Four organic-rich shale units of the Proterozoic Vindhyan sedimentary succession have been scanned to reveal their origin and hydrocarbon potential. The wavy-crinkly nature of the carbonaceous laminae is suggestive of a microbial mat origin of the shales. These shales are thus different from Phanerozoic black shales which typically exhibit planar laminae. The hydrocarbon potential of the black shale units has been evaluated by Rock-Eval pyrolysis. Total organic carbon content of many of the shales exceeds 1%. The meanTmax for the black shales translate to a vitrinite reflectance range of 2.05-2.40% Rm based on standard conversion techniques. These shales have reached the catagenetic stage near the beginning of anthracite formation.