Coal dominates energy production of modern India, shaping the economic and political milieu of the country and dictating its energy future. But invisible to the state's view of coal running the nation, are roles played by this commodity in the livelihoods of millions of poor who live on the coal tracts of the country. In this paper, I argue that there are four coal economies - with yet another one lurking within or following behind as a shadow - in India. Each of these economies has different meanings of coal to those who are involved in the economy, producing the'diverse worlds' of coal. To substantiate my argument, I critically analyse official and field-based primary data within a'diverse economies framework' to present the intricate interlinkages among these worlds. I show that the multiple coal worlds are neither tiered in a hierarchical manner, nor'parallel' in the sense of dualism implied in a simplified formal-informal dichotomy. Rather, these worlds of coal have different actors, and their domains are ruled by different norms and values about the qualities of coal as a material commodity; yet they overlap and intersect with each other through their complex labour regimes.