Modes of Formation, Palaeogene to Early Quaternary Palaeogenesis and Geochronology of Laterites in Rajmahal Basalt Traps and Rarh Bengal of Lower Ganga Basin

  • Sandipan GhoshEmail author
  • Sanat Kumar Guchhait
Part of the Geography of the Physical Environment book series (GEOPHY)


The present research work deals with the geomorphic evolution of in situ (primary) and ex situ (secondary) types of laterites (in West Bengal, eastern part of India) which are found as distinct badland terrain and litho-stratigraphic unit, developed in between the eastern fringe of Chotanagpur Plateau (Rajmahal Basalt Traps, Gondwana sedimentary and Archaean rocks) and the western fringe of Bengal Basin (Rarh Bengal). These laterites are analyzed here to address perennial unanswered questions about their genesis. What are the different modes of lateritization to classify laterites? What types of climates produce laterites? When and where were the particular palaeoclimates that formed laterites? What can laterites tell us about palaeoenvironment, palaeogeomorphology and other global events of the past? The field studies, detailed profile analysis of lithofacies, geochemical analysis, characterization of various ferricretes, fossil records and OSL dating have emphasized on the primary and secondary origin of laterites in West Bengal. The primary laterites (Palaeogene to Neogene) are genetically related to parent rocks, viz., Rajmahal basalt and Gondwana sandstones, but the secondary laterites are re-cemented ferruginous materials of fluvial fan-deltaic depositions which are related to Early to Late Quaternary tectono-climatic evolution of north-western Bengal Basin. Here the geochronology of few secondary laterite profiles is determined by OSL dating method in three sample sites, representing Late Quaternary palaeogenesis of laterites and ferruginized sediments (150–35 ka), i.e. Late Pleistocene. The analysis of in situ and ex situ laterites signifies drifting of Indian plate through ideal tropics from Palaeogene to Early–Late Quaternary and widespread occurrence of basal chemical weathering under strong, optimum and seasonal tropical wet–dry climate than prevail today in this part of West Bengal. The litho-stratigraphic ferruginous unit of Rarh Bengal (formerly the palaeovalleys of ferruginous depositions) was developed as an inverted relief due to prolong gully erosion and neo-tectonic uplift in between the Chotanagpur Foot-hill Fault and Medinipur–Farraka Fault.


Laterite Inversion of relief Palaeoclimate Palaeogeomorphology Optically stimulated luminescence Bengal basin 



The authors are indebted to Prof. Cliff D. Ollier (School of Earth and Environment, University of Western Australia) for his encouragement, suggestions and help to execute this work. We are very much thankful to Suvendu Roy (JRF, Dept. of Geography, University of Kalyani), Subhankar Bera (JRF, Dept. of Geography, University of Kalyani) and Subhamay Ghosh (Researcher, Dept. of Geography, The University of Burdwan) for their rigorous all-round supports in the field study. The research is supported by the Department of Geography, The University of Budrwan. We are very much indebted to the Geological Survey of India (Eastern Region, Kolkata) for providing valuable reports regarding the morpho-genetic evolution of Indian laterites.


  1. Achyuthan H (1996) Geomorphic evolution and genesis of laterites around the east coast of Madras, Tamil Nadu, India. Geomorphology 16:71–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Achyuthan H (2004) Paleopedology of ferricrete horizons around Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. Rev Mex Cienc Geol 21(1):133–143Google Scholar
  3. Aitken MJ (1998) An introduction to optical dating. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Alam M, Alam MM, Curray JR, Chowdhary MLR, Gandhi MR (2003) An overview of the sediment geology of the Bengal Basin in relation to the regional tectonic framework and basin-fill history. Sediment Geol 155(3–4):179–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aleva GJJ (1985) Laterites—concepts, geology, morphology and chemistry. ISRIC, WageningenGoogle Scholar
  6. Alexander LT, Cady JG (1962) Genesis and hardening of laterite in soils. United States Department of Agriculture, Technical bulletin, 1281, Washington D.C., pp 1–90Google Scholar
  7. Babu PVLP (1981) Laterite as an unconformity plane in the evolution of the Indian peninsula—a synthesis. In: Proceedings of the international seminar on lateritization processes, Trivandrum, India, pp 302–307Google Scholar
  8. Bagchi K, Mukherjee KN (1983) Diagnostic survey of Rarh Bengal (Part II). University of Calcutta, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  9. Bandyopadhyay S (2007) Evolution of the Ganga–Brahmaputra Delta: a review. Geogr Rev India 69(3):235–268Google Scholar
  10. Banerjee PK (1993) Quaternary tectonics and climatic record in tropical weathering profiles. Curr Sci 64(11–12):921–923Google Scholar
  11. Bardossy GY (1981) Paleoenvironments of laterites and lateritic bauxites—Effect of global tectonism and bauxite formation. In: Banerjee P K (ed) Proceedings of the international Seminar on lateritisation processes, Trivandum, Geolog Survey India, pp 287–294Google Scholar
  12. Beauvais A, Bonnet NJ, Chardon D, Arnaud N, Jayananda (2016) Very long-term stability of passive margin escarpment constrained by 40Ar/39Ar darting of K-Mn oxides. Geol Soc Am. Scholar
  13. Bird MI, Chivas AR (1993) Geomorphic and palaeoclimatic implications of an oxygen-isotope chronology for Australian deeply weathered profiles. Aust J Earth Sci 40(4):345–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Birkeland PW (1984) Soils and geomorphology. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Biswas A (1987) Laterities and lateritoids of Bengal. In: Datye VS, Diddee J, Jog SR, Patial C (eds) Exploration in the tropics. K.R.Dikshit Felicitaion Committee, Pune, pp 157–167Google Scholar
  16. Bonnet N, Arnaud N, Beauvais A, Chardon D (2015a) Deciphering post-Deccan weathering and erosion history of south India Archean rocks from cryptomelane 40Ar–39Ar dating. Geophys Res Abstr 17:9114Google Scholar
  17. Bonnet N, Beauvais A, Chardon D, Arnaud N (2015b) Evolution of the south-west Indian continental divergent margin: constraints from 40Ar–39Ar dating of lateritic paleolandsurfaces. Geophys Res Abstr 17:9377Google Scholar
  18. Bonnet NJ, Beauvais A, Arnaud N, Chardon D, Jayananda M (2014) First 40Ar/39Ar dating of intense Late Palaeogene lateritic weathering in peninsular India. Earth Planet Sci Lett 386:126–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Botter-Jensen L (1997) Luminescence techniques: instrumentation and methods. Radiat Meas 27(5–6):749–768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Bourman RP (1993) Perennial problems in the study of laterite: a review. Austr J Earth Sci 40(4):387–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Bourman RP (1996) Towards distinguishing transported and in-situ ferricretes: data from southern Australia. J Austr Geol Geophys 16(3):231–241Google Scholar
  22. Briant RM, Bates MR, Schwenninger J, Wenban-smith F (2006) An optically stimulated luminescence dated Middle to Late Pleistocene fluvial sequence from the western Solent Basin, southern England. J Quat Sci 21(5):507–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Buchanan F (1807) A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Kanara and Malabar (3 volumes). East India Company, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Chakrabarti DK (2001) Archaeological geography of the Ganga Plain. Permanent Black, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  25. Chakraborti S (2011) Final report on Quaternary laterites in the western districts of West Bengal—their geomorphology, stratigraphy, genesis and implications for climate change. Geological Survey of India Eastern Region, Kolkata, pp 1–88Google Scholar
  26. Chatterjee S, Goswami A, Scotese CR (2013) The longest voyage: tectonic, magmatic and palaeoclimatic evolution of the Indian plate during its northward flight from Gondwana to Asia. Gondwana Res 23:238–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Chatterjee N (2008) Laterite terrains of the Chotanagpur Plateau fringe region (case study of the Mayurakshi Basin, eastern India). Indian J Landsc Syst Ecol Stud 31(1):115–130Google Scholar
  28. Das Gupta AB, Mukherjee B (2006) Geology of N.W. Bengal Basin. Geological Society of India, Bangalore, pp 1–154Google Scholar
  29. Deo SG, Rajaguru SN (2014) Early Pleistocene environment of Acheulian sites in Deccan upland: a geomorphic approach. In: Paddayya K, Deo SG (eds) Recent advances in Acheulian culture studies in India—ISPQS monograph 6. Indian Society for Prehistoric and Quaternary Studies, Pune, pp 1–22Google Scholar
  30. Devaraju TC, Khanadali SD (1993) Laterite bauxite profiles of south western and southern India—characteristics and tectonic significance. Curr Sci 64(11–12):919–921Google Scholar
  31. Duller GAT (2004) Luminescence dating of Quaternary sediments: recent advances. J Quat Sci 19(2):183–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Frakes LA, Kemp EM (1972) Influence of continental positions on early tertiary climates. Nature 240(5376):97–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ghosh S, Guchhait SK (2014) Palaeoenvironmental significance of fluvial facies and archives of Late Quaternary deposits in the floodplain of Damodar River, India. Arab J Geosci 7(10):4145–4161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ghosh S, Guchhait S (2015) Characterization and evolution of primary and secondary laterites in northwestern Bengal basin, West Bengal, India. J Palaeogeogr 4(2):203–230 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Huntley DJ, Godfrey-Smith DI, Thevalt MLW (1985) Optical dating of sediments. Nature 313:105–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kale VS (2014) The laterite-capped Panchgani Tableland, Deccan Traps. In: Kale VS (ed) Landscapes and landforms in India. Springer, New York, pp 217–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kale VS, Singhvi AK, Mishra PK, Banerjee D (2000) Sedimentary records and luminescence chronology of Late Holocene palaeo-floods in the Luni River, Thar Desert, northwest India. CATENA 40:337–3587CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Karlekar S, Thakurdesai S (2011) Coastal detrital laterites of Konkan Coast, Maharashtra. In: Sharma HS, Kale VS (eds) Geomorphology in India. Allahabad, Prayag Pustak Bhawan, pp 321–340Google Scholar
  39. Kent RW, Pringle MS, Muller RD, Saunders AD, Ghose NC (2002) 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of the Rajmahal Basalts, India and their relationship to the Kerguelen Plateau. J Petrol 43(7):1141–1153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kumar A (1986) Palaeolatitudes and the age of Indian laterites. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 53:231–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mahapatra S, Dana RK (2009) Lateral variation in gravelly sediments and processes in alluvial fan—fan-delta setting, north of Durgapur. J Geolog Soc India 74(4):480–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Maignien R (1966) Review of research on laterites. UNESCO, Paris, pp 1–148Google Scholar
  43. McFarlane MJ (1976) Laterite and landscape. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  44. Meshram RR, Randive KR (2011) Geochemical study of laterites of the Jamnagar district, Gujarat, India: implications on parent rock, mineralogy and tectonics. J Asian Earth Sci 42:1271–1287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Metha M, Majeed Z, Dobhal DP, Srivastava P (2012) Geomorphological evidences of post-LGM glacial advancements in the Himalaya: a study from Chorabari Glacier, Garhwal Himalaya, India. J Earth Syst Sci 121(1):149–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Milnes AR, Bourman, Northcote KH (1985) Field relationships of ferricretes and weathered zones in southern South Australia: a contribution to ‘laterite’ studies in Australia. Aust J Soil Res 23:441–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mishra S, Deo S, Rajaguru SN (2007) Some observations on the laterites developed on Deccan Trap: implications for the Post-Deccan Trap denudational history. J Geol Soc India 70:469–475Google Scholar
  48. Mukherjee B, Rao MG, Karunakaran C (1969) Genesis of kaolin deposits of Birbhum, West Bengal. Clay Miner 8:161–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Murray AS, Olley JM (2002) Precision and accuracy in the optically stimulated luminescence dating of sedimentary quartz: a status review. Geochronometria 21:1–16Google Scholar
  50. Nesbitt HW, Young GM (1982) Early proterozoic climates and plate motion inferred from major element chemistry of lutites. Nature 299:715–717CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Niyogi D (1975) Quaternary geology of the coastal plain in West Bengal and Orissa. Indian J Earth Sci 2:51–61Google Scholar
  52. Niyogi D, Mallick S, Sarkar SK (1970) A preliminary study of laterites of West Bengal, India. In: Chatterjee SP, Das Gupta SP (eds) Selected papers physical geography (vol 1). 21st international geographical congress, Calcutta, National Committee for Geography, pp 443–449Google Scholar
  53. Ollier CD (1988) The regolith in Australia. Earth Sci Rev 25:355–361CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ollier CD, Rajaguru SN (1989) Laterite of Kerala (India). Geogr Fis Dinam Quat 12:27–33Google Scholar
  55. Ollier CD (1991) Laterite profiles, ferricrete and landscape evolution. Z Geomorphol 35(2):165–173Google Scholar
  56. Ollier CD, Galloway RW (1990) The laterite profile, ferricrete and unconformity. CATENA 17:97–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Ollier CD, Sheth HC (2008) The high Deccan duricrusts of Indian and their significance for the ‘laterite’ issue. J Earth Syst Sci 117(5):537–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Pain CF, Ollier CD (1995a) Regolith stratigraphy: principles and problems. AGSO J Aust Geol Geophys 16(3):197–202Google Scholar
  59. Pain CF, Ollier CD (1995b) Inversion of relief—a component of landscape evolution. Geomorphology 12:151–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pain CF, Ollier CD (1996) Regolith stratigraphy: principles and problems. AGSO J Australian Geol Geophy 16(3):197–202Google Scholar
  61. Pappu RS, Rajaguru SN (1979) Early quaternary laterite around Anagwadi, Dist. Bijapur, Karnataka. Bull Earth Sci 7:41–43Google Scholar
  62. Pascoe EH (1964) A manual of the geology of India and Burma (Volume 3). Geological Survey of India, DelhiGoogle Scholar
  63. Paton TR, Williams MAJ (1972) The concept of laterite. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 62(1):42–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Persons BS (1970) Laterite—genesis, location, use. Plenum Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  65. Prescott JR, Robertson GB (1997) Sediment dating by luminescence: a review. Radiat Meas 27(5–6):893–922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Preusser F, Degering D, Fuchs M, Hilgers A, Kadereit A, Klasen N, Krbetschek M, Richter D, Spencer JQG (2008) Luminescence dating: basics, methods and applications. Quat Sci J 57(1–2):95–149Google Scholar
  67. Rajaguru SN, Deo SG, Mishra S, Ghate S, Naik S, Shirvalkar P (2004a) Geoarchaeological significance of the detrital laterites discovery in the Karha Basin, Pune District, Maharastra. Man Environ XXIX(1):1–6Google Scholar
  68. Rajaguru SN, Deo SG, Mishra S, Ghate S, Naik S, Shirvalkar P (2004b) Geoarchaeological significance of the detrital laterite discovery in the Karha Basin, Pune District, Maharastra. Man and Environment 31(1):1–6Google Scholar
  69. Rajaguru SN, Deotore BC, Gangopadhyay K, Sain MK, Panja S (2011) Potential geoarchaeological sites for luminescence dating in the Ganga Bhagirathi–Hugli Delta, West Bengal, India. Geochornometria 38(3):282–291Google Scholar
  70. Ray Chaudhuri SP (1980) The occurrence, distribution, classification and management of laterite and laterite soils. Cah O.R.S.T.O.M. Ser Pedol 18(3–4):249–252Google Scholar
  71. Retallack GJ (2010) Lateritization and bauxitization events. Econ Geol 105:655–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rittenour TM (2008) Luminescence dating of fluvial deposits: applications to geomorphic, palaeoseismic and archaeological research. Boreas 37:613–635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Roy Chowdhury MK (1986) Concepts on the origin of Indian laterite in historical perspective. Proc Indian Natl Sci Acad 52A(6):1307–1323Google Scholar
  74. Roy Chowdhury MK, Venkatesh V, Anandalwar MA, Paul DK (1965) Recent concepts on the origin of Indian laterite. Proc Natl Acad Sci India Sect A Phys Sci 31A(6):547–558Google Scholar
  75. Sahasrabudhe YS, Rajaguru SN (1990) The laterites of the Maharashtra State. Bull Deccan Coll Res Inst 49:357–374Google Scholar
  76. Sankaran AV, Nambi KSV, Sunta CM (1985) Thermoluminescence of laterites: applicability in dating. Nucl Tracks 17(5):177–183Google Scholar
  77. Sarkar PR (2004) Rarh-the cradle of civilization. Ananda Nagr Publication, KolkataGoogle Scholar
  78. Schellmann W (1986) A new definition of laterite. In: Banerjee PK (ed) Lateritisation processes. Geological Survey of India Memoir 120:11–17Google Scholar
  79. Schmidt PW, Currey, Ollier CD (1976) Sub-basaltic weathering, damsites, palaeomagnetism and the age of lateritization. J Geol Soc Aust 23(4):367–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Schmidt PW, Prasad V, Raman PK (1983) Magnetic ages of some Indian laterites. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 44:185–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Singh LP, Parkash B, Singhvi AK (1998) Evolution of the lower gangetic plain landforms and soils in West Bengal, India. CATENA 33:75–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Singhvi AK, Kale VS (2009) Paleoclimate studies in India: last ice age to the present. IGBP–WCRP–SCOPE–Report Series 4:1–28Google Scholar
  83. Singhvi AK, Sharma YP, Agrawal DP (1982) Thermo-luminescence dating of sand dunes in Rajasthan. Nature 295:313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Sinha R, Sarkar S (2009) Climate-induced variability in the Late Pleistocene–Holocene fluvial and fluvio-deltaic successions in the Ganga Plains, India. Geomorphology 113(3–4):173–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Sivarajasingham S, Alexander LT, Cady JG, Cline MG (1962) Laterite. Agronomy 14:1–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Sridhar A (2007) A mid-late Holocene flood record from the alluvial reach of the Mahi River, western India. CATENA 70:330–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Stokes S (1999) Luminescence dating applications in geomorphological research. Geomorphology 29:153–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Sychanthavong SPH, Patel PK (1987) Laterites and lignites of northwestern India and their relevance to the drift tectonics of the Indian Plate. Curr Sci 56(10):469–473Google Scholar
  89. Tardy Y (1992) Diversity and terminology of laterite profile. In: Martini IP, Chesworth W (eds) Weathering, soils and paleosols. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 379–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Tardy Y, Boeglin J, Novikoff A, Roquin C (1993) Petrological and geochemical classification of laterites. In: Proceedings of the 10th international clay conference, Adelaide, Australia, 481–486Google Scholar
  91. Tardy Y, Kobilsex B, Paquet H (1991) Mineralogical composition of geographical distribution of African and Brazilian peri-Atlantic laterites: the influence of continental drift and tropical paleoclimates during the past 150 million years and implications for India and Australia. J Afr Earth Sci 12(1–2):283–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Tardy Y, Nahon D (1985) Geochemistry of laterites, stability of Al–Goethite, Al–Hematite and Fe3 + Kaolinite in bauxites and ferricretes: an approach to the mechanism of concretion formation. Am J Sci 285:865–903CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Thomas MF (1996) Laterites revisited. Progress Phys Geogr 20(1):113–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Thomas MF (1974) Tropical geomorphology: a study of weathering and landform development in warm climates. MacMillan Press LtdGoogle Scholar
  95. Vaidyanadhan R, Ghosh RN (1993) Quaternary of the east coast of India. Curr Sci 31(6):231–232Google Scholar
  96. Varghese T (1987) Laterite soils and their management. ISRIC–World Soil Information, WageninganGoogle Scholar
  97. Widdowson M, Cox KG (1996) Uplift and erosional history of the Deccan Traps, India: evidence from laterites and drainage patterns of the Western Ghats and Kankan Coast. Earth Planet Sci Lett 137:57–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Widdowson M, Gunnell Y (1999) Lateritization, geomorphology and geodynamics of a passive continental margin: the Konkan and Kanara costal lowlands of western peninsular India. Spec Publ Int Assoc Sedimentol 27:245–274Google Scholar
  99. Wintle AG (1997) Luminescence dating: laboratory procedures and protocols. Radiat Meas 27(5–6):769–817CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Wintle AG (2008) Luminescence dating: where it has been and where it is going. Boreas 37:471–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Young A (1976) Tropical soils and soil survey. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyChandrapur CollegeBarddhamanIndia
  2. 2.Department of GeographyThe University of BurdwanBarddhamanIndia

Personalised recommendations