Genetic studies on Sinhalese
Studies looking at the origin of the Sinhalese have been contradictory. Older studies suggest a predominantly Tamil origin followed by a significant Bengali contribution with no North Western Indian contribution. While modern studies point towards a predominantly Bengali contribution and a minor Tamil and North Western Indian contribution.
All studies agree however, that there is a significant relationship between the Sinhalese and the Tamil and Bengali. This is also supported by a genetic distance study, which showed low differences in genetic distance between the Sinhalese and the Tamil, Keralite and Bengali volunteers.
Predominantly Bengali origin
An Alu polymorphism analysis of Sinhalese from Colombo by Dr Sarabjit Mastanain in 2007 using Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati (Patel), and Punjabi as parental populations found different proportions of genetic contribution:
|Statistical Method||Bengali||Tamil||North Western|
|Maximum Likelihood Method||88.07%||-||-|
|Using Tamil, Bengali and North West as parenteral population||50-66%||11-30%||20-23%|
|Using Tamil and Bengali as parenteral population||70.03%||29.97%||-|
|Using Tamil, Bengali and Gujarati as parenteral population||71.82%||16.38%||11.82%|
|Using Bengal, Gujarati and Punjabi as parenteral population||82.09%||-||15.39%||2.52%|
D1S80 allele frequency (A popular allele for genetic fingerprinting) is also similar between the Sinhalese and Bengalis, suggesting the two groups are closely related. The Sinhalese also have similar frequencies of the allele MTHFR 677T (13%) to West Bengalis (17%).
These findings are compatible with the historical chronicles the Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa. Which describe a Vanga prince (Prince Vijaya)from Sinhapura in Lata or Lala of being an early settler of Sri Lanka and the progenitor of the Sinhalese. The Vangas are generally identified as Bengalis. On the other hand, Lata is identified with modern day Gujarat, and Sinhapura with modern Sihor in the Kathiawar peninsular of Gujarat. Furthermore, the Mahawamsa states that Vijaya landed first at Supparaka (identified with modern Sopara, in the Thane distrcit of Maharashtra), while the Dipavamsa mentions 'Suppara' and a further intermediate port, Bharukkaccha (modern Bharuch, a port in Gujarat, at the mouth of the Narmada). Vijaya's grandfather was reputed to be a Lion, and Lions have not lived in Bengal in historic times, while they have in Gujarat so it was possible that the Lion image was either borrowed or.
Evidence for North East Indian origin
A study in 2007 found similar frequencies of the allele HLA-A*02 in sinhalese (7.4%) and North Indian subjects (6.7%). HLA-A*02 is a rare allele which has a relatively high frequency in North Indian populations and is considered to be a novel allele among the North Indian population. This suggests possible North Indian origin of the Sinhalese.
Tamil Genetic Admixture
Due to relatively easy access from South India and Tamil workers being brought from South India under British rule, mixing of the Tamil and Sinhalese groups has been occurring for many generations. The Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils have been in close proximity to each other historically, linguistically, and culturally for over 2000 years. For example, the Sinhalese and South Indian Tamils have similar cultures in terms of kinship classification and housing. This explains Kshatriya's findings of a common gene pool of 55%.
When studying Genetic Flow from Southern Asia, Kshatriya found that some sinhalese had the greatest contribution from South Indian Tamils (69.86% +/- 0.61), followed by Bengalis from the North East of India (25.41% +/- 0.51). Similarly, Sri Lankan Tamils have a greater contribution from the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka (55.20% +/- 9.47) than Indian Tamils (16.63% +/- 8.73). The study also suggested that 75% of Sinhalese genes have Tamil admixture and the Sinhalese have the least genetic affinity with Western and North Western Indians .
Relationship to other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka
A study looking at genetic variation of the FUT2 gene in the Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamil population, found similar genetic backgrounds for both ethnic groups, with little genetic flow from other neighbouring Asian population groups. Studies have also found no significant difference with regards to blood group, blood genetic markers and single-nucleotide polymorphism between the Sinhalese and other ethnic groups in Sri Lanka. Another study has also found "no significant genetic variation among the major ethnic groups in Sri Lanka". This is further supported by a study which found very similar frequencies of alleles MTHFR 677T, F2 20210A & F5 1691A in South Indian Tamil, Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamil and Moor populations.
Relationship to East Asians and Roma
The Sinhalese are likely to have received little or no genetic flow from neighboring East or Southeast Asian populations, and have closer affinities to Western Eurasia. This is supported by study looking at protein and blood group loci that suggests the Sinhalese are closer to Iranians and Afghans than to Mongoloids and comparisons of root and canal morphology of Sri Lankan mandibular molars.
A 2003 Nature study found the Romani language to be most closely related to Sinhalese language. In addition the Romani people and Sinhalese both have a high requency of Haplogroup H (Y-DNA). The Sinhalese and Sinti Roma also have a high frequency of Haplogroup R2 (38% and 53% respectively), as do West Bengalis of which the Sinhalese are related to. These haplogroups are thought to have arisen 25,000-30,000 YBP. Therefore the Sinhalese and Roma may both be related to the same group of paleolithic inhabitants that lived in Central India 25,000 years ago.
In 2008 a study looked at SLC24A5 polymorphism which accounts for 25-40% of the skin complexion difference between Europeans and Africans and up to 30% of skin colour variation in South Asians. The study found that the rs1426654 SNP of SLC24A5, which is fixed in European populations and found more commonly in light skinned individuals than dark skinned individuals (49% compared to 10%), has a frequency of ~50% in the Sinhalese and ~30% in Sri Lankan tamils. This allele could have arisen in the Sinhalese due to North East Asian genetic admixture, migration or strong selection factors.
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