South Asian ethnic groups

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South Asian ethnic groups are an ethnolinguistic grouping of the diverse populations of South Asia, including the nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.[1] While Afghanistan is variously considered to be part of both Central Asia and South Asia, Afghans are generally not included among South Asians.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

The majority of the population fall within three large linguistic groups: Indo-Aryan, Dravidian and Iranic. The Indian, Nepalese and Sri Lankan societies are traditionally divided into castes or clans, which are based primarily on labour divisions; these categories have had no official status in India since independence in 1947, except for the scheduled castes and tribes, which remain registered for the purpose of affirmative action. In today's India, the population is categorised in terms of the 1,652 mother tongues spoken.

These groups are also further subdivided into numerous sub-groups, castes and tribes. Indo-Aryans form the predominant ethno-linguistic group in India (North India, East India, West India, Central India), Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.[10] Dravidians form the predominant ethno-linguistic group in southern India, the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka and a small pocket of Pakistan.[11] The Iranic peoples also have a significant presence in South Asia, the large majority of whom are located in Pakistan.[12][13]

Minority groups not falling within either large group mostly speak languages belonging to the Austroasiatic and Tibeto-Burman language families, and largely live around Ladakh and Northeast India, Nepal, Bhutan and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The Andamanese (Sentinel, Onge, Jarawa, Great Andamanese) live in some of the Andaman Islands and speak a language isolate, as do the Kusunda in central Nepal,[14] the Vedda in Sri Lanka, and the Nihali of central India, who number about 5,000 people. The people of the Hunza valley in Pakistan are another distinct population; they speak Burushaski, a language isolate.

The traditions of different ethnic groups in South Asia have diverged, influenced by external cultures, especially in the northwestern parts of South Asia and also in the border regions and busy ports, where there are greater levels of contact with external cultures. There is also a lot of genetic diversity within the region. For example, most of the ethnic groups of the northeastern parts of South Asia are genetically related to peoples of East or Southeast Asia. There are also genetically isolated groups who have not been genetically influenced by other groups, such as the Jarawa people of the Andaman Islands. The largest ethno-linguistic group in South Asia are the Indo-Aryans, numbering around 1 billion, and the largest sub-group are the native speakers of Hindi languages, numbering more than 470 million.

These groups are based solely on a linguistic basis and not on a genetic basis.

List of ethnic groups on the basis of language[edit]

South Asian language families

Austroasiatic people[edit]

Dravidian people[edit]

Indo-Aryan people[edit]

The extent of Indo-Aryan languages in South Asia

Iranic people[edit]

Nuristani people[edit]

Tibeto-Burman people[edit]

Andamanese and Nicobarese groups[edit]

Semitic people[edit]

Tai people[edit]

Turkic peoples[edit]

Afro-Asian groups[edit]

European and Eurasian people[edit]

Austronesian people[edit]

East Asian people[edit]


Linguistically isolate groups[edit]


Many South Asian ethnic groups and nationalities have substantial diasporas outside of South Asia.

See also Bangladeshi diaspora, Indian diaspora, Nepalese diaspora, Pakistani diaspora, Punjabi diaspora, Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, Tamil diaspora.

Two (or possibly three) other people groups have ethnic and linguistic ties with the region:

See also[edit]

National demographics:


  1. ^ "UN Geoscheme".
  2. ^ Danico, Mary Yu (2014). Asian American Society: An Encyclopedia. SAGE Publications. p. 838. ISBN 978-1-4522-8189-6.
  3. ^ Bhopal, Raj (2004). "Glossary of terms relating to ethnicity and race: for reflection and debate". Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 58 (6): 441–445. doi:10.1136/jech.2003.013466. PMC 1732794. PMID 15143107.
  4. ^ "Language and the BSA: Ethnicity & Race". British Sociological Association. March 2005. Archived from the original on 27 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  5. ^ Sarwal, Amit (2012). Bridging Imaginations: South Asian Diaspora in Australia. Readworthy Publications. ISBN 978-81-935345-4-0.
  6. ^ Lindsay, olin (2001). "The South Asian Community" (PDF). Profiles of Ethnic Communities in Canada. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  7. ^ “ South Asia is home to the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka”
  8. ^ “In the UK the term South Asian usually refers to people from the Indian subcontinent”.
  9. ^ “ Individuals of South Asian (Bangladeshi, Bhutanese, Indian, Maldivian, Nepalese, Pakistani, and Sri Lankan) ancestry account for almost a quarter of the world’s population, and the South Asian diaspora is one of the largest and most widespread across the globe
  10. ^ Chitta, Sridhar (7 January 2022). The Knowledge in the Vedas. StoryMirror Infotech Pvt Ltd. p. 173. ISBN 978-93-92661-61-7.
  11. ^ Swan, Michael; Smith, Bernard (26 April 2001). Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference and Other Problems. Cambridge University Press. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-521-77939-5. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  12. ^ Kachru, Braj B.; Kachru, Yamuna; Sridhar, S. N. (27 March 2008). Language in South Asia. Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-139-46550-2.
  13. ^ "Pakistan", The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency
  14. ^ D.E. Watters, Notes on Kusunda (a language isolate of Nepal), Kathmandu 2005
  15. ^ Yasmin Saikia (9 November 2004). Fragmented Memories. ISBN 0822333732.

External links[edit]

Media related to Ethnic groups in India at Wikimedia Commons Media related to Ethnic groups in Pakistan at Wikimedia Commons Media related to Ethnic groups in Nepal at Wikimedia Commons