Takeaways from the golden age of Indian population genetics

There are lots of strange takes on the India Today piece, 4500-year-old DNA from Rakhigarhi reveals evidence that will unsettle Hindutva nationalists. I’m friendly with the author and saw an early draft. So I’m going to address a few things.

The genetic results are becoming more and more clear. A scaffold is building and becoming very firm. In the 2020s there will be a lot of medical genomics in India. But before that, there will be population genetics. Ancient DNA will be the cherry on the cake.

Here’s what genetics tells us. First, a component of South Asian ancestry, especially in North India, and especially in North Indian upper caste groups, seems to be the same as ancient agro-pastoralists who ranged between modern Ukraine and modern Tajikistan. Genetically, these people are very similar to certain peoples of Central and Eastern Europe of this time, though there is a varied dynamic of uptake of local Central Eurasian elements as they ranged eastward.

This ancestral component is often called “steppe.” This ancestral component is a synthesis of ancient European hunter-gatherer, Siberian, and West Asian. The steppe component seems to arrive in Central and South Asia after 2000 BC.

Second, another component of South Asian ancestry is very distinctive to the region. It is deeply but distantly related to branches of humanity which dominate Melanesia and eastern Eurasia, up into Siberia. The magnitude of the distance probably dates to ~50 thousand years ago, when the dominant element of modern humans expanded outward from West Asia, east, north, and west. These people are called “Ancient Ancestral South Indians,” or AASI. Their closest relatives today may be the natives of the Andaman Islands, but this is a very distant relationship.

AASI is the dominant component of what was once called “Ancestral South Indians,” or ASI. It turns out that “ASI” themselves were a compound synthetic population. This was long suspected by many (e.g., David W.). What was ASI a compound of? About ~75 percent of its ancestry was AASI, but the balance seems to have been a West Eurasian component related to farmers from western Iran. We can call this group “farmers.”

With a few samples from outside of the IVC region, and one (or two) samples from within the IVC region, geneticists are converging upon the likelihood that the profile in the greater IVC region before 2000 BC was a compound of these farmers with the AASI. But even within the IVC region, there seems to have been a range of variation in ancestry. The IVC was a huge zone. It may not have been dominated by a single ethnolinguistic group (even today there is the Burusho linguistic isolate in northern Pakistan). Note that the much smaller Mesopotamian civilization was multiethnic, with a  non-Semitic south and a Semitic north (Sumer and Akkad).

The key point is that it is very likely the IVC lacked the steppe ancestral component. That it did have AASI component. And, it did have a farmer component with likely ultimate provenance in western Iran. Additionally, there were smaller components derived from pre-steppe Central Eurasian people.

While the steppe people arrived in the last 4,000 years, and at least some of the ancestors of the AASI are likely to have been in South Asia for 40,000 years, the presence of the AASI-farmer synthesis genetically is conditional on when a massive presence of western farmers came to affect the northwestern quarter of South Asia. It seems unlikely to have been before Mehrgarh was settled 8,500 years ago. The genetic inferences to estimate the time of admixture between AASI and farmer are currently imprecise, but it seems likely to have begun at least a few thousand years before 2000 BC.  range of 8,500 and 6,000 years ago seems reasonable.

So 4,000 years ago the expanse of the IVC was dominated by a variable mix of farmer and AASI. One can call this “Indus Valley Indian” (IVI).

Just like ASI, there was an earlier abstract construct, “Ancestral North Indian” (ANI). Today it seems that that too was a compound. To be concise, ANI is a synthesis of steppe with IVI. The Kalash of northern Pakistan are very close genetically to ANI. This means that while ASI had West Eurasian ancestry, albeit to a minor extent. And ANI had AASI ancestry, albeit to a minor extent. The main qualitative difference is that ANI had a substantial minority of steppe ancestry.

To a great extent, the algebra of genetic composition across South Asia can be thought of as modulating these three components, farmer, steppe, and AASI.* Consider:

  • Bhumihar people in Bihar tend to have more steppe than typical, but not more farmer than typical, and average amounts of AASI.
  • Sindhi people in Pakistan tend to have lots of farmer, some steppe, and not much AASI.
  • Reddy people in South India have lots of farmer, very little steppe, and average amounts of AASI.
  • Kallar people in South India have some farmer, very little steppe, and lots of AASI.

For details of where I’m getting this, you can look at The Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia for quantities. But as a stylized fact farmer ancestry tends to peak around the Sindh. In Pakistan steppe ancestry increases as you go north. As you go east and south AASI increases pretty steadily, but there are groups further east, such as Jatts and Brahmins, who have a lot of steppe, almost as much as northern Pakistani groups. And curiously you get a pattern where some groups have more steppe and AASI, and less farmer, than is the case to the west (you see this in the Swat valley transect, as steppe & AASI increase in concert).

Going back to the history, by the time the steppe people arrived in South Asia, in the period between 2000 BC and 1000 BC, it may be that the IVI ancestry is what they mixed with predominantly. Though it is likely that the southern and eastern peripheries had “pure” AASI, by the time steppe people spread their culture to these fringes they were already thoroughly mixed with IVI populations, and so already had some AASI ancestry.

In contrast, the farmer populations likely mixed extensively with AASI in situations where the two populations were initially quite distinct.

Please note I have not used the words “Aryan” or “Dravidian.” The reason is that these are modern ethnolinguistic terms. Genetics is arriving at certain truths about population changes and connections, but we don’t have a time machine to go back to the past and determine what language people were speaking 4,000 years ago.

Our inferences rest on supposition, and a shaky synthesis of historical linguistics and archaeology and genetic demography, a synthesis which is unlikely to ever be brought together in one person due to vast chasm of disciplinary method and means.

It is highly likely that the steppe component is associated with Indo-European speaking peoples. Probably Indo-Aryan speaking peoples. The reason is that by historical time, the period after 1000 BC, Iran and Turan seem to already have been dominated by Indo-Iranian peoples. But, in the period around 2000 BC, western Iran was not Indo-Iranian. People like the Guti and the Elamites were not Indo-European, and they were not Semitic. We have some genetic transects which show that steppe ancestry did arrive in parts of Turan and Iran in the period after 2000 BC.

Where did the Dravidian languages come from? We don’t know. They could have been spoken by an AASI group. Or, they could be associated with farmers from the west. We don’t know. Ultimately, we may never know. Unlike Indo-European languages, there are no Dravidian languages outside of South Asia.

Various toponymic evidence indicates that Dravidian languages were spoken at least as far north and west as Gujurat. And Brahui exists today in Balochistan. Though I don’t have strong opinions, I think Dravidian languages probably are descended from a group of extinct languages that were present in Neolithic Iran.

Though unlike Indo-Aryan languages, Dravidian exploded onto the scene after a long period of incubation within South Asia, as part of at least one of the language groups dominant with the IVC and pre-IVC societies.

At least that’s my general assessment. I have strong opinions about the genetics. But am much more curious about what others have to say about linguistics and archaeology.

* Some groups, such as Munda and Indo-Aryan groups in Northeast India, have East Asian ancestry. Some groups in coastal Pakistan have African ancestry.

107 thoughts on “Takeaways from the golden age of Indian population genetics”

  1. V interesting details on pop gen. I have only 2 comments to make:

    1. We know Elamites spoke a language isolate and certainly were neither IE nor Semitic. Though some studies have tried to link them to the Dravidian family – highly speculative stuff. However, I think your statement about Gutians (the northern rivals of Sumer-Akkad) not being IE is too strong. We just don’t know this. One circumstantial fact in favour of them being IE is their illiteracy, indeed active lack of interest in writing because they did rule Sumer occasionally and showed no propensity to pick up any scribal culture. Obviously no records of their language survive.

    2. India doesn’t just have E Asian speakers in the North East but also in North. Most of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is actually Ladakh – part of the Tibetan plateau and inhabited by W Tibetan speakers. The same is true of some regions in Himachal (Lahaul/Spiti) and Uttarakhand obviously leading into Nepal. I think E Asian admixture in IA Brahmin/Rajput groups in all these Himalayan regions almost certainly happened and evident in the physical morphology of people. That is of course just my observation and not tell tale genetic signature.

    1. Welcome back to our Resident Linguist; u & Vikram are the Yin/Yang to our (Kabir & I) partiality for polemicism..

      Is the Farmer ancestry present in modern day Iranians?

      Is the Farmer ancestry “the eastern Iranian Plateau strain” of the Anatolian farmers who spread into Europe..

      Are the NorthEasterners Sino-Tibetan speakers as well; India better watch out if Tibet gets independence there’ll be a whole lot of territorial-linguistic claims coming her way 🙂

    2. think E Asian admixture in IA Brahmin/Rajput groups in all these Himalayan regions almost certainly happened and evident in the physical morphology of people. That is of course just my observation and not tell tale genetic signature.

      i have seen himalayan brahmin samples. many do have east asian ancestry. (bengali brahmins too, but less so).

      fair point about the guti.

      1. Is good that genetics bears out what I have observed (in some cases in my own wider family, on my mother’s side). I almost certainly have some E Asian ancestry. Maybe I should get genotyped 😉

        (Won’t be very surprising as Tibet is a close geographical and cultural neighbour)

      2. Peace interesting piece . I appreciate the content . I have a question pertaining to afrocentric ideologies with south asian population. It is sometimes claim that dravidians are Africans and even related to east African Population groups . My question is does the population Genetic data support the claims of afrocentric students?

        See reference sources below



        9bp and the Relationship Between African and Dravidian Speakers
        Clyde A. Winters
        Uthman dan Fodio Institute, Chicago, IL 60643, United States of America
        Abstract: It is assumed that the 9bp among Dravidian speakers is the r

    3. Yes that’s a good point. It is something I had been thinking of writing on one of Razib’s many posts on East EurAsian ancestry in India but have never done so.

      The entire Himalayan arc starting from Gilgit-Baltistan and passing through Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Nepal, Sikkim, northern tip of Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh has Tibetan ancestry – it is only the degree of it which varies. It is even possible that the East EurAsian ancestry among North Indians which comes from Tibetans has had a greater genetic impact than the Austro-asiatic ancestry found among several tribal and non-tribal groups.

    4. It plays out in the genetics @Slapstik

      You’re bang on.

      One of the AG forum users is a Jammu Brahmin and he usually scores 5% NE Asian, similar to Kashmiris

      This clines into the Ladakh and to the Kho who are obviously significantly NE Asian

  2. “Bhumihar people in Bihar tend to have more steppe than typical, but not more farmer than typical, and average amounts of AASI.
    Sindhi people in Pakistan tend to have lots of farmer, some steppe, and not much AASI.
    Reddy people in South India have lots of farmer, very little steppe, and average amounts of AASI.
    Kallar people in South India have some farmer, very little steppe, and lots of AASI.”

    Sindhis have lots of farmer and lower steppe despite an Indo Aryan group.
    What about non-Brahmin Indo Aryan groups from West(Gujrati),East(Bengali) And South(Sinhalese)?
    Non-Brahmin south Indian groups look quiete distinctive, Reddys have lots of farmers but Kallars have higher AASI. Are Srilankan Tamils same as Kallars or they are structured?

    1. non-Brahmin Indo Aryan groups from South(Sinhalese)

      The Sinhalese speak an Indo-Aryan language derived from Pali the language of Buddhism.
      The whole Sinhalese Aryan narrative started with Max Mueller. With universal franchise the Aryan Sinhalese concept was eagerly embraced by politicians. Mainly to differentiate themselves from the dominant Tamil minority (50% of Govt jobs and the professionals Doctors/engineers etc).

      That was in spite of Sinhalese history (eg Mahavamsa), which clearly states Aryans are the other. School textbooks revised the name of the iconic Sinhalese King, Dutugemunu’s father from KakkaVannaTissa (crow colored Tissa) to KahavanTissa (gold colored Tissa).

      DNA wise I doubt there is much ANI among the Sinhalese or Tamils of Lanka. Based on the few samples from HarrappaDNA.org site, the sinhalese and Tamils appear similar to each other.


      1. Aren’t both the Tamil and Sinhalese lineages traditionally considered Arya lineages?

        Still want to read Mahavamsha. Does the Mahavamsha describe the Yakshas who use to live in Sri Lanka as Arya? Many in the East suspect Yaksha might be a reference to ETs.

      2. “DNA wise I doubt there is much ANI among the Sinhalese or Tamils of Lanka. Based on the few samples from HarrappaDNA.org site, the sinhalese and Tamils appear similar to each other.”
        What about Farmer component in Sinhalese and SL Tamils?
        I’ve heard Sinhalese are like 72% Bengali,16% Tamil and 12% Gujrati. Sinhalese might have a lil extra steppe and East asian?

  3. What non South Asian population is most similar to the “farmer”, either ancient or modern? Modern day Iranians?

    1. Iranian Balochis maybe, followed by Iranians,Azeris,Armenians,Georgians and Turkish Kurds?
      Basically Iranian farmer DNA is significant from Turkish Kurdistan to Bangladesh.

      1. Iranian farmer DNA is substantial even in the western Middle East, and there’s good evidence that via intermediaries, it reached Egypt, the northeast Mediterranean, and the Horn too.

        1. yes. it is in the horn. it wasn’t found in the tanzanian pastoralist…that was more EEF.

          i think iran farmer peaks in eastern iran and toward baloch area. just going off drift plots

        2. A Somali friend got 6% Metal Age Invader in familytreedna ancient. I guess that captured her Iranian farmer ancestry.
          Central Asian Turkic groups more Iranian farmer or they are more steppe?

  4. Sorry for the stupid questions:
    1) What are the most common technical terms for the 3 most common lineages that most South Asians descend from? [4 K Turan, 9 or 10 K Iran, 50 to 75 K South East Asia (I think this is most commonly referred to as “Ancient Ancestral South Indians,” or AASI)]
    2) Are there other ancient DNA lineage chains other than the big three and if so what are the most common technical terms describing them among geneticists
    3) What do we know about female lineages in the greater Turan, Iran, South Asian and South East Asian regions?

  5. Here is my take on the significance of South Asian aDNA from Eastern Iran and Central Asia during the Bronze Age –

    The Chalcolithic contacts between South Asia and regions immediately to its East & North i.e. Eastern Iranian cultures such as Jiroft or Halil Rud (from sites such as Jiroft & Konar Sandal) & Helmand (Shahr-i-Sokhta) as well as Central Asia (from sites such as Geoksiur or Sarazm) are not so well documented. This is an unfortunate lacunae that needs to be filled up in the near future because the Chacolithic appears to be a critical phase where the communication channels within this vast region are likely to have become more intensified and lead to a process of urbanism and continued well upto the downfall of these urban civilizations.

    Nevertheless, there are some tantalising and very important clues that can have larger repurcussions as more research is done but I will come to that later.

    Let me first point out the archaeological and genetic evidence we have for the 3rd millenium BC.

    First let us note the evidence of interaction between the Helmand civilization (exemplified by sites such as Shahr-i-Sokhta & Mundigak)

    A series of artefacts found at Shahr-i Sokhta and nearby sites (Iranian Seistan) that were presumably imported from Baluchistan and the Indus domain are discussed, together with finds from the French excavations at Mundigak (Kandahar, Afghanistan) that might have the same origin. Other artefacts and the involved technologies bear witness to the local adaptation of south-eastern manufactures and practices in the protohistoric Sistan culture. While the objects datable to the first centuries of the 3rd millennium BCE fall in the so called “domestic universe” and reflect common household activities, in the centuries that follow we see a shift to the sharing of luxury objects and activities concerning the display of a superior social status; but this might be fruit of a general transformation of the archaeological record of Shahr-i Sokhta and its formation processes.

    The above is part of the abstract from this paper –


    Let me quote a few more paras from the same paper which are important and relevant to our topic –

    In general, the cultural relationships between the Helmand centres and the Subcontinent appear to have been ephemeral and sporadic, had a secondary economic impact, and probably do not justify the use of the term. The links, anyhow, are well-established archaeological facts. Some classes of ceramics, tools and ornaments, throughout the whole sequence, seem to be the local versions of artefacts and habits more fi rmly rooted beyond the south-eastern frontier. Interestingly, at Shahr-i Sokhta we can recognize at least three technologies that may have been adopted from Indus ones: the possible evidence of local steatite disk bead production, the still unknown technology involving the making and use of terra- cotta cakes, and the import of Turbinella pyrum for a local, scarcely standardized bangle industry; the habit of impressing stamp seals onto terracotta cakes or marking them with incised signs points to a local adaptation or transformation of the original functions of these cheap objects. The carnelian abundantly present on the surface of Shahr-i Sokhta would ,b>appear to have been fired in order to enhance its colour, according to the traditional Indian technology

    Although these activities cannot be considered as economically very relevant, and possibly involved just a minority of the population of Shahr-i Sokhta, the city, particularly in Period III, appears quite per- meable to the influence of Indus habits and fashions, definitely more than any other early urban centre of eastern Iran so far excavated.

    In Period II, both for the items presumably imported and those locally produced with stylistic or technical features comparable to the Subcontinent, the links include basic domestic equipment (seals, pottery, terracotta fi gurines, mouse-traps,terracotta cakes). In contrast, when one moves to Period III, the connections shift to a different functional realm, ornamentation and status display: we encounter steatite, ivory and carnelian beads, shell inlays and bracelets, gaming pieces. The use of terracotta cakes, as we have seen, continued and might even have increased. It is hard to say whether, or to what extent, this peculiar pattern refl ects an actual cultural process (a growing cultural interaction between the elites of the two cultures)

    Read these above extracts from the paper and especially keep note of the bolded part.

    Moving on, let us also go over similar observations made by scholars from the sites of the Jiroft civilization in Eastern Iran which is situated in the Kerman province and thus immediately to the east of the Sistan province where the Helmand civilization existed.


    This paper presents a detailed analysis of the iconography carved on a cylinder seal found in a metallurgical site within the archaeological complex of Konar Sandal South, near Jiroft, in the Halil river valley of the Kerman province, south-eastern Iran. This seal is made of a whitish marble and – even if heavily worn by use – it retains traces of different animal figures. These animals represent the translation into local style of a rare but characteristic iconography found in the seal production of the Indus Civilization. The merging into a single seal of different animals, some of which clearly belong to the standard animal series of the Indus seals, might have provided the owner with a special authority that allowed him/her to hold different administrative functions. Moreover, the discovery at Konar Sandal South of a cylinder seal bearing an Indus-related iconography might further testify to the direct interest of Indus merchants and probably craftsmen in trade exchanges with a major early urban site in south-eastern Iran

    This is the abstract from this paper –

    Now let me quote a few extracts of interest from the rest of the paper –

    Regardless of its manufacturing tradition, this seal from Konar Sandal South seems in fact to re-elaborate and adapt to the local style an original and peculiar iconography of the Indus Civilization, respecting also a series of rules at the basis of the Indus seal production. In the impression, all animal images face (in this case, one could also say ‘rotate’) right, as they are normally arranged in the Indus seals once stamped on clay. Interestingly, zebu 3.1 is the first animal of the procession. This order seems to match the prominence that most scholars ascribe to the seals showing zebus in the standard Indus stamp seals

    Even if the depiction of a zebu bull would not necessarily imply a Harappan affiliation of the complex imagery of this seal, this animal being physically present in south-eastern Iran at the time and well-represented also in the local art tradition, the association of three distinctive Indus animal icons – zebu, unicorn, and buffalo – almost certainly does.Moreover, the pars pro toto synoptic principle fully belongs to the Indus iconographic tradition, as demonstrated by the several composite animal figures present in the corpus of Indus stamp seals. Considered all together, these animals may symbolize something more than a simple list or procession, representing instead the physical disembodiment of a concept represented on two similar Indus whirl-like images on stamp seals

    In general, the Halil Rud animal imagery more directly linked to the iconography of the Indus civilization suggests a precise knowledge of very important eastern symbols , but also a strategic will of subverting their original implications, adapting them to the local style and tradition

    These bleached beads and cylinder seal from the copper-processing area can be added to a consistent series of other Indus-related artefacts discovered at Konar Sandal South: animal figurines with human faces on exhibit at Jiroft Museum,one cubical and twelve spherical weights related to the metrological system of the Indus Valley,the metal stamp seal with typical Indus animal icons already discussed for its manufacturing technique,fired steatite disk-beads found in both the settlement area and the pilfered grave- yard of Mahtoutabad,and the local processing of a limited amount of unmistakable chert from the Rohri Hills in Pakistan, including an over-exploited ‘bullet’ core reduced by indirect pressure techniques. Most probably, a systematic editing of the excavation reports of Konar Sandal South will add more evidence of the direct presence of Indus traders in the most important civilization core of south-eastern Iran.

    Here is another article which dwelves on the above same subject –


    Unfortunately at present this article is not freely available online as it was apparently earlier (I have a copy).

    Not let us look at Indus influence in BMAC.

    I am quoting from the concluding section of the below paper –


    The detailed study of the substantial collection of artifacts made from the ivory of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus Linnaeus, 1758) discovered at the Oxus Civilization site of Gonur Depe, in southern Turkmenistan, demonstrates that most of these objects were probably manufactured in Central Asia according to the local artistic tradition and did not arrive as finished items from sites in the Indus Valley. In fact, almost all ivories excavated at Gonur Depe show a marked degree of functional and stylistic separation from the contemporaneous pro- ductions of ivory objects in the Indus Civilization. A few ivory objects may have occasionally arrived in Central Asia from the greater Indus Valley as finished items. However, considering the sources of elephant ivory available for Gonur Depe, the discovery on site of the large unworked section of an elephant tusk, and the evidence for reworking of ivory objects at Gonur Depe and possibly also at other sites in the Oxus basin, it seems more likely that tusks of male Asian elephants were traded to Central Asia, whole or in large sections, by merchants who might have provided also the skilled craftsmanship necessary to transform them into finished objects. The highly specialized skills and expertise required to carve ivory objects comparable to the ones found at Gonur Depe suggest that they were manufactured by local wood carvers or most likely by Indus-trained ivory carvers.

    If one goes through all of these extracts, there is an unmistakable pattern. There is an attempt to imitate objects or materials that are originally from the larger Indus civilization region. It is also speculated by the authors that Indus traders were likely involved.

    However, we now have the genetic evidence from the Narasimhan et al paper that clearly show that there were migrants from the Indus civilization living in both Eastern Iran and in Central Asia from 3100 – 2500 BC. The preprint only had 3 of these InPe samples as Razib calls them. But now it seems, there are 15 more InPe samples that have been discovered by the Harvard team with specific Indian origin mtDNA and y-dna as well. It is also evident that almost samples from Bronze Age Shahr-i-Sokhta and BMAC have South Asian admixture.

    So we see a very substantial genetic imprint in Eastern Iran and Central Asia during the Bronze Age which is preceded by a lot of South Asian migrants into these regions between 3100 – 2500 BCE.

    Why was there such a large migration from South Asia outwards ? In my opinion, this migration co-incides with the onset of the Mature Harappan phase. The mature Harappan phase is characterised by a high degree of uniformity and urbanism over the Greater Indus region which was lacking earlier. Some archaeologists have even argued that this represented a political empire.

    So, just maybe, around 3000 BCE, one political tribal group among the several regional polities in South Asia began to extend its political power over other entities ultimately leading to the vast scale uniformity and unity of the mature Harappan phase. This perhaps forced these other regional political entities to flee into more distant regions. This may have led them to migrate into Eastern Iran and Central Asia. These migrants may have then created or catalysed the formation of urbanism in these regions.

    This could also mean that the larger Indus civilization region as well as the Eastern Iranian and Central Asian civilization were genetically, culturally and quite possibly linguistically brought into unity by this process starting in the early 3rd millenium. Let us bear in mind that it is this very region that historically was the classical Indo-iranian linguistic region.

    There is also evidence that the materials excavated from the sites of the Jiroft civilization have Zoroastrian iconography already in the 3rd millenium BC adding further credence to my proposition that the roots of Indo-Iranian culture were already laid by the cultural transformation that came about in the Greater Indus, Eastern Iran and Central Asian regions through an impetus from Indus migrants.

    In contrast, let me quote about the archaeological evidence of the so-called steppe migration into Central & South Asia which suppossedly brought Indo-Iranians into South Asia.

    This survey of the archaeological and biological record of southern Central Asia yields four important findings. First, contacts between the sedentary food-producing populations of the Namazga culture populations residing in Kopet Dagh piedmont and Geokyur oasis of southern Turkmenistan who likely established the outpost at Sarazm had little to no contact with populations residing in the southern steppe zone. Second, contacts between Bronze Age steppe populations and NMG V and BMAC populations appears to have been one in which the dynamic of cultural influence was stronger on the side of the well-established sedentary food- producing populations, and this resulted in the partial assimilation of these initial newcomers to the region both culturally and, to a lesser degree, biologically as well. Third, not all of those who emigrated from the north turned to farming but may have continued a semi-nomadic existence in the highlands, which were unsuitable for the kind of intensive farming practiced in the BMAC homelands or in the regions of Khorezm. Fourth, if there was any Central Asian influence on South Asian populations, that influence likely long predated any development of Iranian, let alone Indo-Aryan, languages, and most likely occurred during the late NMG IV to early NMG V period (ca. 2800–2300 BCE) and even earlier during the Eneolithic from Kelteminar culture groups (4000–3500 BCE).


    This last paper shows that the influence of steppe migrants was limited to the northern periphery of the BMAC civilization and that most likely these steppe migrants assimilated into the culture of the BMAC than vice-versa.

    And there is no archaeolgical evidence of any influence on South Asia.

    And based on this flimsy evidence, we are asked to believe that some steppe people migrated into South Asia and transformed the religi0-cultural and linguistic landscape of Iran, Central Asia and a very large portion of Central Asia. Do you find this argument convinving ?

    I would say that the hypothesis I have put forward is far more convincing. The fact that steppe groups interacted with the BMAC may infact have lead to the formation of Iranic Scythian culture.


    Admittedly, what I have proposed does not explain how Indo-Europeans reached Anatolia and Europe. The genetic evidence for that is not evident at present but I can certainly show some archaeological evidence and linguistic support for such an argument. But that shall be in a later post.

  6. Razib and Zack,

    If you deem fit, please put up my comment as a separate post titled, “The Roots of the Indo-Iranian cultural genesis”.


    1. Zack, Razib

      Why do you believe this pastiche of a scientific work worthy of consideration in BP? My issue is this paragraph assembly is a technique common in this administration to argue against a variety of things, looking erudite, but will not pass a scientific review. This is nothing more than an assembly of paragraphs from papers which are not even arguing his case.

      I believe that it will be easily followed by other arguing Africa_>elamite->AASI, and gondwana->Lemurian->AASI as wayforward for the Dravidian/AASI question. My fear is that someone will write “JR in Brown Pundits [1] shows that the Indo-Iranian origins of bla bla” without realizing that this is just a paragraph collection from selected essays. I hope you understand, fake science is spreading like wildfire in India, via whatsapp and bizarre local newspaper stories. The India Today article was, literally, an outstanding example of responsible scientific journalism, and now BP proposes to follow up that with made-up stories as the Aryans out of India theory/

      1. Who the hell are you to decide what should be allowed and what should be banned ? You behave like a typical communist joker . Are you one of them ?

        Listen you old man, I am directly quoting you facts and opinions of archaeologists. Have I misquoted them ? It is also a fact that there is now substantial genetic evidence of Indian migration into Eastern Iran and Central Asia. This is a fact and not my opinion. Do you have any problems with these facts ?

        I am quoting the archaeological evidence which shows Indus civilization influence into Eastern Iran and Central Asia and relating them with the clear cut genetic evidence of Indian migration into these very regions during the period in question. And I have merely proposed what these facts could mean. You can argue why my proposition is not so sound but you have no business telling others that my opinions should not be allowed.

        How much knowledge do you really have old man, of the topics that I am discussing ? Just how much ? Can you show me your erudition in these topics ? If you can do so well and good. Go ahead and show me factually how my proposition is wrong. If you cannot, do not just ramble on like a mad man.

      2. Vijay,

        Really, are you a senile old man. Here I was sharing comparing info with you, thinking you were a young blood.

        I think I need a new forum with young people like Jaydeepsinh Rathod who are have “serious” stuff to talk about.

        As you know, Vijay these are really critical issues, i.e. AIT, MIT, SOB and many other acronyms. These do affect day to day life of millions in South Asia, Iran and who knows where else. Food will not be put on the table on millions unless these acronyms are not resolved.

        Anyway this is the forum to solve poverty and hunger in South Asia and for sure genetics/DNA is the way to go.

        Jaydeepsinh is part Sri Lankan., i.e he is not a singhe or singham. Jayadeep (Jaya=victorious, deep=light/island). The victorious Lion of the island (of light).


        1. It is difficult to have a sensible discussion with your lot.

          Have I said that things like poverty, hunger and more immediately pressing issues should not be discussed ? Just don’t write any nonsense that comes to your head.

          I was asked by Razib to elaborate on a subject I commented upon in another post of his and Zack offered to give me contributor privilege if I so desired and so in response I wrote the above long post. So who the hell is this old fellow telling others what they should and should not allow on their forums about the subject he knows precious little ? People should learn to mind their own business.

          I do not comment on any of your posts because quite frankly they do not interest me. But does that mean I should ask Zack or Razib to stop you from writing ?

  7. “Please note I have not used the words “Aryan” or “Dravidian.” The reason is that these are modern ethnolinguistic terms. Genetics is arriving at certain truths about population changes and connections, but we don’t have a time machine to go back to the past and determine what language people were speaking 4,000 years ago.””

    Is there a reason that why there is a divide between researchers on using this term. In many articles i have read some do use this term while some don’t. Even with the genetics folks. And almost all non genetics folks on major public platforms( India today ,Outlook, the economist), who are writing on this are explicitly using this terms. I am pretty sure the reason you gave , even they understand , but still they use this terms.

    1. Using these terms are just fuzzy ,lazy thinking. No gene carries with it language or ethnic signature with a degree of precision . Dravidian is a linguistic term . From late stone age,there is no direct correlation between gene and language.

    2. Racial theory of Indian civilization made by 19th century Indologists has so successfully bamboozled many Indians that even many educated people in India and abroad use racial terms uncritically in the case of India. It is complete nonsense.

  8. Ancient Tamilian civilization is Arya. Agaystya or Agastyar is Arya. So is Tirumular. Many great lineages of Kaka Bhujanda, Brighu, Veda Vyasa are Tamilian.

  9. Difference between genetics and history. Identity comes from history, to accept identity from genetics is racist. And no, its not linguistic difference, many people of different ethnic background can speak a language. More importantly we dont know the history. Suppose there were waves, the first wave was an invasion, the second wave joined with locals and defeated the first invaders. That would be a different kind of history than first. This is one reason I dont like the broad strokes of genetics based arguments. And I disagree with such genetics based identity fetish.

    1. I would change ‘Identity comes from history’ to one’s idiosyncratic interpretation of history. There is no ‘objective history’ out there commonly understood and accepted by everybody.

  10. Jaydeepsinh Rathod, can you log in to Brown Pundits with your log in and password? If you can’t can you e-mail the administrators and explain your challenge.

    Your long comment can be posted by a contributor (I would be glad to do so). But if you post it you can moderate the comments and update your post based on feedback.

    I think you make a valuable scholarly contribution and I like your comment. I would rather leave comments on it in an independent post.

    1. Ok sure I’ll write to the admins. But for now can you post this ? I welcome all comments.

        1. Zack,

          Actually I had not registered on this blog as yet.

          I just did the registration process an hour back but am still waiting for the confirmation email which strangely has not come so far. Therefore I m not able to login.

          I have got registered as Jaydeepsinh_Rathod

        2. Zack,

          Actually I just got registered an hour back with the user id Jaydeepsinh_Rathod. But for some reason I have not received the confirmation email and hence cannot login.

      1. can you grant me author privileges too. I am mostly a reader here, but sometimes i do feel like speaking out.

  11. There was couple topics in last couple days regarding SA genetics in terms of AMT or OIT, ‘steppe guys’ and/or ‘farmers’, North Indian vs Dravidian, etc, etc. The more comments, the less we know and the initial assertion get diluted and often ridiculed.

    I expressed my views in a couple occasions and I will do again. Let’s go to the very basics. Anyone can do for e.g. Google search: ‘dunavada india’. You get – Dunavada Gujarat 384265, India and you get map, population, shopping centre, banks, restaurants, etc.

    Well, ‘Dunav’ is a Serbian name for the longest EU river Danube which is flowing through Belgrade. Only Serbs say like this, Russian for e.g. say ‘Dunay’.

    ‘Ada’ is a Serbian name for a river island. There are several large river islands in Belgrade. Altogether, ‘Dunavada’ means ‘Danube’s river island’.

    Can anyone explain this ‘coincidence’? I can cite hundreds of such ‘coincidences’. How many coincidences are needed to conclude that it is not a coincidence? I am open for any explanation (genetics, astronomy, Veda’s verses, copper chariots, whatever). Pls, unchain your imagination and come forward.

    1. I just did randomly few words one minute ago. There are more ‘coincidences’. For example,

      English – Serbian – Gujarati:

      wife’s sister’s husband -Pasenog – Pĕsōnŏga
      husband’s brother’s wife – Jetrva – Yakr̥ta
      husband’s father – Svekar – Sāvēkara
      Son in law – Zet – Jhēṭa
      wife’s brother – Surak – Surak
      wife’s brother’s wife – Surnjaja – Sārajajā
      Honey – Med – Mēḍa

      1. Only one of the “Gujarati” words below is actually Gujarati, Jheta, and it is actually Jheth which means husband’s elder brother (so not what you wrote).

        Meda for honey is actually Madh, so it is close and derives from Sanskrit Madhu.

        Sorry, someone has taken you for a ride on this..Regardless the whole trope has got too ridiculous.

        BP owners: Is there a feature to selectively block IDs so their posts don’t appear at all for those that have blocked them?

        English – Serbian – Gujarati:

        wife’s sister’s husband -Pasenog – Pĕsōnŏga
        husband’s brother’s wife – Jetrva – Yakr̥ta
        husband’s father – Svekar – Sāvēkara
        Son in law – Zet – Jhēṭa
        wife’s brother – Surak – Surak
        wife’s brother’s wife – Surnjaja – Sārajajā
        Honey – Med – Mēḍa

        1. I cannot speak Gujarati but I can use Google translate. All previous words are obtained in this way. I already wrote about Serbian word MED (honey) which is identical in many languages. I also wrote about many words still identical between Serbian and Sanskrit. All these things can be easily verified by everyone.

          But, it seems you have some problem. For some reason you do not like my comments, you do not want not only to read them, you are asking BO owners to block them. My comments are about the fact that Aryans were ancient Serbs and there are many supporting evidence, especially genetics, language and toponyms. Couple days ago I quoted several dozens of Serbian toponyms recorded in old British Empire maps of Hindustan. Anyone may or may not agree with this but it seems you have a real problem with this and simply you cannot hide your frustration.

  12. Milan,
    I’m nowhere near an expert on Gujarati placename etymology but I don’t think Dunavada can be broken down as ‘dunav + ada’ but rather as ‘duna + vada’. ‘vada’ or ‘wada’ is a common placename suffix in these regions (eg. Lunawada). The ‘d’ in vada is pronounced as ड़, which is somewhat in between ‘d’ and ‘r’.

    1. Thanks for your answer. Still, W is different from V. There is close to Dunavada a place Govno (=shit in Serbian???). Could be a coincidence, I will ask for some others.

      Please, have a look my addition to previous comment. It is coming, I did a random search few minutes ago. Cheers

  13. Nice write up Razib,

    Narasimhan et al. used In_Pe as one of the three components to model 140 modern population groups of the subcontinent, rest two being Steppe_MLBA and AASI. Three Indus Periphery individuals from 3100 BC-2200 BC bore AASI component between 14-42 % as the preprint says.

    What is the ratio of Iranian Neolithic Farmers to AASI in In_Pe component used in that paper for modelling 140 modern population groups ?

  14. rakhigarhi paper must be the most quoted paper ever without even being published. i wonder why razib is not part of the such a famed paper?

  15. The Dravidian languages originate from the IVC. The archaeological, linguistic, genetic, epigraphic and historic evidence all point to this foregone conclusion.

    In Old Tamil literature there are references to migrations from the North to the south of Dravidian clans.

    Dravidian languages are not the indigenous language of AASI.

    Nihali may be the only surviving AASI language (the Nihali are the only AASI genetically dominant group not to speak an Aryan/Munda/Dravidian tongue.)

      1. I want to say that the connection between Dravidian Languages and IVC has never ever been proved (except for Parpola who says that IVC spoke proto-Dravidian (“Proto-Dravidian (the ancestor of all known Dravidian languages) was probably spoken by the Early Harappans, say c. 3200-2600 BCE. Its roots — which are beyond reconstruction — of course go back to the origins of human language, as is the case with any other language”).

        Harrapa.com and the associated facebook account “https://www.facebook.com/AncientIndus” keeps an update on the IVC revelations. It also has a daily q&A with all the experts who have been working (https://www.harappa.com/experts) on it for the last thirty years.

        Dravidan as a family of languages probably did not exist well before 1500 BC; what is proto-dravidan is undefined. Here, we have a delightful conundrum; in India, both, the Aryan and Dravidian came to existence well after 1500 BC!

      2. I know that you did not ask me, but:
        “Grain A Deep History of the Earliest States (2017), by James C. Scott ” as a companion to Yuval Hariri’s Sapiens.
        They suggest that staying in one place does not necessarily follow agriculture; agriculture happens and cities happen, but cities need much more careful town planning to work with diseases.

        The other issue that Scott points out is that ‘Indus civilization could have passed into a continuum that eroded but did not displace traditions and habits as its subjects moved or flourished – it seems – eastward and southward”. So this gives some credence that the IVC people seeded the later Dravidan formulation in the south.
        He also gives an explanation of why the ancient city life was fleeting in both, Mesopotamia and IVC ““The earliest states were, then, delicate balancing acts; a lot had to go right for them to have anything but a brief life”

      3. https://web.archive.org/web/20110607212814/http://www.harappa.com/arrow/meluhha_and_agastya_2009.pdf

        Even though there is much speculation, it makes an interesting reading.
        Iravatham Mahadevan’s article ends as
        After the collapse of the Indus Civilisation, the institution of me$l-akam (‘High
        House’) did not survive. But those who owned allegiance to the me$l-akam, the
        akatt-u people, did survive and, in course of time, re-emerged in the Vedic period
        as the ‘jar-born’ priests typified by Agastya. A section of the ruling classes did not
        stay on, but migrated under the leadership of the Akattiyar clan to South India,
        where they founded the Early Historical kingdoms (of Andhras and their successors
        in the Deccan, and the triple kingdoms, Chera, Chola and Pandya, in the Tamil
        Iravanatham mahadevan’s view is that south India got the linguistic heritage of IVC and north India the cultural heritage . How come is so neatly divided is anyone’s question. In the absence of regular decoding of IVC script – if such a thing existed – we are constrained to go in roundabout ways and circumstantial evidence and myth analysis

        (In tamil) Raghavaiyangar, M. 1907. Ve|ir Varalaru. (2004 reprint).

        1. Hello VijayVan,

          I tried yesterday to submit a comment but I suppose the software did not like it and eliminated it without a trace. I’m trying to do so again and let me see what happens.

          I looked into the matter of etymology of the Sanskrit word bharata before once. In one of the earliest attestations, it referred to the Rig Vedic deity Agni and used in the sense of ‘one who has to be born/maintained’ (referring to the Vedic practice that requires careful preservation of fire for long periods of time). This is the exact opposite of the sense suggested by Iravatham Mahadevan when he says that the Sanskrit word bharata is a loan-translation (presumably from a Dravidian language according to Mahadevan and as evidence for this belief he points to a certain formulation that is present only in Tamil-Malayalam) of a particular Indus ideogram which he thinks means ‘bearer’. So at least Mahadevan’s connecting bharata with earlier Indus things seems quite questionable to me.

          But that said, I could not and even now cannot derive the word bharata to get the meaning of ‘one who is to be born’ from Sanskrit roots, vowel-grade thingies, suffixes, etc. It seems to have been a result of some kind of an archaic word-formation strategy productive in Vedic Sanskrit. Added to these is the fact that there are some problems from the side of the Prakrits side as the early Prakrit sources seem to point to an ancestral *bharatha with that dental aspiration and not the usually expected *bharata. Yesterday I provided a link to the Mayrhofer’s dictionary entry talking about this but probably that is the reason the software disliked my post and eliminated it. So this time I decided to suggest some steps to reach that entry without linking directly: please visit the Archive.org website and search for “Etymologisches Wörterbuch Des Altindoarischen Mayrhofer EWA 2 1992” and in the book, please see page number 249 (corresponding to the page number 295 of the Archive numbering).

      4. Papers on the Indus script by Dr. Iravatham Mahadevan. He covers most of the non-genetic evidence.

        ‘Vestiges of Indus Civilisation in Old Tamil (2009)’ elaborates on the ancient myths preserved in Sangam literature from 2000 years ago. The section on Agastya on page 34 is compelling.

        His identification of the masculine, feminine and plural suffixes in the Indus script is also convincing. These are Dravidian features.

    1. “In Old Tamil literature there are references to migrations from the North to the south of Dravidian clans”

      True. The landowning Vellala castes also called ‘vELir’ are supposed to have come from Dwaraka. ‘Nacchinarkiniyar’ a venerable name in Tamil lit said sage Agastya brought a number of Velir clans from Dwaraka to Tamilnadu. (they are backbone of Dravidian movement, that is a different matter).

      Iruṅkoveḷ and the Koṭṭai Veḷāḷar–The Possible Origins of a Closed Community
      P. Ramanathan
      Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
      Vol. 32, No. 2 (1969), pp. 323-343 (21 pages)

      One can always dismiss these as Hindu imaginations or one can say there may be something behind a community origin’s in their origin myths

      1. Agreed. Anyone who says Tamilians are not Arya does not know of what they speak.

        VijayVan, Tirumular’s Tirumantiram is one of my all time favorite books. In that book Tirumular describes himself as one of eight students of Nandi (Shiva’s Bull). One of the other students was Patanjali.

        I have long wondered if Nandi, Agastya (or Agastyar when said respectfully), Tirumular, Patanjali are references to non homo sapiens. And if so, what? Another species of hominid? Aliens? Humans inspired by some kind of neuro-telepathy link with something else?

        As an aside, there is also a lot of evidence in the early scriptures of Shudras becoming Brahmins. An excellent example is Dasharata’s and Rama’s minister (in their cabinet) Jaabaali. Jaabaali was born Shudra. He was an atheist Charvaka. Yet one of the greatest saints of all time (Gautama) gave him the sacred thread and transformed him into a Charvaka atheist Brahmin:
        Dasharata and Rama deeply respected Jaabaali who by all accounts was a deeply impressive person.

        1. Preamble: Razib, feel free to cut off this inane arguments at any time, as they add minimal value.

          I do not know where to start. Dravidan is a language family. Aryan refers to both, a subset of Indo-European languages and to people who, presumably, carried large amounts of steppe DNA and arrived at Northwest India after 1800-1500 BC.

          The earliest indication of Tamil language inscriptions in Tamil-Brahmi script pertains to 3rd century BC. However, previous examples in Erode and Palani have not been recovered or deciphered even if Pre-asokan inscriptions in Brahmi from Srilanka discuss the existence of Damela. From inscriptions, we know that Tamil people have existed from 500 BCE. By using various other sources of literature and history, we arrive at the knowledge that a group of people who identified them as Tamils came to existence by 300 BC.

          Now, between the time that IVC ceased to exist and their peoples dispersed south and eastwards, and the people who had significant steppe DNA relocated, their may or may not have been 400 years. Between that and the self-identified Tamils there may have been another 1500 years. What is a surprise that the self-identified Tamils carried some DNA from the steppe, some from the Iranian farmer and a lot from whoever was present in the peninsula that had located there 47,000 years ago? Thus, calling the Tamil Arya or Iranian farmer, is meaningless; almost every ethnic formation in south India are admixtures of three groups. Using mythology to support this is equally meaningless. In addition, referring back to group recollection of their origins will also color the issue, without historical, archaeological, genetic, paleobotanical and other evidence. If anything, it could be argued that the Tamil carries AASI proucly; but it is not known what languages that those people spoke. Even going back to IVC, the script and the language is totally unclear.

          1. it’s fine.

            i don’t really pay attention to AnAn labeling everything “arya” at this point. 😉 if everything is x, then x starts to lose its meaning….

          2. Vijay a couple of corrections:

            “The earliest indication of Tamil language inscriptions in Tamil-Brahmi script pertains to 3rd century BC.”

            This has now been backdated to 500 BC in line with the Prakrit inscriptions in Sri Lanka. There have been Tamil inscriptions found in burials carbon dated to the 5th century BC in Kodumanal.

            “What is a surprise that the self-identified Tamils carried some DNA from the steppe, some from the Iranian farmer and a lot from whoever was present in the peninsula that had located there 47,000 years ago?”

            Most Indians (with the exception of Dalits and tribals) are descended mainly from the IVC. Most caste Tamils are descended mainly from the IVC and not the AASI people who lived in the peninsula 47,000 years ago.

      2. “one can say there may be something behind a community origin’s in their origin myths”

        On page 38 of ‘Vestiges of Indus Civilisation in Old Tamil (2009)’:

        “Agastya led ‘eighteen kings, eighteen families of the Velir and the Aruvalar’ to the south, where they settled down ‘clearing the forests and cultivating the land’.”

        Migration of Dravidian speakers to the south who introduced farming and civilisation? Sounds about right.

        1. I do not want to engage on a long argumentative thread, as my ability to convince people is poor.

          IM’s interpretation of the Indus script does not have a wide scholastic acceptance, and his tendency to veer to fanciful interpretations takes away from his claims to be a scholar. The present day interpretation of the IV seals is that they are seals, not scripts, and hence the pictures. Both, Parpola and IM have rather fanciful interpretation of script that makes several leaps of faith to conclude that they are Dravidan. However, I do not argue that IVC is Aryan or AASI, but believe that it is among the broad arc of a city-based civilization that aligns with Mesopotamia and other towns in Yemen.

          Part II is entirely from fancy, with interpretations from myths and novels, and I attach no credence to this section.

          People are still working on paleobotany, genetics, archeology and other sources for IVC and may conclude that the civilization is part Iranian Farmer, part something else. What is Dravidan is still unclear, mainly because it refers to languages, and not a people. My only plea was not throw Aryan and Dravidan into a description of civilizations.

          1. “Part II is entirely from fancy, with interpretations from myths and novels, and I attach no credence to this section.”

            How can you not value this at all? These myths and novels were the only way history were kept and recorded for thousands of years. The rest is junk unless integrated into the recorded history and culture of native peoples.

            Are you arguing that IVC could be Sumerian? This appears very unlikely. The art of IVC is Hindu/Bharatiya. Which implies the culture was heavily influenced by Hinduism. However this does not mean that other philosophies were not simultaneously followed, often by the same people. Plural people with freedom ethos often do this.

            I believe it is conventional wisdom that large Sumerian communities lived in IVC. And large IVC communities lived in Sumeria. These appeared to be immigrant and trading communities. Similar to China town in Kolkata, Mumbai, Vancouver. This implies widespread trade of goods, services, thought and culture.

            This also explains for example extraordinary similarities between Bharat and Sumeria. Both use 360 degrees in a circle (including in the Rig Veda) and procession of the equinoxes to measure time. Both have seven days in a week dedicated to the same celestial objects; where said celestial objects have similar qualities attributed to them. There are also stunning similarities in mythologies, culture and religion. I have asked two of my friends who are far more knowledgeable about the connections between Sumeria and Hinduism to send me articles on it.

  16. “Both, Parpola and IM have rather fanciful interpretation of script that makes several leaps of faith to conclude that they are Dravidian. ”

    Genetic evidence, Dravidian toponyms (in Gujarat, Sindh etc), Brahui and the Dravidian substratum in Indo-Aryan languages suggests that the Indus script is Dravidian.

    I agree IM makes some fanciful interpretations which does take away from an otherwise excellent scholar. However, this does not mean that all his work on the Indus script is invalid. Suffixes are a key feature of Dravidian languages.

    The Jar symbol for example which is found only at the end of words, and is the most common ending symbol is likely to represent a masculine suffix (men were represented more for obvious reasons.).

    Likewise the Arrow symbol which is also only present at the end of words, likely represents a feminine suffix. It has a direct rebus equivalent in Dravidian (‘Ambu’ means arrow in Dravidian languages, and is also an attested female suffix in Old Telugu).

    These are very convincing interpretations.

    1. Hello Karan,

      I don’t know anything about the Indus script hypotheses but I just wanted to note one thing regarding the Old Telugu suffix -ambu that you mentioned. It is technically the neuter-marking suffix in the Old Telugu stage (as are its free-variants -amu, -ammu and descendent -aM in the later stages of Telugu) and not the feminine-marker but the major point is that it is not certain if -*ampu [pronounced ambu] was a neuter-marking suffix in Proto-Dravidian. It might have been a regularisation as a neuter-marker in the much later Old Telugu stage of Dravidian. There are many reconstructed Proto-Dravidian neuter nouns that do end with the sequence -ampu but in Old Dravidian, neuter nouns likely ended with a lot of sequences such as -ntu, -tu, -nku, -ku, etc. If anything, one convincing candidate that may have enjoyed the status of a neuter-marker is -tu/-ntu. Because, in the Old Dravidian system of having two number series one to be used in association with humans and one to be used in association with things (illustration: root *ir, ‘two’; *ir-aNTu [iraNDu] (*ir-aN-tu on internal sandhi where the -aN- in the middle is a formative), ‘two’ (when referring to things: eg. *iraNTu marankkaL [iraNDu marankkaL], ‘two trees’); but *ir-u-var, ‘two’ (when referring to humans: eg. Tamil *iruvar kELir, ‘two relatives’)), we can see that the suffix indicating the neuter is -tu/-ntu. Thus the predominant neuter-marking suffix in Proto-Dravidian might likely have been -*tu/-*ntu and not -*ampu.

      1. But all the above said, another interesting fact must be noted. We observe that all the literary languages typically make use of a suffix that has the bilabial nasal m in it when nativising Sanskrit loanwords referring to things: eg. Old Telugu dina-mu, dina-mbu, ‘day’ (<- Sanskrit dina, 'day'), Old Tamil cUttira-m, 'aphorism' (<- Sanskrit sUtra, 'aphorism'), etc. This type of a suffix is seen when the source Sanskrit stems end in the short vowel -a. (For other types of situations in the original Sanskrit, other suffixes are used in the literary languages.) Considering that by the time of arrival of Sanskrit the literary languages had been quite a bit distinct from each other, the use of this type of a suffix indicates that they have inherited it with that sense from a more older stage (leaving aside the possibility of origin in one particular language and subsequent contact-induced spread into others).

        So the above may indicate that some kind of Old Dravidian people, at least the dominant variety who became those speaking the later-day literary Dravidian languages, perceived the -am (Tamil-Malayalam, Kannada), -amu and -ambu (Telugu) as an important neuter marker. If that is the case, then there is some kind of basis for attaching this putative neuter marker in older Dravidian -*ampu with the Proto-Dravidian *am-pu, which indeed meant 'arrow' as you mentioned.

        But the thing is, even at this stage we are not without problems, because the Tamil-Malayalam and Kannada data show evidence only for -am and only Telugu shows -amu and -ambu as the neuter suffix for nativising Sanskrit non-animate nouns. This is relevant if we consider that Tamil-Malayalam and Kannada do preserve intact (or show reflexes of), Dravidian-origin nouns ending with the sequence -ampu. Example: Tamil kaT-a-mpu, 'evil', 'mishap', kaT-am, 'forest'. So we have to figure out if the hypothetical neuter marker that appears to have a bilabilal nasal m in it as hypothetically perceived by the literary Dravidians was in fact -*am as opposed to some kind of -Vmpu, as indeed they seem to have been two different suffixes in Dravidian. Without ruling out the above possibility, we cannot connect the arrow symbol with a neuter suffix based on Old Telugu evidence alone, in my view.

      2. I had realised another thing a while ago but did not mention it. It is that if there is some legitimacy in the idea that older Dravidians thought of -am as a neuter marker instead of -ampu, then the association with the ‘arrow’ word ampu turns out to be not baseless again as indeed the root of the ‘arrow’ word seems to be *am- (though I have to confirm it with Krishnamurti’s textbook for which I don’t currently have access to) which would be congenial to association with the neuter suffix -am. Lol, in any case, these linguistics-philology interdisciplinary things are not so easy and thorough research that carefully couples the specificity of the philological problem at hand with the generality of Dravidian language behaviour known through historical linguistics should be performed.

        1. Thanks Santhosh. You appear to a have a background in Dravidian linguistics. One area where Mahadevan fails in is his ability to work with the experts in all fields (history, archaeology, genetics, linguistics etc). An interdisciplinary approach is crucial.

          However, what remains true from scientific computer analysis is that the Indus texts possess only suffixes, not prefixes or infixes. This indicates that the Indus language was of the purely suffixing type (like Dravidian), not of the prefixing type (like Indo-Aryan).

          1. A Bayesian phylogenetic study of Dravidian languages . This puts the age of this group to 3000 to 6500 years

            We can’t rush in and make definite statements on linguistic composition of IVC as large number of samples or clinching evidences are not available.

            In science , confidence in one’s conclusions increases with more and more evidences adduced, qualitatively and quantitatively. We are far from reaching that stage.

          2. VijayVan, would it be fair to say that traditional Hindu scholars consider Tamil to be older than Rama? And that Rama visited great Tamilians including Agastyar (Agastya in Sanskrit)?

            When in the narrative stories of Hinduism does ancient Tamil first appear? With the appearance of Agastyar or earlier?

          3. @AnAn

            No. It would not be fair to say that.

            Only in the late 19th C and later stupid theories have become fashionable among Tamils , like Lemurian Tamil, Tamil as the First Language in the World, Tamil as the Mother of all languages and what have you. The Tamil linguistic attitudes have become archaic in the last 100 years.

            There is a Vedic Agastya . Tamil Saivite desire to attach itself to vedic culture has strongly promoted Agastya myth. Medievel Tamil Buddhists replaced Agastya with Avalokita in origins of Tamil. At the end of the day, it is all sectarian myths.

          4. “In science , confidence in one’s conclusions increases with more and more evidences adduced, qualitatively and quantitatively. We are far from reaching that stage.”

            We are not far at all. Already it has been proven by genetics that the Rig Vedic Aryans invaded India after the collapse of the IVC. It is only a matter of time before more ancient skeletons in the IVC and south India are analysed to confirm a similar migration of Dravidian speakers to the south.

          5. “It is only a matter of time before more ancient skeletons in the IVC and south India are analysed………. …………

            that is cool, we will wait for that.

          6. Karan, I’m not an academic student of Dravidian linguistics but a serious amateur. So I believe that maybe you wouldn’t be so wrong if you don’t consider me some kind of a total crackpot lol. (Probably my level is some kind of a sophomore or third year undergraduate student of Dravidian linguistics (going by the four-year model which is the only thing I’m aware of lol) if I am allowed to make a self-assessment.)

            As I was driven to conclude in my series of paragraphs above, Mahadevan actually seems to have done quite a good (or at least not-bad) job actually regarding the linguistics side of the ‘arrow’ word- Dravidian singular neuter suffix question (though he does not appear to have investigated very well the attested history of the Sanskrit word bharata about which I talked in a comment in this thread somewhere up); the thing is that it would be much better if he or any professional linguists associated with him publish accompanying linguistics papers (that detail all the relevant data, the authors’ assumptions, methods of analysis, conclusions and criticisms) as supplements to their philological papers.

            Regarding the seemingly suffixing nature of the Indus script, there are problems with that, as you might be aware, mainly from the newly emerging side that argues that the Indus seals might not have featured any writing script at all. But yes, if that is a script, then it might have been suffixing/predominantly suffixing as most of the scholars seem to believe (am not aware of the details). And within India, Dravidian is one of the very few or even possibly the only language family to do exclusive suffixing (about Nihali and Kusunda, I don’t know). So there is that tempting connection but that connection has to stay at such a weak state, unfortunately, before more direct evidence (which is probably complete and accepted decipherment only really) is found to confirm or reject it, which may or may not be able to possible.

            It should also be kept in mind that many words considered to be of non-Indo-European and non-Indo-Iranian origins in the Rig Veda remain unexplained as originating from any extant non-Indo-Aryan language families of India. Some of these words are apparently thought of as having a prefixing pattern by not just Michael Witzel (who is a philologist majorly) but some other esteemed linguists (am not aware of the details). So doing/waiting for more research in this very promising substratum-research direction compared to the above Indus-symbols direction is also worthwhile in my view.

    2. Karan, what do you mean by Dravidian? Ancient Tamil?

      Why do people use the phrase Dravidian when it was invented in the 1800s by Indologists? Shouldn’t we say Tamilians or more precise names? How are Malayalam, Telegu, Kannada, Konkani, Marathi, many other now extinct languages connected?

      Karan, I have wondered about whether IVC script is related to ancient Tamil (or actual ancient Tamil). It would match old narrative scriptural stories. However a script is different from the language being expressed through said script. Many Tamilians chant Vedas reading Tamil script.

      Many Hindus believe that ancient Tamil and Samhita Sanskrit are were bilingual blended cultures for thousands of years. If this is so, IVC script could have been be used for ancient Tamil, Sanscrit, Avesten, Pali and other unknown languages. We should be open to that possibility.

      Agastya is both Tamil and Sanskrit. Agastya is suppose to have lived before Rama, and met Rama. Does this imply that ancient Tamil existed before the birth of Rama and that Rama met ancient Tamilians?

      Is Agastya considered Arya and Dravidian by modern Indologists? Agastya is considered Arya by Hindus. Most Tamilians also consider themselves Arya.

      1. @AnAn “Why do people use the phrase Dravidian when it was invented in the 1800s by Indologists? Shouldn’t we say Tamilians or more precise names? ”

        Dravidian is a name to a logical category of languages based on some common characteristics . While I have my reservations as to the name , the name has stuck. Name is different from the thing it represents.
        You can’t mistake Dravidian for Tamil, or Telugu or individual languages. As a matter of fact , there was no language called ‘dravidian’ , if you are talking in a linguistic context

        There are some caveats to the above statement.

        1. When you get the time, please elaborate.

          In other words Dravidian is “ONLY” a language family theory? If so, what is a short summary of the theory?

          1. It depends who uses it.
            Brahmins have traditionally been subdivided into Pancha dravidas and Pancha Gowdas., based not on language but on ritual differences .
            In Srivaishnavite books, Dravida refers to Tamil language only, especially the works of 12 alwars.
            Lilatilakam , a 14th century Malayalam book on Manipravalam refers to Tamil and Malayalam as ‘Dravida’ with the possibility other south Indian languages can also be referred as Dravida
            In linguistics, dravida refers to a group of languages with a common characteristic in phonology and grammar.

            In most modern discussions like IVC , only the last meaning is referred to. So decide which platform are you standing .

          2. This is very helpful.

            “Pancha dravidas” . . . do Indologists know what this means? They are respected by Hindus. Didn’t know Pancha Dravidas was associated with Dravidians. Hmm.

            “In Srivaishnavite books, Dravida refers to Tamil language only, especially the works of 12 alwars.” This makes sense. Which Sri Vaishnavite books? So Dravida is a self designation that Tamilians use to describe themselves?

            “Lilatilakam , a 14th century Malayalam book on Manipravalam refers to Tamil and Malayalam as ‘Dravida’ with the possibility other south Indian languages can also be referred as Dravida” Didn’t know this.

            “In linguistics, dravida refers to a group of languages with a common characteristic in phonology and grammar.”

            You mean proto-Dravidian?

            Telegu sounds extremely different from Tamil and among spiritual communities is heavily Sanskritized. Is there strong linguistic backing for this theory of languages? What is their connection to Samhita Sanskrit?

          3. Hello AnAn,

            VijayVan has also replied to you but I wanted to give you my perspective. I take the English word Dravidian, whatever its etymological origins are, as pertaining to the family of genetically related 20-odd languages spoken primarily in south India, parts of central India and also a small pocket in Pakistan. And the English word Dravidian as used in linguistic research allows this and this meaning only, nothing else.

            S0metimes, while being somewhat playful or careless, I personally speak of “Dravidians” referring to some kind of people groups, but even in such a case I don’t have a homogeneous racial autosomal cluster like AASI or Steppe or anything in mind- I just refer to the people who are talking the Dravidian languages. Because it is very apparent to me that at least the current Dravidian-language speakers are extremely diverse, autosomally definitely and culturally too definitely, ranging from Brahui speakers to Malto speakers to Kodagu speakers to Irula speakers. And by extension, it is quite reasonable to believe that many earlier stages of Dravidian language history also included such autosomal diversity. It is a, not the only, goal of mine, and importantly, just mine, to try and know more about the nature of this autosomal diversity of Dravidian-speaking peoples during the earlier stages, taking the help of aDNA and modern DNA research, anthropology, etc. Many Dravidian linguists might not be interested in such questions and be only into pure linguistics research.

  17. Santosh, sorry for the stupid questions.

    How are “am” and “ampu” pronounced. What do you mean by “neuter marker”

    Are you using Dravidian as a linguistic extended family? Does it have cultural, civilization or Jati DNA meaning?

    Is Shaiva Siddhanta (18 Siddha tradition (Siddhar in Tamil) . . . including Agastyar (Agastya), Tirumular, Bhoganater, Patanjali, Kalangi Nathar, Korakkar (Gorakshanath) etc.) considered Dravidian, Arya or both by Indologists?

    Is Tirumantiram (one of my all time favorite books albeit in english translation) considered to be Dravidian or Arya? (Tirumantiram is written by Tirumular):

    Tirumular and Patanjali are considered to be contemporaries by Hindus. The above link implies that Tirumular is from 1000 BC. But far more interesting than these random estimates would be to place Tirumular and Patanjali relative to events in the Hindu narrative Itihasa stories. For example when did they live relative to Krishna? Before or after? I think before because when Krishna says Gita 6.3, it is interpreted as Ashtanga Yoga. Unless of course that the eight fold path is much older than Tirumular, Patanjali and Krishna–which might be true. Another reason to believe they precede Krishna is because the Nagas leave earth during the time of Janamajaya; and Patanjali is considered to be a great Naga who assumed the form of a human infant (transforming from a tiny snake in the hands of the woman he chose to be his mother while she was taking a bath.) This implies that he lived before Krishna.

    Then there is the issue of Nandi the bull of Shiva (Guru of Patanjali and Tirumular). Nandi and these other mystical beings rarely visited the earth after the time of Krishna . In fact they mostly stopped visiting much earlier.

    The departure of Krishna from earth (traditionally dated as 3102 BC although some estimate different dates) is in many ways the dawn of the era of modern man. After this the mystical beings (ETs, Goddesses, Angels, Nagas, Garudas, unusual appearing hominids, human like beings who lived very long life spans, half male have female beings) almost stop appearing in the history of man. The equivalent of the beginning of the 4th age in Tolkien’s mythology.

    One reason to believe Tirumular and Patanjali lived after Krishna is because Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras were not publicly released until after the life of Buddha and after the release of the Buddhist Yogachara.

    Hinduism has had three recent revolutions:
    1) time of Krishna
    2) time of Buddha when Buddha made public many of the teachings of Hinduism till then kept secret and set off a revolution of openness and transparency . . . forcing other secret traditions to release their own secret horded texts
    3) now. For a variety of reasons many things kept secret are being made public. Maybe because science is figuring these things out anyway. Maybe because the public is more open to ET/UFO ideas. Maybe because human beings are rapidly transforming into Gods and Goddesses on earth.

      1. AnAn
        Tirumoolar is very much part of pre-colonial Tamil savants and religious mystic I wrote about.
        , many of whom did not draw a sharp distinction between Tamil and Sanskrit. Tirumoolar says 51 letters of Tamil. Actually Tamil ( or Tolkappiyan tamil) has only 27. 51 belongs to sanskrit letters


        You give an impression of of saiva Siddhanta (and Siddhar) background. Saiva Siddhantha in Tamilandu borrowed liberally from Kashmr Saivism and it acquired a life of it’s own. Even though 20th century Saiva Siddhanta starting from Swami Vedachalam aka Maraimalai Adigal vehemently promoted ‘Pure Tamil’ movement, their Sanskrit origins is there for everyone to see who can peruse historical documents and siddhas . As long as Saiva Siddhanta identifies itself with vedic/sanskritic background , it can be called Arya .

        The popular effect of popular understanding of linguistic theories is bizarre.

        1. ” Tirumoolar says 51 letters of Tamil. Actually Tamil ( or Tolkappiyan tamil) has only 27. 51 belongs to sanskrit letters” I wonder at these things. I don’t know Tamil and can’t assess these kinds of statements. Could Tirumular be referring to a more ancient type of Tamil? I have no idea.

          There are many things I don’t understand in Tirumantiram. I can’t look at the original words since they are in Tamil versus Sanskrit.

          Much of Tirumantiram relate to subtle properties of the brain and nervous system that I think will be fleshed out and understood much better by neuroscience soon.


          If Dravidian is a linguistic designation that is fine. But I would rather it was more precisely defined.

          Maybe Arya is cultural/civilizational demarker. While Dravidian is a linguistic demarker? Which means one on one mapping is incomplete, misleading and inaccurate?


          I have thought of writing articles on Trika, 18 Siddha, Nath Sampradaya, various streams of Tibetan buddhism and Sufism. But they require a ton of research and meditation to understand. And I am terrified of being ripped apart by spiritual scholars who are vastly more knowledgeable.

    1. AnAn, in the post I mentioned am, ampu, etc. I was mainly following some kind of Harvard-Kyoto transliteration scheme (talked about in Slapstik’s Kashmir post yesterday) slightly modified and adapted for Dravidian, so I request you to go through it. But I can definitely say that the Dravidian root *am- or suffix -*am is not pronounced anything like the English helping verb am. It is pronounced exactly as अम्. The Dravidian word reconstructed as *ampu, ‘arrow’ is pronounced exactly as अम्बु. The reason for writing p there instead of b is because Proto-Dravidian speakers did not treat p and b separately- they just pronounced p as b when it came after the nasal consonant m. Then why choose p instead of b to represent this? Because except after the nasal consonant m, Proto-Dravidian speakers never said b and they said strong p and weak p (sometimes v), in word-initial and intervocalic positions of a word respectively.

      About the meaning of the word Dravidian as I understand it, I talked above in a comment. The other subjects discussed in your comment, I’m not much knowledgeable about, so I cannot say anything worthwhile about them.

    2. Oh sorry, neuter is a grammatical gender in Dravidian which actually applies to all abstract nouns and non-human entities. These kinds of non-human nouns are sometimes indicated by attaching some or other suffix in some Dravidian languages to a stem that contains the major lexical meaning, so that’s why I used the term neuter-marker referring to such suffixes (although it might be the case that the actual more accurate technical term for the thing is different). Illustration of above: Sanskrit stem yantra, ‘machine’ borrowed into Telugu as yantra-mu, ‘machine (which is a thing)’ and yantr-uDu, ‘a machine (which is a male human like the robot guy in the Rajinikanth movie “Robot”)’. So the masculine-marker is uDu in Telugu and neuter-marker is mu for the above example.

      1. This is helpful.

        Telegu is much easier to understand than Tamil. At least Sanskritized spiritual Telugu. Following Tamil is much harder. Tamil appears to be a very different language. Why?

        Would it be accurate to say that Egyptian pyramids are Yantra-Du? What Tantra-mu did ancient Egypt use before 9700 BC to build architectural marvels that we don’t have the technology to replicate today?

        1. Lol I did not see this message of yours at all when I checked last time.

          Telugu is probably easier to understand compared to Tamil for a typical Indo-Aryan speaker or a person familiar with Sanskrit because of the Sanskritised lexis. Tamil just superficially appears to be a “very” different language than Telugu. It is indeed a different language than Telugu and also quite distant to it phylogenetically but the similarities between them are quite high, especially in the domain of grammar. Tamil just has lower amounts of Sanskrit loanwords and the ones it has are thoroughly nativised as Tamil which is not the case with Telugu which does only the most minimum amount of nativisation necessary and tries to keep Sanskrit as Sanskrit-like as possible. So that makes them sound different.

          Egyptian pyramids are non-human things and if we imagine them as some kind of machines like you do, then they take neuter endings and are called IjipTu yantra-mu-lu (-lu is the plural suffix) in olden Telugu and in Modern Telugu predominantly called IjipTu yantr-A-lu (due to the simplification of the -amu- into -A-). (But typically, the pyramids of Egypt are simply called IjipTu piramiDlu in Spoken Telugu (without even taking any neuter endings) but apparently ‘pyramids’ are translated in some circles as sUcyagrabhavanaM (I have never heard of this word before) and gOpuraM (this is the word for a structure in the south Indian temple architecture that we are all quite familiar with but it is not exactly a pyramid but a truncated pyramid on top of a cuboid).

          And I don’t know the tantra-M (Modern Telugu form descending from olden Telugu tantra-mu) used by Egyptian people to make the pyramids lol.

          1. Thanks Santosh. As I told our blog owners . . . you are wickedly smart.

            IjipTu yantr-A-lu. Very nice. Pyrimids are similar to the Mount Meru Sri Yantra used in Hindu Tantra. They, when combined with brain sound therapy, have been used for thousands of years for brain and nervous system therapy. This is the traditional understanding and science of [Yantra (machine) + mantra (sound) = Tantra (technology]. I would like to visit the pyramids and observe what happens to the brain and nervous system near them.

            Tantra increases Chitta Shuddhi (mental health broadly defined), Buddhi (or intelligence broadly defined) and results in many Siddhis (abilities derived from greater more subtle intelligence and greater control over the brain and nervous system). When I was a kid academics use to regard this as fantasy.

            But not any more. Now there is a growing understanding that cognitive abilities are strongly correlated with socio-economic outcomes; especially at the ends of the tails. Neuroscience is learning how to increase cognitive performance through techniques very similar to what was used by ancient civilizations for thousands of years before Christ.

            If you get a chance, listen to the Elon Musk interview with my main man Joe Rogan. Elon Musk sounds a lot like Tirumular, Patanjali, or an ancient Sumerian sage, or an ancient Egyptian mage. Elon expresses ancient ideas using the simplest clearest language.

      2. Fascinating; this sort of “giving gender” is something I wasn’t conscious of, though in retrospect there was that enthiran movie of Rajnikanth that you point out. What is the feminine of yaMtruDu? yaMtrurAlu? I see yaMtrI wouldn’t be appropriate for semantic reasons because it would mean “controller”, being the feminine of “yaMtA”; but are there also syntactic reasons why it wouldn’t be appropriate?

        [Edit: I can’t think of a Tamil feminine of Enthiran either, as guess don’t yield euphonic options.]

        1. Oh wow froginthewell, I always make mistakes when transliterating phonetic -nt- sequences lol. Too deeply internalised in me that phonetic cluster so I always have difficulty having to consciously think of it in terms of the language orthography and transliterate correctly. So all my yantr- things should actually be yaMtr- like in your comment.

          The feminine Telugu nativisation created for this ‘machine’ source word of Sanskrit can be directly yaMtra if a Sanskrit original grammatical feminine noun exists like yaMtrA (or is it yantrA in Sanskrit?) with the shortening of the final vowel. But spoken Telugu can create a yaMtrurAlu as you suggested as a parallel of yaMtruDu but both these are very difficult things to do in the minds of Telugu people. [yaMtragatte is also an option as it is like maMtragatte (maMtragatte is an actual word in at least my Telugu lexicon and means ‘a woman who does magic (black probably, as it is generally used in negative sense, in the sense of a witch perhaps)’- parallel of maMtragADu, ‘magician (male) (both white and black)’; another word for ‘witch’ is mAMtrikurAlu)) but it does not create a meaning of ‘a machine who is a woman’ but ‘a woman who deals with machines’.]

          Actually, both yaMtruDu and yaMtrurAlu are difficult to create in the minds of Telugu people (as I mentioned earlier too) who face a bit of difficulty getting their minds around the concept that a non-human thing like a ‘machine’ can even take the masculine suffix at all. The yaMtruDu construction was once and only once heard in the Telugu country- in that song from the Robot movie. Modern Spoken Telugu sometimes does perhaps wrap its head around the concept and succeeds to some extent in making a masculine out of a non-human: we see examples like pilligADu, ‘cat-guy’ which to me seems like ‘a cat who is a guy’ in some strange way though there is the other, probably more likely possibility of ‘a guy who is like a cat’/’a guy who handles cats’; this second option then would be along the lines of the quite productive maMcivADu, ‘good guy’, maMcidi, ‘good girl’/’good thing’, ceDDavADu, ‘bad guy’, ceDDadi, ‘bad girl’/’bad thing’ type constructions, which may after all apply to the pilligADu-type usages too and I might be very wrong. In any case, imagining something which is so ridiculously clearly a thing as a male human and to attach masculine suffixes to that is quite difficult for Telugu minds. It all becomes even more clear when you realise that some words for clear non-human things which are stupidly grammatically masculine in Sanskrit are nativised as their proper neuter gendered words in Telugu lol (Example: vRkSa, ‘tree’ is grammatically masculine in Sanskrit (OMG!) while it is vRkSaM in Telugu as it should be, not any abomination like vRkSuDu lol (unless there is some character in the Sanskrit literature or something named pAtavRkSaH, ‘guy who owns a fallen tree (or some Sanskrit samAsa type that works)’ in which case Telugu nativises him as pAtavRkSuDu (but don’t forget that this pAtavRkSa guy is a human male!)).

          By the way, I found out that Sanskrit stem yantra- is also a clear neuter. So at least in isolation, that word does not have masculine and feminine forms in Sanskrit also (Sanskrit should thank God for that!). Perhaps when Sanskrit compounds are made, masculine and feminine terminations are made but which feminine termination the good Sanskrit ‘xyz-machine-girl’ word takes, whether it is -yantrA or -yantrI, I don’t know; am requesting the good Slapstik to help us out.

          1. Thanks a lot for the explanations.

            It seems to me both “nt” and “Mt” are fine here. I don’t know about “yantrA” either; haven’t looked at those sorts of rules, but as I said I do see a problem with yantrI being the feminine of yantA, so controller as opposed to something which is controlled.

            Regarding “some words for clear non-human things which are stupidly grammatically masculine in Sanskrit”, I think Sanskrit is making a sort of “conscious choice”, and it isn’t just for non-human things. While most Sanskrit words for wife are feminine, there is the masculine dArAH (usually used as plural), and the neutral kalatraM. Sometimes people do bring in “semantic interpretations” to such assignments: a tiger in hitopadesha would refer to his wife as “dArAH” because tigresses have masculine qualities, and then there is that “sexist” vRkSha-latA combo.

          2. Yes froginthewell, it is majorly problematic from the point of view of the orthography of Telugu which typically represents all nasals in nasal-consonant clusters with the anusvara, so yantraM is not true to Telugu orthography but phonetically is very correct of course. Sanskrit might be allowing both types of representations (or not, in which case consonant-cluster-ligature-based writing seems to be the correct one that should be used; like yantra and not yaMtra for Sanskrit).

            Your explanations are interesting regarding the incidence of grammatical gender for things in all these Indo-European, apparently Semitic, etc. languages lol. Maybe this is a good hypothesis that explains the origin of this phenomenon in Pre-Indo-European? Is this a thing already in Indo-European linguistics? I still cannot believe anyone can do that (attaching gender to things that is) as a Telugu person, so that’s why my implicit and perhaps biased assumption that some kind of aliens might have introduced this abomination to Pre-Proto-Indo-Europeans who later on transmitted the practice to continue into Proto-Indo-European and early Indo-European languages (lol).

            I did not understand the vRkSalatA compound example you have given. I’m not very familiar with Sanskrit grammar, that’s why. I see that the stem vRkSa- only takes masculine terminations, the stem lata- only takes feminine terminations, but when vRkSa- becomes the first part of the compound, it loses gender and the gender of the compound depends on the terminations of the second part, so I expect vRkSalatA to have feminine gender since the second stem lata- took a feminine termination. Is the actual word of any other gender? I’m also not sure if my impression of Sanskrit compounding is correct or not.

          3. In which case, my writing yaMtra was only accidentally correct 🙂

            I was not thinking of vRkShalatA as a single word (I was sloppy); just pointing to the semantic interpretation some give, namely that the latA is supported by the vRkShaH, making vRkShaH the “bhartA” (aside: when the nice smiling Samskrita Bharati guy introduces “eShA mama bhAryA”, I am tempted to ask back “uta bhartrI” :P). But the connotation isn’t there in all usages; while a God can be a “kalpa-taruH” or “kalpa-vRkShaH”, a Goddess is a “kalpa-latikA”, doesn’t mean the latter is supported by the former at all.

            Don’t know the (pre-)Indo-European thing, hopefully Slapstik-gAru will help us out.

          4. froginthewell,

            I find that there was a small error in my earlier post: the weak-stem form of Sanskrit ‘creeper’ word is latA, not lata. So I have gotten rid of that.

            Then, I think I can understand what you say in the second paragraph (or not ultimately lol). I was able to find out that vRkSalatA as a compound word does not exist in Monier Williams dictionary and Apte dictionary so my considering that as if it existed was probably incorrect. I now understand that you might have brought vRkSaH and latA together just for the purpose of illustration of a traditional explanation of the masculine gender of vRkSaH. In my view though, that kind of an explanation seems quite like an afterthought on the part of the Sanskrit folks and it is likely that they simply inherited that word from language stages earlier than Sanskrit, with the masculine gender that it has. Slapstik is requested to correct any mistakes of understanding here.

            (Another thing: I also want to say a bit of sorry for Sanskrit bashing and want to correct it with a bit of Dravidian bashing (but am not really sorry for the bashing of anything be it Sanskrit or Dravidian lol; it’s not like I’m doing any ultra-controversial thing either; just quipping about some weird features of languages). Can we talk about the absolute barbarity of Proto-Dravidian speakers who treated female humans and non-humans the same as against male humans in verbal conjugation by having the same suffixes for female humans and non-humans? (This continues to this day with slight modifications and without, in many Dravidian languages lol — Telugu included — but it is thankfully not present in South Dravidian-I languages like Tamil, Kannada, Tulu, etc. which at some point separated female humans and non-humans from each other in language by introducing a new set of suffixes to use for female humans resulting in three sets of suffixes- one for male humans, one for female humans and one for non-humans, in this subgroup.) Thankfully in some languages like Telugu and hopefully in many other Dravidian languages retaining this Proto-Dravidian feature, the barbarity is, at least now and not any later, only in the language and not in the minds of the people.)

          5. Santosh, I have no problems if you bash Sanskrit at all. Once I myself trashed Sanskrit literature and said that Urdu literature was superior, irking even the anti-Hindutva liberal guru Slapstik.

            I agree that those semantics probably came later. A particularly famous example somewhat in this direction is the opening shloka of raghuvaMsha, where pArvatI-parameshvarau are called “vAg-arthav-iva-sampRktau”, roughly “as inseparable as word (vAk) and meaning (arthaH)”. vAk is feminine, arthaH masculine. This may be a bit less banal than it sounds, since this involves a belief that a meaning/thought cannot exist with a word to express it. At some point I was happy with this because it agreed with the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis I had heard of long back in my youth, but later I read Pinker that it was all bullshit. In any case, it is probably a sort of tAntric idea about the shiva-shakti duality (of a kind also present in Tibetan Buddhism with genders reversed), uncannily reminiscent of the first shloka of saundarya-laharI, but that may be taking us too far and let me not bore further.

  18. “Only in the late 19th C and later stupid theories have become fashionable among Tamils , like Lemurian Tamil, Tamil as the First Language in the World, Tamil as the Mother of all languages and what have you. The Tamil linguistic attitudes have become archaic in the last 100 years.

    There is a Vedic Agastya . Tamil Saivite desire to attach itself to vedic culture has strongly promoted Agastya myth. Medievel Tamil Buddhists replaced Agastya with Avalokita in origins of Tamil. At the end of the day, it is all sectarian myths.”

    I am well aware of sectarian influences, although that means something very different in the Dharmic context versus Abrahamic context. There are passages in some Upanishads (not the 12 main) that I suspect might be sectarian influenced. But I do not wish to malign, since I don’t know for sure. Similar things can be seen through out the major scriptural corpus. This is why even among traditional scholars there is a view that the Valmiki Ramayana might have evolved over millennia after first being written down. Ditto with Mahabharata.


    Isn’t Avalokitesvara one of Agastyar’s or Agastya’s gurus?


    “Only in the late 19th C and later stupid theories have become fashionable among Tamils , like Lemurian Tamil, Tamil as the First Language in the World, Tamil as the Mother of all languages and what have you. The Tamil linguistic attitudes have become archaic in the last 100 years.”

    Many very intelligent spiritual Tamilians I know and have met believe this. This line of thinking has been around since at least Tirumantiram and Tirumurai

    “There is a Vedic Agastya . Tamil Saivite desire to attach itself to vedic culture has strongly promoted Agastya myth.”

    I don’t know any non Tamilian traditional Hindu leaders or scholars who deny that Agastya and Agastyar were the same person. I have never heard this theory except from Indologists–who sometimes make stuff up. The being Agastya came to earth many different times in different bodies (maybe different births). But meditators could see it was the same Agastya of old. This is how Agastya keeps appearing in stories thousands of years apart. In this way Agastyar might be called a recent appearance of Agastya.

    Shaiva Siddhanta (18 Siddha tradition (Siddhar in Tamil)) is one of the most respected paramparas among the six Shaivite schools and among the various schools inside the superset Vedanta (which includes many other schools in addition to the six Shaivite schools). The other Shaivite schools, Advaita school, Ramanuja school, Madvaachaarya school, Achintya Bheda Abheda school, and Tibetan Buddhist schools honor and respect Shaiva Siddhanta.

    If you know any Hindu practitioner (someone in the faith) who does not believe Agastya and Agastyar are the same person, please let me know who they are.

    1. Agastya and Agastyar are the same persons , in different language.

      “Many very intelligent spiritual Tamilians I know and have met believe this” – i..e archaisation of linguistics and stupid theories.

      Intelligence has little to do with this . Intelligent persons – ie. who can solve particular problems very well, or shine in a particular field , can easily be dupes in other fields. Their intelligence can produce even more rationalizations for their pet theories than others.

  19. Karan wrote:

    “We are not far at all. Already it has been proven by genetics that the Rig Vedic Aryans invaded India after the collapse of the IVC. It is only a matter of time before more ancient skeletons in the IVC and south India are analysed to confirm a similar migration of Dravidian speakers to the south.”

    Why do you think this? All we know is that Jatis came from Iran and Turan (one 141 generations ago and one about 350 generations ago). Their Jatis were added to the existing Bharatiya system. There has long been a tradition of adding entire Jatis to Varnas.

    How do we know how ancient the Rig Veda is? There is great dispute over this.

    In the ancient system, Yavanas play an important role. They descend from Chandra Vamsha via Budha/Illa (Illa is a the gender switching daughter of Manu and Buddha is the planet Mercury), and Pururavas/Urvashi. The preceding come from Uttara Bharata and Soma mountain. They travel far south and east to Bharat.

    Many of their progeny travel to other parts of the world. Yavanas are among them.

    Urvashi had many children over thousands of years who transformed the world. What she is is an enigma. Some say narrative device for mysterious people. Others say ET/UFO. Others say DNA infusion.

    Another of Urvashi’s famous children is Rishyasringa. Rishyasringa is the husband of Rama’s older sister Shanta. Shanta and Rishyasringa complete a sacrifice that creates a divine liquid which gives birth to Rama/Bharata/Lakshmana/Saktrugna.

    Are some of these narrative devices for DNA infusion or gene therapy?

  20. Santosh, can you contribute articles on:

    “Dravidian-language speakers are extremely diverse, autosomally definitely and culturally too definitely, ranging from Brahui speakers to Malto speakers to Kodagu speakers to Irula speakers. And by extension, it is quite reasonable to believe that many earlier stages of Dravidian language history also included such autosomal diversity. It is a, not the only, goal of mine, and importantly, just mine, to try and know more about the nature of this autosomal diversity of Dravidian-speaking peoples during the earlier stages, taking the help of aDNA and modern DNA research, anthropology, etc. Many Dravidian linguists might not be interested in such questions and be only into pure linguistics research.”

    I am especially intersted in autosomal diversity. Please also share your thoughts on the theorized proto-dravidian language.

    How is aDNA and DNA research related to the linguistic family of proto-Dravidian? Isn’t DNA research related to Jati? Many Tamilian Jatis were bilingual Tamil/Sanskrit.

    The modern anthropologist profession has been heavily corrupted by post modernism. However anthropological methods can derive useful information if properly applied.

  21. Thank you for the kind offer AnAn, but I cannot help but decline it, at least currently. I have not even managed to prepare an article so far about an old topic which I so long ago told Slapstik I’d do.

    My personal thoughts on the theorised Proto-Dravidian are quite simple- it is the only way that helps me know more about the earlier ancestral stages of my mother tongue Telugu and also its close sisters of Gondi-Kui. On the professional side, I think that the comparative method of linguistics is immensely important to history, prehistory, philology, anthropology, etc and just as an important tool for the advancement of plain systematic knowledge.

    “How is aDNA and DNA research related to the linguistic family of proto-Dravidian? Isn’t DNA research related to Jati? Many Tamilian Jatis were bilingual Tamil/Sanskrit.”

    aDNA and modern DNA research in my view can be related to any logically defined groups- jatis (or castes) and language families and national groups like Indians or French, etc. etc. As aDNA and modern DNA research majorly talks ab0ut migrations, it is relevant to language families because languages in the olden period (and even in the more modern periods, to a large extent) spread in new places through introduction by people speaking those languages and coming from somewhere else to that new places. But that does not mean that genetic replacements happen every time a new language comes with a new people to a place. What it only implies is that some non-zero but not necessarily very high number of people migrating initially is necessary to make language spread possible, especially in olden periods with less developed communication technology than current. The presence of bilingualism does not imply equal attachment or expertise in both the languages in question- there might be people who speak Gujarati as their mother tongue who are also fluent in Hindi and there might be people who speak Hindi as their mother tongue who are also fluent in Gujarati. These two types of people are bilinguals, yes, but the specific details are a bit involved. The first person’s Hindi might not be as good as the second person’s Hindi (from the point of view of a certain contemporary social standard of Hindi grammar and usage). Same for their Gujaratis. And as far as I know, no individual Tamil persons (or even larger groupings like Tamil castes) are, at least currently, bilingual in Tamil and Sanskrit. Some of them are bilingual in Tamil and English, fewer in Tamil and Telugu, fewer in Tamil and Kannada, still fewer in Tamil and Hindi, and some monolingual in just Tamil.

    I don’t know about postmodernism at all but I think I personally subscribe to modernism about which I don’t know much too, but just slightly heard of it before. I actually am quite a bit averse personally to soft fields which linguistics is one, but I also believe that it is probably the hardest of the soft fields. Proper anthropology I touch quite rarely and I’m absolutely not familiar with its internal workings to any significant degree. I do take note of some popular ideas/theories from various disciplines of anthropology as relevant to me but I don’t bother about them very much.

  22. Edit to above:

    Please strike off the first sentence of the last paragraph completely lol- I find that modernism is not what I thought it was. I really don’t know what philosophical positions I hold but they definitely don’t seem close to postmodernism and modernism.

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