Tribes of India

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Origin of Races in India

A species of primate genus called Ramapithecus punjabicus was found in the Siwalik foothills of the north-western Himalayas. This species is believed to be the first in the line of hominids and was discovered by G.E. Lewis in 1934. It is dated late Miocene or early Pliocene (8.5 to 13 million years ago). Its relatively small front teeth and reduced canine teeth helps in classifying it as a hominid. Another hominid fossil, resembling the Australopithecus, datable to the Middle and Upper Pleistocene (some 2 million years ago) was reported in the Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh in 1984 by Arun Sonakia of the Geological Survey of India, which was classified by Kennedy (1985) as belonging to the genus ‘Homo’ and closer to the sapiens species. This evolutionary gap of nearly 12 million years between the appearance of Ramapithecus and later hominids like the Australopithecus has not been satisfactorily explained by scientists.

People of different diversities, genes and anthropological stocks are found in India. In 1931 Dr. B. S. Guha, who later became the first Director of the Anthropological Survey of India, carried out an extensive survey in the entire Sub-continent on the basis of anthropometric and somatoscopic observations and classified the population of India into six main ethnic groups:

(1) Negritos:

The Negritos are the brachycephalic (broad headed) people who originated in Africa and represents the oldest surviving type of men. They were the earliest people to inhabit India. Negroid tribes such as the ‘Jarawas’, ‘Onges’, ‘Sentelenese’ and ‘Great Andamanis’ survived in their original habitat in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is believed that the Onges tribes have been living in the Andamans for the last 60,000 years. Nei and Roychoudhury (1982) claimed that the Negritos of India (and other Southeast Asian countries) are genetically different from those of Africa. Traces of the Negroid stock can also be seen in some forest tribes such as the ‘Irulas’, ‘Kodars’, ‘Paniyans’, ‘Pulayans’ and ‘Kurumbas’, which are found in some of the south Indian hills.

(2) Pro-Australoids or Austrics:

These are people having medium to dark brown skin colour, curly or wavy hair, long narrow heads (Dolichocephalic), prominent eye ridges, broad noses, thick jaws, large palates and teeth and small chins. This group was the next to come to India after the Negritos and inhabited South and Central India, besides Myanmar, Sri Lanka, South East Asia and Australia. They were the main builders of the Indus Valley Civilisation and are said to “form the bedrock of the people”. They have engaged in the cultivation of rice, growing of vegetables and making sugar from sugarcane. They are the original inhabitants, the so-called ‘Adivasis’ of India, and were referred in the Rigveda by terms such as ‘Dasa’ (Barbarians) and ‘Dasyu’ (ugly, sub-human). These tribes belong to the so-called “lower castes” and have survived in the Eastern and Central India (‘Kols’, ‘Mundaris’, ‘Bhils’, etc).

The term Proto-Australoid was coined by Dixon in 1923. Guha (1937) used the term ‘Proto-Australoid’ to designate the indigenous people of India presumed to have racial affinities with Australian Aboriginals. Sewell and Guha (1929) have reported the occurrence of the Proto-Australoid type among the Mohenjodaro skeletal remains.

(3) Mongoloids

The typical morphological features of these people include yellow complexion, oblique eyes, broad head (Brachycephalic), high cheekbones, nose with low to medium bridge, sparse hair and medium height. They are the inhabitants of China Mongolia, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bhutan, Thailand, Philippines and the Malay Peninsula. In India they are mainly found in the North-East and also in Ladakh and Sikkim.

(4) Mediterranean:

These are long-headed people of different strains and appear to have come to India from the Southwest Asia. This group is divided into three sub-types: the ‘Paleo-Mediterranean’, the ‘True Mediterranean’ and the ‘Oriental Mediterranean’. The ‘Paleo-Mediterranean’ or ‘Dravidians’ constitute the dark-skinned, medium-statured people with slight built as found in the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. The Nairs of Kerala and the Brahmins of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are the best examples of this type. The ‘True Mediterranean’ type is represented by the taller and fairer people found in the Malabar area, Maharashtra, West Bengal and in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in northern India. They are often referred as the ‘European Type’. The Namboodiri Brahmans of Kochi and the Brahmins of Allahabad and West Bengal belong to this type. The third group called the ‘Oriental Type’ comprises of fair-skinned people with long and convex noses and are found in Sind, Punjab, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh.

(5) Western Brachycephals:

These are broad-headed people of three sub-types: the ‘Alpinoids’, ‘Dinarics’ and the ‘Armenoids’. The Alpinoids are light-skinned with rounded faces, prominent noses and body with medium stature, such as the ‘Banias’, ‘Kathis’ and ‘Kayasthas’. The Dinarics are tall people having dark skins, long faces, dark eyes and very long and convex noses. The ‘Coorgis’ and ‘Kanarese’ belong to this type. The Armenoids are morphologically similar to the Dinarics but have more prominent, narrow and aquiline noses. The Parsis of Mumbai are the best representatives of this group.

(6) Nordics or Indo-Aryans:

Nordics or Indo-Aryans are tall people with a powerful physique having fair complexion, brown to dark hair, long head (Dolichocephalic), arched forehead, bluish eyes and fine narrow nose. These are the inhabitants of Northern India, mainly Punjab and Rajasthan, besides the Northwest Frontier Province of the present Pakistan. The ‘Kaffirs’ and ‘Kathash’ and some other “upper castes” belong to this group. They are supposed to be the last immigrants into India, who must have come during 2000-1500 B.C.



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