Tracing Indian’s ancestry to migrations from Africa

Writer Tony Joseph delivering the Dr. T.K. Ramachandran Memorial Lecture in Kochi on Sunday.

Writer Tony Joseph delivering the Dr. T.K. Ramachandran Memorial Lecture in Kochi on Sunday. | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

To find the first Indians who walked the land 65,000 years ago, thousands of years before the Aryans arrived, all you need to do is look in the mirror.

Irrespective of region and language, most population groups in the country trace their ancestry to the first humans who migrated out of Africa and reached India. “These genetic finds impress upon us the commonality of our ancestry,” said writer Tony Joseph who was speaking at the fifth annual Dr. T.K. Ramachandran Memorial Lecture on ancient migrations and the politics of prehistory.

These findings endanger the conception of India as a “unisource” civilisation with the Sanskrit-Vedic culture of the Aryans as its singular foundation, he said. While the Aryan culture is an important component of Indian civilisation, it is neither the only component nor the earliest.

He identifies four major migrations that have impacted Indian civilisation – the “out of Africa” migrations, the migration of people from West Asia, from East Asia and from Central Asia. Of these, only the arrival of the Central Asian steppe people or the Aryan migration is a sensitive subject. “The discomfort with the Aryan migration is essentially a discomfort with Indian diversity and the desire to straightjacket that diversity into a monoculture with one foundation and one source,” said Mr. Joseph.

“We fail to notice the imprint that the mastery of the Harappan civilisation, which predates the arrival of the Aryans, has left on our culture,” he said.

Genetics shows that endogamy, a feature of the caste system, became popular only around 100 CE, much after the Aryan arrival. “The new findings show that there is no real, rational, or genetic basis for the caste system as it exists today because for thousands of years, there has been significant mixing. The only explanation for the caste system that divides our society today is as a political construct, not a religious command,” said Mr. Joseph.

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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 7:40:45 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/tracing-indians-ancestry-to-migrations-from-africa/article28629762.ece