Genetics is not about “dunking” on Hindu nationalists

I need to weigh in real quick about something I’ve been noticing: geneticists don’t do genetics because they are excited about debunking views promoted by some Hindu nationalists and other Indians of a variety of political stripes. In fact, most non-Indian scientists (as in people who don’t live in India) are not totally savvy to the political and social context in South Asia, and so are not aware of how their results may be taken.

Unlike some scientists, I tend to take a dim view of those who assert we need to be careful about how results are going to be interpreted. Science is science. Interpretation is society. Therefore, I don’t particularly care if someone’s cherished views are refuted.

That being said, I have seen on Twitter and elsewhere exultation by anti-Hindu nationalists about new genetic findings, where individuals are wrong in many details of the implications. In the general broad sketch, they understand some implications, but they clearly haven’t paid attention to the science closely, nor do they comprehend it.

There are many examples of confusions and misimpressions. Here is one: the idea that “Vedic civilization” is exogenous to South Asia. I think we need to be very careful about this because I think one can make the case (and this is my position) that by the time most of the archaic mythos of the Indian Aryans crystallized these people were already highly Indianized. To put the political implications on the table, they were much more assimilated in their elite culture than the Muslim rulers of India or the British ever were (and let’s be honest, these are the comparisons people care about).

Rough back-of-the-envelope calculations on my part suggest that ~15% of the total ancestry of all South Asians is steppe derived. That is, about 50% ANI, which is 30% steppe (70% Indus Periphery). Is this a lot? Or not a lot?

Interpretations differ.

51 thoughts on “Genetics is not about “dunking” on Hindu nationalists”

  1. How much would Bangladeshis have? Surely as these Vedic people migrated across the gangetic plane, this would have been diluted by + AASI.

    1. i think they’re close to 15%? the issue is even with primitive inference u see bengalis have indo-aryan which reddys and naidus (groups similar but no e. asian) have. the cline is probably 30% among the kalash, to 10-20% in gangetic plain, and then 0-10% in south india

  2. This is apposite warning to make.

    Many moronic ‘progressives’ and leftists begin to start spinning stories of how Hindusim is a foreign import and whatnot.
    One such author Rahul Sakrityayan has written a book ‘From Volga to Ganges’ spinning such stories.

  3. “Many moronic ‘progressives’ and leftists begin to start spinning stories of how Hindusim is a foreign import and whatnot.”

    Well i know about a state somewhere in the south of India where this is mainstream view

  4. “Genetics is not about “dunking” on Hindu nationalists”

    I don’t suppose Hindutva Vadis are going to be quiet. They are busy trying to figure out ways to show the DNA analysis as evidence of their caste’s special origin or how it is some how superior to the next guy’s caste. 🙂

  5. “that by the time most of the archaic mythos of the Indian Aryans crystallized these people were already highly Indianized.”

    Just my two cents. You may disagree
    Dont you think its anachronistic(if that would be right term)? I mean how do we know what’s Indian pre aryan, it could be called harappan/ dravidian etc. To give you a example can we call the magyars as highly hungary-nized. Obviously there were people living in pre magyars hungary, but it wasnt’ hungary. Similar Indian/ Bharat is a vedic/aryan construct.

    1. that’s fair, but we need to label it something. greek mythology is already pretty distinct from other indo-european stuff. it would be stupid to say ‘it came from the steppes!’

      (only zeus is definitively an indo-european god in the high pantheon)

    2. “how do we know what’s Indian.. ”
      All the Vedic lietrature and subsequent religious developments are bound ONLY with the landscape of India and nothing outside it. All these religious Hindu books show no knowledge, much less affinity , to any place outside India – let us say South Asia.

      Hinduism from vedic times is intensely local.

      That is what Razib meant.

      1. VijayVan we mostly agree if you consider if you mean SAARC + Tibet + Turan + South East Asia. There are references to Iran and Turan in the ancient texts. As well as to lands beyond the Himalayas (Tibet or Burma–Bhagadatta was one of the best warriors in the Mahabharata on par with Bhishma, Drona, Karna, Arjuna)

        In the Mahabharata Arjuna sails to several large islands. I think these are Thailand, Sumatra, Java, Bali (Malaysia, Indonesia) etc. They too are part of historic Bharata.

        Where do you think Kalayavana (who fought with Krishna) came from? Africa?

  6. Razib, I think the connections between Greek/Roman and pan Arya religion are much stronger; but explaining why is several articles.


    With respect to Arya coming to India . . . they appear to have done so. If Homo Sapien modern came about 350,000 to 400,000 years ago in Africa; then they migrated to India later.

    Are there only 3 major homo sapiens genealogical strains into South Asia?:
    — 50 to 75 K years ago from South East Asia
    — 9 K years ago from Iran/Turan
    — 4 K years ago from Iran/Turan

    What is the most common academic designation for these three genealogical lineages? From the 18 Mahapuranas and Mahabharata and other ancient texts it is implied that Chandra Vamsha comes from the far north west.

    I think the South East Asians are the original Arya peoples; but am open to changing this hypothesis based on new data. From the ancient texts the Surya Vamsha people looked quite different from the Chandra Vamsha people.

  7. Anan,

    Where did you get the idea the Chandravamsha came from the Northwest ? Please stop writing unsubstantiated stuff.

    The patriarch of the Chandravamsha Pururavas, is associated with Kurukshetra in Haryana. I think it is the Shatpatha Brahmana which talks of the story of Pururavas and the celestial lady (Urvashi ? ). The homeland of the Chandravamsha and its dominant 5 tribes was in Haryana on the banks of river Sarasvati.

    Out of these 5 tribes, there are two groups – one consists of Yadu & Turvasu who migrate further inland. The other group consists of Druhyu, Anu and Puru with Puru being the youngest of all.

    Druhyus clearly migrate out of India into Central Asia. The Anus look like they may have been Iranians while the Purus give rise to Bharatas who then gradually come to dominate the whole scene.

  8. “Genetics is not about “dunking” on Hindu nationalists”

    then what do I have here?

    Srsly, I wanted to engage you on the GNXP thread (but there was not a lot of interest on Rakhigarhi there) on “The results will confirm some beliefs, but it’s not a game-changer. A game-changer would be if we found someone who was half Corded-Ware in genetic ancestry from India in 2250 BC. Ultimately a lot of ancient DNA will probably come online in India over the next few years (hopefully?), and then the real action of mapping the details will begin. That’s exciting.”

    I think this is weak; just the evidence that Rakhigarhi (and similar) samples are purely combinations of Iranian farmer and Indian hunter gatherer, should drive us to look for people before Rakhigarh. There is still no evidence of Dravidian invasion in India where the admixtures of Iranian farmer and south Asian hunter gatherer details have been clearly worked out. Then, the “Dravidian” populations and “Dravidian’ languages have to be crossrelated. We do not even have any evidence of the composition of the IVC yet. Last, who were the South Asian hunter gatherers? where did they come from?

    Right now there is too much emphasis and exploration of the steppe % in Indian cline , and rightfully so, as they set the tone of the caste and religion. But we need to extract a lot more information. If we need to understand the peculiar disease loads in India.

  9. Actually, 150 years back paleolithic ‘factories’ were discovered in Pallavaram, a suburb of Chennai

    There has been human presence in South India for about 150000 years. Unfortunately no skeletal remains of that antiquity has been found. If some paleolithic skeletons are found, that will give a better picture of AASI hunter gatherers

      1. 98% of the ancestry in modern south asians derives from the african (or near eastern) expansion dated to 60,000 years ago.

        there are old homo artifacts in india…but we don’t know much yet. though michael petraglia has been making some noises recently

  10. Sorry for double commenting here, but phrases that start with “India is 15% steppe” are not tenable.

    India is not any one thing . There are a thousand things.

    1. have they tested them yet? last year i read that they collected samples from early Mesolithic era to Harrapan era, to Megalithic remains but I have no idea if they tested them yet.

      It’s interesting that Rakhigarhi height/stature is 6ft and are very similar in stature to Mesolithic Ganga valley folks (5’11 to 6’2ft), unlike Harrapan folks who were (5’7), I’m guessing Rakhigari had higher proption of Mesolithic ancestry.

      Based on various skeleton pathology study of South Asian remains, Mesolithic pople were pretty tall and decile of stature is noteable during shift to Neolithic era, and is notable in IVC, in contrast the Mesolithic remains further east are tall folks.

      1. they tried to get DNA out of everything they’ve crushed so far. only one they got stuff out of that was usable was the 2250 BC one. another one was marginal.

        there are also some Megalithic south indian samples. these have results but have not been published.

        1. Thanks, Razib. If you get a chance, ask them about Mesolithic samples from Ganga valley, and possibility of working with Sri Lankan archaeologists about getting Mesolithic and Paleolithic samples from there as well, since these will be more helpful in understanding South Asian HG admixture and varied substructure within them.

          As far as Megalithic South India is considered, Kennedy classified these skeletons under Harrapan/Neolithic type based on their stature and skull-type as most of these Megalithic remains from South India are from similar time-frame between IVC to Iron Age, I’m betting they will be very similar to SISB 2 and SisB 3 types.

  11. @Razib Khan

    that makes sense in terms of Megalithic samples and possibly Rakhighari as well. But, when it comes to Mesolithic Ganga valley, I very much doubt that as there are no pure South Asian HG’s.

  12. Not sure about “archaic mythos”, whatever that means. But the Sanskrit language that Hindu Nationalists venerate as the fountainhead of Vedic civilization certainly seems to be mostly a central Asian import.

    1. What do you mean by import ?

      Sanskrit was developed in India even if it might have emerged from another language that had roots in Central Asia.

    2. Sanskrit was not the “fountainhead” – whatever it may mean – of Vedic civilization. Sanskrit is a much later development at the time of Panini . What we call Vedic – or Old Indo-aryan – was already antique by that time , and he called it Chandas (cognate with Chant in English) . Linguistic sophistication would clear lot of confusion. Even Vedic poets had no idea that what they were speaking was an import from anywhere or even knowledge of any places outside greater India. For a counter example, Delhi Sultans or Moghals had a clear idea that their forefathers(or themselves) of the last few centuries came from outside India and they were part of a much bigger Islamic society with a locus outside India.

      1. VijayVan,

        Unfortunately there are a large no of clueless Indians who don’t know that the British have managed to swindle them out of their own history.

        They say Sanskrit is ‘certainly’ from Central Asia. But if pressed to produce evidence for their claim, they will have no answer.

  13. Except at an emotional nationalistic level to say British did any intentional harm to the Indian history or linguistics does not stand scrutiny. The British showed an interest in Indology and studied things in a systematic way after what was left of previous invasions.

    1. How much have you read of the British writings of the 18th & 19th centuries on Indian history ? How many of the Indian Antiquary editions have you gone through ? Have you read the articles by William Jones ?

      I am sure, going by your patronising tone that you must have read all of the above based on which you’ve come up with your opinion.

    2. Let’s not forget that many of early British Indologists were EI Company servants drawing a remuneration from them. As British empire servants, they were combining business and pleasure by studying Sanskrit and doing Indology.

  14. The Vedic Samhitas are very much alive and frequently chanted, including by my friends and family. They are also frequently discussed and analyzed. They are Sanskrit. Albeit a more archaic form of Sanskrit.

    How do we know that Sanskrit wasn’t developed in South East Asia or Africa or somewhere else?

    hoipolloi, are you familiar with marxism, structuralism and post modernism? They were created to oppress and harm the east.

    1. How do we know that Sanskrit wasn’t developed in South East Asia or Africa or somewhere else?

      hoipolloi, are you familiar with marxism, structuralism and post modernism?

      the first sentence sounds almost post-modernist to me. the fact is we know for a variety of reasons that sanskrit is unlikely to come from SE asia and africa. that’s how we know. there are facts. reasons. it’s not all a big power game.

      1. Thank god someone comes to the defense of facts. That needed to be said.

        I very much doubt that when Karl Marx came up with the theory of class struggle he was thinking “Hmmm,how can I oppress and harm the east?”

        1. There is no doubt that the east has been devastated by Karl Marx.

          Ancient south Asia (or Hindustan if you prefer that phrase) might have had a quarter of global real gdp in 1700 but only 4% of global GDP in 1950. The very dangerous ideas of Marxism, post modernism, and fabian socialism likely played a very large role. They are devastating for poor people.

          1. Marx was probably not even thinking of the “East” when he wrote his works. He wanted to see the proletariat take over in Europe. You are entitled to your views on Marxism but you are painting with too broad a brush.

            Your GDP calculations can perhaps be explained by the fact that British India was a colony. Resources were extracted and sent back to the mother country.

            This obsession with blaming things on Marxism and Postmodernism is very right-wing and frankly not attractive.

          2. Kabir, a young Marx wrote 50 articles on India. I am not a fan of them. In many ways Marx developed his views by studying India and eastern philosophy:


            Note that Said was a huge critique and opponent of Marx. I guess Said’s “obsession with blaming things on Marxism and Postmodernism is very right-wing and frankly not attractive.”

            Whatever my agreements and disagreements with Said; they pale before my disagreements with Marx, Ferdinand de Saussure, Freud and the most modernists.

            The UK didn’t extract a lot of resources from India, because the Indian economy performed disastrously under English rule. If the English wanted to extract a lot of resources from India (no evidence that they did), they would have facilitated rapid private sector free market capitalist growth in India. That way Indian tax revenues could have been transferred in the form of grants to England.

            Instead the English imposed cultural colonization of the Indian mind to create inferiority complex and shatter Indian self confidence (using Marxism, Freudism, Structuralism, Post Modernism and the caucasion intelligentsia). The English devastated the Indian economy, private sector and entrepreneurship with big government big regulation Fabian socialism. The English disrupted Indian product development and process innovation.

            Marx didn’t understand economics. Different workers have different marginal products of labor (labor productivity). So far free market countries tend to compensate workers comparable to their labor productivity. The issue today is that inequality in capacity, capability and merit between workers is increasing around the world. As a result the more meritocratic a system is, the more unequal it is and the more the structural poor benefit. In other words poor people benefit from increased inequality if inequality is caused by an increasingly meritocratic society.

            Marx had no great ideas for how to boost labor productivity (contribution to product development and process innovation) for the poor and lower middle class. The exact opposite in fact.

            Marx wanted to capture some of the labor productivity of highly productive workers and some capital productivity and give it to less productive workers. But his ideas for doing this kills the goose that lays the golden egg. In other words by transferring income earned by more productive elements, Marx reduced the productivity of said more productive elements. Which is why Marxism makes no sense.

            With respect to capital productivity . . . I am sure even Karl Marx would greatly hesitate to redistribute wealth (capital) today.

            About 70% of lottery winners declare bankruptcy within 7 years (in other words they end up with large negative wealth. And a large percentage regret ever winning the lottery. One reason for this is that many lower productivity workers are not good at productively investing capital (wealth). Many of their businesses and investments lose money. This suggests that redistributing wealth to poor people would likely greatly harm a majority of them; and greatly lower national and global GDP and wealth ceteris paribus.

            If someone really wants to help the global poor and global lower middle class; the solution is simple:
            —-increase physical health
            —-increase mental health
            —-increase intuition or intelligence
            —-have a generally functional stable system (a collective action challenge that poor and lower middle class people cannot easily achieve through their own individual efforts.) Increasingly countries all over the world are providing this which is leading to the current global economic miracle.

            With these things, poor and lower middle class people will then make their own fortunes without any additional help. Of course doing this is not easy.

        2. By the way, arguing that Marxism doesn’t work doesn’t automatically make you right-wing. I believe in equality of opportunity not equality of outcome. The welfare state is now the consensus in the developed world. Try arguing that Social Security or Medicaid should be taken away in the US. These programs would not exist in a purely free-market society. However, it is generally recognized that it is the government’s duty to help the weakest members of society.

          Marx is not responsible for how some of his ideas were used by brutal dictatorships such as those under Mao and Stalin. “Socialism” and “Communism” was rhetoric that was used to prop up the regime. Other regimes have been propped up using “democracy” or something else. That use of his ideas does not in itself discredit them. However, I am not making any excuses for Communism. I believe that capitalism needs to be reformed not destroyed.

        3. Anan,

          I’m not interested in going down this rabbit hole with you again. I wrote a long comment but it was censored by the powers that be at BP. I do have a few points:

          1) I do think you should not compare yourself in the slightest to Edward Said. He was a genius and one of the most important activists and intellectuals of our time. He invented Postcolonial Theory and Orientalism. Unless you have produced a similar body of work in the field, any comparison between you and him is ridiculous. The same thing applies to Marx. Let me know when you write something as seminal as “Das Kapital”. For someone to criticize the greatest intellectuals of the past while not having a solid understanding of them is quite strange. They are intellectual giants as compared to any of us.

          2) This thing about the English using Marxism to “culturally colonize” the Indian mind seems like a bizarre conspiracy theory to me. The East India Company and the British Raj were interested in most effectively utilizing their colony for the benefit of England and that is what they did. I highly doubt that Marxism or Freudianism entered into it anywhere.

          3) The welfare state is now the consensus in the developed world. Try taking Social Security and Medicare away in the US. These programs would not exist in a purely free market society but it is now generally believed that it is the responsibility of governments to help the weakest sections of society.
          4) Marx is not responsible for how some of his ideas were used to justify brutal dictatorships under Stalin and Mao. “Socialism” and “Communism” were used to prop up the regime. Other regimes have been propped up using “democracy”. That doesn’t inherently discredit the ideas. I have no brief for Communism and I personally believe the US model of the mixed economy is the preferable one.

      2. Most “history” is likely inaccurate. I think we need to rethink things from the ground up. I believe is is possible that the lineage of Iran/Turan from 9 K years ago might have joined an existing Arya tradition that is far older. I don’t know how old though. Almost all the documentation of that time has been lost in the winds of history.

        For example we might still learn that some in the ancient pyramid civilization knew Sanskrit–which would force a major rethink. [As of now there is no reason to believe that the ancient Egyptians knew Sanskrit.]

        It is interesting, however, that the ancient Egyptians, Arya peoples, Mayan people all used a 25,920 year cycle in their history (procession of the earth equinoxes) and culture. Plato called it a great year.

        If 25,920 is divided by 12, the number 2160 is derived. 2160 * 2 * 10 = 43,200.

        The Great Pyramid of Giza would precisely fit into the earth’s northern hemisphere by a measurement of 1 : 43,200.

        This number is also reflected in the angle of the great pyramid:

        To quote someone else’s calculations:

        “In relation to this, it has been pointed out that the possibility may exist whereby the numbers expressing the Precessionary cycle (Approx’ 26,000 yrs), when viewed as fractals may be translated into the 60-based system of degrees (26° 00′ 00″). Modern pocket electronic calculators have a key (DD>DMS) for this function.

        The Platonic Year of 25,920 yrs would produce the following numbers:

        25.92 (doubled) = 51.84 where, 51.84° is 51° 50′ 24″.

        In other words, the angle of inclination 51° 50′ 24″ would express the decimal number 51.84°, which is the fractal expression of double the 25,920 Platonic Year number (25920 x 2 = 51840).

        This would mean that the angle of inclination cited by Piazzi Smyth for the Great pyramid of Ghiza of 51° 51′ 14″ would reflect the decimal number 51.85399° or the fractal halved to that of 25,926.995 years (51,85399/2=25,926.995). A number which appears at very least, an extraordinary coincidence considering the astronomical references to the pyramid throughout history.”

        These sequences of numbers exist in many ancient cultures, eastern and Mayan. Now it could all be a coincidence. But in the off chance that it is not a coincidence–then might languages also be connected in some way that is not now understood?

        One of the reasons that Sanskrit’s history is so hard to understand is that almost all Sanskrit texts were kept secret until Buddhism. Buddhism universalized ancient eastern philosophy and knowledge; and forced the other orders to become more transparent.

        For example the first widely dispersed Yoga text might have been:

        Which then forced the public dissemination of Paanini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī and Patanjali’s texts and Shaivite Yoga texts and Vedic texts out of cold storage. However these texts might be many thousands of years older than when they were first publicly released.

        My suspicion is that many advanced ancient cultures were wiped out by the ice age from 10 K BC (which might have raised ocean water levels by over 200 feet) and a possibly catastrophic disaster that might have ended the last ice age and warmed the earth up. If this is so, then the Pyrimid, ancient Vedic Arya, and ancient Latin American civilizations might have flourished before the great flood and ice age. Tamilians believe that Agastyar (pronounced Agastya by non Tamilians) and their civilization flourished before the great flood too.

        1. Most “history” is likely inaccurate

          that sounds like a very post-modernist sentence! you even used a “scare quote.” what next? history is fiction? 🙂

          My suspicion is that many advanced ancient cultures were wiped out by the ice age from 10 K BC (which might have raised ocean water levels by over 200 feet) and a possibly catastrophic disaster that might have ended the last ice age and warmed the earth up.

          human effective population size went through a bottleneck 70,000 years ago and then exploded in the last 10,000 years. so probably not.

  15. There are descriptions of other parts of the world in ancient eastern texts. It is inaccurate to say that ancients didn’t know about other parts of the world. For that matter Egyptians also had a lot of knowledge about the rest of the world. Articles on this are planned.

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