Tola (unit)

Last updated
Silver rupee coins, issued by the British East India Company, were a practical standard for the tola. Silver Rupee Madras Presidency.JPG
Silver rupee coins, issued by the British East India Company, were a practical standard for the tola.
400 tolas Tola.JPG
400 tolas

The tola (Hindi : तोला; Urdu : تولاtolā) also transliterated as tolah or tole, is a traditional Ancient Indian and South Asian unit of mass, now standardised as 180  grains (11.6638038  grams ) or exactly ⅜  troy ounce. It was the base unit of mass in the British Indian system of weights and measures introduced in 1833, although it had been in use for much longer. [1] It was also used in Aden and Zanzibar: in the latter, one tola was equivalent to 175.90 troy grains (0.97722222 British tolas, or 11.33980925 grams). [2]


The tola is a Vedic measure, with the name derived from the Sanskrit tol (तोलः root तुल्) meaning "weighing" or "weight". [3] One tola was traditionally the weight of 100 ratti (ruttee) seeds, [4] and its exact weight varied according to locality. However, it is also a convenient mass for a coin: several pre-colonial coins, including the currency of Akbar the Great (1556–1605), had a mass of "one tola" within slight variation. [1] [5] The very first rupee (Urdu : رپيا; rupayā), minted by Sher Shah Suri (1540–45), had a mass of 178 troy grains, or about 1% less than the British tola. [6] The British East India Company issued a silver rupee coin of 180 troy grains, and this became the practical standard mass for the tola well into the 20th century. [7]

A set of tolas 20180507 12471p.jpg
A set of tolas

The British tola of 180 troy grains (from 1833) can be seen as more of a standardisation than a redefinition: the previous standard in the Bengal Presidency, the system of "sicca weights", was the mass of one Murshidabad rupee, 179.666 troy grains. [1] For the larger weights used in commerce (in the Bengal Presidency), the variation in the pre-1833 standards was found to be greater than the adjustment. [1]

The tola formed the base for units of mass under the British Indian system, and was also the standard measure of gold and silver bullion. [1] Although the tola has been officially replaced by metric units since 1956, [8] it is still in current use, and is a popular denomination for gold bullion bars in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Singapore, with a ten tola bar being the most commonly traded. [9] In Nepal, minting of tola size gold coins continue up to the present, even though the currency of Nepal is called rupee and has no official connection to the tola. It is also used in most gold markets (bazars/souks) in the United Arab Emirates and in all the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) countries.

Tola is still used as a measure of charas (Indian hashish). [10] On the black market, however, one tola equals a mass of ~10g and not the actual mass of one tola.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carat (mass)</span> Unit of mass

The carat (ct) is a unit of mass equal to 200 mg, which is used for measuring gemstones and pearls. The current definition, sometimes known as the metric carat, was adopted in 1907 at the Fourth General Conference on Weights and Measures, and soon afterwards in many countries around the world. The carat is divisible into 100 points of 2 mg. Other subdivisions, and slightly different mass values, have been used in the past in different locations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pound (mass)</span> Unit of mass

The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass used in both the British imperial and United States customary systems of measurement. Various definitions have been used; the most common today is the international avoirdupois pound, which is legally defined as exactly 0.45359237 kilograms, and which is divided into 16 avoirdupois ounces. The international standard symbol for the avoirdupois pound is lb; an alternative symbol is lbm, #, and or ″̶.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Troy weight</span> System of units of mass

Troy weight is a system of units of mass that originated in 15th-century England and is primarily used in the precious metals industry. The troy weight units are the grain, the pennyweight, the troy ounce, and the troy pound. The troy grain is equal to the grain unit of the avoirdupois system, but the troy ounce is heavier than the avoirdupois ounce, and the troy pound is lighter than the avoirdupois pound. One troy ounce equals exactly 31.1034768 grams.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grain (unit)</span> Unit of mass

A grain is a unit of measurement of mass, and in the troy weight, avoirdupois, and apothecaries' systems, equal to exactly 64.79891 milligrams. It is nominally based upon the mass of a single ideal seed of a cereal. From the Bronze Age into the Renaissance, the average masses of wheat and barley grains were part of the legal definitions of units of mass. Expressions such as "thirty-two grains of wheat, taken from the middle of the ear" appear to have been ritualistic formulas, essentially the premodern equivalent of legal boilerplate. Another source states that it was defined such that 252.458 units would balance 1 cubic inch (16 cm3) of distilled water at an ambient air-water pressure and temperature of 30 inches of mercury (100 kPa) and 62 °F (17 °C) respectively. Another book states that Captain Henry Kater, of the British Standards Commission, arrived at this value experimentally.

The ounce is any of several different units of mass, weight, or volume and is derived almost unchanged from the uncia, an Ancient Roman unit of measurement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rupee</span> Common name for several currencies

Rupee is the common name for the currencies of India, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka, and of former currencies of Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, British East Africa, Burma, German East Africa, and Tibet. In Indonesia and the Maldives, the unit of currency is known as rupiah and rufiyaa respectively, cognates of the word rupee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Avoirdupois</span> System of weights based on a pound of 16 ounces

Avoirdupois is a measurement system of weights that uses pounds and ounces as units. It was first commonly used in the 13th century AD and was updated in 1959.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pennyweight</span> Unit of mass

A pennyweight (dwt) is a unit of mass equal to 24 grains, 120 of a troy ounce, 1240 of a troy pound, approximately 0.054857 avoirdupois ounce and exactly 1.55517384 grams. It is abbreviated dwt, d standing for denarius –, and later used as the symbol of an old British penny.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indian rupee</span> Official currency of India

The Indian rupee is the official currency in India. The rupee is subdivided into 100 paise. The issuance of the currency is controlled by the Reserve Bank of India. The Reserve Bank manages currency in India and derives its role in currency management on the basis of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Apothecaries' system</span> Historical system of mass and volume units used by physicians and apothecaries

The apothecaries' system, or apothecaries' weights and measures, is a historical system of mass and volume units that were used by physicians and apothecaries for medical prescriptions and also sometimes by scientists. The English version of the system is closely related to the English troy system of weights, the pound and grain being exactly the same in both. It divides a pound into 12 ounces, an ounce into 8 drachms, and a drachm into 3 scruples of 20 grains each. This exact form of the system was used in the United Kingdom; in some of its former colonies, it survived well into the 20th century. The apothecaries' system of measures is a similar system of volume units based on the fluid ounce. For a long time, medical recipes were written in Latin, often using special symbols to denote weights and measures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mohur</span> Indian gold coin

The Mohur is a gold coin that was formerly minted by several governments, including British India and some of the princely states which existed alongside it, the Mughal Empire, Maratha Empire, Kingdom of Nepal, and Persia. It was usually equivalent in value to fifteen silver rupees. It was last minted in British India in 1918, but some princely states continued to issue the coins until their accession to India after 1947. Similar coins were also issued by the British authorities in denominations of 23 mohur, 13 mohur and the double mohur, and some of the princely states issued half-mohur coins.

The fineness of a precious metal object represents the weight of fine metal therein, in proportion to the total weight which includes alloying base metals and any impurities. Alloy metals are added to increase hardness and durability of coins and jewelry, alter colors, decrease the cost per weight, or avoid the cost of high-purity refinement. For example, copper is added to the precious metal silver to make a more durable alloy for use in coins, housewares and jewelry. Coin silver, which was used for making silver coins in the past, contains 90% silver and 10% copper, by mass. Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver and 7.5% of other metals, usually copper, by mass.

English units are the units of measurement used in England up to 1826, which evolved as a combination of the Anglo-Saxon and Roman systems of units. Various standards have applied to English units at different times, in different places, and for different applications.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gold bar</span> Quantity of refined metallic gold

A gold bar, also called gold bullion or gold ingot, is a quantity of refined metallic gold of any shape that is made by a bar producer meeting standard conditions of manufacture, labeling, and record keeping. Larger gold bars that are produced by pouring the molten metal into molds are called ingots. Smaller bars may be manufactured by minting or stamping from appropriately rolled gold sheets. The standard gold bar held as gold reserves by central banks and traded among bullion dealers is the 400-troy-ounce Good Delivery gold bar. The kilobar, which is 1,000 grams in mass, and a 100 troy ounce gold bar are the bars that are more manageable and are used extensively for trading and investment. The premium on these bars when traded is very low over the spot value of the gold, making it ideal for small transfers between banks and traders. Most kilobars are flat, although some investors, particularly in Europe, prefer the brick shape.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silver coin</span> Form of coinage

Silver coins are considered the oldest mass-produced form of coinage. Silver has been used as a coinage metal since the times of the Greeks; their silver drachmas were popular trade coins. The ancient Persians used silver coins between 612–330 BC. Before 1797, British pennies were made of silver.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maund</span>

The maund, mun or mann is the anglicized name for a traditional unit of mass used in British India, and also in Afghanistan, Persia, and Arabia: the same unit in the Mughal Empire was sometimes written as mann or mun in English, while the equivalent unit in the Ottoman Empire and Central Asia was called the batman. At different times, and in different South Asian localities, the mass of the maund has varied, from as low as 25 pounds (11 kg) to as high as 160 pounds (72 kg): even greater variation is seen in Persia and Arabia.

Before the introduction of the Metric system, one may divide the history of Indian systems of measurement into three main periods: the pre-Akbar's period, the period of the Akbar system, and the British colonial period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Candy (unit)</span>

The candy or candee, also known as the maunee, was a traditional South Asian unit of mass, equal to 20 maunds and roughly equivalent to 500 pounds avoirdupois (227 kilograms). It was most used in southern India, to the south of Akbar's empire, but has been recorded elsewhere in South Asia. In Marathi, the same word was also used for a unit of area of 120 bighas, and it is also recorded as a unit of dry volume.

The earliest coin minted in today's territory of Nepal was in Shakya Mahajanapada, along the India–Nepal border at around 500 BCE. Shakya coins were an example of a coin invented in the Indian subcontinent which continued to be used in Nepal alongside India for over 1500 years.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Prinsep, James (1840), Useful tables, forming an appendix to the Journal of the Asiatic Society: part the first, Coins, weights, and measures of British India (2nd ed.), Calcutta: Bishop's College Press, pp. 65–74, 79–90.
  2. tola, Sizes, Inc.
  3. Platts, John T. (1884), A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English, London: W. H. Allen & Co., p. 344, archived from the original on 2012-05-27.
  4. Martin, Robert Montgomery. Statistics of the colonies of the British empire, London: W.H. Allen and Co., 1839, p. 143.
  5. Prinsep (1840), pp. 45–53.
  6. Mughal Coinage, RBI Monetary Museum, archived from the original on 2008-05-16, retrieved 2008-05-04.
  7. Silberrad, C. A. (1922), "New Weights and Measures for India", Nature , 110 (2770): 735, Bibcode:1922Natur.110Q.735S, doi: 10.1038/110735a0 , S2CID   4136423
  8. Standards of Weights and Measures Act, 1956 (No. 89 of 1956) Archived 2009-09-28 at the Wayback Machine .
  9. Green, Timothy (1970). The world of gold. Simon and Schuster. pp. 103, 179.
  10. David Hooper, F.C.S., F.L.S. (September 19, 1908). "Charas of Indian Hemp". Pharmaceutical Journal: A Weekly Record of Pharmacy and Allied Sciences. J. Churchill: 347.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)