Crustal and Lithospheric Variations along the Western Passive Continental Margin of the Indian Peninsula
Abstract - 95


2-D modeling
Spectral analysis
The western ghats

How to Cite

Prasad M, Dubey CP. Crustal and Lithospheric Variations along the Western Passive Continental Margin of the Indian Peninsula. Glob. J. Earth Sci. Eng. [Internet]. 2023 Dec. 14 [cited 2024 Feb. 22];10:1-13. Available from:


The western passive continental margin (WPCM) of the Indian Peninsula is one of the world's largest and most remarkable escarpments, signifying a boundary between oceanic and continental lithospheres. It traverses distinct lithological units, majorly the SGT, WDC, and DVP, each characterized by distinct geological structures, geochronological histories, and petro-physical properties. Despite numerous research efforts, the exact mechanisms governing the WPCM evolution and its developmental connections remain unclear due to limited data and significant uncertainties. In our study, we meticulously analyzed global and local models, focusing on the Western Ghats (WG), to examine crust and lithosphere thickness. Our analysis revealed significant uncertainties in crustal and lithospheric variations, with a maximum difference of 10.68% in crust thickness and 20.04% in lithospheric thickness across different major lithological formations in the WG. These differences can have a substantial impact on the geodynamic analysis of lithospheric structures and tectonic evolution. Additionally, we developed a 2-D lithospheric density model over the WG, crossing the major geological units, which delineates the crust and lithospheric structure between the eastern and western sides of the escarpment. Our results, in conjunction with geomorphological data, suggest that the WPCM’s thick lithosphere with elevated topography illustrates a continuous upwarp, supported by flexural compensation of uplifted terrain. The movement of the Indian plate, primarily in the N-S and NW-SE directions, subsequently modified the entire escarpment. This model offers insights into the evolution of the WPCM and potentially contributes to the formation of the NE-SW fault in the southern part of the South Indian Shield, with potential implications for the Palghat gap.


Yuan H, Romanowicz B. Introduction-lithospheric discontinuities, John Wiley & Sons; 2019, p. 1-3.

Kale VS. The western ghat: the great escarpment of India. In: Migon P, Ed., Geomorphological Landscapes of the World, Dordrecht: Springer; 2009, p. 257-64.

Weissel JK, Karner GD. Flexural uplift of rift flanks due to mechanical unloading of the lithosphere during extension. J Geophys Res Solid Earth. 1989; 94: 13919-50.

Radhakrishna BP. Neogene uplift and geomorphic rejuvenation of the Indian Peninsula. Curr Sci. 1993; 64: 787-93.

Matmon A, Bierman P, Enzel Y. Pattern and tempo of great escarpment erosion. Geology. 2002; 30: 1135-8.<1135:PATOGE>2.0.CO;2

Campbell IH, Griffiths RW. Implications of mantle plume structure for the evolution of flood basalts. Earth Planet Sci Lett. 1990; 99: 79-93.

Gunnell Y, Harbor D. Structural underprint and tectonic overprint in the Angavo (Madagascar) and Western Ghats (India) - Implications for understanding scarp evolution at passive margins. J Geol Soc India. 2008; 71: 763-79.

Devey CW, Lightfoot PC. Volcanological and tectonic control of stratigraphy and structure in the western Deccan traps. Bull Volcanol. 1986; 48: 195-207.

Tiwari VM, Vyaghreswara Rao MBS, Mishra DC. Density inhomogeneities beneath Deccan Volcanic Province, India as derived from gravity data. J Geodyn. 2001; 31: 1-17.

McKenzie D. Some remarks on the development of sedimentary basins. Earth Planet Sci Lett. 1978; 40: 25-32.

Gunnell Y, Fleitout L. Morphotectonic evolution of the western ghats, India. In: Summerfield MA, Ed., Geomorphology and Global Tectonics. Vol. 23, Wiley; 2000, p. 321-36.

Gunnell Y, Radhakrishna BP. The Great Escarpment of the Indian Subcontinent (Patterns of Landscape Development in the Western Ghats). Bangalore: Geological Society of India; 2001, p. 1053.

Widdowson M, Cox KG. Uplift and erosional history of the Deccan Traps, India: Evidence from laterites and drainage patterns of the Western Ghats and Konkan Coast. Earth Planet Sci Lett. 1996; 137: 57-69.

Cockburn HAP, Brown RW, Summerfield MA, Seidl MA. Quantifying passive margin denudation and landscape development using a combined fission-track thermochronology and cosmogenic isotope analysis approach. Earth Planet Sci Lett. 2000; 179: 429-35.

Brown R, Cockburn H, Kohn B, Belton D, Fink D, Gleadow A, et al. Combining low temperature apatite thermochronology and cosmogenic isotope analysis in quantitative landscape evolution studies. Geochim Cosmochim Acta. 2002; 66: A106.

van der Beek P, Summerfield MA, Braun J, Brown RW, Fleming A. Modeling postbreakup landscape development and denudational history across the southeast African (Drakensberg Escarpment) margin. Curr Sci. 2001; 107: 1-18.

Gunnell Y, Gallagher K, Carter A, Widdowson M, Hurford AJ. Denudation history of the continental margin of western peninsular India since the early Mesozoic – reconciling apatite fission-track data with geomorphology. Earth Planet Sci Lett. 2003; 215: 187-201.

Persano C, Stuart FM, Bishop P, Dempster TJ. Deciphering continental breakup in eastern Australia using low‐temperature thermochronometers. J Geophys Res Solid Earth. 2005; 110: 1-17.

Gilchrist AR, Summerfield MA. Differential denudation and flexural isostasy in formation of rifted-margin upwarps. Nature. 1990; 346: 739-42.

Gilchrist AR, Summerfield MA. Tectonic models of passive margin evolution and their implications for theories of long-term landscape development. In: Kirkby MJ, Ed., Process Models and Theoretical Geomorphology. Chichester: 1994, p. 55-84.

Valdiya KS. Tectonic resurgence of the Mysore plateau and surrounding regions in cratonic Southern India. Curr Sci. 2001; 81: 1068–89.

Gunnell Y. Dynamics and kinematics of rifting and uplift at the western continental margin of India, Insights from geophysics and numerical models. Sahyadri, the great escarpment of the Indian subcontinent. Geol Soc India Mem. 2001; 47: 475–96

Mandal B, Vijaya Rao V, Karuppannan P, Laxminarayana K. Mechanism for epeirogenic uplift of the archean Dharwar craton, southern India as evidenced by orthogonal seismic reflection profiles. Sci Rep. 2021; 11: Article number: 1499.

Radhakrishna T, Mohamed AR, Venkateshwarlu M, Soumya GS, Prachiti PK. Mechanism of rift flank uplift and escarpment formation evidenced by Western Ghats, India. Sci Rep. 2019; 9: Article number: 10511.

Dubey CP, Tiwari VM. Gravity anomalies and crustal thickness variations over the western ghats. J Geol Soc India. 2018; 92: 517-22.

Gupta S, Kanna N, Kumar S, Sivaram K. Crustal thickness and composition variation along the western ghats of India through teleseismic receiver function analysis. J Geol Soc India. 2018; 92: 523-8.

Sinha-Roy S. A hybrid multistage model of evolution of the Western Ghats at the passive western continental margin of India. J Geol Soc India. 2018; 92: 533–41.

Sribin C, Padma Rao B, Ravi Kumar M, Tomson JK. Mantle deformation beneath the Western Ghats, India: Insights from core-refracted shear wave splitting analysis. J Asian Earth Sci. 2021; 218: 104848.

B PR, M RK. Evolution of the Western Ghats: Constraints from receiver function imaging and harmonic decomposition. Tectonophysics. 2022; 838: 229472.

Moore A, Blenkinsop T, Cotterill F. Southern African topography and erosion history: plumes or plate tectonics? Terra Nova. 2009; 21: 310–5.

Osmundsen PT, Redfield TF. Crustal taper and topography at passive continental margins. Terra Nova. 2011; 23: 349-61.

Singh AP, Kumar N, Prabhakar Rao MRK, Singh B. Crustal configuration beneath the Palghat gap (South India) and mantle-crust connections. In: Satake K, Ed. Advances in Geosciences. Singapore: World Scientific; 2011, p. 117-29. (Solid Earth; Vol. 26).

Besse J, Courtillot V. Revised and synthetic apparent polar wander paths of the African, Eurasian, North American and Indian plates, and true polar wander since 200 Ma. J Geophys Res Solid Earth. 1991; 96: 4029-50.

Storey BC. The role of mantle plumes in continental breakup: case histories from Gondwanaland. Nature. 1995; 377: 301-8.

Veevers JJ. Gondwanaland from 650–500 Ma assembly through 320 Ma merger in Pangea to 185–100 Ma breakup: supercontinental tectonics via stratigraphy and radiometric dating. Earth Sci Rev. 2004; 68: 1-132.

Caxito F de A, Alkmim FF. The role of V-shaped oceans and ribbon continents in the brasiliano/panAfrican assembly of western Gondwana. Sci Rep. 2023; 13: Article number: 1568.

Richetti PC, Schmitt RS, Reeves C. Dividing the South American continent to fit a Gondwana reconstruction: A model based on continental geology. Tectonophysics. 2018; (747-748): 79-98.

Raval U, Veeraswamy K. India-Madagascar separation: breakup along a pre-existing mobile belt and chipping of the craton. Gondwana Res. 2003; 6: 467-85.

Reeves C. The position of Madagascar within Gondwana and its movements during Gondwana dispersal. J Afr Earth Sci. 2014; 94: 45–57.

White R, McKenzie D. Magmatism at rift zones: The generation of volcanic continental margins and flood basalts. J Geophys Res Solid Earth. 1989; 94: 7685-729.

Behera L, Sen MK. Tomographic imaging of sub-basalt mesozoic sediments and shallow basement geometry for hydrocarbon potential below the Deccan Volcanic Province (DVP) of India. Geophys J Int. 2014; 199: 296-314.

Beckinsale RD, Drury SA, Holt RW. 3,360-Myr old gneisses from the south Indian craton. Nature. 1980; 283: 469-70.

Talukdar M, Sarkar T, Sengupta P, Mukhopadhyay D. The Southern Granulite Terrane, India: The saga of over 2 billion years of Earth’s history. Earth Sci Rev. 2022; 232: 104157.

Tewari HC, Kumar P. Lithospheric framework of the Indian sub-continent through Seismic and Seismological Studies. Episodes. 2020; 43: 622-37.

Radhakrishna M, Kurian PJ, Nambiar CG, Murty BVS. Nature of the crust below the Southern Granulite Terrain (SGT) of Peninsular India across the Bavali shear zone based on analysis of gravity data. Precambrian Res. 2003; 124: 21-40.

Sunil PS, Radhakrishna M, Kurian PJ, Murty BVS, Subrahmanyam C, Nambiar CG, et al. Crustal structure of the western part of the Southern Granulite Terrain of Indian Peninsular Shield derived from gravity data. J Asian Earth Sci. 2010; 39: 551-64.

Lasitha S, Twinkle D, John Kurian P, Harikrishnan PR. Geophysical evidence for marine prolongation of the palghat-cauvery shear system into the offshore cauvery basin, eastern continental margin of India. J Asian Earth Sci. 2019; 184: 103981.

Prasad M, Dubey CP, Joshi KB, Tiwari VM. Crustal density and susceptibility structure beneath Achankovil shear zone, India. Lithosphere. 2021; 2021: 6017801.

Prasad M, Dubey CP. Tectonic and structural elements of Southern Granulite Terrane, South India: Inferences from gravity and magnetic studies. J Asian Earth Sci. 2023; 256: 105823.

Rai SS, Ramesh DS. Seismic imaging of the Indian continental lithosphere. Proc India Sci Acad. 2012; 78: 353-9.

Rai S, Borah K, Das R, Gupta S, Srivastava S, Prakasam KS, et al. The South India Precambrian crust and shallow lithospheric mantle: Initial results from the India Deep Earth Imaging Experiment (INDEX). J Earth System Sci. 2013; 122: 1435–53.

Borah K, Rai SS, Gupta S, Prakasam KS, Kumar S, Sivaram K. Preserved and modified mid-archean crustal blocks in dharwar craton: Seismological evidence. Precambrian Res. 2014; 246: 16-34.

Suresh G, Bhattacharya SN, Teotia SS. Crust and upper mantle velocity structure of the northwestern indian peninsular shield from inter-station phase velocities of Rayleigh and Love waves. Ann Geophys. 2015; 58: S0215.

Das R, Saikia U, Rai SS. The deep geology of south india inferred from moho depth and Vp/Vs ratio. Geophys J Int. 2015; 203: 910–26.

Das R, Rai SS. Redefining dharwar craton-southern granulite terrain boundary in south India from new seismological constraints. Precambrian Res. 2019; 332: 105394.

Gupta S, Rai SS, Prakasam KS, Srinagesh D, Bansal BK, Chadha RK, et al. The nature of the crust in southern India: Implications for precambrian crustal evolution. Geophys Res Lett. 2003; 30: 1419.

Sarkar RK, Saha DK. A note on the lithosphere thickness and heat flow density of the Indian Craton from MAGSAT data. Acta Geophysica. 2006; 54: 198-204.

Mitra S, Priestley K, Gaur V, Rai S. Shear-wave structure of the south Indian lithosphere from rayleigh wave phase-velocity measurement. Bull Seismol Soc Am. 2006; 96: 1551-9.

Kumar P, Yuan X, Kumar MR, Kind R, Li X, Chadha RK. The rapid drift of the Indian tectonic plate. Nature. 2007; 449: 894-7.

Kumar P, Kumar RM, Srijayanthi G, Arora K, Srinagesh D, Chadha RK, et al. Imaging the lithosphere‐asthenosphere boundary of the Indian plate using converted wave techniques. J Geophys Res Solid Earth. 2013; 118: 5307-19.

Maurya S, Montagner JP, Kumar MR, Stutzmann E, Kiselev S, Burgos G, et al. Imaging the lithospheric structure beneath the Indian continent. J Geophys Res Solid Earth. 2016; 121: 7450-68.

Kusham, Pratap A, Pradeep Naick B, Naganjaneyulu K. Lithospheric architecture in the Archaean Dharwar craton, India: A magnetotelluric model. J Asian Earth Sci. 2018; 163: 43-53.

Saha GK, Prakasam KS, Rai SS. Diversity in the peninsular Indian lithosphere revealed from ambient noise and earthquake tomography. Phys Earth Planet Inter. 2020; 306: 106523.

Mullick N, Rai SS, Saha G. Lithospheric structure of the South India Precambrian terrains from surface wave tomography. J Geophys Res Solid Earth. 2022; 127: e2022JB024244.

Becker JJ, Sandwell DT, Smith WHF, Braud J, Binder B, Depner J, et al. Global bathymetry and elevation data at 30 arc seconds resolution: SRTM30_PLUS. Marine Geodesy. 2009; 32: 355-71.

Pavlis NK, Holmes SA, Kenyon SC, Factor JK. The development and evaluation of the Earth Gravitational Model 2008 (EGM2008). J Geophys Res Solid Earth. 2012; 117: B04406.

Spector A, Grant FS. Statistical models for interpreting aeromagnetic data. Geophysics. 1970; 35: 293-302.

Kumar N, Zeyen H, Singh AP, Singh B. Lithospheric structure of southern Indian shield and adjoining oceans: integrated modelling of topography, gravity, geoid and heat flow data. Geophys J Int. 2013; 194: 30-44.

Afonso JC, Salajegheh F, Szwillus W, Ebbing J, Gaina C. A global reference model of the lithosphere and upper mantle from joint inversion and analysis of multiple data sets. Geophys J Int. 2019; 217: 1602-28.

Vasanthi A, Santosh M. Lithospheric architecture and geodynamics of the Archean Dharwar craton and surrounding terranes: New insights from satellite gravity investigation. Gondwana Res. 2021; 95: 14-28.

Kumar N, Singh AP, Tiwari VM. Gravity anomalies, isostasy and density structure of the Indian continental lithosphere. Episodes. 2020; 43: 609-21.

Talwani M, Worzel JL, Landisman M. Rapid gravity computations for two-dimensional bodies with application to the Mendocino submarine fracture zone. J Geophys Res. 1959; 64: 49-59.

Talwani M, Heirtzler J, Parks G. Computation of magnetic anomalies caused by two dimensional bodies of arbitrary shape. In: Parks GA, Ed. Computers in the Mineral Industries, Part 1. 1964; CA: Stanford University Press; pp. 464-80. (Geological Sciences; Vol. 9).

Purushotham AK. Geophysical constraints on structure and tectonics of the eastern arabian sea and the adjoining west coast of india with special reference to the kerala basin (Doctoral dissertation). School of Marine Sciences; 2002.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Copyright (c) 2023 Muthyala Prasad, Chandra P. Dubey