Roman Catholics in West Coast trace lineage to Gaud Saraswats and Jews, reveals study

The West Coast of India harbours a rich diversity of various ethno-linguistic human population groups, of which the Roman Catholics are a distinct group. While historians and anthropologists relate them to the ancient group of ‘Gaud Saraswats’, others believe they are members of the Jews lost tribes in the first century migration to India.

The first genetic study done on this group to infer their origin and genetic history showed them to have remnants of very early lineages of Brahmin community, majorly with Indo-European-specific genetic composition and some indication of Jewish component! The research led by noted chief scientist of CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), and also Director, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj, Dr. Niraj Rai, senior scientist, DST- Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences (BSIP), Lucknow and others, analysed the DNA of 110 individuals from Roman Catholic community of Goa, Kumta and Mangalore.

They compared this genetic information with previously published DNA data from India and West Eurasia plus archaeological, linguistic and historical records to fill the key details about the demographic changes and history of the Roman Catholic population of South West of India since the Iron Age (until around 2,500 years ago), and how they relate to the contemporary Indian population.

This study also found consequences of Portuguese inquisition in Goa on the population history of Roman Catholics, hence indication of the Jewish component. This finding has been published in Human Genetics on August 23. “Our study has revealed that majority of Roman Catholics are genetically close to an early lineage of Gaud Saraswat community,” said Dr. Kumarasamy Thangaraj, senior author. “More than 40% of their paternally inherited Y chromosomes can be grouped under R1a haplogroup. Such a genetic signal is prevalent among populations of north India, middle East and Europe, and unique to this population in Konkan region,” he said.

Cultural transformations

“This study strongly suggests profound cultural transformations in ancient South West of India due to continuous migration and mixing events since last 2,500 years,” said Dr. Niraj Rai, co-author. “The origins of many population groups like the Jews and Parsis in India are not well understood but these are gradually unfolding with advances in modern and ancient population genetics,” said Lomous Kumar, another researcher.

“This multi-disciplinary study using history, anthropology and genetics information have helped us in understanding the population history of Roman Catholics from one of the most diverse and multicultural region of our country,” pointed out CCMB Director Dr. Vinay K Nandikoori. Other institutes involved in this study are Mangalore University, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, and Institute of Advanced Materials, Sweden.

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Printable version | Aug 16, 2022 8:18:38 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/roman-catholics-in-west-coast-trace-lineage-to-gaud-saraswats-and-jews-reveals-study/article36124601.ece