They came not to bring peace but a sword


Recently there was a debate on Twitter about whether the legacy of the Indo-Aryans, one of the most impactful descendants of the Sintastha culture, was positive, significant and worthy of admiration. More generally, what have the descendants of the Yamnaya culture of the Pontic steppe done for us?

This is a complicated question. I think for Indian Hindus who revere the Vedas and the Vedic people the question has some broader and deeper implications. As I am not an Indian Hindu, any strident opinion on this is above my pay grade.

But I will repeat something that the Indo-Europeanist J. P. Mallory told me a few years ago: the reason that archaeologists fixate on the graves of these people is that these are among the few materials remains that they left. They were an agro-pastoralist society, and their arrival in Northern Europe 5,000 years ago saw the end of the ancient Neolithic traditions of megalith building. I think it is fair to say that these barbarians ushered in a “dark age” for a millennium in Europe.

What about elsewhere? In what became Greece the arrival of the steppe populations resulted in a synthetic culture that to be candid initially aped their Minoan predecessors, producing a coarser and more militaristic society. In ancient Elam, the arrival of the ancient Iranians resulted in the co-option by what became the Persians of much of the culture of the people of that region. Finally, the debates about India are endless in terms of what the influences on the Indic culture are in terms of whether they are Aryan or non-Aryan.

The daughter Indo-European societies were often quite culturally creative, in particular, the early Greeks and Indians. But I think this owes more to the fact that Indo-Europeans encountered either complexity (Minoans) or the faded elements of complexity (IVC), assimilated them, and leveraged their economic base to produce complexity and creativity societies. In contrast, Indo-European populations that remained closer to the ancient lifestyle, like the Slavs of the early medieval period, were culturally simple.

That being said, a skein of common Indo-European linguistic and oral culture did span Greece and India. Their origins were clearly brutal and barbaric, but the southern Indo-Europeans quickly assimilated and acclimated.

Filmmaker Vishal Chaturvedi-Should Creative People be Culturally Rooted

On the Episode 10 of my weekly podcast The Indic Paradigm on The Indic Explorer YouTube channel, I chat with Filmmaker Vishal Chaturvedi to understand if Creative People Should be Culturally Rooted.

We shot this episode in person in his studio. This was a special podcast which we jointly produced with him and his team from The Indic Library.

The Indic Explorer YouTube channel focusses on the interplay of Indic culture with modernity explored through different facets in the socio-cultural sphere.

Do subscribe to the channel at https://www.youtube.com/theindicexplorer

and follow me here

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Substack-https://digitaldharma.substack.com/

and follow the Indic Library below:

https://instagram.com/theindiclibrarytil

Nityanand Misra on Issues & Challenges with Sanskrit Learning in India

On the 9th Episode Part 2 of my weekly podcast The Indic Paradigm on The Indic Explorer YouTube channel, I chat with Nityanand Misra on Issues & Challenges with Sanskrit Learning in India.

The Indic Explorer YouTube channel focusses on the interplay of Indic culture with modernity explored through different facets in the socio-cultural sphere.

Do subscribe to the channel at https://www.youtube.com/theindicexplorer

and follow me here

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Substack-https://digitaldharma.substack.com/

Nityanand Misra- How to Name Your Child & The ‘Shanaya Phenomenon’

On the 9th Episode Part 1 of my weekly podcast The Indic Paradigm on The Indic Explorer YouTube channel, I chat with Nityanand Misra on The Best Practices to be followed on naming your child.

We also discussed about the new social trend called ‘The Shanaya Phenomenon’ where parents provide names which sounds cool, upwardly mobile, unique and metropolitan but have no meaning.

The Indic Explorer YouTube channel focusses on the interplay of Indic culture with modernity explored through different facets in the socio-cultural sphere.

Do subscribe to the channel at https://www.youtube.com/theindicexplorer

and follow me here

Twitter- https://twitter.com/theindicexplor1

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The Todas are more like IVC people than anyone else

I noticed something interesting a few weeks ago in the supplements of the Genomes Asian 1000K paper. Look at where the Toda are on the PCA.

Now look at the Indus Valley samples I have….

I don’t have access to the Toda samples. But there’s a lot of evidence that this is a very unique population that resembles the IVC population in having less AASI but not too much (if any) steppe.

The varieties of Brahmins (and others)

Sometimes people pass me data. Turns out Rajasthani Brahmins are quite different from UP Brahmins (more northwest-shifted). In this, they are like Pandits. In contrast, Bihar Babhans are just like UP Brahmins, who don’t seem to have much structure. Gujarati Brahmins are between South Indian Brahmins and North Indian Brahmins, and closer to the latter, while Maharashtra Brahmins seem more like South Indian Brahmins.

Adivasis are just like everyone else…sort of…but not

My previous post on Adivasis was not totally clear. So I’m going to try in shorter fragments and outline things so I’m more clear. I am not 100% correct with the model below (we’ll know more later), but this is my best current conception.

  1. 10,000 BC, end of the Ice Age, NW quadrant of the Indian subcontinent inhabited by a West Eurasian associated hunter-gatherers, related to the hunter-gatherers of the Zagros mountains in Iran, with some Siberian ancestry. The other three quadrants are dominated by hunter-gatherers with deep (40,000 years diverged)  associations with East Eurasians and Australo-Melanesians. These “Ancient Ancestral South Indians” (AASI) seem to have separated from the Andaman Islanders (AI) more than 30-35,000 years ago, but the AI are their closest current relatives (AI-related populations were dominant in mainland Southeast Asia until 4,000 years ago, when rice farmers from southern China migrated into the region).
  2. Between 7,000 and 4,000 years ago extensive admixture occurred within the IVC zone in the NW between the IVC-Iranian-related population and AASI groups moving northwest. The resultant population was far more Iranian-related than AASI (say 10-20% AASI), and these people eventually became the “Indus Valley Civilization.
  3. To the south and east the AASI populations probably did experience reciprocal gene flow at the same time, as Iranian-related populations spread south and east
  4. Why this distinction? I believe during the late Pleistocene the Thar desert was larger and more forbidding and blocked gene flow between the easternmost West Eurasians and westernmost East Eurasians.
  5. Steppe ancestry likely does not show up until after 2000 BC.
  6. I believe there was a Dravidian language spoken in Sindh, and later Gujarat and Maharashtra. These populations spread southward before and after 2000 BC, and eventually, they mixed with all the AASI groups in the same.
  7. In the period between 2000 and 1 BC there is more and more mixing and the arrival of steppe populations that become culturally ascendant across the subcontinent. In the south, the Dravidian-speaking zone, there is a distinction between post-IVC populations that engage with the expanding Indo-Aryans and those that do not engage with the Indo-Aryans

The period between 2000 and 1 BC is essential. In some areas, like the NW, large numbers of steppe people settled, and imposed their language and culture, albeit in synthesis with the local populations, who would be mostly IVC. While the IVC seems to have expanded only gingerly into the upper Gangetic plain and Gujarat, the Indo-Aryans pushed into the eastern zones, and parts of the south. The fact that Adivasi in the south have the canonically Indo-Aryan R1a-Z93 indicates that young bands of Indo-Aryan men penetrated all across the subcontinent. Their genetic imprint is clear in non-Brahmin southern groups like the Reddys, so they were ubiquitous.

But it is culture that matters more. The synthesis that developed in Punjab and Upper Gangetic plain eventually spread across the whole subcontinent and explains why Sangam literature has Sanskrit loanwords. The distinction between Adivasi and caste Hindu emerges from the distance to the expanding proto-Hindu culture based on a core of Aryan culture with indigenous accretions. This was a diverse religious and cultural matrix, but there were broad family similarities, and again, the Sangam literature alludes to “brahmins,” indicating that there was an early penetration of Aryan ritualists in the south. The Adivasi emerges not as a relict or the remnant of an early population, but as a set of societies at one of the spectra of the Aryan-indigenous synthesis that characterized the subcontinent.

The Aryan can become an Adivasi, as is attested by the Aryan men who clearly integrated themselves into those communities and lost their cultural distinctiveness. Similarly, Adivasis can become caste Hindus by adopting the norms of caste Hindus.

Browncast with J Sai Deepak

Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

The podcast was a good experience – a free flowing discussion without much structure. Retrospectively I felt I could have intervened more on some points or countered some of the answers, but I am overall happy with the discussion.

I hope I have this opportunity again to discuss a few more things with Sai.

 

Adivasis are not really more indigenous than most other Indians; they are marginalized


Periodically I get questions about whether the Adivasi are the “indigenous” people of the Indian subcontinent. The short answer is that they are not distinctive or more indigenous than most of their non-Adivasi neighbors. The President of India is from a Munda-speaking community, and these populations are arguably more culturally intrusive than Indo-Aryan or Dravidian-speaking populations.

More concretely, between about 4000 BC and 1 AD mixing occurred between many populations in the continent. Populations with West Eurasian affinities, with their closest relatives being the indigenous peoples of western Iran, expanded south and east from the Indus Valley zone. Meanwhile, populations with deep East Eurasian affinities, with the closest ties to the people of the Andaman Islands, seem to have pushed north and west. The Swat Valley transect shows increased steppe and “Ancient Ancestral South Indian” (AASI) ancestry over time, pointing to the integration of the subcontinent genetically and culture before 1 AD.

The highest proportion of the AASI ancestry in the mainland can be found among the Paniya and Paliyan tribes of the south, at about 75%. But even here 25% of the ancestry is attributable to the Indus Valley people. The Adivasi are not relict populations but emerge out of the same synthetic forces that resulted in groups like the Reddy or Patidar. Genetically they tend to have more AASI ancestry, but the same is true of many other groups.

Rather, the uniqueness of Adivasi seems to be their distance and marginalization from the Indo-Aryan-inflected societies that developed after 2000 BC. This includes the Dravidian-speaking cultures of the south, as even early Tamil had Sanskrit influences. In contrast, the Adivasi remained more insulated from these influences. The Munda in particular are distinct because not only do they speak a language that is more similar to Austro-Asiatic peoples of Southeast Asia, but their paternal lineage tends to be Southeast Asian. And, it is notable to me that Munda is almost entirely absent in Y chromosomal lineage R1a-Z93. I think this indicates that not only were they marginalized from broader Indic civilization, with distinct mythologies and folkways, but they marginalized and excluded outsiders as well from their solidities.

Brown Pundits