I find the best analogy for the caste system happens to be Latin America. There was intense mixing in Latin American; there is creolic elements (I mean creole in the general sense not specific) throughout the continent.
However the basic structure; Indians at the bottom, Mestizos in the middle and Europeans (or as they used to be called Criollos) at the top remains pretty much intact (maybe a few exceptions like Paraguay but I can’t hazard a guess there).
I imagine the synthesis of identity in the Subcontinent pre-Islam happened much in the same way. There were some distinctions for instance the Europeans had Christianity whereas what we know to Hinduism developed in the cultural encounters in the Subcontinent.
However the idea that somehow the Aryans were this gentle-folk who somehow managed to place themselves at the very pinnacle of the structure is a bit absurdist. The genetic testing has shown very clearly that ANI (and specifically the Aryan component) is correlated to caste/status rank in Hinduism.
Also that Brahmins are essential to Hinduism and Brahmins tend to be the “Aryan hotspots” in any region.
Furthermore as I alluded to in a comment on the Kalash; the ANIsation of upwardly and aspirational lower caste individuals is a thing. Observationally the Brahmin girl marrying a non-Brahmin boy is so commonplace so as to be remarked upon; the caste weightage carries huge signifiers in the dating and marriage market.
Caste may not be a bar (that’s not entirely true but even if we were to accept that) but the marriage market is not equal. It’s one of those phenomenons that is spoken about but maybe not written on.
I remember a late middle aged couple where the lady was a Telugu Brahmin and her husband a Tamil non-Brahmin. Her parents relented because he was a doctor. In another case the Tamil NRI (non-Brahmin) married a TamBram girl; leveraging his NRI status.
Pakistan is not immune to this phenomenon. I know of a Pathan with only (and many) sisters. All of them have married Punjabis because once they *entered* the Pakistani dating market through educational systems they were *high* in demand for their fairer skins etc.
The same thing is happening to Kalash and Parsi women. The previous article ellides the fact that these Kalash are essentially villagers (and poor ones) who are contracting pretty good matches in urban Pakistan (the girl whose sister married into Sindhi household is a case in point).
The fact that the Kalash already have *Pakistani names* even if they are pagan means that they are integrating (like the Christian minority) into the Pakistani socio-economic structure.
A lot of the exotic (and perceived good looking) communities are suffering from the issue that their women are being *bid up* and their men are too proud (or barred in the case of the Kalash) to marry out.
Finally to return to my point about Latin America; while it is a fusion of sorts, it’s very evident that the *High Cultural strains* are profoundly European and the low culture Afro-Indio. Mexico may be proudly Aztec/Mestizo but it still resorts to Catholicism, Spanish language (maybe localised) and stems from a particularly colonial experience (it’s the inheritor of the Spanish state not the Aztec, which is obviously understandable).
This is a very good analogy to how the Aryans and their culture are in India. The only distinction is the age and that Aryan culture in 1000 BC was not as developed as Spanish culture was circa 1500s therefore there was more admixture and concessions to local culture.
A lot of the hysterical Hinditva rage towards Muslim culture and the Islamicate experience is also a way to paper over these fundamental cracks in the Indian experience.
Many commentators make a point about “caste” in Pakistan but while it is salient, it has no religious or societal legitimacy. In fact the Muslim wave that continuously engulfs Pakistan is contra ethnicity and caste.
Islam has many problems and is in general a shit religion but it does glue and cohere societies very well. To their credit Muslims are the only major culture/civilisations that to a certain extent remains inoculated from Western liberal capitalism and the attendant values. Therein lies a lot of the anger with Islam in that why can’t they just be like everyone else and lap up Louis Vuitton, Gucci and accept Mammon instead of Mohammad (I apologise for not using referring him by his correct title as the Holy Pedophile this time but I prefer alliteration where I can).
As a final aside I note INDThings point is that no one *seems* to be pressuring the Kalash to convert; they seem to be doing so out of their own volition. The reason I harp on about Islam being a shit religion is that if it were a great one the Kalash would have been able to juggle both identities at once, that when they become Muslim they should also preserve the elements of their cultural practises (wine, women and song) that is somewhat antithetical to orthodox Islam and be lauded for it.
39 thoughts on “South Asia is Latin America minus 2,000years”
“Many commentators make a point about “caste” in Pakistan but while it is salient, it has no religious or societal legitimacy.”
Societal legitimacy is given in the rural villages, sure it goes against Islamic precepts and the foundation of the Pakistan state.
This whole strict cousin marriage and tribal endogamy is partially rooted in caste is it not?
My westernised British born Pakistani friend got an arranged marriage to a girl of the same caste (2 years ago). Her parents regarded it as important (they are from Lahore).
Asia Bibi was attacked because she dared to touch a vessel of an upper caste. It was not just sectarian hate; there is definite caste discrimination which is given sanctum at the grassroots level.
Regarding Latin America, yes there are definite parallels. Especially if you look at the blacks at the bottom of society in places like Brazil, but even white Brazilians have a minority of black DNA (the Portuguese took black and native women).
The caste system predates the Aryans. It was the zagrosian farmers who really started it when they made tribal AASI hunter gatherers outcasts (The Roma have literally been at the bottom of society for close to 6000 years – their main Y chromosome is AASI). The Aryans just positioned themselves at the top of the existing caste system on their arrival.
Biraderi is not caste –
And regardless if caste is “Zagrossian”; it’s the Aryans who took it to its logical extreme
But it is a subset within a caste right? E.g. Jatt biraderi vs Rajput biraderi.
The point is if you follow biraderi, you are by default going to follow caste endogamy.
I am not trying to whitewash Hinduism. Of course caste discrimination is worse there due to religious justification.
yes but Caste and Hinduism are fundamentally interlinked in a way they are not in Islam. Islam specifically abolishes it.
I find the constant bashing of Islam veiled in liberalism but frankly just a reflection of tribalism.
At least I am consistent (ha!); I despise Islam but advocated Pax Islamica (the potentially first Gay President is also the first Arabic & Dari Speaking President)..
The Islamicate world is much more than Islam..
Biraderi is more similar to the Bedouin systems simply because it is:
(1.) Based on Male Lineage
(2.) Cousin Marriage
This is exactly what most of the Muslim world does. It has accreted ritual purity but it simply reflects Pakistan’s cultural status as a hybrid.
Fine I was not aware of that. Always wanted to know it’s roots, and why Hindus and Sikhs do not follow it. It seems like it got perfectly hybridised to existing caste structure.
Good post, but points 1 and 2 (male lineage and cousin marriage) are not the feature of the Bedouin system but found in many societies. The Bedouin->Pakistani-specific feature is the marrying of the father’s brother’s daughter. And the marrying of double first cousins; slowly building up the relatedness to 0.25. This is the cause of many inbred diseases.
Often, the Hindu example is given as defeating cosanguinity. However, two points:
1. Cousin marriage is widely prevalent in India, in the south, the Deccan Plateau and slightly in the south east
2. For reasons too hard to explain, the Gotra system does not defeat the incest law, i.e., one can still be r>0.25!
However, the original point stands, biraderi is not the caste system; neither of which is conducive to democracy and market transition. Before somebody uses this bludgeon the Pakistanis, the state of Pakistan is well aware of this, just does not have the “hardness” to overcome this problem.
The topic continues to be fascinating for me. While the emergence of the caste system (at least the endogamic aspects of it; the vertical gradation aspect and associated occupational rigidity possibly included too) intuitively seems to us to have been with the Indus Civilisation because of the sheer strength and deep-rootedness of the system, the current standard view in genetics seems to be that it likely began to emerge in north India in the early 1st millennium AD.
But the extraordinary robustness and highly non-central, somewhat-non-Sanskritic, grassroots-level nature of this system in even places outside the posited north Indian parts like faraway Old Tamil regions, makes the above hypothesis quite incredible for me. Perhaps I am mistaken and a cultural imposition from a central location somewhere in 1st millennium BC – 1st millennium AD north India is enough to do the trick for the whole of India. Or it may also be the case that for some reason Indians in other parts of the country also independently came up with similar systems of super-strict endogamy and collective occupational rigidity (I think hierarchies soon would have followed from the presence of the above two) for some reason at around the same time which later on easily merged with the main north Indian system.
(In Andhra and Telangana which I’m most familiar with, some fluidity in caste structure was certainly present in the later parts of history; for example, castes split up into several newer castes and at least some castes must have changed traditional occupations (in an en masse manner) in the past. But still the whole fluidity probably still did not entail changing old occupations to radically new and different occupations. Anyway, I think one of the greatest examples one can cite how a simpler system – and one that is originally centrally imposed – with a limited number of caste groups can become – later on – a very complex system with much higher number of endogamous caste groups is the splitting up of the likely one single farming caste of medieval Andhra and Telangana into several of them – and quite fast; probably like 4-5 centuries – as can be conjectured from historical material.)
“the current standard view in genetics seems to be that it likely began to emerge in north India in the early 1st millennium AD.”
Genetic evidence from South India proves castes endogamy existed before Aryan invasion.
Maybe the ‘final version’ of the caste system in the North crystallised in the first millenium AD. But the fact that caste is a pan Indian phenomenon strongly suggests a root in the IVC.
I personally think so too about the last part (I also tend to believe that a homogeneous ANI and ASI may not have existed; rather all castes are probably direct three-way mixtures of the pure, deep Iran_N, AASI and Bronze Age Eurasian Steppe). If possible and convenient for you, could you quickly indicate what the evidence you know particularly states about prehistoric and early historic south India? I note all this because I have recently watched Tony Joseph in one of his panels with David Reich regarding Tony’s book and there he presented a narrative – and I think it was at least a bit ideologically coloured – that a “central”-ish Indo-Aryans probably single-handedly instituted the caste system in some central location of north India in the late 1st millennium BC – early 1st millennium AD while a peripheral-ish, outer Indo-Aryans who were in contact with non-Indo-Aryans (and presumably all or most non-Indo-Aryans) were opposed to it, or something like that.
I personally have nothing but an academic interest in the whole question because I’m quite weird that way. (I really don’t care if people follow very strict caste endogamy and if parents disown children who have inter-caste marriages (the children should have to harden up and learn to deal with that because life is unfair) as long as there is no violence involved.) But fudging knowledge subtly and presenting narratives with an unwarranted amount of confidence on public fora is what I don’t like at all (I present my personal pet theories all the time too but I try to explicitly state the speculative nature of my musings).
Practically, everything in this post is wrong; not that it is important or we care, but ascribing something to Tony Joseph that he has never mentioned is just simply wrong. The book clearly says that caste being a sociological phenomenon could not be correlated with Aryan expansions precisely. In fact, the book spends most of the time on IVC, Iranian farmers in northwest India, and Neolithic expansions into deccan and east. And assigns the solidification of caste to Neolithic expansions, with the paper referred to above, also referenced. It is one thing to make up your own stories, but weird to ascribe them to others. The book is only a few hundred pages, and costs 12 $; why not read it?
Is this directed to me?
Ayyo Xerxes of the East ji, I protest your (seemingly) not recognising my existence lol.
Vijay, I sincerely apologise for my misrepresentation and inadvertent and irresponsible slander (possibly) of Mr. Tony Joseph. I did not refer to the book (which I did not read as you have correctly guessed); I was referring to his statements at around 49:15 min. of the video titled “Book Discussion: Early Indians by Tony Joseph, Hartosh Bal, Dr Shashi Tharoor” published on a YouTube channel named “Juggernaut Books”. (My earlier description that David Reich was present on the panel was also erroneous; it was our good old Dr. Shashi Tharoor instead.) I realise now that he directly did not make a reference to caste system in association with his remark about 100 CE though I think it is likely that he was talking about that somehow. But anyway, I apologise for making premature judgements about this lazily (so typical of me though!). And I sincerely thank you for correcting me.
Hello Xerxes of the East, Vijay was referring to my comment specifically and I just noted (in a very indirect and lame manner at that) that in my previous message to you lol.
Ayyo please don’t be sorry lol.
“This whole strict cousin marriage and tribal endogamy is partially rooted in caste is it not?”
Quite the opposite, isn’t it? In many parts of India, Hindus cannot marry within the same gotra, which rules out first cousin marriages. In the Arab world in contrast, cousin marriage is fairly widespread from which it seems reasonable to infer that this is how the practice became prevalent in Pakistan.
Except it does not work well when you are still limited to marriage within caste, subcaste, religion and region.
The marriage in most castes exclude four gotras, yours, your mothers, you paternal and maternal grandmothers gotra. However, this does not lead to 7 generations exclusivity.
One DNA company says it can use a 37 – marker Y-DNA test to “verify genetic relatedness and historical gotra genealogies for Hindu and Buddhist engagements, marriages and business partnerships.” he earlier Y-DNA testing results are normally stated as probabilities: For example, a perfect 12/12 marker test match gives a 50% likelihood of the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) being within 7 generations back, while a 67 of 67 marker match gives a 95% likelihood of the MRCA being within 6 generations back.
If a perfect match is found the mtDNA test results can be similarly helpful, in spite of the extra difficulty in traditional genealogy itself due to the lack of matrilineal surname information in most cultures (such as Matrilineal surname).
Based on preliminary results, almost no one in UP Brhamin families match to 50/50 or 67/67 match for 6 or 7 generation exclusion. The easiest way to do this just simply marry a person of any other caste, religion or language. Even the simplest TN-Brahmin-kannada-Brahmin marriage matches this, not that I am advocating this.
Thanks for the clarification. I’m curious though why 6-7 generation exclusion in particular is such a benchmark? I imagine a lot of populations in the world would fail the 6-7 generation exclusivity test. I had it that so long as you avoided first cousin marriage within a given generation, subsequent generations are no worse off if the endogamous population is above a certain threshold. This is merely my pop science understanding though, so if you can enlighten please do.
Prohibited degree of kinship varies by religion. The church went back and forth between 4 and 7, where the method of calculation was also changed to simply count the number of generations back to the common ancestor. The Hindu Marriage Act makes cousin marriage illegal for Hindus with the exception of marriages permitted by regional custom, but does not explicitly detail the last common ancestor.
A couple of papers by Sewall wright and Constance Bouchard explain the calculations towards this, but since the goal is to reduce the coefficient of relatedness, we can get less than 0.01 even with 4 or 5 generations of exclusion. The unfortunate fact about Gotras is that they are not non-cosanineous themselves, because of sub-caste and regional endogamy.
The easiest way to do this is simply marry outside caste, subcaste, religion or language; the extent of endogamy is that such a simple act will assure r<0.1. And I say that as a proud Tamilians who have the national record of consanguineous marriage; consanguineous but still not idiots!
(The Roma have literally been at the bottom of society for close to 6000 years – their main Y chromosome is AASI).
Would appreciate a link to that study.
The yDNA and mtDNA of the ROMA was published from all across Europe by Begoña Martínez-Cruz et al. YDna was:
H-M82 and J-M92 are predominantly Indian, northwest Indian markers, but M92 could be from Italy or middle east also. The authors did a thorough analysis, and came to this conclusion “The origin of the Roma population in a specific geographical region in India was investigated through the search of identical matches of Roma haplotypes from individuals carrying this haplogroup in India. The highest probability was found in the North (P=0.66) followed by Central India (P=0.19), whereas the rest of regions summed up 15% (Table 2).”.
Rai also relates H1a1-M82 to Romas and uses it as single yDna marker of origin in India.
Between 8-20% of Indian males carry this yDNA.
Thank you Vijay.
Sort of off the proper thread.
Some where, before 2009 I got a 16 marker match from an Irene Barnes. Then we got in touch. It was her fathers DNA. She and I paid to get the 67 marker Y-DNA test. I think it matched except one marker.
Her fathers and I had the same male ancestor, 6 generations removed.
Irene’s fathers name was something Kumarakulasingham Devadason.
Little bit of checking, realize anyone from Jaffna who has Kumarakulasinghe somewhere in their name shares a common male ancestor with me.
Kumarakulasingham may be they share a common male ancestor.
As you have stated, South Indian (including the Sinhalese) seem to have a followed an endogamous route if one checks the genealogy.
DNA wise, I doubt there was all that much endogamy. Offhand visual evidence. Photos of upper class Sinhalese show extremely dark skinned individuals. By the early 1900’s they had become relatively light skinned.
‘It was the zagrosian farmers who really started it when they made tribal AASI hunter gatherers outcasts (The Roma have literally been at the bottom of society for close to 6000 years – their main Y chromosome is AASI). ‘
What makes you think the Roma have AASI ydna? H, R, J, L possibly replaced AASI ydna(Y haplo C and D IMO), perhaps Ydna L might be AASI ydna, we can’t confirm without ancient DNA.
The Roma just followed their itinerary lifestyle that’s all. Otherwise, they could’ve been easily converted to Islam.
“The reason I harp on about Islam being a shit religion is that if it were a great one the Kalash would have been able to juggle both identities at once, that when they become Muslim they should also preserve the elements of their cultural practises”
I feel that the submergence of one identity into other is something which happens in all religions give or take. It might not be as rapid as Islam but this happens in Christianity /Hinduism too. The tribals (both N-East and Central India) have been losing their tribal elements depending on the religion they are practicing. In a generation or two they will be subsumed into the wider Christian/Hindu network.
The Ahoms are the one such example, tribals/pagans when they started out. But today part of mainstream hindu fold with caste and all. They still have some parts of their older practices but give it a generation or two.
Yes, but do you see some Ahom declaring a Hindu Jihad on other Ahom ? Or kidnapping the still-Ahom girls to bring spiritual and other enlightenment to them ? Is second thoughts about belief in Shiva a cause for murder among Ahom ?
Everything is not same-same.
What Pakistani Muslims do to their minority is no concern of mine. I was just making a larger point of how given enough time one identity “subsumes” the other smaller identity.
Well, yes. But the devil is in the details of the process. I kinda see this as climate change. Climates have changed over the lifetime of the earth but the mechanism and speed with which it does can make the difference between benign change and catastrophe.
What Pakistani Muslims do to their minority is no concern of mine. I was just making a larger point of how given enough time one identity “subsumes” the other smaller identity.
Interesting, way of thinking.
Seems no different from “Sinhalese” “wanting” minorities to assimilate.
Wanting in quotes is because there is no overt push to assimilate, first by language then maybe by religion.
Well it depends also on the time frame and the issue of trans national ethnicity/community. In the case of Sri Lankan tamils i am not sure it will ever happen considering there is a vibrant ethnic/language movement (Dravidian movement) just across the strait . More than religion (Hinduism is not a potent force in Tamil Nadu) it’s language/ethnicity which will be the resisting block for “assimilation” in Sri Lanka.
In Bangladesh for example there is greater assimilation of the Bihari minority into the larger Bengali identity . Reason being there is no outside support/sympathy for the Bihari minority in either India Bihar or Pakistan. In face of lack of support (just like in the case of Kalash community ) either you can have constitutional guaranties to resist assimilation (India’s N-East) or given enough time there will be assimilation.
I think assimilation of South Indians has been fast, sometime within a generation in the South of Sri Lanka, eg the Bharatha/Parava caste.
Jaffna and North remains Tamil, because it is mono ethnic.
However, as Tamil move to the south for education, jobs their children became English and Sinhalese speakers and end up marrying or becoming “Sinhalese”. eg my family (the ones who stayed in SL). Even better example is Northern Provincial Chief Minister, Wigneswaran who suddenly seems to have become a rabid Federalist/Separatist. Educated in a premier school in the South as well as his children. Both his children are married to Sinhalese.
Another to keep in mind is that many prominent politicians are descendants of South Indians who emigrated to Sri Lanka within last 200-300 years. eg Bandaranayakes (Nila Perumal), Jayawardenes (Tombi Mudali). Even the Ondaatjie’s (as Michael Ondaatjie, author The English Patent) is a descendant of a South Indian (Tanjore?) physician.
There is no inherent economic advantage to say being only a Tamil speaker. One will not get better pay (or even a job in Tamil Nadu). English and Tamil with skills, the pay is much better in Sri Lanka.
English and Tamil with skill and emigrate to the West,; that crowd will have a lot of rhetoric about preserving culture back home, while the children get assimilated in the West.
If you have noticed, Sri Lankans assimilate well. Sinhalese more so than Sri Lankan Tamil but in both cases much more than Indians in general. I suspect lax caste rules among Tamils and almost non existent caste among Sinhalese.
Will all Tamils become assimilated, I dont think so, just the share of self reported Tamils as a percentage of population will become smaller and smaller.
“the ANIsation of upwardly and aspirational lower caste individuals is a thing. Observationally the Brahmin girl marrying a non-Brahmin boy is so commonplace so as to be remarked upon; the caste weightage carries huge signifiers in the dating and marriage market.”
This is an excellent observation. I notice this in the Black community in North America as well. Except in terms of non-African DNA among the elite.
And the fucking irony here is that Yamna was not a light pigmented population.
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