South Asian ethnic groups

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The ethno-linguistic composition of the population of South Asia, that is the nations of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka is highly diverse.[1] The majority of the population fall within two large linguistic groups, Indo-Aryan and Dravidian.[2] Indian society is traditionally divided into castes or clans, not ethnicities, and these categories have had no official status 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 categorized in terms of the 1,652 mother tongues spoken.

South Asian Language Families

These groups are further subdivided into numerous sub-groups, castes and tribes. Indo-Aryans form the predominant ethno-linguistic group in Northern India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Dravidians form the predominant ethno-linguistic group in southern India and the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka, and a small pocket in Pakistan. Certain Iranian speaking peoples also have a significant presence in South Asia, the large majority of whom are located in Pakistan, with heavy concentrations in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Dardic peoples form a minority among the Indo-Aryans. They are classified as belonging to the Indo-Aryan language group,[3] though sometimes they are also classified as external to the Indo-Aryan branch.[4] They are found in northern Pakistan (Northern Areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) and in Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Minority groups not falling within either large group mostly speak languages belonging to the Austroasiatic and Tibeto-Burman language families, and mostly live around Ladakh and Northeast India, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh. The Andamanese (Sentinel, Onge, Jarawa, Great Andamanese) live on some of the Andaman Islands and speak a language isolate, as do the Kusunda in central Nepal,[5] the Vedda in Sri Lanka, and the Nihali of central India, who number about 5000 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 (where Turkic and Iranian peoples have had much influence) and in the border regions and busy ports, where there are greater levels of contact with external cultures. This is particularly true for many ethnic groups in the northeastern parts of South Asia who are ethnically related to peoples of the Far East. 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 genetic basis. Genetically all south Asians are a mixture of Australasian and Indo-European genetics.

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


People who speak an Indo-Aryan language.

The extent of Indo-Aryan languages in the Indian subcontinent

Most of the North Indian population is of partial Indo-Aryan descent. The Ra1a1 gene haplotype is found in at least 50% of the populations from North/East India to Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

Iranian peoples[edit]

Dardic peoples[edit]

The Dardic languages are largely seen as Indo-Aryan, but are sometimes seen as a separate Indo-Iranian branch.

Dravidian peoples[edit]

Austroasiatic peoples[edit]

Tibeto-Burman peoples[edit]

     Sino-Tibetan languages
     Indo-European languages
     Dravidian languages
     Altaic Languages
     3 groups - Japonic (possibly Altaic), Koreanic, (possibly Altaic), and Indochinese languages
     Austronesian languages
     Austroasiatic languages

Turko-Mongol peoples[edit]

Austronesian peoples[edit]

Semitic peoples[edit]

  • Arabs or mixed Arab and Indo-Aryan or Dravidian
    • Arabs in Gujarat
    • Mappila (( Muslims of Malabar(North Kerala)- ancestry to Southern Arab people or Persian traders who intermarried Nair/ Menon /Nambiar (upper class descents) or Thiyya /Mukkuva(lower class descents) of Hindu community of North Kerala))
    • Sri Lankan Moors ( trace ancestry to Arab traders who settled in Sri Lanka)
    • Muhajirs
    • Iraqi biradri A community of Muslims in north India (trace ancestry from Arab tribe of Bani Tamim)
    • Deccan A community of Muslims in Southern and Northern parts of the Deccan Plateau such as Hyderabadi Muslims
    • Labbay Arab traders who settled in South India
    • Rowther Muslims of Tamil Nadu and Kerala who descended from Turkish traders and soldiers from

the expedition of Sindh.

Tai peoples[edit]

European and Eurasian peoples[edit]


Andamanese and Nicobarese Groups[edit]

Linguistically isolate groups[edit]


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

See also Punjabi diaspora, Bangladeshi diaspora, Tamil diaspora, Pakistani diaspora, Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, Nepalese diaspora and Indian 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. ^ According to (retrieved on October 2010), 98% of the population of Bangladesh are Bengali (Indo-Aryan), 72% of the population of India are Indo-Aryan and 25% are Dravidian, 44.68% of the population of Pakistan are Punjabi and 14.1% are Sindhi (two Indo-Aryan populations), and 73.8% of the population of Sri Lanka are Sinhalese (Indo-Aryan). Given the fact that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka represent a huge mass of population (1 508 851 998) compared to Afghanistan, Buthan, Nepal and the Maldives (58 051 568), the majority of the population of South Asia are Indo-Aryan or Dravidian. Moreover, Nepal and Bhutan probably have an important part of their populations which are also Indo-Aryan. Feel free to check.
  3. ^ G. Morgenstierne Irano-Dardica. Wiesbaden 1973; Morgenstierne, G. Indo-Iranian frontier languages. (Instituttet for Sammenlignende Kulturforskning. Publ. ser. B: Skrifter, no. 11, 35, 40) Oslo: H. Aschehoug, 1929 sqq, reprint Oslo 1973,C. Masica The Indo-Aryan languages, New York 1991, p. 21; R.L. Trail and G.R. Cooper, Kalasha Dictionary, Islamabad & High Wycombe 1999 p. xi; The Indo-Aryan languages, edited by George Cardona and Dhanesh Jain. London, New York : Routledge, 2003
  4. ^ G.A. Grierson, The Pisaca Languages of North-Western India,Asiatic Society, London, 1906, repr. Delhi 1969, p. 4-6; still repeated in: History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Ahmad Hasan Dani, Vadim Mikhaĭlovich Masson, János Harmatta, Boris Abramovich Litvinovskiĭ, Clifford, 1999
  5. ^ D.E. Watters, Notes on Kusunda (a language isolate of Nepal), Kathmandu 2005
  6. ^ Yasmin Saikia (2004-11-09). 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