Nd and Sr isotope systematics may provide important constraints on the location of major thrust systems that separate lithologically similar sedimentary sequences. The potential of the technique is illustrated by this isotopic study of the Main Central thrust system of the Himalaya. Nd isotope data from the Garhwal Himalaya indicate that metasedimentary rocks from the Vaikrita Group (ϵNd = −14 to −19) correlate closely with those from the High Himalayan Crystalline Series, which constitutes the hanging-wall lithologies of the Main Central thrust. In contrast, metasedimentary rocks from the Munsiari Group (ϵNd = −23 to −28) show marked similarities to the Lesser Himalayan Series in the footwall of the Main Central thrust. Sr isotopes support the correlations in that the Vaikrita Group shows partial reequilibration at 500 Ma, whereas the Munsiari Group has not undergone Sr isotope homogenization since 1800 Ma. Thus, the Vaikrita thrust that juxtaposes these two formations is recognized as the Main Central thrust in Garhwal Himalaya. The thrust coincides, approximately, with the location of the kyanite isograd, confirming that inverted metamorphism is characteristic of both hanging wall and footwall of the Main Central thrust.

Along the Tons thrust (known locally as the Srinagar thrust) 50 km south of the Main Central thrust, low-grade quartzarenites with Nd-Sr isotope and trace element characteristics typical of Lesser Himalayan formations have been emplaced on phyllites and siltstones with geochemical characteristics of the High Himalayan Crystalline Series. The field relationships most probably result from out-of-sequence thrusting in which Lesser Himalayan Series rocks to the north were emplaced over low-grade equivalents of the High Himalayan Crystalline Series preserved in the external part of the orogen. This study establishes the value of isotope data for lithostratigraphic correlations within orogenic belts.

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