On the rectification of names and religion

A major influence on my thinking about human social phenomenon is Scott Atran’s In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion. Atran, along with other scholars such as Dan Sperber and younger researchers such as Harvey Whitehouse, work within a “naturalistic” paradigm, as opposed to the more interpretative framework currently ascendant within American anthropology.

The interpretive framework emphasizes “thick description,” and avoids generalities (unless they are convenient ones!), as well as exhibiting a suspicion of synthesis with the natural sciences. Ways of thinking such as post-colonialism are part of the umbrella of paradigms which are consonant with interpretive anthropology’s premises.

Both naturalistic and interpretive frameworks are useful. But I believe in modern discourse the latter is given almost monopolistic power to adjudicate on factual matters, even though in other contexts those who engage in interpretation are wont to say that facts are fictions!

Let’s start with the idea that the idea of religion qua religion is Protestant, Christian, or Abrahamic. I’ve seen all three flavors of the argument using a narrow definition of religion. It’s hard to deny that Christianity, and often in particular Protestantism, have resulted in a reorganization and reimagining of non-Christian religions. For example, the “confessionalization” of South Korea after World War II, and the transformation of Won Buddhism into an institution which resembles Protestantism would be a case in point. Or the emergence of Arya Samaj in the 19th century, and its relationship to the stimulative effect of evangelical Protestantism.

It is hard to deny confessional Protestantism is a very particular form of religion, and a clear and distinct one. The emphasis on individual volition in this view of religion makes it such that identity is clear and distinct through adherence to a precise formula and community. Practitioners are self-conscious in their identity. They come to it, it is not given to them.

But is it fair to say that religion by necessity must follow the outlines of confessional Protestantism? Or that it has to be a congregational faith with exclusive boundaries, as the Abrahamic faiths tend to be?

Not necessarily. A Ju/’hoansi tribesman in the Kalahari does not follow any of the organized world religions. He or she surely does not have the word for religion in their language, unless he or she is in extensive contact with missionaries. But the Ju/’hoansi have a rich supernatural world in which they believe, and which is seamlessly woven into their lives.

Do the Ju/’hoansi  have a religion or not? If you asked them they might not know what you are talking about. The Ju/’hoansi lack many of the institutions which modern societies have, so they don’t need all the labels of modern societies. Do the Ju/’hoansi have “daycare”? Again, they would look at you in a very confused manner. But the do have  Ju/’hoansi some alloparenting. It’s just something implicit, tacit, and taken for granted. It might not be labelled daycare, but that’s what it is. Functionally they have daycare, even it’s not institutionalized.

To bring it back to the central focus of this weblog, there has been some assertion that Hinduism as such was invented/defined by the British. That Hinduism as a coherent ideology is a very distinct and novel thing from the welter of beliefs and practiced of Indians more generally.

It is clear there is some truth in this. The Hinduism of a Brahmin expositor of Sanatana Dharma is distinct from the local spirituality of a adivasi group, and both differ from something like Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

But the reality is that Hinduism is not particularly unique. American Presbyterians exhibit self-conscious identity and adherence to elite-mediated belief and practice. This sort of individualistic confessional Christianity is arguably the apotheosis of a modernist conception of religion. But this is a relatively new development in the West among Christians.

The vast majority of the European peasantry did not exhibit this sort of Christian self-consciousness before the later medieval centuries, and much of it did not become self-conscious until after the Reformation period. This is one reason that some Reformed Protestants argue that Europe was not Christianized until after the Reformation. Peasants may have had a sense that they were Christians, and others were heathens, but the full liturgy and deep catechism were not necessarily a part of their lives (in contrast to the elite).

And yet it seems ridiculous to assert in the context of the Crusades, the rise of Gothic cathedrals, and the conversion of Northern and Eastern Europe by missionaries, that Europe was not Christian before the late medieval period. Individual Europeans may not have been self-conscious confessional Christians, but everyone around them was at least nominally a Christian. Additionally, the Christian Church, whether West or East, saw itself as bringing salvation to everyone within the society, high or low, poor or rich, and devout or ignorant. Many Europeans were not Christian in the individual way modern evangelical Protestants would understand, but European civilization was Christian.

I think this is the best way to understand what Hinduism was, and what it became. Indian civilization was long seen to be distinct by the ancients. It was not a random and disparate collection of peoples, but a civilization with various centers, and jostling competition between aspirant elites.

It is well known in the pre-modern period “Hindu” seems to have bracketed people who lived in India. From the Muslim perspective all non-Muslims who lived in the subcontinent. It was a geographical designation more than a religious one as such. But it is clear that already by the time of the arrival of Muslims in the Sindh in the 8th century, and definitely by the era when Al-Biruni wrote his well known ethnography of South Asia around 1000 AD, that Indian religion had taken on some distinctive forms and outlines, even if it was not self-consciously termed Hinduism. It is clear because outsiders describe normative Indian religious practices and beliefs that we would recognize today (e.g., reincarnation).

There are two other elements to this broader issue. First, it curious that the British had to define Hinduism, when it seems Muslims had been doing so for the whole period after the initial incursions. Al-Biruni made the most thorough early attempt, and his writings on India would make an Orientalist proud. And I say that not as a dismissal, but a description. Al-Biruni seemed rather clear-eyed that Indian hostility to Muslim was due to the predatory character of the warlords who also patronized his scholarship. The focus on the British reflects the recency-bias in post-colonial studies, where the only colonialism and conquest of interest is tht which is executed by Europeans.

Additionally, I am  convinced by the arguments in Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road, Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane, and Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World, that Turanian Buddhism was essential and instrumental in shaping Islam as we understand it from the Abbassid period onward (in particular, the emergence of madrassa and the hadith traditions). Though Turanian Buddhism is clearly not Hindu, connections to India to the south and China to the east were part of a broader “Buddhist international” which flourished in the 4th to 7th century.

This is not to deny the distinctiveness of the Islam Al-Biruni used as a contrast to Indian religious thought. But, by his life Central Asian Buddhism was extirpated, and he would not have been able to see the influence of that Indian-influenced tradition on Islam because it had become thoroughly integrated.

Second, Indian religious civilization was successfully exported to the east so it was not constitutively associated with being Indian. The Balinese of Indonesia and the Cham of Vietnam are recognizably Hindu. It would be curious to tell them that the British defined Hinduism in the early modern period…when they were practicing Hinduism 1,000 years ago. The Ankgor temple complex was built in the 12th century, when Hinduism was Cambodia’s dominant elite religion.

Finally, an addendum to my post on caste and genetics. I read Castes of Mind many years ago. I think many of the arguments in that book aren’t necessarily invalidated by the genetic data. But, we need to think hard about whether we really expected the genetic data given the thesis that British colonialism was highly determinative in shaping the hierarchy and structure of South Asian society.

In fact, the genetic data makes it clear that most South Asian communities have been distinct and endogamous for several thousand years. That the genetic differences between castes groupings and jati within regions are closer to what you could expect of from differences between antipodes of a continent. And, within a given region ancestry which is closer to West/Central Eurasian tends to be enriched in groups “higher” up the modern caste ladder, across the subcontinent (at least if there is a correlation).

Additionally, this is not well known, but the genetic structure seems to exist even if you remove Indo-Aryans from the picture. Groups such as the Reddys and Nadars in South India who do not have any northern/western affinity at all are still genetically quite distinct from adivasis and scheduled castes in the local region. They also tend to have more West/Central Eurasian ancestry than adivasis and scheduled castes in the local region.

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36 thoughts on “On the rectification of names and religion”

  1. ” Turanian Buddhism is clearly not Hindu”

    I consider the Turanians to have been Hindus for thousands of years and to have been Hindus before Zarathustra was born. I also consider the Turanian pantheon (Kushan) and the Greek pantheon to be linked to the Vedas. For a long time Buddhism has been considered one of ten schools inside Hinduism. Regarded so by both Hindus and many Buddhists. Therefore Turanian Buddhist Hindus would be just as accurate as saying Turanian Buddhists.

    The religion of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and Kushan could be said to be Hindu Buddhist, Zorastrian, and Greek (linked to Hinduism) and Turanian Kushan pantheon (also linked to Hindusim).

    This is my best guess. I believe that both Zarathustra, Buddha and Cyrus the Great were born long before when historians currently believe they were born. The entire dating of ancient civilizations is significantly off:
    http://www.brownpundits.com/2018/04/27/ancient-egyptian-arya-and-greek-history-part-2/
    This makes it hard to make definitive statements about the past.

    Your research about the similarity of Turan DNA with DNA from many other parts of the world is consistent with (but does not prove) the idea that Sanathana Dharma was spread over a very large geographic area with significant customization and diversity. I have always seen this as a cultural open source architecture containing many streams of streams within. Japan, China and Vietnam are also within this open source architecture through Buddhist Hinduism.

    From your previous comments we don’t fully agree on this. 🙂 Which is okay. We will see where the data leads us over time.

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    1. I consider the Turanians to have been Hindus for thousands of years and to have been Hindus before Zarathustra was born. I also consider the Turanian pantheon (Kushan) and the Greek pantheon to be linked to the Vedas. For a long time Buddhism has been considered one of ten schools inside Hinduism. Regarded so by both Hindus and many Buddhists. Therefore Turanian Buddhist Hindus would be just as accurate as saying Turanian Buddhists.

      indian culture has a clear non-indo-european element. the people of turan do not have this, though buddhism brought this influence culturally.

      you can say that turanians were hindu. that makes as much sense to me as saying hindus didn’t exist before the british labelled them as such. ie not much.

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  2. Thanks Razib for a very well-written and interesting article.

    Can we qualify the earlier claim that the British invented Hinduism by saying that the British made “Hinduism” into a modern religion in the sense that they understood religion and that they defined it in opposition to Islam. The census had a huge role to play in this.

    Kamaljeet Bhasin-Malik (who unfortunately died young) wrote an entire book on this called “In the Making: Identity Formation in South Asia”.

    From the description:
    “This book critiques the taken-for-granted opposition of Hindu and Muslim as separate and cohesive categories, the frequent coding of syncretism as deviant, impermanent or tolerant, and moves towards a more nuanced approach. It questions the historicist preoccupation with incidents and processes of conflict, conquest, iconoclasm, and sets out to look at co-existence and peaceful interactions at the grassroots as equally crucial for the formation of identities. Written with perception and lucidity, it could be used profitably by scholars and by students, teachers, activists and the general reader.”
    https://threeessays.com/books/in-the-making/

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    1. Can we qualify the earlier claim that the British invented Hinduism by saying that the British made “Hinduism” into a modern religion in the sense that they understood religion and that they defined it in opposition to Islam. The census had a huge role to play in this.

      i don’t think it was contingent. i think it’s inevitable with modernity.

      basically as people modernize/develop them seem to coalesce around these strong communal identities. in the 16th century german princes selected the religion of their people. by the 17th and 18th century they couldn’t do that. when the hohenzollerns converted to calvinism their subjects refused to follow, and they were a calvinist ruling house atop a lutheran populace. similar for the kings of saxony, where the catholic branch eventually ascended and ruled over a lutheran people.

      in indonesia you see the ‘syncretistic’ rural muslim beliefs give way to ‘orthodox’ santri islam. i think it’s because rural islam is *rural*; it’s hard to transport.

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      1. One of the Pol Sci researcher I follow has some interesting upcoming research arguing that roots of Hindu-Muslim communal violence in Northern India goes earlier than British period and more towards Aurenzeb and Maratha empire era (1670 – 1760). I hope to write a post on his research soon.

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        1. “One of the Pol Sci researcher I follow has some interesting upcoming research arguing that roots of Hindu-Muslim communal violence in Northern India goes earlier than British period and more towards Aurenzeb and Maratha empire era (1670 – 1760). I hope to write a post on his research soon.”

          I read somewhere that first recorded Hindu Muslim riot was in good old Ahmadabad during the reign of Aurangzeb. (By riots I mean two mobs clashing with each other rather than a one sided violence inflicted by a hostile army on the general population). However, the fillip certainly came during the British period, as the perceived neutrality of the government emboldened
          both communities to be more assertive in marking their territories. If there weren’t enough mob type riots during Muslim rule, I suspect it was simply due to the fact that Hindus were resigned to their fate as second class citizens in an Islamic state.

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          1. “If there weren’t enough mob type riots during Muslim rule, I suspect it was simply due to the fact that Hindus were resigned to their fate as second class citizens in an Islamic state.”

            This is a question that historians have debated. How much impact did the Mughal State have outside of its core areas? One argument is that most “Hindus” lived in their villages and their lives were not really that impacted by whoever happened to occupy the throne in Delhi. That argument can certainly be contested, but one would need to bring serious research to bear on the topic.

            Also by the way, it would technically be called an “Islamicate” state and not an “Islamic” state. “Islamic State” sounds like ISIS and whatever you may think of the Mughal Empire, it certainly was not ISIS.

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    2. also, the british understanding of religion has to be understood through catholic/protestant conflicts of the period. not islam like spaniards.

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      1. Obviously the British understanding of religion was based on Protestantism and the Church of England.

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  3. In summer, 2017 I spent a one month in Ann Arbor. I was staying at a house where Ann Arbor Anthropology PHD students lived. I gathered from them that top programs like their’s are heavily into biology and quantitative analysis. One student spends 6 months every year in Uganda with the Chimpanzees to understand roots of social violence. Another student researched genomic evidence for cold-climate adaptation in Tierra del Fuego. I gathered from them that top program like Chicago, Michigan, UCLA, Arizona, Berkeley greatly emphasize scientific approach rather than interpretive approach.

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  4. A superb post! As I read the line – “some Reformed Protestants argue that Europe was not Christianized until after the Reformation”, Crusades and Gothic Churches immediately came into the mind. Then I saw you addressed that immediately. The collective social endeavor of Gothic Churches described in Turchin’s book make it clear that the common man was also greatly invested in those kind of projects. Who are we to say that they lacked a clearly defined belief system!

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  5. Buddhism has always been Iinstitutionalized continuously and close links between the Myanmar (Burmese) and Sri Lanka. Even the rural populace in Sri Lanka (and Myanmar) were invested in the Mahavamsa ethos by preaching by the Buddhist priests. The Mahavamsa ethos being that Lanka is the land Buddha chose to preserve Buddhism.

    With continuous invasion by the Europeans since the 15th century the institution of Buddhism was lost. i.e. There were no more priest. It was a Teluga Waduga Nayak King, Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe who got down Buddhist priests from Siam and revived Buddhism.

    The modern phase of Buddhism, called Protestant Buddhism was spearheaded by Col Henry Steele Olcott. It was Buddhism as a protest against Protestant Christianity. a Content and structure mirrored also mirrored Protestant Christianity.

    Olcott’s “Buddhist Catechism”, composed in 1881, is one of his most enduring contributions to the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and remains in use there today. The text outlines what Olcott saw to be the basic doctrines of Buddhism, including the life of the Buddha, the message of the Dharma, the role of the Sangha. The text also treats how the Buddha’s message correlates with contemporary society. Olcott was considered by South Asians and others as a Buddhist revivalist

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Steel_Olcott

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/1465402?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

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  6. I think reading “Heathen in his Blindness” by S.N. Balagangadhara would give more clarity to this issue. He’s not saying like other people that Hinduism is a colonial construction that was created at the time of British colonialism. His claim is that Hinduism (and Buddhism, Jainism) as religions do not exist, and they still do not exist.

    He also critiques the idea that Hinduism, Buddhism, etc are still religions, but they’re different types of religions compared to Abrahamic religions because you would have to broaden the definition of the term “religion” to such an extent that the word becomes meaningless.

    I think one analogy people in his research group make is that the ocean is filled with various with species of fish and creatures like dolphins, but just because a dolphin lives in the ocean doesn’t mean it’s a fish, but a mammal. While Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist traditions are similar in that there are rituals, prayers, and deities involved, saying that Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Native American, etc traditions are different types of religions is similar to saying that dolphins are a different type of fish, when they’re not.

    http://www.cultuurwetenschap.be/files/publications/Heathen_in_His_Blindness.pdf

    His book does a better job at explaining the argument instead of me clumsily trying to summarize it in one comment. Jason A. Josephson-Storm also mentions similar things, probably more clearly, in “The Invention of Religion in Japan” with regards to Shinto and Japanese Buddhist traditions. Phillip Almond says similar things in “The British Discovery of Buddhism” in how Buddhism became viewed as a separate religion from Hinduism. Arvind Pal Singh Mandair and Harjot Oberoi have also expressed similar views with regards to Sikh traditions, although they’ve both been heavily criticized by many in the Sikh community.

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    1. these arguments are not novel. in the generality, they’ve been around for a while.

      i reject the conclusion of linguistic incommensurability.

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  7. In most of your recent articles you seem to be constantly hammering in the point that there is a genetic basis to the castes. The fact is, most Indians don’t care two hoots about their genetic origins. And this is not a Hindu nationalist position in case you start speculating in the wrong direction. It is simply common-sense based on ground realities. Indians who study in national colleges and work in multinational corporations build social networks based on their tastes and hobbies, instead of their genetic affinities. Any two Indians working in foreign countries like US immediately know that they are way more closer to each other in blood than they are to Americans or Chinese. After all, it is written on their faces.

    Even the genetic results you present seem to be possess just academic value. I fail to see what is the practical value of conclusions like Reddys are shifted more towards West Asians than Dalits, or Brahmins have more “steppe” component- your preferred euphemism for “Aryan”- than others. The fact is, for the most part it is impossible to distinguish Brahmins from Reddys or Rajputs from Banias based on their looks. (Compare that to American Whites and Blacks, who are visibly different from each other. Here the genetic differences have practical values of medical research or forensic investigations etc.)

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    1. The fact is, most Indians don’t care two hoots about their genetic origins.

      yes, i’m aiming at the large and vocal minority who do. we have the genetic information. so i’m putting it out there.

      Here the genetic differences have practical values of medical research or forensic investigations etc.

      because of high inbreeding coefficient due to endogamy indian genetic structure is actually pretty important. but it’s not a ‘varna’ level dynamic, it’s jati by jati

      https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/04/06/047035

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    2. @snakecharmer “you seem to be constantly hammering in the point that there is a genetic basis to the castes.”
      Golly, a geneticist of South Asian descent posting about recent discoveries in South Asian population genetics.
      You’re right, that’s terrible.

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    3. Even the genetic results you present seem to be possess just academic value.

      Academic value IS value. Everything isn’t political, and every investigator does not have a political axe to grind (in fact, most don’t.) If you don’t care about a particular field of inquiry, the right attitude would be to ignore what’s going on there, rather than exhorting researchers to stop trying to find out stuff.

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    4. >A Brahmin has more in common with his Bania or Rajput neighbor in terms of looks, choice of food, likes and dislikes for movies and games, social and political impulses than his R1a1 cousin from Norway. This is the point I was making.

      Thanks for pointing out that caste becomes obsolete when a Brahmin is placed in an environment where their caste means squat. Wouldn’t have figured that one out by myself.

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  8. // I read Castes of Mind many years ago. I think many of the arguments in that book aren’t necessarily invalidated by the genetic data. But, we need to think hard about whether we really expected the genetic data given the thesis that British colonialism was highly determinative in shaping the hierarchy and structure of South Asian society. //

    The problem with this assertion is that although it acknowledges that most of the arguments of the book is not invalidated by the Genetic data but at the same time it does question it but in a highly selective manner.

    In the book the author David Reich keeps going back to his Jew Identity & the endogamy aspects of his own identity, so we can already see that he is more inclined towards the Orientalists narratives because of his own experience & his bias of ‘Western Perspective’.

    He keeps mentioning rise & fall of caste groups through history but from his perspective the proof of one feature i.e. extreme endogamy {among 1/3rd population} is enough to assert the rest of the Orientalist narrative regarding caste. He mentions the book “Caste of Mind” {Page – 130} to assert that it argues that strong endogamy was not practiced in India but largely is an innovation of British Colonialism which is not completely correct since that book covers a lots of other stuff regarding the ‘Caste Identity’.

    Thus he basically reduces the whole book “Castes of Mind” to the question of Endogamy because that’s exactly what he can predict & using his data he simply dismisses all the varied ways the Dirks book lists the manipulation of caste identity by colonizers.

    For e.g. this manuscript – {It is a written record of practice on the ground instead of imagined practice on the basis of any religious text & there is lots of such data in Archeological records that does not corroborate the caste as defined in any Hindu religious text.}
    http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/once-dalits-were-landowners-vellalas-slaves/article18405606.ece – 15th century manuscript.

    He mentions “Degree of Differentiation” among Jatis to be 3 times greater than European Counterparts separated by similar geographic distances. There could be many reasons for it but he did not try to look for local factors instead he went back to European experience to provide proofs.
    For e.g. – What he failed to take into account was how differently Indic religions mixed with natives & how differently Abrahamic religions mixed with natives historically, Just a simple question – Which regions of the world have high numbers of Indigenous populations ? Why they survived in their traditional forms in some regions while in other they have been completely wiped out ?

    He says that around third of Indian groups experienced population bottlenecks so that leaves a large population that did not show such extent or level of population bottleneck.

    In the end he provides example of 6 groups {All Brahmins} corresponding with Iranian farmer steppe ancestry but he also provided West-Eurasian related ancestry results which showed that no group is unaffected by it. This shows that there have been mixing & population bottlenecks in the Indian subcontinent throughout history. So the proofs of endogamy of few groups of 2000-3000 yrs does not negate the results of prior period & the endogamy result cannot negate the other insightful researches like “Castes of Mind” from providing material proofs of the material world using single parameter.

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      1. I am talking about perspectives, data & interpretation of data & the effect of perspectives on them.

        Nicholas Dirks Investigates on the basis of anthropological & sociological records -> He noted the possibilities according to that data -> One of them was the effect on the social structure & that’s where the question of ‘endogamy’ arises.

        In other hand author of book ‘Who are We & How we Got here’ i.e. David Reich has some common understanding of ‘Casteism’ & to him casteism is all about endogamy since that’s how he perceives his own Jewish identity so he applies all his identity based understanding to the Caste identity.

        David Reich a Jew with a strong Endogamy background from Europe {Thus i mention he keeps comparing the data from India to his own identity & Western experience} -> His ‘Orientalist’ orientations –
        From page. 129
        Repressive nature of caste spawned in reaction major religions – Jainism, Buddhism & Sikhism wach of which offered refuge from caste system. The success of Islam in India was also fueled by the escape it provided for low social status groups that converted in masse to the new religion of Mughal rulers.

        Check my response about “Caste during Islamic Empires” to this post –
        http://www.brownpundits.com/2018/06/05/shudra-american-doctor-speaks-out/
        https://www.reddit.com/r/india/comments/1adnc2/why_did_islam_not_make_greater_inroads_in_india/

        Basically Genetic data proves that Endogamy has been the norm in Indian subcontinent {for approx. 2000-3000 yrs.} now from here all the assertions about castes are ontological since the data from other streams challenge the notions of caste antiquity & various things linked to the term ‘caste’ which Genetic data can not address.

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        1. Nicholas Dirks Investigates on the basis of anthropological & sociological records -> He noted the possibilities according to that data -> One of them was the effect on the social structure & that’s where the question of ‘endogamy’ arises.

          i’ve read dirks’ book. front to back.

          now from here all the assertions about castes are ontological since the data from other streams challenge the notions of caste antiquity & various things linked to the term ‘caste’ which Genetic data can not address.

          speak english.

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          1. // speak english. //

            Nah i will write 🙂 & that’s what i did. I can’t interpret for you though.

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  9. quote
    Golly, a geneticist of South Asian descent posting about recent discoveries in South Asian population genetics.
    You’re right, that’s terrible.
    unquote.

    Well, I was questioning the practical value of finding out a genetic basis of castes, not the genetic research per say. It is well known that Indian population is a highly admixtured population. So now the data can be interpreted in two ways – either you can highlight the similarities in genetic compositions of different castes, or you can highlight the differences. Let’s say Rajputs and Brahmins are 99% similar to each other in genes, and both are 10% and 11% similar to Europeans respectively. So now what is the bigger story here? That Brahmins are more European-like than Rajputs, or that Brahmins and Rajputs are practically indistinguishable from each other? (Made up numbers, I am no geneticist, but just to drive home the point).

    A Brahmin has more in common with his Bania or Rajput neighbor in terms of looks, choice of food, likes and dislikes for movies and games, social and political impulses than his R1a1 cousin from Norway. This is the point I was making.

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      1. http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/living/the-story-of-our-origins

        I am not a geneticist, but I read them a lot. (It helps me relax after the daily drudgery of a job working with computer programs all day long. For whatever reasons, geneticists amuse me a lot.) Here is an article where a PhD geneticist RNK Bamezai bluntly states
        “Caste, tribe and religion in India do not have any genetic basis.”

        Now of course you will claim that the article is 7 years old, and has been superseded by newer research. But this geneticist to my knowledge has not changed his position.

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    1. @Snake Charmer: I think it is important. It helps us understand our past better and how society evolved these castes in the first place, which can play a role in finding solutions to several complex social issues that we face.

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  11. @ Snake Charmer: Well, I was questioning the practical value of finding out a genetic basis of castes,…”

    In Hyderabad Deccan doctors ask the patient what their caste is and if they happen to be from Telugu Vaishya community they provide certain medicines only as the particular community has a specific genetic make up etc. mostly due to long standing endogamy. This medical approach is good as it saves lives. Nothing to sneer at.

    Reminds one of sickle cell anemia in a minority group. Individual DNA sequence based medicine is here in the U.S. already.

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  12. Genomic reconstruction of the history of extant populations of India reveals five distinct ancestral components and a complex structure.

    why are you quoting studies at me? i’ve read this and know one of the authors. it’s OK, but 5 years out of date now.

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    1. To again make the point which even David Reich made in his book, i.e. // This shows that there have been mixing & population bottlenecks in the Indian subcontinent throughout history. // Also not every group had bottlenecks to the same extent as some other groups.

      Secondly the attached letter raises an important point – i.e. How did the regions which were not under Hindu Gupta Empire chose endogamy route ? What was the trigger for it religion or something else ?

      I don’t think that the attached letter’s conclusions can be accepted without questioning but it does provides some questions worth pondering about.

      Some media reports –
      https://arstechnica.com/science/2016/01/the-caste-system-has-left-its-mark-on-indians-genomes/
      http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/Caste-system-has-left-imprints-on-genes-study/article14022623.ece

      Can you tell what has changed since 5 years since it also seems to suggest the same conclusions regarding sudden onset of endogamy at about 2000-2500 yrs. ago. ?

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