“Greater India” is an 80-yr-old concept that has been used by geoscientists in plate tectonic models of the India–Asia collision system. Numerous authors working on the orogen and/or plate models of the broader region have added various sized chunks of continental lithosphere to the now northern edge of their reconstructed Indian plate. Prior to plate tectonic theory, Emile Argand (1924) [Argand, E., 1924. La tectonique de l' Asie. Proc. 13th Int. Geol. Cong. 7 (1924), 171–372.] and Arthur Holmes (1965) [Holmes, A., 1965. Principles of Physical Geology, Second Edition. The Ronald Press Company, New York, 1128.] thought that the Himalayan Mountains and Tibetan Plateau had been raised due to the northern edge of the Indian craton under-thrusting the entire region.
Since the advent of plate tectonic theory, Greater India proposals have been based principally on three lines of logic. One group of workers has added various amounts of continental lithosphere to India as part of their Mesozoic Gondwana models. A second form of reconstruction is based on Himalayan crustal-shortening estimates. A third body of researchers has used India continent extensions as means of allowing initial contact between the block and the Eurasian backstop plate in southern Tibet to take place at various times between the Late Cretaceous and late Eocene in what we call “fill-the-gap” solutions. The Indian craton and the southern edge of Eurasia were almost invariably some distance from one another when the collision was supposed to have started; extensions to the sub-continent were used to circumvent the problem. Occasionally, Greater India extensions have been based on a combination of fill-the-gap and shortening estimate arguments.
In this paper, we exhume and re-examine the key Greater India proposals. From our analysis, it is clear that many proponents have ignored key information regarding the sub-continent's pre break-up position within Gondwana and the bathymetry of the Indian Ocean west of Australia, in particular the Wallaby–Zenith Plateau Ridge and the Wallaby–Zenith Fracture Zone. We suggest that the Indian continent probably extended no more than 950 km in the central portion of the Main Boundary Thrust, up to the Wallaby–Zenith Fracture Zone. At the Western Syntaxis, the extension was about 600 km. These estimates are broadly compatible with some of the geophysically-derived models depicting subducted Indian lithosphere beneath Tibet, as well as estimates of Himalayan shortening. Models requiring sub-continent extensions > 9° ahead of the craton are probably wrong. We also suggest that northern India did not have a thinned rifted passive margin due to the earlier rifting of blocks away from it when it formed part of Gondwana. Instead, the boundary developed as a transform fault and probably had a very narrow ocean–continent transition zone (5–10 km wide), similar to the Romanche Fracture Zone offshore of Ghana, West Africa.