. ^ Snouffer, Quinton. "NASA / UNC – The Speed of Sound as a Function of Altitude" (PDF).
  12. ^ a b Richard Thompson (1997), "Planetary Diameters in the Surya-Siddhanta", Journal of Scientific Exploration, 11 (2): 193–200 [196][unreliable source?]
  13. ^ O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Aryabhata I", MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive, University of St Andrews
  14. ^ Srimad Bhagavatam 10.57.18 (translation) "one yojana measures about eight miles"
  15. ^ Alexander Cunningham, Measures of Distance. Yojana, Li, Krosa. in The Ancient Geography of India: I. I. The Buddhist Period, Including the Campaigns of Alexander, and the Travels of Hwen-Thsang, Trübner and Company, 1871, pp. 571–574

Further reading