Hidden in the Himalayas History & Culture

Aftermath of the Great Collision

Fossils, worshipped as Salagramam   | Photo Credit: J. RAMANAN

Have you ever wondered how and why the Himalayan range is found to exist where it is? It is an interesting tale that unravels the mystery of creation of this range in its present form, the rising of the Oceans, the breaking up and realignment of the continents.

Pangaea meaning all land was made up of Gondwana in the South and Laurasia in the North. Laurasia that comprised North America, Europe and Asia broke away from Pangaea many million years ago and the remaining area that are known today as Australia, India, South America, Africa and Antartica became Gondwana.

A hundred and fifty million years ago, India, which was 10,000 km from the present position broke away from Gondwana land in the Antartica and moved towards the North during the Continental Drift. It took over 100 million years for the peninsular region to join the rest of the Asian mainland.

Plate tectonic

When the collision took place due to the plate tectonic movements, converging crusts of Eurasia and India rose, because of their densities, forming big mountains and took along fragments of oceanic sediments from the Tethys Sea that separated the two landmasses to the highest peaks. Thus, the fold mountains with the sedimentary rocks of the Karakoram and the Himalayan ranges and the high Plateau of Tibet were formed. These rocks suggest that they were on a seabed long ago and contribute to the preservation of a geological history that is many million years old.

The sediments subjected to weathering and erosion were deposited by ice, wind, water and the movement of glaciers to form sedimentary rocks that constitute 70 per cent of the earth’s total surface.

These stratified rocks contain fossils embedded in them. Shells, pebbles and marine fossils are found in the limestone beds of the tallest and youngest mountain ranges of the Himalaya, a geological evidence that proves that the Himalayas rose from the Tethys Sea.

Especially in Nepal, Ammonites (sea animals having shells) are found in large numbers in the Kali Gandaki River. These, when opened, reveal the presence of typically ribbed spiral forms — creatures that must have lived in the seas 240-265 million years ago.

To a devout Hindu, the ammonite is worshipped as a Salagram or one of the many forms of Lord Vishnu. The sea creatures must have been buried in the limestone layers causing the creation of these interesting fossils.

Besides these marine fossils, there are fossilised wood and plants that help in calculating the actual timing of the collision and the formation of the Himalayas.

The writers are ace photographers known for their travelogues

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 6:49:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/aftermath-of-the-great-collision/article19882356.ece

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