Dravidian peoples

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For other uses, see Dravidian (disambiguation).
Dravidian People
Raja Ravi Varma - Sankaracharya.jpg
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Total population
approx. 217 million speakers   
Dravidian languages
Hinduism, Islam,Christianity, Judaism

Dravidians are the speakers of the Dravidian languages in South Asia. There are around 220 million native speakers of Dravidian languages. Dravidian-speaking people are mostly found in Southern India, while smaller populations also exist in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The name 'Dravidian' itself is from the given in Sanskrit, and may not be what the Dravidian people have historically called themselves. The Dravidian identity is one of unclear origins, as people who speak the various related languages are classified by that ethno-linguistic group. Today, the majority of Dravidians are of mixed ancestry (from either Indo-Aryan speakers, Iranian speakers, or Austro-Asiatic speakers) as no distinctive 'Dravidian people' apart from linguistic lines have been documented.[1]

A phylogenetic representation of Nostratic as proposed by Bomhard (2008). Dravidian Languages are sometimes considered as part of the Nostratic hypothesis.


There are two definitions for Dravidian ethnicity which are generally divided between proposing that Dravidian people are an ethnic group in their own right, or Dravidian people are a collective group of ethnolinguistic ethnicities. The World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 10 says: "Most southern Indians belong to the Dravidian ethnic group;" referring to them as one ethnic group,[2] while the The New Encyclopædia Britannica: Volume 8; Volume 21 refers to 'Dravidian ethnic groups', suggesting the latter definition.[3] Hence, depending on the definition and context, both 'Dravidian people' and 'Dravidian peoples' may be used.


The English word Dravidian was first employed by Robert Caldwell in his book of comparative Dravidian grammar based on the usage of the Sanskrit word drāviḍa in the work Tantravārttika by Kumārila Bhaṭṭa.[4] For the origin of the Sanskrit word drāviḍa, various theories have been proposed. These theories concern the direction of derivation between tamiẓ and drāviḍa; such linguists as Zvelebil assert that the direction is from tamiẓ to drāviḍa.[5] The word Dravidian is devoid of any ethnic significance, Dravidian is just the language used by the people of the referred group.[6]


Although in modern times speakers of the various Dravidian languages have mainly occupied the southern portion of India, nothing definite is known about the ancient domain of the Dravidian parent speech. It is, however, a well-established and well-supported hypothesis that Dravidian speakers must have been widespread throughout India, including the northwest region.[7] Origins of Dravidian people are informed by various theories proposed by linguists, anthropologists, geneticist and historians. According to geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza in the book The History and Geography of Human Genes, the Dravidians were preceded in the subcontinent by Austroasiatic speakers, and were followed by Indo-European-speaking migrants sometime later.

Some linguists hypothesized that Dravidian-speaking people were spread throughout the Indian subcontinent before a series of Indo-European migrations. In this view, the early Indus Valley civilisation (Harappa and Mohenjo Daro) is often identified as having been Dravidian.[8] Cultural and linguistic similarities have been cited by researchers such as Finnish Indologist Asko Parpola as being strong evidence for a proto-Dravidian origin of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation.

Some scholars like J. Bloch and M. Witzel believe that the Indo-Aryan moved into an already Dravidian speaking area after the oldest parts of the Rig Veda were already composed.[9] The Brahui population of Balochistan has been taken by some as the linguistic equivalent of a relict population, perhaps indicating that Dravidian languages were formerly much more widespread and were supplanted by the incoming Indo-Aryan languages.[10]

Thomason and Kaufman state that there is strong evidence that Dravidian influenced Indo-Aryan through "shift", that is, native Dravidian speakers learning and adopting Indo-Aryan languages.[11] Erdosy states that the most plausible explanation for the presence of Dravidian structural features in Old Indo-Aryan is that the majority of early Old Indo-Aryan speakers had a Dravidian mother tongue which they gradually abandoned.[12] Even though the innovative traits in Indo-Aryan languages could be explained by multiple internal explanations, early Dravidian influence is the only explanation that can account for all of the innovations at once – it becomes a question of explanatory parsimony; moreover, early Dravidian influence accounts for several of the innovative traits in Indo-Aryan languages better than any internal explanation that has been proposed.[13] Zvelebil remarks that "Several scholars have demonstrated that pre-Indo-Aryan and pre-Dravidian bilingualism in India provided conditions for the far-reaching influence of Dravidian on the Indo-Aryan tongues in the spheres of phonology, syntax and vocabulary".[14]

Genetic anthropology[edit]

Genetic views on race differ in their classification of Dravidians. Classical anthropologists, such as Carleton S. Coon in his 1939 work The Races of Europe, argued that Ethiopia in Northeast Africa and India in South Asia represented the outermost peripheries of the Caucasoid race. In the 1960s, genetic anthropologist Stanley Marion Garn considered the entirety of the Indian subcontinent to be a "race" genetically distinct from other populations.[15][16] The geneticist L.L. Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford, based on work done in the 1980s, classified Indians as being genetically Caucasian. Cavalli-Sforza theorised that Indians are about three times closer to West Europeans than to East Asians.[15]

While a number of earlier anthropologists held the view that the Dravidian people together were a distinct race, a small number of genetic studies based on uniparental markers have challenged this view. Some researchers have indicated that both Dravidian and Indo-Aryan speakers are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent; however, this point of view is rejected by many researchers in favour of Indo-Aryan migration, with racial stratification among Indian populations being distributed along caste lines.[17][18][19][20]

Because of admixture between Caucasoid and Austro-Mongloid racial groups, one cannot speak of a biologically separate "Dravidian race" distinct from non-Dravidians on the Indian subcontinent. However, this is subject to vary, as caste and ethno-religious group can also be a significant factor in a racial identity. In a 2009 study of 132 individuals, 560,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 25 different Indian groups were analysed, providing strong evidence in support of the notion that modern Indians (both Indo-Aryan and Dravidian groups) are a hybrid population descending from two post-Neolithic, genetically divergent populations referred to as the 'Ancestral North Indians' and the 'Ancestral South Indians'. According to the study, Andamanese are an ASI-related group without ANI ancestry, showing that the peopling of the islands must have occurred before ANI-ASI gene flow on the mainland.[21]

Dravidian history[edit]

Dravidian culture[edit]

Main article: South Indian culture


Main article: Dravidian languages
Dravidian language tree

The most commonly spoken Dravidian languages are Tamil (தமிழ்), Telugu (తెలుగు), Kannada (ಕನ್ನಡ), and Malayalam (മലയാളം) . There are three subgroups within the Dravidian language family: North Dravidian, Central Dravidian, and South Dravidian, matching for the most part the corresponding regions in the Indian subcontinent.

Dravidian grammatical impact on the structure and syntax of Indo-Aryan languages is considered far greater than the Indo-Aryan grammatical impact on Dravidian. Some linguists explain this anomaly by arguing that Middle Indo-Aryan and New Indo-Aryan were built on a Dravidian substratum.[22] There are also hundreds of Dravidian loanwords in Indo-Aryan languages, and vice versa.


Art and architecture[edit]


Main article: Carnatic music

Martial arts[edit]

Main article: Kalaripayattu

List of Dravidian people[edit]

Name Country Population Notes
Brahuis  Pakistan,  Afghanistan 2,528,000 Brahuis are an ethnic group of about 2.5 million people. The majority are found in Baluchistan, Pakistan, with smaller amounts in Afghanistan.
Kannadigas  India 45,000,000 (2001 only India) They belong to the south-Dravidian subgroup. Kannadigas inhabit Karnataka and parts of northern Kerala and parts of southern Maharashtra, northwest region of Tamil Nadu, India.
Malayalis  India 38,000,000 (2007) These people belong to south-Dravidian linguistic subgroup. Mostly found in Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India.
Tamils  India,  Sri Lanka,  Malaysia,  Singapore 81,300,000 These people belong to south-Dravidian linguistic subgroup. Mostly found in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, parts of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, southern Karnataka, Maharashtra and Delhi.There is also a significant presence in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Andaman and Nicobar, Maldives, Mauritius, Philippines, Bali, Sumatra and Malaysia.
Telugus  India 80,000,000 These people belong to south-Dravidian subgroup (formerly classified with the Central Dravidian but now more specifically in the South Dravidian or South Central Dravidian inner branch of the South Dravidian). Mostly found in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, as well as in Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, and Karnataka and also in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Tuluvas  India 2,000,000 (approx) They belong to the south Dravidian subgroup, and are found in coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala (alternatively named Tulu Nadu).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju (2003). The Dravidian Languages. Cambridge Language Surveys. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-77111-5. 
  2. ^ The World Book encyclopedia: Volume 10. World Book Inc. p. 11. ISBN 9780716601029. 
  3. ^ The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Volume 8; Volume 21. 1998. p. 13. 
  4. ^ Zvelebil 1990, p. xx
  5. ^ Zvelebil 1990, p. xxi
  6. ^ RC Majumdar. "Dravidians". Ancient India. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 18. ISBN 81-208-0436-8. 
  7. ^ "Dravidian languages." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 5 June 2008
  8. ^ Stone celts in Harappa
  9. ^ Bryant, Edwin (2001). "Linguistic Substrata in Sanskrit Texts". The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 76–107. ISBN 978-0-19-513777-4. 
  10. ^ Mallory 1989[page needed]
  11. ^ Thomason & Kaufman 1988[page needed]
  12. ^ Erdosy 1995, p. 18
  13. ^ Thomason & Kaufman 1988, pp. 141–4
  14. ^ Dravidian languages – Britannica Online Encyclopedia[full citation needed]
  15. ^ a b Robert Jurmain, Lynn Kilgore, Wenda Trevathan, and Harry Nelson. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. 9th ed. (Canada: Thompson Learning, 2003)[page needed]
  16. ^ Garn SM. Coon. On the Number of Races of Mankind. In Garn S, editor. Readings on race. Springfield C.C. Thomas.[page needed]
  17. ^ Cordaux, Richard; Aunger, Robert; Bentley, Gillian; Nasidze, Ivane; Sirajuddin, S.M.; Stoneking, Mark (2004). "Independent Origins of Indian Caste and Tribal Paternal Lineages". Current Biology 14 (3): 231–5. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2004.01.024. PMID 14761656. 
  18. ^ Watkins, W.s.; Thara, R.; Mowry, B.j.; Zhang, Y.; Witherspoon, D.j.; Tolpinrud, W.; Bamshad, M.j.; Tiripati, S.; Padmavati, R.; Smith, H; Nancarrow, D; Filippich, C; Jorde, L. B. (2008). "Genetic variation in South Indian castes: Evidence from Y-chromosome, mitochondrial, and autosomal polymorphisms". BMC Genetics 9: 86. doi:10.1186/1471-2156-9-86. PMC 2621241. PMID 19077280. 
  19. ^ Zhao, Z; Khan, F; Borkar, M; Herrera, R; Agrawal, S (2009). "Presence of three different paternal lineages among North Indians: A study of 560 Y chromosomes". Annals of Human Biology 36 (1): 46–59. doi:10.1080/03014460802558522. PMC 2755252. PMID 19058044. 
  20. ^ Majumder, Partha P. (2010). "The Human Genetic History of South Asia". Current Biology 20 (4): R184–7. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.053. PMID 20178765. …Historical and anthropological studies suggest that in the establishment of the caste system in India there have been varying levels of admixture between the tribal people of India and the later immigrants bringing along with them agriculture, pottery and metals from central and west Asia. In other words, castes of different ranks in the contemporary Hindu society putatively have had different degrees of admixture with immigrants into India from central and west Asia. The immigrants from central and west Asia who likely entered India through the north-western corridor, spread to most areas of northern India, but not to southern India. In other words, southern and northern India had differential inputs of genes from central and west Asia. This differential admixture is expected to have differential impacts on the genetic structures of castes of different ranks. 
  21. ^ Reich, David; Thangaraj, Kumarasamy; Patterson, Nick; Price, Alkes L.; Singh, Lalji (2009). "Reconstructing Indian population history". Nature 461 (7263): 489–94. Bibcode:2009Natur.461..489R. doi:10.1038/nature08365. PMC 2842210. PMID 19779445. 
  22. ^ Krishnamurti 2003, pp. 40–1

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