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The Genetic Distance between Karunanidhi and Mallika Sherawat

Some Aryan invasion/migration theories are highly entertaining. One fascinating version originates in Central Asia around the middle of the fourth millennium B.C.E when an “unknown disturbance” triggered a cluster of Indo-European tribes on a trip across the continent. This group of nomadic people, wandered around, looking for a place where there is sun, water and grass for their cattle. They reached India, around 1500 – 1200 B.C.E,  “forgot” about their wanderings through Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan, and hence did not write anything about it in the vedas[1]

This Aryan migration theory created two groups of people — the Aryans who came from Central Asia and Dravidians, the people who were already in India.  In our diverse nation, these Aryans helped bring  up new differences.  Thus Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi still talks about the Aryan-Dravidian battles and Marxist historians write about the light skinned IE speakers over powering the dark skinned Dravidian speakers. Also, we have been told that the concept of caste groups came  with the Aryans while  tribals were the original inhabitants of the country.  These Aryans also helped historians to categorically state that the vedas were composed not by Indians, but by the Central Asians.

If these theories were true, shouldn’t there should be scientific evidence to back it up? Shouldn’t we see a genetic difference between caste and tribal groups and between Indo-European and Dravidian speakers? Also, shouldn’t there be genetic markers which show Central Asian incursion into India around the 1500 – 1200 B.C.E time frame? In fact some genetic studies have shown relatively small genetic distance between Indians and West Eurasians and this has been used as proof of Aryan migration, but recent studies tell a different story.

Modern humans left Africa 60,000 years ago, but carried something which helps us recreate human history. The genetic markers which we all carry can tell us our history and help  create the map our journey from Africa to each corner of the world. The mitochondrial DNA  gives the  matrilineal inheritance; Y-Chromosome, the paternal lineage. Genetic studies involving both paternal and maternal lineages were conducted on the Indian population. The studies also involved comparing large number of Indian samples against data from West/East/Southeast/Central Asia, Europe and the Near East for genetic distance.

Both studies  reveal that Southern castes and tribes are  similar to each other and their gene pool is related to the castes of North India. It was  not possible to confirm any difference between the caste and tribal pools and find any clean delineation between the Dravidian and IE speakers.  Besides this, there was neither a north-south gradient nor a language based gradient which means that dark skinned Dravidian Karunanidhi and fair skinned Indo-European speaking Mallika Sherawat  are not genetically distant.

Regarding the question of the ancestry of Indian populations, genetic research says that  there is no need to look beyond the borders of South Asia for the paternal heritage of majority of Indians since the time of agriculture. Also, there was no evidence of people coming through the North-West corridor in massive numbers indicating a  South Asian origin for the Indian caste communities and not a Central Asian one. Interestingly there is recent shared ancestry between the Central Asian folks and Indians, but it is explained by diffusion of Indian lineages northward which means that some Indians went to Central Asia and got lucky[2].

If there was no massive Central Asian incursion, then how do you explain the linguistic connection between the Elamite and Dravidian population.? In fact some western-Eurasian maternal DNA groups were found among Indian populations providing evidence of this connection. Investigating the time frame when this group of Indians branched off from the Western Europeans, a date of 9300 +/- 3000 years before present was found which is interesting because this is no where close to the dates (1500 – 1200 B.C.E) of the massive Aryan migration/invasion proposed by  proponents of the Aryan theory.[3]

This time frame of 9300 +/ 3000 years has historical significance. The earliest South Asian farming community  in Mehrgarh, at the foot of the Bolan Pass in the region of Baluchistan, is dated between 7000 – 5500 B.C.E. Mehrgarh, which is in the company of other early settlements like Çatalhöyük ,Jarmo, and Jericho, was five times larger than the site at Çatalhöyük and  two millenia before the Sumerians settled in Babylon, Mehrgarh had a  population of 20,000 people which was slightly less only than Egypt which had around 30,000 people at the same time.[4] The data provided by genetic evidence coincides with the theory that there is cultural continuity from the settlements of Mehrgarh in 6000 B.C.E. to the Harappan Civilization [4].

Also this time frame tells us that Indo-European speakers  reached India much before the fictional date and were not foreigners by the time the vedas were composed. It is now possible to say that the Vedic people were native to South Asia  for several millennia and derived Sanskrit from earlier Indo-European dialects

Sri Aruobindo  expressed doubts on the whole story of Aryan invasion through Punjab  and thought it was a myth of the philologists. In fact this should have been obvious when their proponents had no problems writing that the Aryans “forgot” about their origins when their creation, the vedas, were trasmitted over generations by memory.  Now genetic studies have confirmed what Sri Aurobindo doubted.  The studies also reveal something  best expressed by Shah Rukh Khan’s character in Chak De India!, “There is no Punjab or Jharkand, but just India and we are all one.” Don’t let a two bit politician like Karunanidhi tell you otherwise.

References

  1. Gem in the Lotus by Abraham Eraly
  2. A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios by Sanghamitra Sahoo, Anamika Singh et. al.
  3. Deep common ancestry of Indian and western-Eurasian mitochondrial DNA lineages by T. Kivisild et al.
  4. In search of the cradle of civilization by Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak, David Frawley

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