Home    Sitemap    Reference    Last updated: 19-May-2009



If there are any technical problems, factual inaccuracies or things you have to add,

then please contact the group under






In researching Calcutta history one often comes across words, which are not immediately understood any more, or are unknown to people from outside India.  For this we have set out a glossary underneath.  In addition to that we also have a list of measurements and currencies in use in the 1940s as well as a calendar of the 1940s.


Return to top




Words & Terms Explained



  0-9    A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z


This is a glossary of terms and abbreviations both English and from Indian languages relevant to Calcutta.


Some words might not have been very common in the 1940s any more.  Other terms might have been used more in ’upcountry contexts’. Both groups of words are however included as it was difficult to ascertain that they were not used during them time or by anyone writing about it. 


Also included are short items on relevant persons and organisations.


This gloassary is like everything at Calcutta1940s and ongoing work,  so if there are any mistakes or terms you do not find let us know via e-mail to  and we will do out best to answer and ad the new terms and corrections to our lists.



(beng.) = Bengali; (hind.) = Hindustani/Hindi term, ( = military slang

(musl.) = muslim term, (orig.) = originally, (pr.) = pronunciation, (sl.)= slang


A great resource for deciphering special British-Indian terms is:


Sir Henry Yule: “Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive.”

A very detailed dictionary of terms peculiar to the English language as used in India during the British Raj.  Many of the terms are more or less modified version of Persian, Bengali, Hindustani, or Malay words. 

The dictionary was developed in the 19th century and by the 1940s quite a few terms had died out or changed their meaning (e.g. “Anglo-Indian”). Nevertheless, a lot where still in use until independence and some time after and many have also made their way into the modern British English and even more into Indian English.  A vital tool for all researchers into British Indian life and history.

New ed. edited by William Crooke, B.A.

London: J. Murray, 1903.


ONLINE Hobson Jobson at DSAL (Digital South Asia Library of the University of Chicago)

This version can be searched with a search engine.


The Hobson-Jobson Dictionary at Bibliomania

This sorts all terms by alphabet as they are presented in the actual book.




420 – a term indicating some sort of illegality, after a clause in the Indian criminal code.



aam - mango

abhadra – vulgar crude

abhijata – notable

abwab – traditional unauthorised charges levied in excess of the formal rent

accha / achcha - good, all right, okay

achkan (musl.) – long men’s coat

acharan – character

adhi – half

adhiar – sharecropper who needs to pass on half his harvest as rent

adhinayak – commander

admi / aadmi – (hind.) man, men

aftaba - water pot with spout and handle

Agha Khan (musl.) – Indo-Muslim leader of the Ismaili Shiites

agarbattis - Incense sticks which are burned before the image of a deity.

ague - Any fever, such as malaria, that recurs at regular intervals (from Medieval Latin febris acuta, literally, sharp fever)

ahimsa - Gandhian doctrin of non-violence / Non-violence (a privative; hirnsa, violence). This is an ancient Hindu precept, proclaimed by Buddha, by disciples of Vishnu, and by Mahavira, founder of Jainism.

ahlmads - Indian clerk

ahmadiya (musl.) – most importnat islamic brotherhood in India (deriving fromSunni Islam) originating in Qadian in the Punjab (Qadiani is another term for them). In 1889, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) affirmed that he was the final prophet (mahdi) of Islam and also worshiped Jesus and Krishna, something which earned them a lot of enemies amongst the orthodox Muslims.

ail – landmarker between two plots of land

aimadar – intermediate tenure holder, particularly in Burdwan

AIC (All India Congress) – central organisation of the Indian National Congress

AICC - All India Congress Committee

AIKS - All India Kisan Sabha

AIML (All India Muslim League) (musl.) – central organisation of the Muslim League

AIMSC (All India Muslim Student Conference) (musl.) – grouping various strands of the Indo –Muslim student movement before 1936.

AIMSF (All India Muslim Student Federation) (musl.) – student movement forming part of the Muslim League after 1936.

AIR – All India Radio

AITUC – All India Trade Union Congress

akhand Hindusthan (Greater Hindoustan) – Hinduist project favouring a Greater India containing Afghanistan, Nepal, Ceylon, Bhutan, Burma and British as well as princely India

akhra – gymnasium or sporting club

Allah kerim! - Allah be merciful!

All India Congress (AIC) – central organisation of the Indian National Congress

All India Muslim League (AIML) (musl.) – central organisation of the Muslim League

All India Muslim Student Conference (AIMSC) (musl.) – grouping various strandsof the Indo –Muslim student movement before 1936.

All India Muslim Student Federation (AIMSF) (musl.) – student movement forming part of the Muslim League after 1936.

almirah - wardrobe, chest of drawers

alpana - floor painting with symbols of fertility (fish, bangles, jewellery, footsteps of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune), drawn with a paste made of rice-powder or flour mixed with water, usually round or square like a mandala, on such occasions as weddings, the Lakshmi festival or other functions.

alu / aloo - potato

AMERY, Leo, - Secretary of State for India 1940-5.

amal – revenue collector

amin – Indian assistants in land survey duties

amla – employee of a landlord

amrood - (hind.) guava

anaras - (beng.) pineapple

ananas - (hind.) pineapple

anda - (hind.) egg

Andamans – Islands south of Burma in the Bay of Bengal.  They were used a a penal colony.

Anglo-Indian - or "AI" : Eurasian. Has replaced Eurasian found derogatory. First meaning before the shift: Creole, Indian born British Anglo-Indians. / between 1919 and 1947, this community re-united the Domiciled Europeans and the racially mixed population (Half-caste, Half-breed, Mixed Blood, Indo-European, Indo-Briton, East Indian, Eurasian).

Angrezi / Ingrezi- English

anjuman (musl.) – Islamic religious association recognised by the British government

anna - Coin worth 1/16th of a rupee

anushilan – practice

AP - Armour piercing (ammunition).

ap / aap – (hind.) polite form of “thou” (used to equals or superiors)

apaman – insult

Arakan (musl.) – Burmese province the northern districts of which are majority Muslim and border on the district of Chittagong.

archarji / acharyaji / acharya - teacher, priest often found in Brahmin family name (e.g. Bhattarcharya)

arhar dal - (beng.) split pigeon peas

Arjuna - hero of the Mahabharata, recipient of Krishna's teachings of the Bhagavad Gita

arrack – native spirituous liquor

arre - Oh!

ARP – Air Raid Precautions

Aryan - (lit. Sanskrit - "noble"), people who immigrated to the North of India three to four thousand years ago

Arya Samaj (Aryan Society) – moderate hinduist association created by Saraswati (1824-1883).

ashraf (musl.) – Indo-Muslim elite social group / nobility

ashram - (lit. - "hermitage") spiritual retreat; home of a religious community or school; place of discipline and service.

ashustho - untouchable

asil – (hind.) calm

asli nahin – (hind.) not real

Associated Press of India (API) – Indian news agency set up by Associated Press of America and the agency Reuters.

aste - slowly

asti bat karo - speak slowly

asura / assura - demon

atrap or ajlaf (musl.) – social category amongst Indo-Muslims in between the ashrafs and the azrals / commoners

atta - whole wheat flour

atyachar – cruelty, oppression

ATTLEE, C. R. - First Earl. Opposition leader 1935-40; Lord Privy Seal 1940-2; Deputy Prime Minister 1942-5; Prime Minister 1945-51.

AUCHINLEK, Field Marshal Sir Claude - Commander-in-Chief India.1941 and 1943-7; Commander-in-Chief Middle East 1941—2; Supreme Commander in India and Pakistan - noisy, usually fume spitting three wheeled "taxi"

avataar - incarnation of a deity, such as "Buddha was the 9th incarnation of Vishnu"

ayah - lady’s personal maid , and nanny / nurse-maid for children

ayurveda - Indian herbal medicine

AZAD, M. A. K. - Congress President 1940-6

Azad Hind Fauj – Indian National Army, which fought in Burma with the Japanese against the British.

azan (musl.) – Muslim call to prayer

azral (musl.) – modest social category amongst Indo-Muslims.(see ashraf)



babu / baboo - Hindu gentleman or clerk. As an insult, an Indian who has some English education.

Babuji - term of respect and friendliness

babul - thorny mimosa with aromatic yellow flowers

bachcha / batcha / butcha - child, infant

badmash / budmaash – rascal, scoundrel, criminal

badshah / bashaw – King, lord or master

bagans - gardens

bagardar - sharecropper

bagh - garden

Baghbazar – Hindu Newspaper quarter in Calcutta. To the south of it at Bowbazar, was the rest of the press like the ‘Star of India’.

Bahadur - honorific title of Mughal origin, lit. “brave” bahadur - Term of respect (Hindi for champion)

bahkshikhana - Pay Office

bahut accha / bahoot achcha – (hind.) very good

bai, behn – (hind.) A kindly way of addressing a woman.

baida / boida / vaid / vaidya - ayurvedic doctor, or someone belonging to the Bengali Doctor caste. Some common surnames of Bengali Baidas are: Gupta, Sen, Das, Dasgupta, Sengpta, Kar, Rakshit, Datta.

baidyabati – common household knife

baigan - (hind.) brinjal/aubergine/eggplant

baipari – agent, tradesman

baisakh – first month of Bengali calendar (mid April-mid May)

bait – ( food snack

baitoe / bhaitoh - sit, wait

baja - musical instrument

bakri - (hind.) mutton (really goatmeat)

baksheesh - gratuity, hence “buckshee"= free (mil. sl), can be a tip, a bribe or a donation to a beggar. 

balushai - sweetmeat

bandar - monkey

bande mataram – ‘Hail thee Motherland’, title of a patriotic song written by Bankimchandra Chatterji, the anthem of Indian freedom movement.

bandh - general strike

bandha kopi - (beng.) cabbage

bandobast / bandabast / bundobast / bundabast - Organization, arrangement, preparation, a battalion, household management, a 'pukka bandabast' is an efficient arrangement.

Bangal - from Eastern Bengal, sometime used as derogatory term.

Bangalore Torpedo - A length of piping filled with explosive, used for blowing a gap in barbed-wire entanglements.

banja / bania / banya / bunnia - trade caste, money-lender, or corn merchant, Indian merchant

banyan - Indian fig tree

bap / baap – (hind.) father

Bapu - Familiar title for father in Gujarati. Used throughout India as a title of respect for M.K. Gandhi.

baralok – elites, lit. big people

barga – share

bargadar – sharecroppers who pay a fixed proportion of the harvest as rent

bari – home

barkandaz – mesenger

Barro Din / Borro Din / Burra Din – Christmas (the Big Day)

basha – (beng.) hut, (mil sl.) for barrack room, now also used for a local associaton of US - CBI veterans.

bass / bus - enough, finish (usually said twice)

bass / bus hogia – (hind.) finished, ended

bastra – cloth

basket pudding - fruit trifle inside a burnt sugar casing

basta - cloth wrapped around a file to keep out dust

bat / baat – (hind.) speech, talk, language, words

batak - (hind.) duck

batta - Special pay for Indian sepoys stationed outside India

batul-mal / bayt al mal (musl.) – administration towards the public good carried out by muslim religiouis authorities

baul - Bengali bard, usually itinerant

bawarchikhana – (hind.) kitchen

Bayt Allah – house of God, mosque

bazugar - acrobat, tumbler

BBC - British Broadcasting Corporation

BCS – Bengal Civil Service

bearer - head-servant, buttler, waiter

Beaufighter Mk VI - A British long-range fighter with crew of two. Armed with four 20mm cannon and six .303 in machine guns, and eight rockets.

begar – unpaid labour for landlord

begoon - (beng.) brinjal/aubergine/eggplant

behosh – delirious

Betki - Sea fish often seved fried or baked

belati – foreign goods, mainly from Britain

Belait - anywhere foreign but to British troops it meant England (hence “Blighty”)

BEM - British Empire Medal

Bengal Army - The most prestigious of the four British Indian armies.

Bengal Muslim League (BML) (musl.) – Provincial organisation of the Muslim League in Bengal.

Bengal Muslim Party (musl.) – political party of Muslims who left the ‘swaraj’ stream of congress in 1928.

Bengal Pact (musl.) – intercommunal pact between the independence movements of Bengal in 1923.

Bengsam – other name for East Pakistan (Bengal and Assam re-united)

betki / bekti - a variety of fish

ber - (hind.) Indian plum

besan - chickpea flour

bhaat - (beng.) cooked rice

bhadra – polite, cultivated

bhadralok - Bengali gentleman, educated upper classes

bhagchasi - sharecropper

Bhagavad Gita - Hindu "Song of the Divine One"; Krishna's teachings to Arjuna written as a philosophical dialogue in the form of a long poem of 700 stanzas, part of the Mahabharata.

Bhagini Sena – Sisters’ brigade

bhai / by - brother

bhaian - Hymn.

bhakti - devotion

bhang / bhung - expensive drug derived from hemp, marijuana-leaf pasted with milk. The traditional drink of all castes and classes during the Holy festival (Hindi bhag),

Bharat - Hindi name for India

bhavan - house, residence.

bherar mangsho - (beng.) mutton

bheri - (hind.) mutton

bhetki – (beng.) beckti fish

bhetki machchi – (hind.) beckti fish

bhils - marshes or ponds

bhisti - water-carrier orig. “man of Heaven”

bhoosa - hay, also sawdust

bhuda lok - the grown ups

bhut – ghost, devli

bibi / bint – ( girl

bidi - a tiny amount of cheap tobacco wrapped in a leaf, tied with some string; contains hardly any nicotine but hideous amounts of tar

bindi - forehead mark worn by Hindu women

bioscope - cinema

biplab - rebellion

black water fever - A type of malaria that causes anemia and brown or black urine due to the destruction of red blood cells.

BLA – Bengal Labour Association

BLA – Bengal Legislative Assembly (Lower House)

BLC – Bengal Legislative Council (Upper House)

Blighty - the U.K. (from willayet, the country in Persian)

blimey - From Gorblimey!, meaning "God blind me"

bobbajee - British name for an Indian cook.

bohin / bahen / bahain – (hind.) sister

Bohra (musl.) – Ismaili Shiite subgroup (like the khojas of the Agha Khan) of whoch the best known families are the Dawoods and the Adamjees.

boi - (hind.) mullet

boli – speech / sacrifice

Bombay Army - One of the four original British Indian armies.

boniyadi – traditional propertied, aristocratic

BOR - British Other Ranks, non-officers

Borchi Khana - Cook-house

bori - small sun-dried cones of lentil paste

BOSE, Sarat Chandra - Leader of Congress Parliamentary Party in Bengal 1937-9; fell out with Congress in 1946 when he formed the Socialist Party.

BOSE, Subhas Chandra - Congress President 1938—9; organized Indian National Army 1942.

Bottle Khana - Pantry

boudi - Wife of elder brother.

box wallahs – Europeans involved in trade i.e. not in the armed or civil services and ranked below them in status.

BPCC – Bengal Provincial Congress Committee

BPHM – Bengal Provincial Hindu Mahasabha

BPKS – Bengal Provincial Kisan Sabha

BPML – Bengal Provincial Muslim League

BPTUC – Bengal Provincial Trade Union Congress

Brahma - Hindu God, creator, source of all existence

Brahmacharya - Continence, sexual self-restraint; literally, conduct that leads one to God.

Brahman - The essence of the godhead.

brahmin - highest of the Hindu caste, caste of priests, those who have knowledge; often, though incorrectly, spelled Brahman. Some common surnames of Bengali brahmins are:  Mukhopadhya/Mukherjee, Bandyopadhya/Bannerjee, Chattopadhya/Chatterjee, Gangopadhya/Ganguly, Ghosal, Lahiri, Sanyal, Maitra, Bagchi, Bhadari.

Brahmo Samaj – association of the first modernist Hindus led originally by Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833).

bratachari – traditional form of physical culture, dance

breast cutlet - braised cutlet

Bren - The British light machine-gun of the Second World War and until the late 1950s. Fired a standard .303in round from a 30-round magazine (usually loaded with 28 rounds).

brew – (mil. sl.) Tea

brevet - A temporary higher rank, for example, a captain being a brevet colonel. It was not unusual for British colonial officers on loan to another regiment to be temporarily classed as a higher rank in that regiment but to paid for the lesser rank of their actual regiment. (Old French, diminutive of brief letter)

brigade major (BM) - The senior operations officer of a brigade, de-facto chief of staff.

brittibhogi - professional

brolly - umbrella

Buddha - "Awakened One", originator of Buddhism (app. 600 BC); by Hindus considered as the 9th incarnation of Vishnu

budgerow - country river boat

bukari - wood and coal burning stove/oven

bukh - talk

bukhshi - army paymaster

bul-bul - nightingale

bund - embankment

bund gobi - (hind.) cabbage

bundook - ( rifle

bungalow - One-storied house with a low-pitched roof (Hindi bangla, "in the Bengal style")

bun strangler – (mil. sl.) Non-drinker

burgoo – porridge from Turkish burghal.

burkah - sac-like covering from head to foot worn by Muslim women in purdah

burra - important, great, large

burra khana - grand meal

burra muchli - big fish

BURROWS, Sir Frederick - Governor of Bengal 1946—7.

burruf / barf - ice

bursat / barsaat - rains (monsoon)

burra sahib - Anybody holding a senior or important position ('burra' = big): hence, one's boss..

bus! – fnshed!, the end!

bundook - rifle, shotgun

bustees - flimsy huts, squatter colony

buts - Buddhist images

byayam - exercise

byle - ox or bullock



caju - cashew

Calcutta Chamber of Commerce (CoC) – Chamber of commerce of Calcutta.

Calcutta Muslim Association (musl.) – local Muslim party led by Suhrawardy et Abul Kasem.

Calcutta University (CU) – not only a reputed university, but also an institution with over sight over education in the entire province.

caliph – Ruler of Turkey and religious leader

cantonments - Permanent British military bases usually located just outside of a town or city

caravan - Travelers on a journey through hostile regions (Italian caravana, from Persian karwan).

CASEY, Baronet. G. - Governor of Bengal 1944-6.

caster - discharged Army horse

Catla-fish  - Bengali river or pond fish

CBE - Commander of the Order of the British Empire

CBI – China, Burma, India, US military term to demote the South and South East Asian theatre of operation, as opposed to the Pacific.

Cdr - Commander

CE - Church of England

Central Bureau of Information – arm of the Indian Ministry of the Interior whioch supervises the British Council, the news agencies Reuters and the Associated Press Of India.

Central National Mahommedan Association (musl.) – organisation of the end of the 19th century aiming at equal representation of Muslims and Hindus in all institutions of colonial government.

chaap - rib chop

chabuk - whip

chadar - Cloak

chagul / chaggle - A canvas water bag. Keeps water marvellously cool in hot weather through condensation.

cha / chae / chai / chah / char - tea usually sugary milky tea. The best is usually made all milk with no water.

cha wallah / chai-wallah - Hot tea seller

chakuri - service

chalak - sly, smart, untrustorthy

chaler guro - (beng.) rice flour

challan - consignment

chamar - of low caste/ from “chumra” a shoemaker

chana dal - (hind.) bengal gram

chandu - opium

chapati – (hind.) flat round unleavened bread

char - four

charka – spinning wheel, one of the symbols of Gandhi

charpoy - A bed, frame strung with tapes or light rope (Hindustani carpai)

chasha / chasi - peasant

chasha / chasi –mula – peasant-worker

chappals / chaplies - sandals

chappatti – Indian pancake, unlevend bread

chaprassie - uniformed office messenger

chash - cultivation

chashadi – cultivation et cetera

charkha - The hand spinning wheel.

charass - hash made of the resin of the buds of the female cannabis plant.

charpoi - string framed bed

chatti - earthen pot, porous to keep water cool

chaung - Burmese for watercourse or minor river, could be as narrow as a ditch or wide enough for small craft, particularly near the coast.

chawal - (hind.) cooked rice

chawal atta - (hind.) rice flour

chee-chee - Half-caste, mixed race of British and Indian. Also the sing- song accent of same, from the early influence of Welsh missionaries.

cheeny / cini - sugar

chela - young disciple, orig. household slave

chello / chollo - "Go away!" or "Let's go!"

cheroot – Cigar, ciarette

chhana - (beng.) cottage cheese

chhilke - (hind.) peels, scrapings

chholar dal - (beng.) bengal gram

chick / chik - door screen made of split bamboo, slatted blind

chil / cheel - a kite (bird)

chillum - conical upright pipe to smoke charas (and sometimes tobacco) chillam - a hookah

chine badam - (beng.) peanut

chingri - (beng.) prawns/shrimp

chirag - clay oil lamp

chirey - (beng.) flattened or beaten rice

chit / chitty - note, letter/promissory note, reference, note of hand, memo of account 

chittack - 2 oz

chiton - dress

choga - loose upper garment

chokra - small boy

cholo – Let’s go!

cholera belt - A body wrapping of flannel worn to supposedly prevent cholera. Used in India until about 1920.

choola - Cooking place, clay oven

choop / chup - silent, still

chor - thief

chota - Small, opposite of barra

chota hazri - early morning tea/ breakfast

chota peg - Small drink, a gin and tonic

chota wallah - Little guy

choungri - duster for god idol (made of yak hair)

chowk  - intersection or sometimes town square.

chowki - toll or police station (hence mil. sl.“chokey”)

chowkidar / chaukidar / chokidar - caretaker, watchman, guard

chubara / chubutra - garden pavilion

chudder - veil in front of a woman's face

chukka - time during a polo match

chula - oven

chummery – residential quarters shared by a number of bachelors

chunam - lime, plaster

chupkan – native Indian frock-coat

chuppar - thatch

chuprassi - messenger (pr.”chaprassi”)

chumars - low caste leather-workers (see chamar)

chur – sandbank or sandy spit of land

chura / poha - (hind.) flattened or beaten rice

churi - bangles

chhut-ti / chuti / chhuti - leave, dismissal

cicalas - cicadas

cinematrograph - Early motion pictures c. 1900. Also known as viagraph or bioscope.

class regiment - Indian Army regiment whose members were all recruited from one ethnic group such as Sikhs, Gurkhas, etc.

clobber - Uniform, clothing

Co - Company

CO - Commanding Officer

CoC (Calcutta Chamber of Commerce) – Chamber of commerce of Calcutta.

coggage – ( paper (fro kagoj)

college – ( prison (as in, "I've been to college.")

Communal Award – communalist negotiations dating to 1932 the results of which where put in place by British Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald (1866-1937).

Companion of the Star of India (CSI) – 24th highest of the 82 titles of nobility of the British Empire

Congress Nationalist Party (CNP) – group on the left of Congress

connor – ( food (from khana)

consumption - Pulmonary tuberculosis or any other wasting-away disease that "consumed" its victims.

coolie / cooly - hired labourer

commando - Refers to either the individual commando soldier or marine, or to the unit.

competition-wallah - someone who competes for a place in the ICS by sitting for competitive exams not by patronage

Congress - The Indian National Congress

CrPC – Indian Criminal Procedure Code

crore - 10 million

corps - A formation of at least two divisions commanded by a lieutenant general.

CSI (Companion of the Star of India) – 24th highest of the 82 titles of nobility of the British Empire

CSP – Congress Socialist Party

CP - Central Provinces and Berar

CPI – Communist Party of India

CPI(M) – Communist Party of India (Marxist)

CPI(M-L) – Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)

Cpl -Corporal

CPO - Chief Petty Officer

CRA - Commander Royal Artillery.

Cres - Crescent

croaker - A dying person, a corpse, or someone who has given up.

crore - 10 million in the Anlgo-Indian counting system.  In numbers it is written 1,00,00,000 and not as 10,000,000 / 100 lakhs

crorepati - millionaire

CSM - Company sergeant major.

cutch / kutcha - Inferior, crude, the opposite of pukka

cutchery - building in district HQ which houses district officers, the treasury and magistrates court, landlords’ office /stores

cushy / khushi - Easy (Hindi khush pleasant, from Persian khush [1915])

CWC - Congress Working Committee



dacoit - bandit, armed robber

dacoity - robbery

dadni - moneylending

dafadar - Indian cavalry sergeant, also village watchman

dah – heavy knife , machete (Burmese)

dahi - (hind.) yogurt

dai - midwife

daisy-roots – (mil. sl.) Boots

dak - (pronounced 'dark'). post, mail, journey / fine thin writing paper used for postal purposes

dak bungalow - resthouse for official travelers

dak-wallah - postman.

dakhil daftar - record room in government office

Dakshina - Offering to God, commonly used to refer to the fee of a priest.

dal – party, faction

dalan bari – brick built, pucca house

dalil patra – certificate, document

dandy - Himalayan hammock like litter

dar al-harb (musl.) – in Islamic thought the country of war, the battle field of djihad.

dar al-islam (musl.) – in Islamic thought the country of peace, home of Islam.

dar as-soulh (dar as-salam) (musl.) – in Islamic thought the country of ceasefire, waiting for Islam

dar-patnidar – intermediate tenure-holder

Dar-ul-Islam – Islamic state

daroga / darogah - village constable

Darshan - A form of spiritual happiness induced by being in the presence of a cherished person, place, or thing.

darzi /durzi – tailor

dastur - customs

dasturi - commission on a transaction

DBE - Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire

DC - Deputy Commissioner

DCC – District Congress Committee

DCM - Distinguished Conduct Medal. Instituted in 1854 as the equivalent of the DSO for warrant officers, NCOs and soldiers of the army (and Royal Marines when under army command). Awarded for gallantry in action. Now discontinued.

degchies - cooking utensils

dekko - To take a look (Hindi, deckna, to look)

DEMS - Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship

Deoband (musl.) – town in the United Provinces and seat of the education centres for orthodox Sunni clergy faithful to the Hanafite stream of Sunni Islam. The Deobandis considered the Shiites as apostates.

deodar - coniferous tree, Himalayan cedar, sacred to Hindus (Cedrus deodara)

deria / derii / dera – produce loan

dersi – ( tailor

desh – nation, native place

Deshbandhu – A friend of the country, tilte of C.R. Das

Deva - God

devanagari – alphabet of Sanskrit origin which is used to write Hindi and several languages in the north of India.

Devata - village god

Devi - Goddess

dewanee - madness

dewan - manager

dewas - Godlike image

DF - Defensive fire - mortar, artillery., or mortar gun fire by troops in defensive positions against attacking troops or patrols. Usually pre-registered on a number of key places, and numbered, so a particular DF can be called down quickly by reference to its number. Guns and mortars will be laid on the DF SOS when not engaged on other tasks. As its name implies, the DF SOS is the target deemed to be the most dangerous to the defenders.

DFC - Distinguished Flying Cross

DFM - Distinguished Flying Medal

dhaba - cheap eating place, often on the road side

dhal - shield

dharamsala - pilgrim's rest house

Dharma - Religion or religious duty; code of morals or behaviour adhered to by Hindus and Buddhists

Dharmaablamban – religious practice

dharmagola – collective grain store

dharzee / durzee - tailor

dhobi – washing , also washerman (short for dhobi wallah)

dhobi wallah - Indian who did the washing

dhodie - Indian bearers

dhoka - deceit

dhol - big drum

dhoolie / dooli - bamboo stretcher, light palanquin, medical stretcher. Also, a light litter often used for carrying the sick or wounded

dhoolie wallah - Indian dhoolie carrier

dhoop - incence, looks like charass and is sometimes sold as such to unsuspecting tourists

dhoti - cloth wrapped around the waist and pulled up between the legs, worn by Hindu men in the South/Plains, usually a long piece with ornamental borders that is tucked in at the waist.

dhyana - meditation

DIG - Deputy Inspector General

dil - heart

Dilhi Cholo – To Delhi!, the call to Arms of the INA.

dim - (beng.) egg

din - religion, also day

direct fire - Weapons that have to be aimed directly at the target as opposed to indirect fire weapons such as mortars and artillery.

Direct Contact – Movement launched by Congress between 1937 et 1939 to rally the Indo-Muslim political parties which were not members of the Muslim League.

district – subdivision of a province. There were 27 districts in pre-independence Bengal.

division – grouping of districts. There were 4 divisions in pre-independence Bengal.

Diwali - Hindu festival of light

diwan – chief native officer of a landlord or raja / Chief Minister / consultative assembly / type of sofa

DM – District Magistrate

DO - District Officer

do - two

doab - land between two rivers

doggo – (mil. sl.) To lie doggo, to hide. Probably from "dog" [1893]

doi - (beng.) yogurt

dom - low caste cleaner

Domiciled European – Europeans who permanently reside in India (sometimes for generations) and whop because of that do not benefit from full British citizenship.

dongi – canoe made of sheth of plantain leaves

donkey walloper – (mil. sl.) Infantry disparaging term for cavalry

dood – ( milk

doolally – ( mad (from Deolali, Indian transt camp famous for sunstroke)

doomb - fat-tailed sheep

dosa - large crispy lentil flour pancake, served with chutney

dowry - money and presents given at marriage time by a bride's parent to their son-in-law's family (illegal, but very often practised)

Dravidistan (musl.) – term used by Muslim separatists for a non-arian state which they planned to set up in the south of India

DSC - Distinguished Service Cross

DSM - Distinguished Service Medal

DSO - Distinguished Service Order. Instituted in 1886. Until the awards system was changed in 1994, it was a dual-role decoration, recognizing gallantry at a level just below that qualifying for the VC by junior officers, and exceptional leadership in battle by senior officers. Officers of all three services were and are eligible. Since 1994, it is far less prestigious, and awarded for successful command and leadership in 'operational' circumstances. What constitutes 'operations' is open to question, since DSOs appear to 'come up with the rations' after so-called operations when hardly a shot has been fired in anger.

duftar - office

durbar – royal court audience, meeting, levee

Durga - Hindu Goddess, wife of Lord Shiva

dun - flat area in hills

dupatta - scarf for head or shoulders, worn by women

durbar - court Durbar - public audience

Durga - Goddess, "the Inaccessible", another form of Kali, riding a tiger, major goddess of the Sakti cult

durwan - gate-keeper, doorman

durwaza - door

durwaza bund - door shut (not at home)

duser – ( other

dushman - enemy

dustoorie - “commission” payment

dyspepsia - Indigestion (Latin, from Greek, from dys- + pepsis digestion )

DZ - dropping zone, the area chosen for landing by parachute troops, or on which supplies are to be dropped.



East Pakistan Renaissance Society (musl.) – Muslim League propaganda organisation, which placed in the small newspapers of the districts the idea of a Muslim territorial unit in eastern India.

ek - one

ek dum - at once, immediately

ek chota – small tot of whisky

ekka / ecka - a small two wheeled one-horse carriage

elaka - area

enchor - (beng.) green jackfruit

enteric fever - Typhoid fever

European – member of the British community, born in Britain and benefiting from full British citizenship (as opposed to the Domiciled Europeans).

eve-teasing - India’s somewhat polite and fluffy term for sexual harassment, covering everything from wolf-whistling to gang rape.

Externment – banisment of criminals from a specific province



fakir - religious beggars, Indian muslim holy man (equivalent of Hindu Sadhu), wonder worker (Arabic faqIr, poor man),

Fakistan – expression coined by the press opposed to the idea of Pakistan, meaning "faux Pakistan".

Faraizi (musl.) – Wahabite brotherhood who had an autonomous territory in East Bengal and were very rebellious towards colonial authority.

farash - carpet-layer

fareib - fraud / trick

fatka – speculation

fauz – forces

FB – Forward Bloc

ferao - scarlet woodpecker

ferash - date tree

fiqh (musl.) – Islamic law

Fishing Fleet - Unmarried British women sent to India each year by their parents during the cool weather to find husbands.

Flak - Slang for anti-aircraft fire, from the German for anti-aircraft gun, fliegerabwehrkanone.

Fl Sgt - Flight Sergeant

FO - Flying Officer

FOB - Forward Observer Bombardment, a Royal Artillery officer who spotted for naval guns bombarding shore targets. His party consisted of Royal Naval telegraphists (the RN name for a radio operator), to communicate with the supporting ships.

Forms of address - Forms of address vary, depending on the sex, the age, the race, the religion. Sir, Madam, Miss can be used on all occasions. Bengali gentlemen can be addressed by adding "Babu" to their first name. Mr Gangaprasad Mukherjee will be called Gangaprasad Babu. Europeans are called Mr, Madam, Miss but Sahib, Memsahib, Baba (or Master for boys. Missy for girls) are still used, even among the Indians, as a mark of humble respect that smacks in some cases of colonialism fossilised. Policemen, anybody in uniform can be called "Officer Sahib", Sikhs "Sardarji", Nepalis "Bahadur", old Muslims "Maulana", young man as "Brother, Bra or Bhai". To attract attention, say "accha" loudly.

FOO - Forward Observation Officer, an artillery officer who directs artillery fire. Normally one with each forward rifle company and provided by artillery battery supporting the infantry battalion.

Forward Block Radical faction in the Bengal Provincial Congress, founded by Suhas Chandra Bose, which favoured an intercommunal accord in that province; later a separate party

fresh - new (fresh passport, fresh copy of newspaper)

ft - Foot or Feet



gaddi – seat, throne

gai-ka-gosht - (hind.) beef

gajar - carrot

galloper - Officer used by commanders to carry messages.

gamcha – towel used by Brahmins

Gandharva - a supernatural being

Gandhiji - A title of respect for Gandhi, the ji a common suffix of respect corresponding to sir or mister. Sometimes the suffix was used after Mahatma-Mahatmaji.

Ganesh - God of wisdom and prosperity; elephant headed son of Shiva and Parvati

Ganga / Gunga - River Ganges

Ganga Jhol - the water of the Ganges

gani – saintly Muslim

ganja - marijuana

garden - plantation (tea-garden)

garden house - house on the river for summer and weekends

gari / gharry - car, carriage

garials - long-nosed crocodiles

gariwan – driver also ghariwala

GBE - Knight of the Grand Cross of the British Empire

ghat / ghaut - slope or flight of steps down to a river - landing steps on a riverbank, also mountain pass

gherao – to surround, to besiege as a form of protest

ghee / ghi / ghii   Clarified butter; it is boiled and the watery particles and the curds are skimmed off. Used as cooking oil (Hindi ghi, from Sanskrit ghrta)

ghole  - (beng.) yogurt drink

ghora - horse

GHQ - General Headquarters

ghuiyan - (hind.) taro/arum root

ghur / ghar - house

ghuzul - bath

ghuzulkhana - bathroom

Gita - Song. See Bbagavad Gita.

glasshouse – ( military prison (from the glass roof at Aldershot miltary prison)

GM - George Medal

GMT - Greenwich Mean Time

gnana - wisdom, perception

go korbani – cow sacrifice

goalas – caste of milkmen

gobi - (hind.) cauliflower

godown - storage shed ware house

god wallah – (mil. sl.) Priest or chaplin

goglet - cattle-driver

gomasta – landlord’s steward

gompa - Buddhist monastery

gola - grainstore

goolie – ( Testicle, late 19th century (Hindi gooli, a pellet)

goondas – Rowdies, gangsters, hired thugs, "antisocial", "sea-urchin" are other Calcutta equivalents

Goosle Camera - Bathroom

Goristan – expression coined by the press and meaning a "Pakistan born in blood".

Gorah – Ghari - horse drawn carriage

gorur mangsho - (beng.) beef

gosht - (hind.) meat

gothi - from Western Bengal, from a Calutta Bengali family, opposite of Bangal

GPO - General Post Office

graft - Work

Grant - See Lee-Grant.

Granth Sahib - The Sikh holy book which is also the last Sikh Guru

gram - pulse for horse feed

grass widow - A married woman at a British hill-station temporarily separated from her husband who was on assignment elsewhere.

Greater Bengal – ethnic Bengali irredentist project favouring a Greater Bengal by unifying Assam and Bengal above communal frontiers (see Bengsam and East Pakistan).

Great Game, The - British idea that Russia was secretly trying to invade India by way of Afghanistan. It created a cold-war mentality.

Greetings - "Hello" is widespread as well as "Salaam". You can also say "namaste" or "namaskar" in Hindi, or "nomoshkar" in Bangia, "as-salam alekum" in Urdu. When leaving, use "Bye-bye", "Salaam", "huda hafez" in Urdu, "namaste" in Hindustani, "ashi" or "ashbo" (I am coming back) in Bangla.

grihastha - householder

grippe - Influenza (from French, seizure)

GSO - General Staff Officer, a staff officer who dealt with General (G) Staff matters (operations, intelligence, planning, and staff duties), as opposed to personnel (A, short for Adjutant General's Staff), or logistic matters (Q, short for Quartermaster General's Staff). The grades were GSO 1 (Lieutenant Colonel), GSO 2 (Major), and GSO 3 (Captain).

Gully - lane

Gujarati - Language spoken in the province of Gujarat, India, where Gandhi was born.

gur - date-palm sugar

Gurram Chai ! - Hot Tea !

Gurdwara – Sikh place of worship

gurjali - (beng.) Indian salmon

Gurkha - Mercenary soldier in the British army, from Nepal.

guru - teacher (lit. Sanskrit: "goe": darkness, "roe": to dispel), leader, holy man

Gurudwara - Sikh temple

gurrum / gorom - hot



habous (musl.) – see. waqf.

hackney / hackney carriagesmall horsedrawn carriage used as taxi, fiacre

haj - pilgrimage to Mecca

Hajii - one who has made pilgrimage to Mecca

hakim - doctor or judge

Hal Camera - Hall Sitting - room

ham – ( I

hanbalism (musl.) – school of Islamic legal thought, relatively minor in India and close to Wahabism .

handi - utensil

hanefism (musl.) – important school of Islamic legal thought in India.

Hanuman - Hindu monkey god; friend and helper of Rama in the Ramayana.

hansh - (beng.) duck

hara matar - (hind.) green peas

haramzada - scoundrel haramzadas - Bastards, scoundrels, a common term in India (of Arabic/ Persian origin)

Harijan - (lit. "child of God") Gandhi's term for an Untouchable (somebody from the Scheduled Caste), now usually called Dalits

hartal / hartaal - general strike, cessation of work; a form of ideally non-violent demonstration in which all work ceases, shops are closed, etc.

hat – village market

hath – hand

hath gari - hand-pulled goods cart. Pullers are called Hath Gari Walla

hathi - elephant

haveli – Large north Indian family Mansion, also temple for those of the Vaishnava faith.

havelock - Cloth cap cover that hung on the back to protect the neck from sunlight (named after Sir Henry Havelock)

havildar, havildar major - See ranks. havildar - Indian infantry sergeant, color sergeant

hazar - "Get ready."

hazrat (musl.) – term for the great prophets of monotheism.

hazri - breakfast

Hazur / Huzoor - Your Excellency huzoor - Lord (Pushtu)

HE - High explosive.

Heaven Born – nickname for members of the ICS (Indian civil service) regarded as the pinnacle of British-Indian society.

heliograph - Communication device using mirrors to flash sunlight.

henna - herbal or chemical, used for dying hair (black or red) and for producing intricate patterns on the palm of the hand and feet of a bride

HERBERT, Sir John - Governor of Bengal, 1939-43.

hijra – eunuch/transexual/transvestite

hilsa machchi (hind.) / illish mach (beng) - hilsa fish, river fish, part saltwater. Eaten smoked. A Calcutta Specialty

Hindi - The language of northern India, with Sanskrit roots.

Hindi Belt, Hindustan - Northern, Central and Western India by opposition to the former Madras and Bombay Presidencies.

Hindu Mahasabha – Hinduist political group on the right of Congress which was very powerful between 1926 and 1937. Later the political party of orthodox Hindus.

Hindutva - "Hindu-ness"; a term used by Indian political parties and politico - religious groups (such as the RSS, VHP, Sangh Parivar etc) to describe their notion of India as a Hindu State. The concept has been misused by some politicians to provoke communal violence, and is seen by many to violate the spirit of India's firmly secular constitution.

Hindusthan – name for the India of the Hindus as opposed to the India of the Muslims / also general Muslim term for India

Hindustani - A language based on Hindi but containing many Arabic and Persian words.

hitherao - come here!

HM - His Majesty's

HMG - His Majesty's Government

HMIS - His Majesty's Indian Ship

HMS - His Majesty's Ship

HMSO - His Majesty's Stationery Office

Holi - Hindu festival of colours, takes place at the beginning of the spring; people cover each other with coloured powder or water - dangerous time to be on the road!

hostel – communal student residence

hot or cold - Ways of attacking. By shooting (hot) or by bayonet (cold);

hooka / hookah - pipe for smoking through water/ alt: hubble-bibble

hookum - order / command

hoondi - bill of exchange

housewife – ( small bag for needle thread etc.

howdahs - large chairs carried on the back of elephants for ceremonial use big gam shooting or transport

Howitzer 3.7in - A mountain gun, designed for operating in country impassable for wheeled vehicles, primarily the North-West Frontier of India. Dismantled into nine parts, breech, chase, cradle, split trail, carriage and two hard-rimmed wheels, it could be carried by eight mules. It could also be modified to be towed by a Jeep, by fitting pneumatic tyres and a smaller shield. The shell weighed 20 Ib, and the gun had a maximum range of 7,000 yards. (A 25pdr's maximum range was 12,500 yards with a 25lb shell.)

hp - Horse Power

HP - Home Political (Internal) Department

HQ - Headquarters

HRH - His Royal Highness

hubble-bubble - hookah, water pipe

hubshi - Negro, woolly-head, (Hindustani, from Arabic habashi, Persian habshi), orig..Ethiopian/negro

hulwaies - confectioners

humara - my, mine

HUQ, Fazlul - KPP President in 1936; joined Muslim League 1937; Prime Minister of Bengal 1937-43.

Hurribomber - There were two fighter-bomber versions of the Hurricane Mk II, both with a l,000lb bomb load; the Mk II C had four 20mm cannon, and the tank-buster Mk II D had two 40mm cannon.

Hurricane Mk II - A British single-engine monoplane, of Battle of Britain fame. Originally equipped with eight .303 in machine-guns. Below 10,000 feet it was less manoeuvrable than the Japanese Zero, but above 20,000 feet proved superior. Also developed as a highly successful fighter bomber (see Hurribomber).

hushiar - clever, intelligent



IAF - Indian Air Force

IAR - Indian Annual Register

IB – Intelligence Branch

ICI - Imperial Chemical Industries

ICS - Indian Civil Service

idderao / idhar ao - Come here

idli - South Indian steamed rice dumpling

Id-ul-Fitr - Muslim festival at the end of Ramadan

ijaradar - leaseholder

IJMA – Indian Jute Mills’ Association

ilish – (beng.) hilsa fish

indaba - ( affair, concern (Swahili, cuncil)

Independent Muslim Party (musl.) – political party created by Suhrawardy in 1926 after the breakdown of the Bengal Pact.

imli - (hind.) tamarind

INA - Indian National Army, formed from Indian soldiers who were persuaded to fight for the Japanese.

INC - Indian National Congress

Indra - God of rain, thunder, lightning, war; chief of all gods.

IPP – Independent Proja Party

isker – ( things (from Arabic)

Islamistan (musl.) – synonym for Pakistan used by those who are unconfortable with the seperatist connotations of that term.

ISPAHANI, M. A. H. - prominent Bengal Muslim Leaguer and on its Working Committee 1936-47. Member of the famous business family.

iswasti - for this reason

itarta – lit. otherness; pop. baseness, meanness

izzut / izzat - honour



jabana – foreigner (pejorative)

jadoo - magic/sorcery/black art

Jagannath - Lord of the Universe, a form of Krishna

jaggery - date-palm sugar

jaghirdar - landowner

Jai … ! – Victory to … !

Jai Hind – slogan of the Indian National Army, meaning "Hail India".

jalachal – intermediary caste from whom Brahmins may accept water without being poluted

jalebi / jalaibees - deep fried very sticky sweets, made of sugar, flour and syrup served in orange sticky loops

jaldi / juldi / juldee - “quickly”

jaldi karo - “do it quickly”

jaljeera / jholjeera / jeerapani - cumin juice

jamabandi - annual check of revenue accounts in every village in every district

Jamat (musl.) – term for an Islamist party

Jamat-e-Islami (JI) (musl.) – Islamist party opposed to the Muslim League. Formed in 1941 by Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979), an old collaborator of Iqbal. It had a that date nothing to do with the JUI and the JUH.

Jamat-ul-Ulama-e-Hind (JUH) (musl.) – Islamist party founded in 1919 to support the Congress and which grouped together the religious modernists and the mass Islamicisation movements like the tabligh.

Jamat-ul-Ulama-e-Islam (JUI) (musl.) – faction of the JUH which broke with Congress in 1945 to joinc the  Muslim League.

jampannie - rickshaw puller or sedan chair carrier

Janaki - another name for Sita, the heroine of the Ramayana

jantana - A particularly thick scrub resembling raspberry canes. It is impossible to advance through without cutting, and offers good concealment to the defender. The Japanese made skilful use of it

janwer / janwar - animal

jao - “Go”! (rude!), Go away

jaroo - broom

jati – caste, race

Jatiya Sarkar – National Government (of Tamluk uprising)

jatra - traditional Bengali folk theatre

jauhar courting death by Hindu wives to prevent themselves from falling into enemy hands

javana – prejorativ term used by orthodox Hindus to describe foreigners outside the caste system.

jawan - soldier

jeera / jira - cumin

jehad - Holy-War, muslim revolt

Jehanum - hell

jemadar - Indian junior officer (subaltern, 2nd lieutenant)

jemadar-sais - head groom

jharan - duster / dish cloth

jhawan – policeman or soldier

jheel/ jhil - swamp or lake

jhinga - (hind.) prawns/shrimp

jhingey - (beng.) ridged gourd

jhool - horse blanket

JI (Jamat-e-Islami) (musl.) – Islamist party opposed to the Muslim League. Formed in 1941 by Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979), an old collaborator of Iqbal. It had a that date nothing to do with the JUI and the JUH.

-ji - honorific suffix

jildi – ( quickly

Ji-huzur - Yes, Master

jimadar - Guard

JINNAH, Muhammad Ali, reorganized Muslim League after 1934, President of League after that date; under his leadership the Muslim League won the independent state of Pakistan in 1947.

John Company - Honorable East India Company, founded in 1599 and which governed India from 1833-1858

jote – land, lot

jotedar – farm/land owner, intermediate tenure holders charged with supervising a part of the estate of a zamindar, often also engaged in money-lending or grain trading. In Bengal, he would usually be a Muslim.

jubba long outer court worn by Muslims

juldi - Hurry up

juldi jao go - quickly

julaha – weaver

JUH (Jamat-ul-Ulama-e-Hind) (musl.) – Islamist party founded in 1919 to support the Congress and which grouped together the religious modernists and the mass Islamicisation movements like the tabligh.

JUI (Jamat-ul-Ulama-e-Islam) (musl.) – faction of the JUH which broke with Congress in 1945 to joinc the  Muslim League.

jute press – ironic name for the popular pres in regional languages



kabab / kebab - skewered meat

kabarri - second-hand furniture shop

kabuli chhola - (beng.) chick peas

kabuli chana - (hind.) chick peas

kacha kela - (hind.) green banana/plantain

kachori - (hind.) fried wheat pastry with seasoned filling

kaddoo - pumpkin

kaddu - (hind.) red pumpkin

kaestho / kayasthas / kaiast - the caste of writers, clerks, philosophers. Some common surnames of Bengali kayasthas are:  Ghosh, Baso/Bose, Datta/Dutta, Dey, Sinha, Nandi, Mttra/Mitter, Das, Sen, Chandra, Guha, Deb, Kar.

kafile - caravan

kahi - long slim copper trumpet like instrument (looks like wood)

Kailash / Kailas - sacred Himalayan mountain, home of God Shiva

Kaiser-I-Hind - Empror of India, Indian tilte for the British monarch

kaisar i hind (musl.) – 44th highest of the 82 titles of nobility of the British Empire, reserved for Muslims.

kakkra - (hind.) crab

kala - black

Kalabause - Bengali river or pond fish

kala juggah - dark corner, “sitting-out” alcove

kala pani - black water (to leave India)

kalai/biuli dal - (beng.) black gram

kalazar – chronic and deadly disease typical of Bengal, cause by a parasite called leishmania donovani.

Kali - Goddess, "the Black", recognisable by her black skin, necklace of skulls and often the snakes which surround her. Most popular in Calcutta and Bengal

kalima (musl.) – one of the five pillars of Islam which consists of publicly stating that there is only one God and Mohamed is his prophet.

kali-pani - Ocean (Hindi black water)

Kalyug / Kali Yuga - age of speed (according to Indian myth the age we currently live in); the era (Yuga) when righteousness and virtue disappear; fear, distress, anger, hunger prevail and the rulers care only about their power and riches.

kam - work

kamala lebu - (beng.) orange

kameez - long kneelength shirt

kamra - room

kanats - canvas enclosures

kanch kala - (beng.) green banana/plantain

kancha aam - (beng.) unripe/green mango

kancha kanthal - (hind.) green jackfruit

kankra - (beng.) crab

kanthal - (beng.) jackfruit

Kanyakumari - "Virgin Maiden", another name for Durga; town at the south tip of India

karela - (hind.) bitter gourd/melon

karja – produce loan

karo - do

katari – sharp weapon, a think sickle –shaped knife

kathal - (hind.) jackfruit

karma - cause and effect principle of totting up good and bad deeds affecting your next incarnation. The Hindu or Buddhist equivalent of Judgement day

kashmohal - Government estate.

kauri - shell currency

Kaur – (lit.: ‘princess’) Sikh female surname

Kayastha – Writer caste

kazi - Muslim law officer

kazi (musl.) – in Bengal, a lower man of religion authorised to celebrate weddings

KCSI (Knight Commander of the Star of India) – 17th highest of the 82 titles of nobility of the British Empire

keema - ince/ground meat

kela - (hind.) banana

kele-ka-phool - (hind.) banana blossom/spadex

kele-ki-tana - (hind.) white pith of banana plant stem

ke- marfik - in this manner

kench / khainch - “pull” !

kepi - A military cap with a visor and a round flat top sloping toward the front (French képi, from German dialect (Switzerland) käppi cap)

kerani - a writer

keri / kacha aam - (hind.) unripe/green mango

kg - Kilogram, (about 21/4 lbs)

KGCSI (Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India) – 9th highest of the 82 titles of nobility of the British Empire

Khabadar! / khabbardar! / kubberdar! - take care/ look out! Be careful!

khaddar / khadi - Hand-spun or homespun cloth popularised by Gandhi.

khajur - date (fruit)

khamaur – threshing floor

Khana Camera - Dining Room

Khansama - Cook

khak - Persian for dust or dirt, root word for khaki.

khaksar (musl.) – Muslim militia founded by Allama Mashriqi (1888-1983) and not directly dependent on the Msulim League.  One of its members tried to assassinate Jinnah.

khal creek or channel connecting rivers

Khalifat - A Pan-Islamic movement in India in response to the deposal of the Sultan of Turkey (who was Caliph of Islam) as a result of Turkey's defeat in World War 1.

Khalsa - Literally "the Pure"; the Sikh Army of the faithful

khan (musl.) – communal title of Mughal origin, preserved by the British to describe the Muslim high nobility; not to be confused with the surname Khan. The title khan is place before the family name.

Khan - A common suffix to the names of Moslems of all ranks.

KHAN, Liaqat Ali -  Muslim League General Secretary 1937-47.

khana - food/ meal

kharif – autumn harvest  (rabi is spring harvest)

khas – personal

khas – home farm

khas khamar – personal demesne

khas mahal – government estates

khashi - fattened castrated goat

khatian – record-of-rights

kheer - (hind.) rice pudding

khansama/ consumah – Butler, House-steward / chief table servant

kheera - (hind.) cucumber

kheyl - clan or tribe

khitmagar/ kitmutgar - table servant, waiter

khitab - book (or title)

khiwasti ? - how ?

khoa/kheer  - (beng.) thickened milk

kho(d)ja (musl.) – (see. Khwaja)

kholan – storehouse

kholian – farm yard

khond(a)kar (musl.) – (see ashraf) small ashraf from the provinces, or modest teacher

khoota / kutta - dog

khosha - (beng.) peels, scrapings

khoti - house

khoya - (hind.) thickened milk

Khrishna - Hindu God

khubber - news

khubber kharkuz - newspaper

khubbi - ever

khubbi nahin - never

khud - steep hillside or cliff, precipitous slope

khushi - nice, pleasant (hence sl.“cushy”)

khutba prayer or discourse pronounced in Mosque during Friday prayer

khwaja (musl.) – title given to Ismaili Shiites

kichree - kedgeree

kila - Castle

kilta - conical basket of the North, carried with shoulder straps on the back, used for transporting cow fodder, apples, grass, fire wood, manure etc kilta - basket container

kip -Bed (Danish kippe - cheap tavern)

kirtan - religious song

kisan - peasant

Kisan Samity – Peasant Association (local)

Kisan Sabha – Peasant Association (provincial & national)

kishmish - (beng.) raisin

kitna? - "how many, how much?”

klifty – ( steal

Knight Commander of the Star of India (KCSI) – 17th highest of the 82 titles of nobility of the British Empire

Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India (KGCSI) – 9th highest of the 82 titles of nobility of the British Empire

kobiraj - coverage. Egg covering a cutlet

kochu - (beng.) taro/arum root

kochuri - (beng.) fried wheat pastry with seasoned filling

kofta curry - Lamb Curry

koi - climbing perch

Koi hai ? - anybody around! universal expression used by the British when calling for servants to take orders for drinks at the club or a hotel  Also “old India hand”

koil / koel - Indian cuckoo

koil / kooyal - singing bird

kola - (beng.) banana

kool - (beng.) Indian plum

kooli-majur - labourers

Koran - the holy book of Islam

kos - a distance of about two miles

kot daffadar - Indian cavalry color sergeant

korbani – sacrifice (of cows on Bakr-Id)

korfa – under-tennant

korola, ucchey - (beng.) bitter gourd/melon

KPP - Krishak Praja Party

krait - A small but very venomous nocturnal snake (Hindi karait)

kripalani, J. B. - General Secretary of Congress 1934-46 and President in 1946.

krishak - peasant

Krishak Praja Party (KPP) – political party of the jotedars led by Fazlul Haq.

Krishak Samity – Peasant Association (local)

Krishak Sabha – Peasant Association (provincial & national)

Krishna - 8th incarnation of Vishnu, often blue, Arjuna's teacher in the Bhagavad Gita

Kshattriya / kshatriya - warrior caste. There are few kshatriyas in Bengal. 

kukri - Gurkha knife

kul – (hind.) tomorrow or ! yesterday

kuli – yard

kullah - Afghanistan pointed cap

kumro - (beng.) red pumpkin

kurta – loose shirt worn by Indian males.

kutcha / kaccha - of poor quality/ second class

kutcherry - court-house, lower court



lakh – one hndred thousand; in India usually written 1,00,000.

Lakh-pati – rich person

Lakshmana, Laxman - brother of Rama; human incarnation of the Grat Serpent Adisesha, in whose coils the God Vishnu rested

Lakshmi, Laxmi - Goddess of beauty and wealth/fortune, consort of God Vishnu

lal - red

Lala - title of respect for a Hindu

lama - senior Buddhist monk lama - a Tibetan word for a religious superior

lance daffadar - Indian cavalry corporal

lance naik - See ranks.

languages - Three languages are spoken in Calcutta - Bangla, English, and Hindustani. Both Bangla and Hindustani are Sanskritic languages. Bangla has declensions but no genders. Hindustani, the language of everyday life in Northern and Central India, from where artificially formed Hindi originated, has genders, but no declensions.

langur - a long haired monkey

lao - bring (imperative)

larai - war or battle

lascar – Indian mariner, usually Muslim in Bengal

lassi - (hind.) yogurt drink

lathi - 5’ bamboo stick, metal tipped used by the police

lathial – fighter with sticks, zamindari servent who wields a stick

lau - (beng.) white/bottle gourd

lauki - (hind.) white/bottle gourd

lb - Pound (weight)

LCA - Landing Craft Assault, maximum load an infantry platoon, designed to be carried at a ship's lifeboat davits, and to land infantry in a beach assault. It was armoured to give its passengers some protection against small arms fire and shrapnel, but not air-burst.

lebu - (beng.) lemon

Lee-Grant - American-built M3 tank named after two American Civil War generals, the Confederate General Lee and the Union General Grant, and sometimes called Lee in the USA and Grant in the British army. Had a 37mm gun in the turret, and a 75 mm (main armament) gun in a sponson in the hull. This unusual arrangement meant that to engage a target using the main armament the tank had to expose its hull, and as the sponson gun had a very limited traverse the whole tank had to be swivelled to engage targets outside this arc.

Legion Etrangèr - French Foreign Legion

Liberator Mk II - American B-24 four-engined heavy bomber, with a crew of eight.

liberty-men -Sailors on shore leave.

Lightning P.38 - American twin-engine fighter, with a crew of one, and four .50 in and one 20mm cannon. A very effective low-level attack aircraft.

lingam - phallic emblem of the God Shiva

LINLITHGOW, Second Marquis of. - Viceroy and Governor-General of India, 1936-43.

LISTOWEL, 5th Earl of, - Secretary of State for India April-August 1947.

load-shedding - power cut

Lok Sabha - lower house of the Indian Parliament

lon - red powder

loot -Plunder (Hindi lut [c.1788])

lotah - brass pot

lotdar – holder of a lot or a prtion of land with rights of intermediate tenure.

LRC – Land Revenue Commission

Lt - Lieutenant

Lt Col - Lieutenant Colonel

luchi - puffed fried fllour bread

lungi - loosely wrapped loincloth, worn by men especially South Indians and Muslim Bengalis

lunkah - cheroot

LZ - Landing Zone, originally an area chosen for glider landings.



maachh - (beng.) fish

maachher dim - (beng.) roe

machan - a bamboo platform for shooting from in a Game Reserve

machchi - (hind.) fish

machchi-ka-anda - (hind.) roe

Madras Army - The oldest of the four British Indian armies.

Madrasi -  from the South ie.e the former Madras Presidency: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh)

madrassa / madrassah (musl.) – Islamic secondary teaching establishment or Islamic university

madrissah - school / college

madhyabitto sreni – middle class

Ma Ganga - Mother Ganges

magur, shinghi, tangra - (beng.) cat fish

magur, singhi, tangra - (hind.) cat fish

Mahabharata - ancient Vedic/Sanskrit poem describing the battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas. The Bhagavad Gita is part of the Mahabharata. About 10,000 verses the world's longest work of literature; composed around the 1st millennium BC. Often used as synonym for long running complicated situation.

mahajan - moneylender

mahakuma - subdivision

mahalla - locality

Mahant - head of a religious institution or sect

maharaj - honorific form of address

Maharaja - (lit. "Great ruler"), semi-independent princely ruler of an Indian state, sometimes a very large landowner.

Mahasabha – (see Hindu Mahasabha.)

Mahatma - Great soul (maha, great; atma, soul)

Mahadev – The Great God; a names for Shiva

Mahavishnu - Supreme God; devides himself into the trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva)

Mahommedan Literary Society (musl.) – first Muslim association in Bengal to encourage the learning of English

mahout - Indian elephant driver (Hindi mahawat, mahaut)

mahseer - a game fish

maida - (hind.) wheat flour

maidan - flat piece of ground; grassy area in a town, parade ground, in Calcutta the main 8 sq. mile central park where many political rallies take place.

Majlis Party (musl.) – political party re-grouping the traders of the Muslim Chamber of Commerce at the beginning of the 1930s.

majlis ul ulama (musl.) – political assembly of the ulemas.

majoon - Green sweetmeat containing bhang (hashish)

malaria -A disease transmitted by mosquitoes that causes periodic severe attacks of chills and fever, thought at one time to be caused by miasma (Italian [1740], from mala aria, bad air)

malecha / mlechcha – disparaging term used by orthodox Hindus to describe foreigners and non-arians.

mali, malli - gardener

malik - tribal headman

mallum – ( understand

managing agency – Company managing investors and absentee owners industrial and other Indian business interests.

mandal – a committee of elders in a vllage

mandala - circle, symbolises the universe in Hinduism and Buddhism

Mandir - Hindu or Jain temple

mandis – wholesale markets

mangsho - (beng.) meat

Manmatha - god of love

Mantra - Magic name of God; an incantation or formula of prayer sacred to any deity.

mantra - a sacred formula or verse; sacred chant used in meditation

Mansion Building – Apartment block

Manu - first man on Earth / Hindu lawgiver, author of a 2000 year old ritual guide aimed at Brahmins (see Manusmriti)

Manusmriti - Laws of Manu, a Hindu law-giver; an ancient religious code upholding the caste system and containing accounts of creation.

Marathi - language of Maharashtra

mark - (hindi) silver mask of god idol

maro / marrow - a deliberate hit

Marwaris – people from Marwar (or Rajasthan in general) now living in Calcutta. Often in business.

martial classes, the - Those natives the British considered to be good warriors: Sikhs, Pathans, Gurkhas, etc.

masala - mix (usually spices) massala - spice mixture

mashaiq (musl.) – (see shaiqul islam).

massalchi - dish-washer

masjid - mosque

masoor dal - (hind.) red lentil

mata - mother

matar dal - dried peas

matarshuti - (beng.) green peas

matbar – village leader

Math - monastic institution

matlow -Self-adopted name of British sailors (blue- jackets)[1880](from French matelot, sailor)

matranee / mehtranee - wife of a sweeper

maulvie / maulavi / moulavi - learned muslim man, priest

maulana /maulvi (musl.) – friendly title for a "sage", a "master"; an honorific term or simply meaning "mister".

maund - a weight (80 lbs)

maya - illusion

mazdoor - worker

MBE - Member of the Order of the British Empire

MC - Military Cross. Instituted in 1914, it was awarded to army officers of the rank of major and below, and warrant officers, for gallantry in action. Now all ranks are eligible.

mehrbani – please

mela - fair (e.g. Book Mela) or large religious festival (e.g. Ganga Sagar Mela)

mem - senior (English) lady  

memsahib - Sahib’s lady, European woman in India (Hindi, from English ma'am + Hindi sahib sahib)

mera – ( my, mine 

MG - Machine gun

MGB - Motor Gun Boat

Mian - Muslim title of respect

miasma -A heavy vapor emanation or atmosphere believed to cause malaria or other diseases common in swampy areas (Greek, defilement, from miainein to pollute [1665])

millat (musl.) – Islamist term describing the Muslim religion

milli (musl.) – Islamist term the people of Muslim religion

Minar - minaret

Mirgil - Bengali river or pond fish

mistri - carpenter / mason

Mitchell - An American B-25 twin-engined medium bomber, with a crew of five. Good at attacking ground targets in support of ground troops.

Mjr - Major

ML - Motor Launch

ML – Muslim League

MLA - Member of Legislative Assembly

MLC - Member of Legislative Council

MLPB - Muslim League Parliamentary Board

MLWC - Muslim League Working Committee

mlechha - untouchable

MM - Military Medal. Instituted in 1916, it was awarded to army NCOs and soldiers for gallantry in action. Now discontinued; see MC.

MN - Merchant Navy

mocha - (beng.) banana blossom/spadex

MOD - Ministry of Defence

mofussil - rural districts away from Calcutta; the opposite to 'headquarters'. When in Calcutta, the rest of Bengal is 'mofussil'; when in division headquarters the rest of the district is 'mofussil'; meaning by extension, a very provincial and conservative social milieu

Mogh - Buddhist from Chittagong. Moghs are the best cooks in Calcutta

mohalla - neighborhood

Mohammedans / Muhammadans (musl.) – Muslim football team of Calcutta.

Mohawk - An American single-engine fighter, an earlier version of the Tomahawk, with six .303in guns. It was obsolete by 1941, but retained by the RAF for use in India and Burma.

mohazir (musl.) – Indian Muslim immigrant to East-Pakistan (Bihari).

moida - (beng.) wheat flour

Moksha - Freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth; salvation.

momo - Tibetan pasta wrapped around vegetable or meat, vaguely similar to big Ravioli without the sauce

monal - pheasant

monsoon - rainy season

moolo - (beng.) daikon/horse radish

mooli - (hind.) daikon/horse radish

moong dal - (hind.) moong beans or green gram

moori - puffed rice

more - silver mask of god idol, (Kulvi language lit. - "face")

mormuth - duster for god idol (made of peacock feathers)

Mosquito Mk IV - Twin-engine light bomber, or high-level reconnaissance aircraft, with a crew of two. Almost as fast as a Spitfire, and much faster than any other aircraft. Allied or enemy.

motamid - lawyer’s clerk

MOUNTBATTEN of Burma, First Earl, Chief of Combined Operations 1942-3; Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia 1943-6; Viceroy of India March-August 1947.

moiza – area covered by a landlords jurisdiction.

MP - Member of Parliament

MTB - Motor Torpedo Boat, a small, fast vessel mainly armed with torpedoes.

muchli - fish in general

muezzin - somebody who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of the mosque 

mufti (musl.) – high legal dignitary and specialist in sharia, able to proclaim a fatwa.

Mughlai – Moghul, North Indian, esp. Delhi, cooking, fashion, etc.

muhammadiya (musl.) – Islamic religious brotherhood in Bengal of the Hanblite tradition. Its members called themselves Muhammadis.

mujahid (musl.) – fighter for an Islamist Indo-Muslim state

mukarari – permenent holding on a fixed rent

Mukhtear - Criminal court lawyer.

mullah (musl.) Moslem religious teacher (Shiite) (Arabic mawla)

mung phali - (hind.) peanut

munger dal - (beng.) moong beans or green gram

munhi - prayer

munshi - clerk/ language teacher

munsiff - low grade Native judge having jurisdiction over a subdivision.

… murdabad ! – Death to … !

murgh - (hind.) chicken

murgi - (beng.) chicken

murmura - (beng.) puffed rice

murrain - A plague that infects domestic animals (from Latin mori, to die)

murthi - image, statue, images of the Lord

mussuck / masak - goatskin water-bag

musurir dal - (beng.) red lentil

Muslim - Belonging to Islam; frequent Indian spelling of Moslem.

Muslim Anglo-Oriental College (musl.) – Muslim university of Aligarh (United Provinces), created in 1875.

Muslim Chamber of Commerce (musl.) – association of Muslim Business men of Calcutta.

Muslim Conference (musl.) – organ running in parallel to the Muslim League and which controlled the Star of India newspaper until 1935.

Muslim League – Political party led by M.A. Jinnah, championing the interests of Indian Muslims.

Muslim Literary Society (musl.) – intellectual association at the University of Dacca.

Muslim National Guard (musl.) – militia loyal to the Muslim League (see khaksar)

Muslim Sporting Club (musl.) – sports federation to which belonged the Mohammedans football team

Muslimstan (musl.) – synonym for Pakistan for those whoare uncomfortable with the seperatist connotations of that term (see Islamistan).

Mussulman - A Moslem or Muslim (Turkish müslüman, Persian musulman, modification of Arabic muslim)

musth - madness, distemper of elephants

mut - drunk

mut - don’t

MV - Motor Vessel

mynah - Indian starling which can mimic



NAAFI - Navy, Army and Air Force Institute

naan - Indian flat bread cooked in a Tandoor

nadi - river

nag - snake

nahin – (hind.) no

naib – deputy, landlord’s accountant

naik - Indian corporal

nagdi – cash rent

nallah / nullah - stream or river valley, gorge (North India), creek, canal (Bengal)

namaste – greeting (Hindi)

namoshkar - greeting (Bengali)

Nandi - figure of a sacred bull, God Shiva's vehicle, symbol of fertility

NAP - National Agriculturist Party

napit – hairdresser, barber

nappy wallah – ( barber

nariyal - (hind.) coconut

narkel - (beng.) coconut

Narshinga - curvy trumpet like instrument

nasha - intoxication, drunk, stoned.

nashta – breakfast.

nat - juggler

naukar - servant

nauker-log - servants (pr.”logue”)

nautch - A type of Indian dance display performed by women, also used for a European ball or formal dance

nawab (musl.) – Mughal Title given to a provincial governor.  The title was conserved by the British to recompense the rich notables or high functionaries in the provinces

Nawab of Dacca (musl.) – honorific and non-hereditary title given to the senior member of the most powerful Muslim family of eastern districts of Bengal.

nazar – a ceremonial present by an inferior to a superior

nazar-salami – landlord’s transfer fee

NAZIMUDDIN, Khwaja - Prime Minister of Bengal 1942—5.

NBPS – Nikhil Banga Praja Samity

NCO - Non-commissioned officer; from lance-corporal to colour or staff sergeant. See also warrant officer.

NDC - National Defence Council

neel kothi - indigo planter's bungalow

neem pata - (beng.) margosa leaves

neem patti - (hind.) margosa leaves

NEHRU, Jawaharlal, Congress President 1936-7; member CWC 1936-47; played leading role in negotiations tor transfer of power in 1946—7. then Prime Minister of India.

nickle-jao - “get out!”

nimbu - (hind.) lemon

nimbu pani - lime juice

nirkali - long horns/ trumpets used for religious ceremonies in Himachal Pradesh

nirvana - state that is the final aim of Buddhists, release from the cycle of existence

Nizam (musl.) – Muslim prince of Hyderabad.

nol-kol - kohl-rabi

Non-Cooperation Movement – movement of political resistance against the colonial regime, launched by Gandhi in 1919-1920 and which took of after the Nagpur Congress Session

North West Frontier Province (NFWP) (musl.) – province on the frontier with Afghanistan, inhabited by Pashtuns.

nukshan / nuksaan - injury, damage, destruction

nulla(h) - ditch canal, Small valley or ravine, dry watercourse

numdah - a felt rug

nuzzer - ceremonial gifts

NWFP - North-West Frontier Province



OBE - Officer of the Order of the British Empire

octroi - Municipal tax

old sweat - Veteran

ole - elephant yam

OHMS - On His Majesty's Service

Om - sacred symbol and syllable in Hinduism and Buddhism

“Om mane padme hum” - an incantation meaning “the jewel is in the lotus flower”

on the cot - Changing one's ways

on the peg - Under arrest

oont - camel

ooplah - dried cow-dung for fuel

OP - Observation post.

Orient Press of India (OPI) – official news agency of the Muslim League

oz - Ounce or Ounces



paan / pan - folded betel leaf, stuffed with areca nut, lime and spices; chewed and red juice spit out, responsible for red wall corners, red pavement stains, red or black or no teeth

pabda - (beng.) Indian butter fish

paddy - Rice field (Malay padi [1623])

Padma - lotus, another name for Hindu Goddess Lakshmi

pagal - crazy, fool

pagri - see “puggaree”

pahari - hillman

paik – footman, peon

paikar – local merchant

paisa - word for money in general, also a 100th of a rupee

Pak-stan (musl.) – there are several hypotheses regarding the etymology of this term.  The one laid out in the ‘Star of India’ is based o the two words "Pak" and "stan". "Pak" meaing "pure" in Persian, and "stan" meaning "country". The "i" had crept in to the middle of the word solely for ease of pronunciation.

pakora - savoury snack, potatoes and vegetable in batter deep fried

palak - (hind.) spinach

Palan Camera - Bed-room

palang saag - (beng.) spinach

palanquin - litter carried on the shoulders of four men

palki - palanquin

paltan - Battalion, military unit

panch - five

panchayat - village council

panchayat khamar - village threshing ground

pandal - street structure erected to contain the murthi during pujas

pandit / pundit - Brahmin priest; respectful title for a Brahmin, a learned man or teacher, especially in Hindu religion, law, and science. (Hindi pandit, from Sanskrit pandita, from pandita learned)

paneer - Indian cottage cheese

Pangash - Bengali river or pond fish

panka / punkah - a large swinging fan made of a piece of cloth stretched on a rectangular frame, pulled by a cord or leather thong

pankawalla / punkah wallah - Indian employed to work a fan, usually by a string attached to their toe or thumb.

pani - (Hindi /muslim Bengali) Water

pani wallah - Water carrier, Scullion and general bottle-washer, at beck and call of both bearer and cook.

pannier - Donkey load. A large basket or container carried on the back of an animal or on the shoulders of a person (13th century, Latin, panis, bread

pantha - (beng.) mutton (really goatmeat)

papad - (hind.) poppadum

papar - (beng.) poppadum

papita - (hind.) papaya [ripe=fruit, unripe=veg]

para neighbourhood, para boys; local youths

paratha - (hind.) thick crispy bread grilled in ghee

parshey - (beng.) mullet

Parsi - A Zoroastrian of India descended from Persian refugees.

parval/palwal - (hind.) pointed gourd

Parvati - Goddess, wife of Shiva, another form of Kali

PATEL, Sardar Vailabhai, leading Congressman and member of Interim Government 1946-7. the Home secretary of India.

Pathans - A Mohammedan Afghan people of India's northwest frontier.

patloon - trousers

patnidar – intermediate tenure-holders

pattu - colourful woven blanket (North India, particularly the Kulu Valley), worn by women as a dress

patwari - village acountant who kept an annually revised alll land records in his circle which covered a number of villages

pau ruti - (beng.) loaf bread

pau roti - (hind.) loaf bread

payal - ankle chain

payesh - (beng.) rice pudding

PC - Police Constable

pcc - Pradesh Congress Committee

pechi / peechay - behind, at the back

peepra ka deem - Ants eggs

peepul - Indian fig tree, sacred to Hindus

peg - measure of spirit, usually whisky

peon - orderly messenger, office boy

pepey - (beng.) papaya [ripe=fruit, unripe=veg]

Permanent Settlement - (1793) Land settlement enacted by the British in 1793 under which land was leased out to individual landlords (zamindars) on a permanent basis against fixed rentals.

Per mare, per terram - "By land, by sea", motto of the Royal Marines. AKA "Poor Mary on the terrace"

Pesh-bundi – advance consideration, euphemism for bribe

pesta - (beng.) pistachio

PETHICK-LAWRENCE, First Baron - Secretary of State for India 1945-7; member of Cabinet Mission to India 1946.

peyara - (beng.) guava

phulkopi - (beng.) cauliflower

piaj - (beng.) onion

piaj koli - (beng.) spring onion shoots

pialla - ( enamelled mug

piaz - (hind.) onion

piaz patti - (hind.) spring onion shoots

PIAT - Projector Infantry Anti-Tank. The hand-held anti-tank weapon of the British Second World War infantryman from about mid-1942 on, it consisted of a powerful spring, mounted in a tube which threw a hollow-charge projectile, effective up to 100 yards.

pice, paisa - 1/12th of an anna, gen. Money

pice - A coin worth about a farthing. Four pice made one anna, worth slightly more than a penny (old style). Sixteen annas made one rupee, worth one shilling and sixpence. There was an even smaller coin, the pie, worth one-third of a pice; it resembled, I recall, the current halfpenny (new style).

pie - smallest unit in the old currency

piquet - A small guard post with about 12 men or less.

pipa – earthenware pot

pipal - a kind of fig tree

pir / phir (musl.) – Persian title given to an old Sufi sage or a Muslim religious leader

pista - (hind.) pistachio

pith helmet - Sun helmet made of cloth-covered cork.

Pk  - Park

Pl - Place

P. & O. - Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company. The main line for British travelers to India and the East

Pom or Pommie - Derisive Australian soldier's term for British officers or British men in general (from pomade - hair dressing)

pongelow - Beer

poodle-faker - A man who spend too much time in the society of women, engaging in such activates as tea parties, balls, etc.

pop-wallah - Non-drinker

pourasha – manhood, manliness

porota - (beng.) thick crispy bread grilled in ghee

potol - (beng.) pointed gourd

POW - Prisoner of War

pradesh - state

pradhan - head of the village council

praja – subject, tenant

Pranam, Pranama - Lit. obeisance. Traditional Indian greeting, hands held in a prayer-like position in front of one's heart region. Inner meaning is that one's whole body, heart and Soul greets the person one loves and respects. Also refers to traditional greeting by touching the feet of an elder; the inner meaning is both obeisance and willingness to follow in their footsteps.

PRASAD, Rajendra, Congress President 1939 and 1947; President of Constitutent Assembly 1946-50.

PS – Post Station, administrative area with in a district

Presidency – British India was subdived into three Presidencies, Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. 

puggaree - turban worn by servants, also cloth band around topee ( Hindi pagri turban)

puja - Lit. worship. Hindu religious rites: hence, a Hindu festival holiday.

pukka / pucca - Genuine, authentic, first-class, Excellent, opposite of cutch or kuctha (Hindi pakka cooked, ripe, solid, from Sanskrit pakva)

pukka sahib - Excellent fellow (used for Europeans only)

pummeloe - large citrus fruit

pundit – Hindu intellectual, usually Brahmin.

punir - cheese

Punjab - Land of the Five Rivers (panch = 5)

Punjabistan (musl.) – a Punjab exclusively Muslim

punji – poisones stake, bobt-trap

punk - Inferior, as in "played a punk game", "feeling punk" (ill) (1896)

pupta - (hind.) Indian butter fish

Puranas - Sacred Hindu legends.

purdah (musl.) - Literally, "one who sits behind a curtain". The seclusion of Muslim and some Hindu women. (Hindi parda, literally, screen, veil)

purdahnashin - take to the veil

pushpak vimana - a vehicle described in the Indian epics which takes passengers through the air, driven by thought; some compare it to the modern airliner

pyjammas - pair of loose trousers tied round the waist



qaid-e-azam (musl.) – title given to Jinnah, le "great chief", in theory he is charged with executing the laws and regulations voted by the assembly of Indo-Muslim lay persons (Muslim League) and by the assembly of ulemas (majlis ul ulama).

Queen's shilling, the - Bounty paid to a new recruit for joining the army.

Quit India Movement – movement launched by Congress and Gandhi during summer 1942 demanding the British the "quit India" immediately, in the face of the Japanese advance



rabi - crops sown after the rains / spring harvest

Rabindra-sangeet – songs by Rabindranath Tagore

Radha - Female consort of Krishna.

RAF - Royal Air Force

RAFVR - Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

raj - rule

Raj – colonial rule in India

raja – king, ruler, landlord

Raj Bhavan – residence of State Governor in Calcutta for Viceroy’s palace when it was called Government House.

rajdrohi – traitor, enemy of the state

Rajya Sabha – Upper house of Indian parliment in New Delhi.

rajbahar - main irrigation channel

raj-mistri - head carpenter/mason

rajput - Hindu warrior caste

Rajya Sabha - upper house of the Indian Parliament

Ram! – invocation of the Hindu god Rama

Rama - hero of the "Ramayana"; 7th incarnation of Vishnu

ramadan (musl.) – ninth month of the Islamic year when all Muslims should fast during the hours of daylight.  The last day of ramadan is Eid ul-fitr.

Ramayana - (lit.: "Rama's way"), big Indian epic, attributed to the poet Valmiki (around the 3rd or 2nd century BC); about Rama, his wife Sita and the battle against the evil Ravana of Lanka

Ramanama - The word used for the constant repetition of the name, Rama, as an act of devotion to the Lord.

Ramgarh – town in Bihar and setting of the 1940 annual session of Congress in 1940. Abul Kalam Azad was elected as party president and spoke of a ‘composite’ India. He wanted to rally the Muslim League which in the same year declared itself for territorial separatism, at their Lahore session.

Ram Raj (Rama Rajya) – Gandhian project to make Hinduism the official religion of an independent India.

Rarn Raksha - A recitation of sacred texts asking for the protection of Rama.

RAN - Royal Australian Navy

ranga alu - (beng.) sweet potato

Rani / Ranee - wife of a Rajah, Princess

Ranks - Indian Army ranks below second lieutenant were:

Indian Army             Typical job                                  British army equivalent

Subedar Major         Senior VCO (see VCO)                            None

Subedar                  Company 2ic or platoon commander         None

Jemedar                 Platoon commander                               None

Havildar Major          Company Sergeant Major (CSM)              CSM

Havildar                  Platoon Sergeant                                   Sergeant

Naik                       Section commander                               Corporal

Lance Naik              Section 2ic                                           Lance Corporal

Sepoy/Rifleman                                                                 Private

The word sepoy is an eighteenth-century British misspelling of the Persian word sipahl from the Persian word sipah meaning army.

RAP - Regimental Aid Post, the place where the Medical Officer (MO) of a battalion, or equivalent-size unit, set up his aid post. Usually the requirement here was to administer 'sophisticated first aid' to stabilize the casualty sufficiently to enable him to survive the next stage of evacuation; in 'conventional' warfare, this was usually within hours.

rashtrapathi – president, also title of Subhas Chandra Bose before he took on the title Netaji. 

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – radical Hinduist Militia

rath -  (Sanskrit lit. chariot) used to carry a god or goddess; either with wheels, also called a "car" or in hilly area (as in Himachal Pradesh) a kind of palanquin, carried by people by poles on their shoulders

ravas - (hind.) Indian salmon

razzia - Attack on unbelievers

RC - Roman Catholic

RCAF - Royal Canadian Air Force

RCN - Royal Canadian Navy

Rd - Road

RDF - Radio Direction Finding (early term for Radar)

RDP – Radical Democratic Party

RE - Royal Engineers

Regiment - Originally a regiment was of horse, dragoons (mounted infantry) or foot, and raised by command of King, and later Parliament, and named after its colonel, originally a royal appointee. The regiment has become the basic organization of the British army and Indian Army, for armour, artillery, engineers, signals, army air corps, and logistic units equivalent to battalions of those arms in other armies. In the case of the infantry, the British or Indian Army battalion belongs to a regiment, of which there may be one or more battalions.

The Indian Army reorganization of 1922 formed infantry regiments of up to six battalions each. There were several regiments with the same title, depending on the origin of their soldiers, and these were numbered. Hence the 5th/9th Jat Regiment is the 5th Battalion of the 9th Jat Regiment, whose soldiers are Jats, and the l/2nd Goorkha Rifles is the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Goorkha Rifles, whose soldiers are Gurkhas (spelt Goorkha by this regiment).

In 1923 many British cavalry regiments were amalgamated, retaining both their old numbers; hence the 9th/12th Lancers is the combination of the 9th and the 12th Lancers, not the 9th battalion of the 12th Lancers.

reh - salty, barren soil

Resident Europeans – People of pure European ancestry born and brought up in India.  Regarded as hgher in status than the Sngli-Indinas, but lower than the British-born Europeans sent to India after finishing teir education.

rezai - a quilt

Rhuee - Bengali river or pond fish

rickshaw – human powered form of transport either as cycle rikshaw or Handpull rickshaw.

RIN - Royal Indian Navy

rishi - a sage

rissaldar - Indian cavalry officer (1st lieutenant / captain)

rissaldar-major - Senior Indian cavalry officer

R.M.L.I. - Royal Marine Light Infantry

RN - Royal Navy

RNAS - Royal Naval Air Service

RNVR - Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve

RNZN - Royal New Zealand Navy

ROC - Royal Observer Corps

Rohingyas (musl.) – Muslims from the north of the Burmese province of Arakan.

rohu, mirgel, katla - (hind.) carp, buffalo fish

roko - blockade, in protest against an issue. During Rail-Roko, demonstrators sit on the rails, during Rasta-Roko or Road-Roko, on the pavement

roti - flat round unleavened bread

Round Table Conferences (RTC)– constitutional consultations in London in between 1930 and 1934 bringing together Indian and British representatives

Rs. - Rupees (standard unit of Indian currency (Hindi rupaiya from Sanskrit rupya, coined silver). Three pies equal one pice; four pice equal one anna; sixteen annas equal one rupee.

RSS – Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangha

rui, mrigel, katla - (beng.) carp, buffalo fish

Rupee (Rs.) - standard unit of Indian currency (Hindi rupaiya from Sanskrit rupya, coined silver). Three pies equal one pice; four pice equal one anna; sixteen annas equal one rupee.

ruti - (beng.) unleavened whole wheat flour bread

ryot / raiyat - tenant farmer, peasant  also under-ryot – under-tennant

ryotwari – Land revenue system under which assessment are made on individual holdings.



saag - (beng.) leafy vegetables

Sabha – see Hindu Mahasabha.

sadar - headquarters

Sadhu - Hindu ascetic, wandering holy man who denounces worldly goods, travels around India (mostly on foot) and lives by "donations"(Fakir for Muslims)

sadhubhasha – formal or literary form of Bengali

Sahib - Mr. or Master; often used in speaking of or addressing Europeans. (Hindi saheb, from Arabic sahib)

sahebi - anglicised

sais, syce - horse groom

Sakta – tradition of worship of the energy/power symbolised by the mother goddess

Salaam - a salutation – peace

Salaam alaikum - Peace be unto you

salami – landlord’s transfer fee

salgam- turnip

salwar kameez - loose, baggy trousers worn under a long shirt worn by women mainly of the North, by young girls of the South or as an alternative to the sari

sambhur - large deer

sammelan – Hindu conference reuniting diverse political movements

samiti – committee, association

samosa - triangular fried pastry

samp, sanp - snake

sampraday - community

samya – equality

samyabada – egalitarianism

samyabadi – someone who believes and fights for equality

sanatan - eternal

sanatani - an orthodox Hindu.

sandesh - Bengali sweet

sangar - Temporary shallow fortifications, normally built of loose stone.

san(g)athan – Hindu political organisation

sangeet - songs

sangram - struggle

sanyas – life of renunciation

sanyasi - an ascetic, renunciate, recluse

santra - (hind.) orange

sapper - The equivalent of private in the Royal Engineers; also a name for all engineers.

sarai - travelers hostelry wirth stables, stable, or a caravanserai

sarani - street

Saraswati - Goddess of speech and learning, wife of Brahma

sarbajanin – open to all (castes), universal

sarbadhinayak - captain

sardar - A title meaning leader, head of mill workers, title of VSS Patel.

sarf karo – ( to kill (from to clean up)

sari - Hindu women's dress, single piece cloth, 5m to 9m long and 1m wide wrapped around the waist, a portion covering the bosom and the head.

sarishtidar – clerk who administers oaths, records, depositions etc.

sarkar - head of affairs in business

sarki - arrow

sarso-ki-saag - (hind.) mustard greens

sarva - all

Sati - wife of Shiva; self immolation of a woman on her dead husband's funeral pyre (illegal)

satitva - chastity

Satyagraha - Gandhi’s policy of non-violence; Truth-force or soul-force (sat, truth; agraha, firm- ness); non-violent direct action; passive resistance; civil disobedience; non-violent non-cooperation.

Satyagrahi - One who practices satyagraha.

satsang - lecture or discourse by a swami or guru (lit.: sat: "truth", sang: "company")

SB – Special Branch

SEAC - South East Asia Command. The Supreme Allied Commander SEAC, Admiral Mountbatten, was responsible directly to the British Chiefs of Staff in London, and through them to the Combined British and US Chiefs of Staff for all operations by land, sea, and air in Burma, Malaya, and Sumatra, and for clandestine operations in Siam and French Indo-China.

SD – Sub-Division, administrative area withi a district

seem - (hind.) broad bean

seer - unit of weight (2lbs)

sepoy - See ranks. sepoy - native private soldier

sepoy - Indian infantryman in an European army (Portuguese sipai, from Hindi sipahi, cavalryman)

sewai - vermicelli

serai – lodgigs for travelers

serang - boatswain

setu - bridge

Sgt - Sergeant

shabash! - Bravo, a cry of admiration

shaitan - Satan, devil

shaiqul islam / cheikh al-islam (musl.) – supreme Islamic religious authority, vacant since the beginning of the 1920, when Atatürk abolished the califat of Istanbul. The Islamists want to re-establish it

shakarkhand - (hind.) sweet potato

shako - Stiff, tall military hat (French, from Hungarian csákó)

Shakti - creative energies perceived as female deities

Shaktism - the cult of Shakti

shanti - peace, favourite word by certain tourists to describe peaceful places (when it's not anymore because of them)

shamiana / shamyana - tent, dais, used for outdoor functions

sharia / shariat (musl.) – Islamic system of law.

Shastras - scriptures, religious or sacred doctrine

sheem - (beng.) broad bean

sheikh (musl.) – Muslim honorific title reserved to religious elder, a spiritual guide a sage or a master.

sher - a tiger

Sherman - A US-built tank with the same chassis as the Lee-Grant, but with the main armament 75mm gun on top of the hull in the conventional way. It also carried a co-axial machine-gun in the turret and a machine-gun in a ball mounting in the front glacis (sloping) plate of the hull.

Sheth - Master, a name given to Hindus of importance in Sind and other parts of West India.

shifa ul mulk / shifa al-malik (musl.) – communal title of Mughal origin preserved by the British.

shikar - a hunting expedition, “huntin' and shootin'”.

shikari - a skilled hunter who hires his services

shikshita / shikkhito - educated

Shiva/Siva - God of destruction and recreation, one of the "Trimurti" (three main gods)

shole -  murrel fish

shosha - (beng.) cucumber

Sradh - religious ceremony in the memory of a deceased

Shrijut / Sit. - A common title equivalent to esquire; often Shri or Srj., Sri

Shrimati / Smt. - A common title for women.

shroff – moneylender, changer, cashier

shuddhi – ritual purification

shuddhi – mass conversion of untouchables and tribal people to Hinduism. The movement is similar to tabligh which has the objective of converting these groups to Islam.

Shudra - The fourth (and lowest) caste of Hinduism-those who labor.

siddha chaal - (beng.) parboiled rice

Sikh - A member of a religious sect founded about 1500 A.D. in the Punjab.

silladar - Indian cavalryman who provided his own equipment

Silnd - Bengali river or pond fish

simpkin - corruption of "champagne"

Singh - Sikh male surname (lit.: "lion")

sinnit - braided cord

siratul moustaqim (sirat al-moustaqim) (musl.) – Islamic spiritual concept concerned with the best way to accede to paradise.

sirdar - Hereditary noble or other person of high rank (Hindi sardar, from Persian)

sirkar / sircar- the British government in India, the head of domestic government, and any representativer thereof

siris - a common Indian tree

Sita - heroine of the Indian epic "Ramayana"; an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi

sitar - Indian string instrument

Siva / Shiva - A god of the Hindu triad, typifying destruction and reproduction.

skof - Food

slingers - Hard tack and coffee

Smt. – Shrimati, A common title for women.

snotty - Midshipman [Royal Navy]

SOE - Special Operations Executive

solar / sola  - topi leight weight hat made from the dired pith of a plant (the sola)

sooji - semolina

sorshey saag - (beng.) mustard greens

sowah, (cu.sawah) - mounted orderly

sowar - Indian cavalryman

SP – Superintendent of Police

Spitfire Mk VIII - The single-engine fighter of Battle of Britain fame. Proved superior to Japanese Zero and Oscar fighters.

spyglass - Telescope

Sq - Square

Sq Ldr - Squadron Leader

Sradh - The traditional propitiatory rites on the eleventh day from the date of death.

Sri - holy, graceful, auspicious, revered

srijukta – honorific title (Hindu)

SS - Steam Ship

St - Saint

St - Street

stag – ( guard, sentry-go

Start Line - A line in the ground, usually a natural feature, stream, bank, or fence, preferably at ninety degrees to the axis of advance, which marks the start line for the attack and is crossed at H-Hour in attack formation. Can be marked by tape if there is no natural feature which lends itself to being used as a start line.

Sten gun - A cheap, mass-produced sub-machine-gun of British design. It fired 9mm ammunition, and had a 32-round magazine. Ineffective except at close quarters; it was inaccurate and the round had poor penetrating power. Because of its propensity to fire by mistake, it was sometimes more dangerous to its owner and those standing around than to the enemy.

stoppages - Money deducted from a soldier's pay ("stopped") as a punishment)

stunt - assistant (Collector)

stupa - Buddhist religious monument

subaltern - A junior officer in the British army.

sub chiz / sub-cheese - everything

sub-divisions – administrative subdivision of a district. There were 86 sub-divisions in pre-independence Bengal.

subedar - Indian infantry officer (1st lieutenant)

subedar-major - Senior Indian infantry officer

suder / sadar – district headquarter

sudder - chief, main

Sudra - the lowest of the four main Hindu castes

SUHRAWARDY, H. S. - Muslim League minister in Bengal 1937—45, and Chief Minister 1946-7.

sunnyasi - Hindu religious mendicant

Supt - Superintendent

suttee - Widow burning. Hindu widow who chose to be cremated on the funeral pyre of her husband as an indication of her devotion to him (Sanskrit sati wife who performs suttee, literally, devoted woman, from feminine of sat true, good; akin to Old English soth, true)

suwarer mangsho - (beng.) pork

suwar-ka-gosht - (hind.) pork

swaddy - Soldier.

swadeshi - Belonging to, or made in, one's own country (swa, self; deshi, country); applied to movement for boycott of foreign goods which started between 1905 and 1908 in Bengal. This movement was a great influence in Gandhi in 1920.

swami -  learned person, Hindu religious teacher; also formerly used as respectful title for husband, (lit.: "Lord of the self", swa: one's true self). Also used as honorific for saints.

Swaraj - Self-government (Swa, self; raj, government); signifies "sovereignty" or dominion up to 1930, and after that all out "independence".

Swarajya Party – group which from inside Congress opposed between 1922 and 1926 the anti-constitutional methods of Gandhi.

Swatis - Afghanistan tribe

syce - Attendant or groom, stable-lad (Hindi sais, from Arabic sa'is)

syed (saïd, sayid) (musl.) – eminent Islamic title for a rich and noble ahsraf.



tabla - type of drums

tabligh – conversion (to Islam)

Tac HQ - Tactical Headquarters, a small group including the CO, or brigade commander forward of the main HQ.

tairo – ( wait, hold on

takbir – the expression ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great)

takkus - tax (probably derived from Indian pronunciation of the English word 'tax')

taleb - pay

talims – wrestling clubs

taluka – administrative sub-division of a district, area covered by a police station, also thanna

talukdar / taluqdar – rent receiving small landowner, owner of a taluk.

tamasha - a show, excitement

tambo - tambourine

Tamil - A language spoken in southern India and Ceylon.

tanda / thanda / tunda / thunda - cold

tandoor - clay oven used for cooking; wood burning oven for heating (and cooking) and occasionally burning the chopped up bodies of victims of dowry killing

tanzim – (Islamic) organisation

tar / taar - telegram, literally "wire"

tarun - youth

tat - country bred pony

tatsama – derived from Sanskrit

tatties - screens kept wet for coolness

taziya / tazia - model of the graves of Hassan and Hussein carried by Shiites at Ashoura/Moharam

TB - Tuberculosis

teapoy / teapoi - small tripod table

tebhaga – third shares, also name of a peasant movement aiming to reduce sharecroppers rents from ½ share of harvest to just 1/3 .

teen - three

tehsi – administrative unit of a district

tehsildar - native tax-collector

Telugu - The largest division of the Dravidian dialects in southern India.

tempo - noisy three wheeler public transport, similar to an auto-rickshaw but bigger

tentul - (beng.) tamarind

terai - wide-brimmed hat, probably an Anglo-Indian colloquialism

Terr. - Terrace

Thakur - one of the higher Hindu castes

thali - tray, steel plate; a plate of simple different dishes (i.e. daal, veg, rice, chapati)

thana - police station and basic urban administrative unit, at the centre of which lies the local police station / jail

thano - pull (imperative)

thela -  hand-pulled goods cart. Pullers are called the pawalla

thiik/thiik hai - "good"/ "is good", okay

thor - (beng.) white pith of banana plant stem

thug - Literally, deceiver. Worshippers of Kali who ritually murdered travelers, usually with a cloth scarf (thugee cord). (Hindi thag, thief)

thugee - practice of the thugs

ticca gharri - hired four-wheel carriage

tiercel - male falcon

tiffin - Lunch or snack (obsolete English tiff to eat between meals)

tik hai / thik hai - all right

tik hai? / thik hai? - all right?

tika - Hindu mark on the forehead tikkah - ornamental mark on forehead

tilak - Sandal paste mark placed on the forehead for religious purposes.

tirailleurs - French riflemen, from shooter??

TKS – Tippera Krishak Samity

tola – tax, toll

tola - measurement of weight, 11.6 gram

to fire into the brown - Originally referred to hunters firing into a covey of game birds without aiming at any particular bird, but was later used for soldiers firing into a charging mass of natives.

Tommy - Tommy Atkins. Name for the British common soldier

tonga / tanga - a light two wheeled carriage drawn usually by ponies, holds two passengers behind, space for luggage is in front beside the driver

toor/toovar dal - (hind.) split pigeon peas

top khana - Artillery battery

topee - Helmet (Hindi topi)

topshey - (beng.) mango fish

topsi - (hind.) mango fish

torai - (hind.) ridged gourd

tram - streetcar

transportation – deportation of prisoners

Trimurti - Hindu trinity of God: Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu

tulwar - a large curved sword

tum - thou, you (used to inferiors)



U Boat - German submarine

UK - United Kingdom

ulank – type of small cargo boat

ulema / ulama (musl.) – theologian and member of the clergy who can be a customary judge (cadi), a judicial adviser (mufti) or a politician (member of the majlis ul ulama).

UMP – United Muslim Party

unani (musl.) – Arabo-Islamic system of medicine

United Muslim Party (UMP) (musl.) – political party mainly made up of small traders of Calcutta.

United Press of India (UPI) – news agency set up by United Press of America and the Times of India.

United States Office of War Information (USOWI) – American propaganda agency, one of the ancestors of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

untouchables - Castes or communities which, through ancestry, profession, or custom, are looked upon as impure by orthodox Hindus. Also called Scheduled Castes, Depressed Classes, Pariahs, and Harijans.

UP - United Provinces

Upanishads - Hindu religious philosophical discourses.

Upanishads - ancient texts, part of the Vedas, Hindu philosophy dealing with the nature of the universe and soul

UPML - United Provinces Muslim League

urad dal - (hind.) black gram

Urdu - A Persianized Moslem form of Hindustani.

US - United States

USAAF - United States Army Air Force

ushna chawal - (hind.) parboiled rice

USN - United States Navy

USOWI (United States Office of War Information) – American propaganda agency, one of the ancestors of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

USSR - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

uttr / attar – perfume



vada – fried savoury.

Vaishnava / Vaishnab - A sect of Hindus worshiping Vishnu as the one supreme God.

Vaishya - The third caste in Hinduism-those who trade and farm.

vakil / ukil - lawyer

Valmiki - poet around the 3rd - 2nd century BC, author of the Ramayana

vapors - A Victorian belief that emanations from bodily organs (such as the stomach) could affect the physical and mental condition of people, especially women. Vapors were often blamed for women fainting, although fashions that included binding women's bodies so tight that they could barely breathe would seem to be a more likely cause.

Vamashrama dharma - Religion of caste (varna, color; ashrama, place of discipline).

Vanga Desh – ancient kingdom which gave its name to Bengal.

varna - alternative term for caste system

Varnashramdharma – scriptural fourfold division of Brahmanical society, caste system

Vayu - god of wind

VC - Victoria Cross, the highest British award for bravery in the face of the enemy. To date, in the 145 years since its inception by Queen Victoria for conspicuous bravery during the Crimean War of 1854-56, only 1,354 VCs have been awarded, including a handful of double VCs, five civilians under military command, and the one presented to the American Unknown Warrior at Arlington. This figure includes the many awarded to Imperial, Commonwealth, and Dominion servicemen.

VCO - Viceroy's Commissioned Officer. There were three kinds of commissioned officer in the Indian Army of the time: British officers and Indian officers with the King's Commission who, in peacetime, or when not in battle or on operations, lived in the Officer's Mess, and Viceroy's Commissioned Officers. VCOs were commissioned from the ranks of the regiment or battalion, had a Viceroy's Commission, and were junior to all King's Commissioned officers of any rank. Their nearest equivalent in the British army was warrant officer, but VCOs had much higher status, commanded platoons, were second-in-command of companies, and lived in their own mess. They were addressed as Subedar Sahib, or Jemedar Sahib by all ranks including by King's Commissioned officers. The subedar major was the senior VCO in an Indian Army battalion, and had probably joined as a young sepoy or rifleman at about the same time as the CO joined as a subaltern. He was the CO's right-hand man and adviser on all regimental matters such as customs, promotions, recruiting, how well, or otherwise, the British officers (especially the younger ones) were relating to their Indian soldiers, and religion.

VE - Victory in Europe

Vedanta - An important Hindu philosophical system.

Vedas - Hindu sacred books originating in the 2nd millennium BC

vedettes - Mounted sentries

veena - Indian string instrument Vinar, (cu.veena) - string sitar like instrument resting on two gourds

Vengeance - A single-engined light bomber of US design, with a crew of two, and six .303 in machine-guns. The bomb load was 1,500 Ib.

veranda - Roofed open gallery attached to the exterior of a building (Hindi varanda)

Vickers Medium Machine-gun - A First World War vintage belt-fed, watercooled machine-gun, rate of fire 500 rounds per minute. Maximum range with Mark VIIIZ ammunition, 4,500 yards.

vishayi bhadralok – respectable salaried class

Vishnu - God of the Trimurti (three main gods), "the preserver or sustainer". The other gods are Brahma, the creator, and Siva, the destroyer and regenerator.

vizir – high state official

VJ - Victory in Japan

vyavasa – trade or business

vomitory – exit



WAAF - Women's Auxiliary Air Force

wad - Cake

wah - exclamation of praise

wallah - suffix for a person of a certain trade, or from a certain place etc; i.e. rickshaw-wallah (rickshaw driver), chai-wallah (tea seller), Delhi-wallah (a person from Delhi)

waqf (ouakaf) (musl.) – Concept of Hanafite origin.  It is a donation in perpetuity to a religious association. The donation may not be afterwards sold gifted or otherwise be transmitted.

Warrant Officer - Since 1913 there have been two classes of Warrant Officer in the British army: WOII, typically a company/squadron sergeant major, and WOI, usually regimental sergeant major, of which there is generally only one in each battalion, regiment, or commando. Just before the Second World War a WOIII, or platoon sergeant major grade, was created to command platoons or troops, but it was not a success and was allowed to lapse.

A WO has a warrant signed by a government minister or representative of the Army Council, unlike a commissioned officer (of the rank of second lieutenant and above), who has a King's or Queen's commission. Those junior to WOls and WOUs in rank address them as sir and Mr (Surname); those superior to them formally refer to them as Mr (Surname) but often address and refer to them as Sergeant Major or RSM. Unlike VCOs, they are not saluted by those junior to them, and live in the WOs' and Sergeants' Mess.

WAVELL, Sir Archibald, later First Earl, - Commander-in-Chief Middle East 1939-41; Commander-in-Chief India 1941-3; Viceroy of India 1943-7.

wet - As in, "have a wet", tea

wizard - Excellent, as in "a wizard time"

WRNS - Women's Royal Naval Service

wog - Derogatory term for Indians or Arabs. Sometimes also Wiley Oriental Gentleman or Westernized Oriental Gentleman (Origin uncertain. Either Westernized Oriental Gentleman or from Golliwogg, a living black doll in children's books by the American writer Bertha Upton.

Workers and Peasant Party – communist grouping evolving from Congress and accused, at Meerut, of having fermented the strikes of 1929.

wuh - that one

WW1 - World War One

WW2 - World War Two





yagna - sacrifice

yaksha - demi god

Yama - god of death

yatra - pilgrimage

yd - yard

yellow fever - A disease transmitted by mosquitoes that causes jaundice, among many other symptoms

yellow jack - Yellow fever

YMCA - Young Men's Christian Association

yogi - an ascetic

Yoni - Vagina symbol, worshipped in conjunction with the lingam to symbolise the male and female creative power of the God Shiva.

yunani – Indian system of medicine of Islamic origin

yuga - devine or celestial measurement of time; 1 yuga = 3000 celestial years; 1 celestial year = 3600 human years; therefore 1 yuga = 10,800 human years. See also Kalyug / Kali Yuga.

YWCA - Young Women's Christian Association



zakat (musl.) –Islamic almsgiving one of the five pillars of Islam

zamindar / zemindar - land owner, originally tax collector, paying the government a fixed revenue (Hindi zamindar, from Persian, from zamin land + - dar holder)

zennana - women’s quarters

ZETLAND, Second Marquis of - Secretary of State for India 1935-40.

zilla – subdivision, district

… zindabad ! – Long live … !




Return to top









Pies, pice, annas, rupees & Mohurs

                    3 pies =               1 pice

                  12 pies =               4 pices =                1 anna

                192 pies =             64 pices =             16 annas =             1 rupee

                                                                                                                15 rupees = 1 mohur


Coins in circulation

On 15th August, 1950


                10 Rupees, 5 Rupees, Rupee

                ½  Rupee, ¼  Rupee

                2 Annas, 1 Anna, ½  Anna, ¼  Anna, ½  Pice, 1/12 Anna




          _____Older Coinage___________________________



TGVHalfPice1914obv  TGVHalfPice1914rev

Half Pice 1914


TGVOneTwelfthAnna1926obv  TGVOneTwelfthAnna1926rev

One Twelfth Anna 1926


TGVOneQuarteranna1927obv  TGVOneQuarteranna1927rev

OneQuarter Anna 1927


TGVOneAnna1929obv  TGVOneAnna1929rev

One Anna 1929


TGVTwoAnna1916obv  TGVTwoAnna1916rev

Two Anna 1916


TGVTwoAnna1936obv  TGVTwoAnna1936rev

Two Anna 1936


TGVFourAnna1920obv  TGVFourAnna1920rev

Four Anna 1920


TGVOneQuarterRe1925obv  TGVOneQuarterRe1925rev

One Quarter Rupee 1925


TGVEightAnnas1919rev  TGVEightAnnas1919rev

Eight Annas 1919


TGVHalfRe1936obv  TGVHalfRe1936rev

Half Rupee 1936


TGVOneRe1917obv  TGVOneRe1917rev

One Rupee 1917


TbiGVrs15-o  TbiGVrs15-r

15 Rupees of George V.


          _____1940s Coinage____________________________


TGVIHalfPice1940obv  TGVIHalfPice1940rev

Half Pice 1940


Tpice1  Tpice2

One Pice 1944



One Twelfth Anna 1939


TGVIOneTewlfthAnna1939obv  TGVIOneTewlfthAnna1939rev

One Twelfth Anna 1939


TGVIQuarterAnna1940obv  TGVIQuarterAnna1940rev

Quarter Anna 1940


TGVIHalfAnna1947obv  TGVIHalfAnna1947rev 

Half Anna 1947



One Anna 1943



One Anna 1941


TGVIOneAnna1947obv  TGVIOneAnna1947rev

One Anna 1947



Two Annas 1946


TGVITwoAnna1947obv  TGVITwoAnna1947rev

Two Anna 1947


TGVIOneFourthRupee1939obv  TGVIOneFourthRupee1939rev

One Fourth Rupee 1939



Half Rupee 1947


TGVIHalfRupee1939obv  TGVIHalfRupee1939rev

Half Rupee 1939


TGVIOneRupee1938obv  TGVIOneRupee1938rev

One Rupee 1938


TGVIOneRupee1942obv  TGVIOneRupee1942rev

One Rupee 1942


TGVIOneRupee1947obv  TGVIOneRupee1947rev

One Rupee 1947


          _____1950 Independence Coinage __________________


T1950onepiceobv  T1950onepicerev

One Pice 1950


T1950Halfannaobv  T1950Halfannarev

Half Anna 1950


T1950oneannaobv  T1950oneannarev

One Anna 1950


1950Twoannaobv  1950Twoannarev

Two Anna 1950


T1950onefourthreobv   T1950onefourthrerev

Quarter Rupee 1950


T1950onehalfReobv  T1950onehalfRerev

Half Rupee 1950


T1950Reoneobv   T1950Reonerev

One Rupee 1950




Conversion into today’s units

                1 pie       = 0.52 paise

                1 pice     = 1.56 paise

                1 anna   = 6.24 paise


Notes in circulation


                Rupee One -                          King George VI - issued by Government of India (since August 1940)

                Rupees Two -                        King George VI - issued by Government of India (3rd March , 1943)

                Rupees Five -                        King George VI - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since January 1938)

                Rupees Ten -                         King George VI - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since Febr.1938)

                Rupees One Hundred -       King George VI - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since March1938)

                Rupees One Thousand -     King George VI - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since June 1938)

                Rupees Ten Thousand -      King George VI - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since June 1938)


                Rupees Ten -                         King George VI - Japanese forgeries

                                (seemingly signed by Governor C.D. Deshmukh) (1942-1945)


                Rupee One -                          Ashoka Pillar - issued by Government of India (since 1949)

                Rupees Five -                        Ashoka Pillar - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since 1950)

                Rupees Ten -                         Ashoka Pillar - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since 1950)

                Rupees One Hundred -       Ashoka Pillar - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since 1950)

                Rupees One Thousand -     Ashoka Pillar - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since 1950)

                Rupees Ten Thousand -      Ashoka Pillar - issued by Reserve Bank of India (since 1950)


(source: Reserve Bank of India Museum Website




Tre119401  Tre119402

One Rupee (introduced in August 1940) as wartime measure (obverse)



One Rupee now with Lion Capital at Sarnath (introduced in 1949)



Two Rupees (introduced in 3rd March , 1943) as wartime measure (obverse)



Five Rupees (introduced in January 1938) (obverse)



Ten Rupees (introduced in February 1938) (obverse)



New changed Ten Rupees (with changed portrait) to combat Japanese forgeries in WW2 (obverse)



Ten Rupees now with Lion Capital at Sarnath (introduced in 1949)



One Hundred Rupees (introduced in March 1938) (obverse)



One Thousand Rupees (introduced in June 1938) (obverse)



Ten Thousand Rupees (introduced in June 1938) (obverse)







Farthings, pence, shillings, pounds & gunieas

                2 farthings =             ½ pence (d) (ha’p’ny)

                4 farthings =              1 pence (d) (penny)

                                                      3 pence (d) (thrupence)=   ¼ shilling (s)

                                                     4 pence (d) (fourpence)= 1/3 shilling (s)

                                                     6 pence (d) (sixpence)=  ½ shilling (s)

                                                  12 pence (d) =                      1 shilling (s) (one bob)

                                                  24 pence (d) =                      2 shilling (s) = florin

                                                  60 pence (d) =                      5 shilling (s) = crown

                                                240 pence (d) =                   20 shillings (s) =1 pound (£) sovereign

                                                252 pence (d) =                   21 shillings =1pound (£) +1 shilling (s)= 1 guinea


The Rupee & the Pound Sterling

(fixed in 1899 when India switched effectively from the silver to the gold standard)

                Mohur                    15 Rupees                             £1

                10 Rupees             10 Rupees                             13s4d

                5 Rupees                5 Rupees                                6s8d

                1 Rupee                 16 Annas                               1s4d

                1/2 Rupee              8 Annas                                 8d

                1/4 Rupee              4 Annas                                 4d

                2 Annas                 2 Annas                                 2d

                1 Anna                   4 Pice/12 Pies                      1d

                1/2 Anna               2 Pice/6 Pies                        1/2d

                1/4 Anna               1 Pice/3 Pies                        1/4d

                1/2 Pice                 1/2 Pice/11/2 Pie                                1/2 1/4d

                1/12 Anna             1 Pie                                       1/3 1/4d

(source: “British Coinage of India, 1835-1947” Kelley L. Ross, Ph.D.:  at: )


The Pound Sterling & the Us Dollar

The table presents for each year the price of the U.S. Dollar in British Pounds £.

                year        rate

                1939       £ 0.23

                1940       £ 0.26

                1941-48 £ 0.25

                1949       £ 0.27

                1950       £ 0.36


The Pound Sterling & Gold

Pound Sterling was set at 3.58 grams of fine gold in 1946 to fall to 2.49 grams of fine gold in 1949.


What things cost in Britain in 1941

                Embassy cigarettes,                                            10 for 9d (4p) (0.06USD)

                Wisdom toothbrushes,                                        2/5d (12p) (0.17USD) each

                Eve toilet soap                                                     3d (1.5p) (0.02USD) per bar

                Palmolive toilet soap                                         4d (2p) (0.03USD) per bar

                Vim                                                                         6d (2.5p) (0.04USD) per canister

                De Reszke Minor cigarettes,                              10 for 61/2d (2.5p) (0.04USD)

                Hartley's headlamp masks                                                 10/6 (52.5p) to 12/ 6d (62.5p) each

                Gibbs Dentifrice                                                  71/2d (3.5p) (0.05USD) per tin

                Cremola Pudding                                                3d (1.5p) and 6d (2.5p) per pkt

                Rowntrees cocoa                                                                 5d (2p) per 1/4lb and 91/2d (3.5p) per 1/2lb

                Cadbury's Ration Chocolate                            21/2d (1p) per bar,

                                 (the supply was very limited - and the weight of the bar was not mentioned.)

                Gamages shirt (with a spare collar)                                6/11d (35p) (0.52USD)

                a pair of flannel trousers                                   15/9d (78p) (1.16USD)

                a pair of shoes, all leather                                                13/9d (68p) (1.01USD)

                mans self lined raincoat                                    1 guinea = £1/1/- (£1.05) (1.56USD).

(source: Westalls War at:


The value of a 1940s pound today (2002)

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1939 has the same "purchase power" as £51.27 in the year 2002.

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1939 = £51.27

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1940 = £39.37

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1941 = £34.73

                £1, 0s, 0 d in 1942 = £29.10

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1943 = £28.90

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1944 = £27.98

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1945 = £27.16

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1946 = £26.22

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1947 = £24.03

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1948 = £22.29

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1949 = £19.71

                £1, 0s, 0d in 1950 = £19.65

(source Economic history Services at




          _____BRITISH NOTES__________________________________



10 Shilling note issued by ‘Bank of England’ (obverse)



10 Shilling note issued by ‘Bank of England’ (reverse)



1 Pound note issued by ‘Bank of England’ (obverse)



1 Pound note issued by ‘Bank of England’ (reverse)



1 Pound note issued by ‘Bank of England’ (obverse)



1 Pound note issued by ‘Bank of England’ (reverse)



5 Pound note issued by ‘Bank of England’ 1945 (obverse)



5 Pound note issued by ‘Bank of England’ 1945 (reverse)



100 Pound note issued by ‘Bank of England’ 1935 (obverse)



100 Pound note issued by ‘Bank of England’ 1935 (reverse)







French India

                24 chaches =        1 fanou                                  (= 2 Indian annas)

                                                8 fanous = 1 roupie            (= 1 Indian rupee)

                Notes in circulation :

                                Banque de l'Indochine: One Roupie, 10 Roupies, 50 Roupies.




10 Roupies Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' 1949 (obverse)



10 Roupies Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' 1949 (reverse)



50 Roupies Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' 1915 (obverse)



50 Roupies Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' 1915 (reverse)



1 Roupie Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' 1945 (obverse)



1 Roupie Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' 1945 (reverse)



5 Roupies Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' (obverse)



5 Roupies Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' (reverse)



50 Roupies Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' (obverse)



50 Roupies Note issued by 'Banque De l'Indochine' (reverse)



Portuguese India

                12 reis = 1 tanga                                 (= 1 Indian anna)

                                16 tanga = 1 rupia             (= 1 Indian rupee)

                Notes in circulation :

                                Issued by Banco Nacional Ultramarino



4 Tanga Note issued by 'Banco Nacional Ultramarino' since 1917 (obverse)



4 Tanga Note issued by 'Banco Nacional Ultramarino' since 1917 (reverse)



5 Rupia Note issued by 'Banco Nacional Ultramarino' 1940s (obverse)



5 Rupia Note issued by 'Banco Nacional Ultramarino' 1940s (reverse)



100 Rupia Note issued by 'Banco Nacional Ultramarino' 1945 (obverse)



100 Rupia Note issued by 'Banco Nacional Ultramarino' 1945 (reverse)



Princely States


                                3 pies = 1 pice

                                                4 pice = 1 anna

                                                                16 annas = 1 rupee Osmania Sicca (= 1 Indian rupee)

                Notes in circulation :

                                Rupee One, Rupees Five, Rs 10, Rupees 100 and Rupees One Thousand.



Five Rupee Osmania Sicca Note (Obverse) for the state of Hyderabad



Five Rupee Osmania Sicca Note (Reverse) for the state of Hyderabad



Ten Rupee Osmania Sicca Note (Obverse) for the state of Hyderabad



Ten Rupee Osmania Sicca (Reverse) for the state of Hyderabad



Cash Coupons (emergency money to relieve lack of coins) for the state of Sailana



Cash Coupons (emergency money to relieve lack of coins) for the state of Sayla



Cash Coupons (emergency money to relieve lack of coins) for the state of Junagadh



Cash Coupons (emergency money to relieve lack of coins) for the state of Mengni



Cash Coupons (emergency money to relieve lack of coins) for the state of Nawanagar



Cash Coupons (emergency money to relieve lack of coins) for the state of Bikaner



Cash Coupons (emergency money to relieve lack of coins) for the state of Bikaner



Cash Coupons (emergency money to relieve lack of coins) for the state of Bundi





                64 pke = 1 rupee (= 1 Indian rupee)



    as India

                3 pies = 1 pice

                                4 pice = 1 anna

                                                16 annas = 1 rupee

                                                                15 rupees = 1 mohur



    - 1942  as India (but own designs)

                3 pies = 1 pice

                                4 pice = 1 anna

                                                16 annas = 1 rupee

                                                                15 rupees = 1 mohur

    15 Oct 1942 – 1945 

                100 cent = 1 rupee

    1945-1953 as India

                3 pies = 1 pice

                                4 pice = 1 anna

                                                16 annas = 1 rupee

                                                                15 rupees = 1 mohur



5 Rupees issued by the Reserve Bank of India for Burma in 1938 (obverse)



10 Rupees issued by the Reserve Bank of India for Burma in 1938 (obverse)



collected by Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart, I.C.S. (Indian Civil Service), Calcutta, 1940s

(source: personal scrapbook kept by Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart O.B.E., I.C.S. seen on 20-Dec-2005 / Reproduced by courtesy of Mrs. Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart)



Ceylon & Maldives/Sri Lanka & Maldives

                100 cents = 1 rupee (= 1 Indian rupee)




Singapore & Malaya

                100 cents = 1 Straits or Malaya dollar

10 Straits-Dollar Note issued by the Japanese Occupation Authorities for Malaya





                100 satangs = 1 bhat


Dutch East-Indies/Indonesia


                as Netherlands   100 cents = 1 gulden


One Guilder note for Dutch India (now Indonesia)



50 Guilder note issued by the Javasche Bank in 1938



                100 seu = 1 rupiah


French Indochina/Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia


                100 cents= 1 piastre


                100 xu = 10 hao =1 dong

    1946 -

                100 cents = 1 dong


Hong Kong


                100 cents = 1 Hong Kong dollar

    1942-1945 as Japan

                10 rin = 1 sen

                                100 sen = 1 yen


                100 cents = 1 Hong Kong dollar



                100 avos = 1 pataca



                100 centavos = 1 peso



                6 2/3 trangka = 1 sang



                100 poul = 1 afgani (rupee)



                100 dinars = 1 rial

                                20 rials = 1 pahlavi


Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and the Trucial States

                3 pies = 1 pice

                                4 pice = 1 anna

                                                16 annas = 1 Persian Gulf Rupee (= 1 Indian rupee)



One Rupee issued by the Reserve Bank of India for the Gulf States in 1948 (obverse)



10 Rupees issued by the Reserve Bank of India for the Gulf States in 1948 (obverse)



100 Rupees issued by the Reserve Bank of India for the Gulf States in 1948 (obverse)







    as India

                3 pies = 1 pice

                                4 pice = 1 anna

                                                16 annas = 1 rupee

                                                                15 rupees = 1 mohur


Haj Pilgrims to Mecca

                3 pies = 1 pice

                                4 pice = 1 anna

                                                16 annas = 1 Haj Rupee(= 1 Indian rupee)



Special 10 Rupee note issued to Haj pilgrims to spend in Arabia



Special 100 Rupee note issued to Haj pilgrims to spend in Arabia



Saudi Arabia

                110 guerche = 10 riyal = 1 gold sovereign



                1000 fils = 1 dinar


10 Dinar Note from Iraq





                1000 milliemes =1 Palestine pound


                1000 fils = 1 Jordanian dinar



                100 centimes = 1 piastre



                1000 mills=1 Palestine pound

    1948- (Israel)

                1000 prutot= 1 Israeli pound

    1948- (Palestine)

                as Jordan



                100 piasters = 1 Egyptian pound


10 Egyptian Pounds note issued by the National Bank of Egypt in 1931




                40 bogaches = 1 imadi


Aden & British Somaliland

    as India

                3 pies = 1 pice

                                4 pice = 1 anna

                                                16 annas = 1 rupee

                                                                15 rupees = 1 mohur


Italian East-Africa/Ethiopia, Somalia, eritrea

-1952 as Italy

                100 centesimis = 1 lira



50 Lire Note for Italian East Africa



1946- (Ethiopia)

                100 cents = 1 Ethiopian dollar


10 Thaler note issued by the Bank of Ethiopia in 1933




British East-Africa & Mauritius

                100 cents = 1 shilling

                                20 shilling = 1 pound (=15 Indian rupees)


Mauritius & seychelles

                100 cents = 1 rupee (= 1 Indian rupee)


Portuguese East-Africa

                100  = 1 escudo


1 Escudo note issued by the ‘Companhia de Mocambique’ in 1937
South Africa

    as Britain

                4 farthing = 1 pence

                                12 pence = 1 shilling

                                                20 shillings =1 pound



West Africa

    as Britain

                4 farthing = 1 pence

                                12 pence = 1 shilling

                                                20 shillings =1 pound


20 Shilling note issued by the ‘West African Currency Board’ for the British colonies in West Africa 1937





    as Britain

                4 farthing = 1 pence

                                12 pence = 1 shilling

                                                20 shillings =1 pound

New Zealand

    as Britain

                4 farthing = 1 pence

                                12 pence = 1 shilling

                                                20 shillings =1 pound


One Pound note issued by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand in 1933




                100 mung = 1 tugrik


Tanu Tuva

                100 kopecks = 1 aksha



                100 cents = 1 dollar




                100 fen = 1 yuan



    -1946 as Japan

                                10 rin = 1 sen

                                                100 sen = 1 yen

    1946 -

                100 sen = 1 dollar




                19 rin = 1 cheun (=1 jap sen)

                                100 cheun = 1 weun (=1 jap yen)

    1946 -

                100 cheun = 1 weun



                10 rin = 1 sen

                                100 sen = 1 yen


1 Yen note for Japan 1938






                100 pfennig = 1 reichsmark


                100 pfennig = 1 mark (west/east)



                100 centimes = 1 franc



                100 centesimis = 1 lira



                100 centavos = 1 escudo



                100 cents = 1 gulden (florin)



                100 cents= 1dollar



20 Dollar Note (obverse)



20 Dollar Note (reverse)





The Rupee & the US Dollar

The table presents for each year the price for one U.S. Dollar in Rupees Rs.

                year        rate

                1939       Rs 3.00

                1940-47 Rs 3.32

                1948       Rs 3.31

                1949       Rs 3.61

                1950       Rs 4.79



Return to top











Lakh & Crore

                1 lakh =        100,000

                1 crore = 10,000,000




Jewelers’ weights

     8 rutties            = 1 masha                                                             = 15 troy grains.

                                12 mashas             = 1 tola                                = 180 troy grains


Light weights

       1 tola              (weight of one silver rupee)                              = 180 grains troy                =   11.66 grams

       5 tolas             = 1 chittak                                                            = 2  ounces            =   58.32 grams

     20 tolas            = 4 chittacks        = 1 pauwa                            = 8 ounces             =233.28 grams

     80 tolas            = 16 chittacks      = 4 pauwas           = 1 seer = 2.500 pounds troy

                                                                                                                = 2.057 pounds av.  =933.12 grams


Heavy weights

       5 seer              = 1 passerce (passeri)                                                                                        =  4.6656 kg

     35 seers            = 7 passerce                                                         =   72.00 pounds av.           = 32.6592 kg

     40 seers            = 8 passerces       = 1 maund                            = 100.00 pounds troy

                                                                                                                =  82.28 pounds av.            =37.32 kilograms



     1 seer (80 tolas)  = 0.937 liters



    1 maund            = 82.28 lb            = 37.32 kg

    1 seer                 = 2.057 lb             = 0.933 kg

                                                                1 kg        = 2.20462 lb        = 1.07 seer



    12 angulis (digits)   = 1 bighat (span)                                                        =   9 inches (in.)

    24 angulis                  = 2 bighat    =   1 hath (cubit), moolum                 = 18 inches           = 45.7 cm

    48 angulis                  = 4 bighat    =   2 hath              = 1 gaz, gudge     = 1 yard (yd.)       = 91.44 cm

                                                                = 80 haths            = 40 gaz                               = 1 rusi                  = 36.56 m

                                                                = 8000 haths        = 4000 gaz           = 100 rusi = 1 kros

                                                                                                                                =4000 yd. = 2.27 miles = 3.656 km



Land measures vary from state to state. These are the values for Bengal.

     1 ganda            = 1 square hath (cubit)                                                      =                             =  0.209 sq metre

    4 gandas           = 4 square hath                                                                   =   1 square yard = 0.836 sq. metre

    20 gandas         = 1 chattack (ch.)                                                                                =   5 square yard

    320 gandas       =16 chattacks      =1 cottah (cot.)                                    = 80 square yard

                                320 chattacks       =20 cottahs = 1 bigha (bi.)               = 1600 square yards (sq. yds.)

                                                                                                                                = 0.133778 hectar (ha.)

                                                                60 ½ cot.   =  3 bighas + 8 chhataks = 1 acre = 0.40468 ha

                                                                                    121 bighas                        = 40 acres

                                                                                  1936 bighas                      = 1 square mile (sq. mil.) = 2.59 ha






        Other Indian


Weights and measures vary

Weights and measures vary, not only from district to district, but also from one commodity to another, and even common names are found in varying forms. The principal units in all scales of weights and measures are maund, seer and tola. The Indian tola is the same weight as a 1 rupee coin (also, the standard weight for a good wedding bangle) and sometimes postal rates are quoted in tolas. The standard or Railway seer is. equal to 2.057 pounds and the standard or Railway maund is 40 seers or 82.28 pounds. Copper, brass and vegetables in the market are sometimes quoted by the seer which is officially slightly more than two pounds, but commonly taken as two pounds.


However, metric measures are official, and in New Delhi you will find them commonly used along with English measures. Road signs usually measure the distance in kilometers, .624 mile. You will buy your gasoline (petrol) by the liter, which is 1.056 U.S. liquid quarts or 0.878 English liquid quart. You will buy your cloth by the meter; one meter being 1.093 yards, or 3.281 feet, or 39.370 inches. English pecks, bushels, pounds and ounces are the same as American; not so pints, quarts and gallons.


Newcomers to India are addicted to thermometer watching (especially in the summer). The daily weather bulletins in the newspapers usually use Centigrade figures.




The Seer

SEER, s. Hind. ser; Skt. setak. One of the most generally spread Indian denominations of weight, though, like all Indian measures, varying widely in different parts of the country. And besides the variations of local ser and ser we often find in the same locality a pakka (pucka) and a kachchha (cutcha) ser; a state of things, however, which is human, and not Indian only (see under PUCKA). The ser is generally (at least in upper India) equivalent to 80 tolas or rupee-weights; but even this is far from universally true. The heaviest ser in the Useful Tables (see Thomas’s ed. of Prinsep) is that called “Coolpahar,” equivalent to 123 tolas, and weighing 3 lbs. 1 oz. 6¼ dr. avoird.; the lightest is the ser of Malabar and the S. Mahratta country, which is little more than 8 oz. [The Macleod ser of Malabar, introduced in 1802, is of 130 tolas; 10 of these weigh 33 lb. (Madras Man. ii. 516).]


Regulation VII. of the Govt. of India of 1833 is entitled “A Reg. for altering the weight of the Furruckabad Rupee (see RUPEE) and for assimilating it to the legal currency of the Madras and Bombay Presidencies; for adjusting the weight of the Company’s sicca Rupee, and for fixing a standard unit of weight for India.” This is the nearest thing to the establishment of standard weights that existed up to 1870. The preamble says: “It is further convenient to introduce the weight of the Furruckabad Rupee as the unit of a general system of weights for Government transactions throughout India.” And Section IV. contains the following:


“The Tola or Sicca weight to be equal to 180 grains troy, and the other denominations or weights to be derived from this unit, according to the following scale:—


8 Rutties = 1 Masha = 15 troy grains.


12 Mashas = 1 Tola = 180 ditto. 80 Tolas (or sicca weight) = 1 Seer = 2½ lbs. troy. 40 Seers = 1 Mun or Bazar Maund = 100 lbs. troy.”


Section VI. of the same Regulation says:


“The system of weights and measures (?) described in Section IV. is to be adopted at the mints and assay offices of Calcutta and Saugor respectively in the adjustment and verification of all weights for government or public purposes sent thither for examination.”



But this does not go far in establishing a standard unit of weight for India: though the weights detailed in § iv. became established for Government purposes in the Bengal Presidency. The seer of this Regulation was thus 14,400 grains troy—2½ lbs. troy, 2·057 lbs. avoirdupois.


In 1870, in the Government of Lord Mayo, a strong movement was made by able and influential men to introduce the metrical system, and an Act was passed called “The Indian Weights and Measures Act” (Act XI. of 1870) to pave the way for this. The preamble declares it expedient to provide for the ultimate adoption of an uniform system of weights and measures thoughout British India, and the Act prescribes certain standards, with powers to the Local Governments to declare the adoption of these.


Section II. runs:


“Standards.—The primary standard of weight shall be called ser, and shall be a weight of metal in the possession of the Government of India, which weight, when weighed in a vacuum, is equal to the weight known in France as the kilogramme des Archives.”



Again, Act XXXI. of 1872, called “The Indian Weights and Measures of Capacity Act,” repeats in substance the same preamble and prescription of standard weight. It is not clear to us what the separate object of this second Act was. But with the death of Lord Mayo the whole scheme fell to the ground. The ser of these Acts would be=2·2 lbs. avoirdupois, or 0·143 of a pound greater than the 80 tola ser. 1554.—“Porto Grande de Bemgala.—‘The maund (mão)

(Source “Hobbson Jobson”)


The Maund

MAUND, s. The authorised Anglo-Indian form of the name of a weight (Hind. man, Mahr. man), which, with varying values, has been current over Western Asia from time immemorial. Professor Sayce traces it (mana) back to the Accadian language.* But in any case it was the Babylonian name for 1f80 of a talent, whence it passed, with the Babylonian weights and measures, almost all over the ancient world. Compare the men or mna of Egyptian hieroglyphic inscriptions, preserved in the emna or amna of the Copts, the Hebrew maneh, the Greek MNA=, and the Roman mina. The introduction of the word into India may have occurred during the extensive commerce of the Arabs with that country during the 8th and 9th centuries; possibly at an earlier date. Through the Arabs also we find an old Spanish word almena, and in old French almene, for a weight of about 20 lbs. (Marcel Devic).

The quotations will show how the Portuguese converted man into mao, of which the English made maune,