Four unconformity-bound sequences can be identified in the Purana successions in southern India, of which the third sequence (Sequence III) has the widest distribution. Sequence III contains deep-water carbonate units with consistent sedimentological characteristics across the subcontinent. The current extent of field relationships and existing ages has not allowed the correlation and chronology of these carbonates to be established conclusively. Palaeomagnetism may help resolve this essential question for the Purana sedimentation. Here, we report new palaeomagnetic results (HIG+/– pole: 21.7° N, 81.1° E, radius of cone of 95% confidence A95 = 15.9°) from Sequence III carbonates in the Kaladgi (Badami Group) and Bhima (Bhima Group) basins. The HIG+/– magnetization, revealed after the removal of secondary magnetizations that include a present-day field and an Ediacaran–Cambrian overprint, is interpreted to be primary based on its dissimilarity to known younger magnetizations, the presence of distinctly different magnetic components in sites and a positive reversal test. Our HIG+/– pole differs from the c. 1.4 Ga pole and various c. 1.1 Ga and younger poles. Instead, it overlaps with the Harohalli dyke pole that was long considered to be c. 823 Ma in age, but has recently been suggested to be much older with an age of c. 1192 Ma. We therefore consider the uppermost carbonate beds of Badami and Bhima groups to have been deposited during late Mesoproterozoic times. A critical evaluation of parameters from which an earlier Neoproterozoic age for these carbonates was established indicates that the available 40Ar/39Ar, Rb–Sr and U–Pb ages in the Kaladgi and Bhima basins could reflect the timing of post-depositional alteration events.