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Indo-Aryan peoples

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Indo-Aryan peoples
Indoarische Sprachen Gruppen.png
Geographical distribution of the major Indo-Aryan languages.
Total population
approximately 1.21 billion
Regions with significant populations
 India Over 856 mil[1]
 Pakistan Over 164 mil[2]
 Bangladesh Over 150 mil[3]
   Nepal Over 26 mil
 Sri Lanka Over 14 mil
 Burma Over 1 mil
 Maldives Over 300,000
Indo-Aryan languages
Indian religions (Mostly Hindu; with Sikh, Buddhist and Jain minorities) and Islam, some non-religious atheist/agnostic and Christians

Indo-Aryan or Indic peoples are an ethno-linguistic group referring to the wide collection of peoples united as native speakers of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian language family, and is in turn a member of the larger Indo-European language family. Today, there are over one billion native speakers of Indo-Aryan languages, most of them native to South Asia, where they form the majority.


Main article: Indo-Aryan migration
Further information: Indigenous Aryans

Earliest migrations[edit]

The first people to have settled in India during Paleolithic times appear to have been an Australoid group who may have been closely related to Aboriginal Australians.[4] From a genetic anthropological point of view, the research of Basu et al. (2003)[5] indicates that:

  1. there is an underlying unity of female lineages in India, indicating that the initial number of female settlers may have been small;
  2. the tribal and the caste populations are highly differentiated;
  3. the Austro-Asiatic tribals are the earliest settlers in India, providing support to one anthropological hypothesis while refuting some others;
  4. a major wave of humans entered India through the northeast;
  5. the Tibeto-Burman tribals share considerable genetic commonalities with the Austro-Asiatic tribals, supporting the hypothesis that they may have shared a common habitat in southern China, but the two groups of tribals can be differentiated on the basis of Y-chromosomal haplotypes;
  6. the Dravidian tribals were possibly widespread throughout India before the arrival of the Indo-European-speaking nomads, but retreated to southern India to avoid dominance;[5]
  7. formation of populations by fission that resulted in founder and drift effects have left their imprints on the genetic structures of contemporary populations;
  8. the upper castes show closer genetic affinities with Central Asian populations, although those of southern India are more distant than those of northern India;
  9. historical gene flow into India has contributed to a considerable obliteration of genetic histories of contemporary populations so that there is at present no clear congruence of genetic and geographical or sociocultural affinities."

Indo-Aryan language[edit]

The separation of Indo-Aryans proper from Indo-Iranians is commonly dated, on linguistic grounds, to roughly 1800 BCE.[6] The Nuristani languages probably split in such early times, and are classified as either remote Indo-Aryan dialects or as an independent branch of Indo-Iranian. By the mid 2nd millennium BCE early Indo-Aryans had reached Assyria in the west (the Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni) and the northern Punjab in the east (the Rigvedic tribes).[7]

The spread of Indo-Aryan languages has been connected with the spread of the chariot in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Some scholars[who?] trace the Indo-Aryans (both Indo-Aryans and European Aryans) back to the Andronovo culture (2nd millennium BCE). Other scholars[8] have argued that the Andronovo culture proper formed too late to be associated with the Indo-Aryans of India, and that no actual traces of the Andronovo culture (e.g. warrior burials or timber-frame materials) have been found in India and Southern countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives.[9]

Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC)[edit]

Archaeologist J.P. Mallory (1998) finds it "extraordinarily difficult to make a case for expansions from this northern region to northern India" and remarks that the proposed migration routes "only [get] the Indo-Iranian to Central Asia, but not as far as the seats of the Medes, Persians or Indo-Aryans" (Mallory 1998; Bryant 2001: 216). Therefore, he prefers to derive the Indo-Aryans from the intermediate stage of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) culture, in terms of a "Kulturkugel" model of expansion. Likewise, Asko Parpola (1988) connects the Indo-Aryans to the BMAC. But although horses were known to the Indo-Aryans, evidence for their presence in the form of horse bones is missing in the BMAC.[10] Parpola (1988) has argued that the Dasas were the "carriers of the Bronze Age culture of Greater Iran" living in the BMAC and that the forts with circular walls destroyed by the Indo-Aryans were actually located in the BMAC. Parpola (1999)[11] elaborates the model and has "Proto-Rigvedic" Indo-Aryans intrude the BMAC around 1700 BCE. He assumes early Indo-Aryan presence in the Late Harappan horizon from about 1900 BCE, and "Proto-Rigvedic" (Proto-Dardic) intrusion to the Punjab as corresponding to the Swat culture from about 1700 BCE.

Recently Leo Klejn proposed a hypothesis of linking the earliest stage of Indo-Aryan peoples with the Catacomb culture.[12][13]

Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni[edit]

Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni exhibit an Indo-Aryan superstrate, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion.

In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni (between Suppiluliuma and Matiwaza, ca. 1380 BCE), the deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya (Ashvins) are invoked. Kikkuli's horse training text (circa 1400 BCE) includes technical terms such as aika (eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pancha, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, round). The numeral aika "one" is of particular importance because it places the superstrate in the vicinity of Indo-Aryan proper as opposed to Indo-Iranian or early Iranian (which has "aiva") in general.

Another text has babru(-nnu) (babhru, brown), parita(-nnu) (palita, grey), and pinkara(-nnu) (pingala, red). Their chief festival was the celebration of the solstice (vishuva) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world. The Mitanni warriors were called marya (Hurrian: maria-nnu), the term for (young) warrior in Sanskrit as well;[14] note mišta-nnu (= miẓḍha,~ Sanskrit mīḍha) "payment (for catching a fugitive)" (Mayrhofer II 358).

Sanskritic interpretations of Mitanni names render Artashumara (artaššumara) as Arta-smara "who thinks of Arta/Ṛta" (Mayrhofer II 780), Biridashva (biridašṷa, biriiašṷa) as Prītāśva "whose horse is dear" (Mayrhofer II 182), Priyamazda (priiamazda) as Priyamedha "whose wisdom is dear" (Mayrhofer II 189, II378), Citrarata as citraratha "whose chariot is shining" (Mayrhofer I 553), Indaruda/Endaruta as Indrota "helped by Indra" (Mayrhofer I 134), Shativaza (šattiṷaza) as Sātivāja "winning the race price" (Mayrhofer II 540, 696), Šubandhu as Subandhu 'having good relatives" (a name in Palestine, Mayrhofer II 209, 735), Tushratta (tṷišeratta, tušratta, etc.) as *tṷaiašaratha, Vedic Tveṣaratha "whose chariot is vehement" (Mayrhofer I 686, I 736).

Possible Indo-Aryan migration to Inner Asia[edit]

Christopher I. Beckwith suggests that the Wusun, an Indo-European Europoid people of Inner Asia in antiquity, were of Indo-Aryan origin.[15] From the Chinese term Wusun, Beckwith reconstructs the Old Chinese *âswin, which he compares to the Old Indic aśvin "the horsemen," the name of the Rigvedic twin equestrian gods.[15] Beckwith suggests that the Wusun were an eastern remnant of the Indo-Aryans, who had been suddenly pushed to the extremeties of the Eurasian Steppe by the Iranian peoples in the 2nd millennium bc.[16]

The Wusun are first mentioned by Chinese sources as vassals in the Tarim Basin of the Yuezhi,[17] an Indo-European Europoid people of possible Tocharian stock.[18][19] Around 170 bc, the Yuezhi were utterly defeated by the Xiongnu, also former vassals of the Yuezhi.[19][20] The Yuezhi subsequently attacked the Wusun and killed their king (Kunmo Chinese: 昆彌 or Kunmi Chinese: 昆莫) Nandoumi (Chinese: 難兜靡), capturing the Ili Valley from the Saka (Scythians) shortly afterwards.[20] In return the Wusun settled in the former territories of the Yuezhi as vassals of the Xiongnu.[20][21] The son of Nandoumi was adopted by the Xiongnu king and made leader of the Wusun.[21] Around 130 bc he attacked and utterly defeated the Yuezhi, settling the Wusun in the Ili Valley.[21] Soon afterwards they became independent of the Xiongnu, becoming trusted vassals of the Han Dynasty and powerful force in the region for centuries.[21] With the emerging steppe federations of the Rouran, the Wusun migrated into the Pamir Mountains in the 5th century ad.[20] They are last mentioned in 938 ad when a Wusun chieftain paid tribute to the Liao dynasty.[20]

Vedic period[edit]

An influx of early Indo-Aryan speakers over the Hindukush (comparable to the Kushan expansion of the 1st centuries CE) together with Late Harappan cultures gave rise to the Vedic civilization of the Early Iron Age.[citation needed] This civilization is marked by a continual shift[citation needed] to the east, first to the Gangetic plain with the Kurus and Panchalas, and further east with the Kosala and Videha. This Iron Age expansion corresponds to the black and red ware and painted grey ware cultures.

For Hellenistic times, Oleg N. Trubachev (1999; elaborating on a hypothesis by Kretschmer 1944) suggests that there were Indo-Aryan speakers in the Pontic steppe. The Maeotes and the Sindes, the latter also known as "Indoi" and described by Hesychius as "an Indian people".[22]

Middle Ages[edit]

The various Prakrit vernaculars developed into independent languages in the course of the Middle Ages (see Apabhramsha), forming the Abahatta group in the east and the Hindustani group in the west. The Romani people (also known as Gypsies) are believed to have left India around 1000 CE.

Contemporary Indo-Aryan peoples[edit]

Further information: South Asians and Desi

Contemporary Indo-Aryans are spread over most of the northern, western, central and eastern regions of the Indian subcontinent, Hyderabad in southern India, and in most parts of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Non-native speakers of Indo-Aryan languages also reach the south of the peninsula. The largest groups are the Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi. (Hindustani) or Hindi/Urdu speakers of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan number more than half a billion native speakers, constituting the largest community of speakers of any of the Indo-European languages. Of the 22 scheduled languages of India, 16 are Indo-Aryan languages (see also languages of India).

Genetic anthropology[edit]

An increasing number of studies have found South Asia to have the highest level of diversity of Y-STR haplotype variation within R1a1a, such as those of Kivisild et al. (2003), Mirabel et al. (2009) and Sharma et al. (2007, 2009). However, studies based on Y-STR haplotype variation have been recently criticized as being inaccurate and highly unreliable because the results are often affected by which markers are consciously chosen for analysis. In a 2011 study examining the effects of microsatellite choice and Y-chromosomal variation, the authors conclude:

"Subsequently, we suggest that most STR-based Y chromosome dates are likely to be underestimates due to the molecular characteristics of the markers commonly used, such as their mutation rate and the range of potential alleles that STR can take, which potentially leads to a loss of time-linearity. As a consequence, we update the STR-based age of important nodes in the Y chromosome tree, showing that credible estimates for the age of lineages can be made once these STR characteristics are taken into consideration. Finally we show that the STRs that are most commonly used to explore deep ancestry are not able to uncover ancient relationships, and we propose a set of STRs that should be used in these cases."[23]

Viswanathan et al. (2004) in a study on genetic structure and affinities among tribal populations of southern India concludes, "Genetic differentiation was high and genetic distances were not significantly correlated with geographic distances. Genetic drift therefore probably played a significant role in shaping the patterns of genetic variation observed in southern Indian tribal populations. Otherwise, analyses of population relationships showed that Indian populations are closely related to one another, regardless of phenotypic characteristics, and do not show particular affinities to Africans. We conclude that the phenotypic similarities of some Indian groups to Africans do not reflect a close relationship between these groups, but are better explained by convergence."[24]

Sengupta et al. in their 2006 paper in the American Journal of Human Genetics say that "Our overall inference is that an early Holocene expansion in northwestern India (including the Indus Valley) contributed R1a1-M17 chromosomes both to the Central Asian and South Asian tribes".[25] The haplotype dating methodology employed by the Sengupta paper is based on the "evolutionarily effective" mutation rate for Y-chromosomal STR loci, a method which has been severely criticized by Balanovsky et al. (2011). According to these researchers, who compare both the accuracy and reliability of the Zhivotovsky evolutionary mutation rate (6.9 x 10-4 per locus per generation) with a genealogical rate (2.1 x 10-3 per locus per generation).

The latest research conducted by Watkins et al. (2008) also reject the Sengupta study, but only because of the stochasticity of uniparental markers which may have been affected by natural selection; they also argue for the need to analyze autosomal polymorphisms in addition to both Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA in order to generate a comprehensive picture of population genetic structure. The authors of the study write:

"The historical record documents an influx of Vedic Indo-European-speaking immigrants into northwest India starting at least 3500 years ago. These immigrants spread southward and eastward into an existing agrarian society dominated by Dravidian speakers. With time, a more highly-structured patriarchal caste system developed ... our data are consistent with a model in which nomadic populations from northwest and central Eurasia intercalated over millennia into an already complex, genetically diverse set of subcontinental populations. As these populations grew, mixed, and expanded, a system of social stratification likely developed in situ, spreading to the Indo-Gangetic plain, and then southward over the Deccan plateau."[26]

A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics[27] indicates that Indian ancestral components are the result of a more complex demographic history than was previously thought. According to the researchers, South Asia harbours two major ancestral components, one of which is spread at comparable frequency and genetic diversity in populations of South and West Asia, the Middle East, the Near East and the Caucasus; the other component is more restricted to South Asia. However, rather than ruling out the possibility of Indo-Aryan migration, these findings suggest that the genetic affinities of both Indian ancestral components are the result of multiple gene flows over the course of thousands of years.[27]

Modeling of the observed haplotype diversities suggests that both Indian ancestry components are older than the purported Indo-Aryan invasion 3,500 YBP. Consistent with the results of pairwise genetic distances among world regions, Indians share more ancestry signals with West than with East Eurasians.

List of Indo-Aryan peoples[edit]



See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Mallory, J.P. (1989). "In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth". London: Thames & Hudson. p. 38f. 
  7. ^ e.g. Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture, s.v. "Indo-Iranian languages", p. 306.
  8. ^ Brentjes (1981), Klejn (1974), Francfort (1989), Lyonnet (1993), Hiebert (1998) and Sarianidi (1993)
  9. ^ Edwin Bryant. 2001
  10. ^ e.g. Bernard Sergent. Genèse de l'Inde. 1997:161 ff.
  11. ^ Parpola, Asko (1999), "The formation of the Aryan branch of Indo-European", in Blench, Roger & Spriggs, Matthew, Archaeology and Language, vol. III: Artefacts, languages and texts, London and New York: Routledge.
  12. ^ Review of: David Anthony. The horse, the wheel and language. 2007. – Journal of Indo-European Studies, vol. 36, Nos. 3 and 4: 1 – 17.
  13. ^ The Bronze Age of Europe: Reflections on K. Kristiansen and T. Larsson: The Rise of Bronze Age Society (2005). – Norwegian Archaeological Review, 41 (2), 2008: 213 - 228.
  14. ^ Manfred Mayrhofer, Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen, Heidelberg 1986-2000, II 293
  15. ^ a b Beckwith 2009, pp. 376–377
  16. ^ Beckwith 2009, pp. 29–38
  17. ^ Beckwith 2009, pp. 84–85
  18. ^ Loewe & Shaughnessy 1999, pp. 87–88
  19. ^ a b Beckwith 2009, pp. 380–383
  20. ^ a b c d e "Chinese History - Wusun 烏孫". Chinaknowledge. Retrieved 1 January 2015. 
  21. ^ a b c d Beckwith 2009, pp. 6–7
  22. ^ Sindoi (or Sindi etc.) were also described by e.g. Herodotus, Strabo, Dionysius, Stephen Byzantine, Polienus. [1]
  23. ^{DFC2C4B1-FBCD-433D-86DD-B15521A77070}
  24. ^ Vishwanathan, H.; Deepa, E.; Cordaux, R.; Stoneking, M.; Usha Rani, M. V.; Majumder, P. P. (2004). "Genetic structure and affinities among tribal populations of southern India: A study of 24 autosomal DNA markers". Annals of Human Genetics 68 (2): 128. doi:10.1046/j.1529-8817.2003.00083.x. 
  25. ^ Polarity and Temporality of High-Resolution Y-Chromosome Distributions in India Identify Both Indigenous and Exogenous Expansions and Reveal Minor Genetic Influence of Central Asian Pastoralists, by Sanghamitra Sengupta,1 Lev A. Zhivotovsky,2 Roy King,3 S. Q. Mehdi,4 Christopher A. Edmonds,3 Cheryl-Emiliane T. Chow,3 Alice A. Lin,3 Mitashree Mitra,5 Samir K. Sil,6 A. Ramesh,7 M. V. Usha Rani,8 Chitra M. Thakur,9 L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza,3 Partha P. Majumder,1 and Peter A. Underhill3, 1Human Genetics Unit, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, India; 2N. I. Vavilov Institute of General Genetics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow; 3Department of Genetics, Stanford University, Stanford; 4Biomedical and Genetic Engineering Division, Dr. A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories, Islamabad; 5School of Studies in Anthropology, Pandit Ravishankar Shukla University, Raipur, India; 6University of Tripura, Tripura, India; 7Department of Genetics, University of Madras, Chennai, India; 8Department of Environmental Sciences, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, India; and 9B. J. Wadia Hospital for Children, Mumbai, India [2]
  26. ^ [3]
  27. ^ a b Metspalu, Mait; Romero, Irene Gallego; Yunusbayev, Bayazit; Chaubey, Gyaneshwer; Mallick, Chandana Basu; Hudjashov, Georgi; Nelis, Mari; Mägi, Reedik; Metspalu, Ene; Remm, Maido; Pitchappan, Ramasamy; Singh, Lalji; Thangaraj, Kumarasamy; Villems, Richard; Kivisild, Toomas (2011). "Shared and Unique Components of Human Population Structure and Genome-Wide Signals of Positive Selection in South Asia". The American Journal of Human Genetics 89 (6): 731–44. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.11.010. PMC 3234374. PMID 22152676. 
  28. ^ a b Havell, Ernest Binfield (1918). "ARYANS AND NON-ARYANS". The history of Aryan rule in India. Harrap. p. 32. Ethnographic investigations show that the original Indo-Aryan people were described in the Hindu epics — a tall, fair-complexioned, long-headed race, with narrow, prominent noses, broad shoulders, long arms, slim waists "like a lion," and thin legs like a deer — is now (as it was in the earliest times) mostly confined to Kashmir, the Panjab and Rajputana, and represented by the Khattris, Jats, and Rajputs. 
  29. ^ a b Risley, Herbert; Crooke, William. Crooke, William, ed. The people of India (2, reprint ed.). Asian Educational Services. p. 33. ISBN 81-206-1265-5. The Indo-Aryan type, occupying the Punjab, Rajputana, and Kashmir, and having as its characteristic members the Rajputs, Khatris, and Jats. This type approaches most closely to that ascribed to the traditional Aryan colonists of India. 
  30. ^ Jindal, Mangal Sen (1992). History of origin of some clans in India, with special reference to Jats (Original from the University of Michigan). Sarup & Sons. pp. 29–36. ISBN 81-85431-08-6. 


Beckwith, Christopher I. (16 March 2009). Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present. Princeton University Press. ISBN 1400829941. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 

External links[edit]