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I noticed that South Asians often write 10,00,000 instead of 1,000,000. My questions are:

  1. What is the origin of this special numbering system? Was there a more practical reason for having a special numbering system for South Asia?
  2. Why hasn't modern South Asia reformed this redundancy, just using "millions" everywhere? Most other aspects of numbers seem to be completely coherent. There is no special numbering system for Spanish-speaking countries. Nor, there is a special numbering system for the People's Republic of China, Korea and Japan.

A good example is the the game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" became "Kaun Banega Crorepati" in India.

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    $\begingroup$ "Nor, there is a special numbering system for China and Japan." While thousand separators have been more widely used recently due to the development of financial and computing industries, China certainly have its own traditional numbering system (10000 based) that is still widely used and in terms of language it is the only valid grammatical one. $\endgroup$
    – xngtng
    Jan 21, 2022 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, there is some conflict between use of "billion" and related words in US, UK, versus France, etc. Same words, but off by a factor of 1000. $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2022 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ I was surprised to see that Myanmar also uses the word 'lakh' to donate 100,000 like South Asians. Not sure if they actually used this term historically or introduced by British-India. $\endgroup$
    – smarisetti
    Feb 12, 2023 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the answer is the same as: "Why does the US use miles and pounds, unlike the rest of the world?" $\endgroup$ Apr 2 at 15:44

2 Answers 2

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What is the origin of this special numbering system? Was there a more practical reason for having a special numbering system for South Asia?

The use of the terms "lakhs" and "crores" in South Asia (or the Indian subcontinent more precisely) finds its origin from the Vedic age (c. 1500 – c. 500 BCE) - the terms are derived from Sanskrit words लक्ष (laksha) and कोटि (koti) respectively. (If you are comfortable reading Hindi you may check out Yuddha Kand of Ramayana where the use of कोटि for crore can be found.) There is no particular reason for adopting this system, it's just a matter of convention.

Why hasn't modern South Asia reformed this redundancy, just using "millions" everywhere? Most other aspects of numbers seem to be completely coherent. There is no special numbering system for Spanish-speaking countries. Nor, there is a special numbering system for the People's Republic of China, Korea and Japan.

Modern Indian Subcontinent has not "reformed this redundancy" because there is no redundancy. People have always used lakhs and crores and continue to do so. However, having said so, Sri Lanka has switched to the English numbering system in recent years.

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    $\begingroup$ Please add a solid reference that supports the idea that these terms are from the Vedic age. $\endgroup$
    – AChem
    Jan 23, 2022 at 16:24
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    $\begingroup$ @M.Farooq I have added the reference to Yuddha Kand of Ramayana. I had not added it initially as I thought most people may find it hard to read because of language barriers. $\endgroup$ Jan 23, 2022 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ @M.Farooq the language is actually Sanskrit. Since, Sanskrit is obsolete now and Hindi is a descendant to Sanskrit, a person who has learnt Hindi can somewhat comprehend the text. I haven't learnt Nepali but am sure it is similar to Hindi - after all, all these languages are based on Devanagri script. $\endgroup$ Jan 23, 2022 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ How did koṭi become crore? Where did the first /r/ come from? $\endgroup$ Jan 23, 2022 at 23:39
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Please be specific- It is the Indian sub-continent that uses this system and not all of South Asia. Civilisations in the Indian sub-continent dated back to at least 3000 BCE. Of course there was a system for numbers and measures. And this system is native to this land. So how is this a redundancy? Not everything has to be European-Christian. Will you say the same thing if the Greeks used a different numbering system or standard for measure? Being curious about the etymology is different from ridiculing a whole system without attributing it to a culture/civilisation.

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    $\begingroup$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Apr 2 at 14:05
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    $\begingroup$ The question asks about the historical origins of the lakh/crore system which your answer does not really address. $\endgroup$
    – mdewey
    Apr 3 at 12:21

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