West Bengal Kayasthas are heterogeneous paternally and conventional Bengalis overall


A few years ago there was a short paper that analyzed genotypes from some Kulin Kayasthas from West Bengal. The plot above illustrates what you really need to know. The Kayasthas are positioned on the PCA right between East Bengalis and people from the main India cline, with a slight shift toward more ANI.

I’ve looked at a few West Bengal Kayasthas myself, and that’s what I always see. When I look at individuals from Bangladesh, the ones with the most East Asian ancestry are invariably from the furthest east. So it looks like going from eastern Bengal to western Bengal there is progressively less East Asian ancestry. And, unlike Bengali Brahmins, Bengali Kayasthas do not seem to be that different from generic Bengalis as such. In contrast, Bengali Brahmins tend to have a strong shift toward Uttar Pradesh populations and look very similar to Uttar Pradesh Brahmins with a minority non-Brahmin Bengali admixture.

Finally, take a look at the Y and mtDNA. Though R1a is overrepresented, one of the Kayasthas has both male and female East Asian uniparental lineages.

26 Replies to “West Bengal Kayasthas are heterogeneous paternally and conventional Bengalis overall”

  1. What is the “main india cline” and what do u mean by “heterogeneous paternally”?

    And do west bengalis (any non-brahmins) have any difference from Bangladeshis except less East asian ancestry?

      1. “I mean, aren’t most groups heterogeneous paternally (i.e. diverse haplogroups)?”

        Yeah, most groups are. But some endogamous community like Bengali Brahmins are not very heterogenous(Ydna R1a 72%) paternally.
        Bengali Kayasthas shows similar y haplogroup diversity like Bangladeshis, high H and R1a, significant J and R2, low L, G and O.

    1. “And do west bengalis (any non-brahmins) have any difference from Bangladeshis except less East asian ancestry?”

      Non-Brahmin non-Dalit/SC west Bengalis are closely related to Bangladeshis.
      Genetic-wise Bengalis can be grouped into three categories:
      1- Proper Bengalis:
      -Bangladeshi Muslims
      -Kulin Kayasthas
      -Maulika Kayasthas
      -Vaidyas
      -Saha(not sure if they’re a caste, they are known as a business class)
      -Mahishya
      -OBC( Karmakar, Yogi Nath etc. to name a few)

      2- Bengali Brahmins

      3- Bengali SC
      – Namasudra
      – Dom
      – Jalia Kaibarta
      etc.

      1. how do we know #1 and #3 are different? plausible, but who knows?

        the key is there are *some* individuals who seem to be associated with each other (collected at same time in dhaka) who are ~0% east asian. do any of the last groups exhibit no evidence of east asian phenotype? cuz even if most east bengalis are not too asiatic looking, it’s pretty normal to have someone with noticeable east asian features in the family.

        1. Observing Bengali phenotypes I generally see a strong resemblance between #1 and #2, it’s impossible to distinguish between a Bengali Muslim, Kayastha, brahmins just by looking their face. And yeah, occasionally a family member might have an Asiatic look doesn’t matter if it’s from eastern Bengal or west, even Brahmins can have a strong Asiatic look, for example, Mamata Banerji.

          If you observe these videos, A Bangladeshi school program show :
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNJTpLbYR5A
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQpEhdbDeU0
          Most of these Bangladeshi students show strong pan south Asian features, but some of them have slight east Asian influence too(for example the host in the second video),non-Bengalis might detect that.

          As for #3, we need to know their genetical scores, the Namasudras that I’ve seen in real life looked mixed, a good share of them looked regular Bengali. Still, many of them seemed somewhat different than regular Bengalis, showing more AASI traits, something in between a regular Bengali and an AASI-heavy individual, perhaps in other regions they look different idk.

  2. As a general premise agree the East Asian increases the further east you go, but I do think there’s a significant northern component to this too ie Rangpur/Rajshai regions in Bangladesh, and bordering Cooch Behar / Darjeeling in West Bengal which I suppose represents the frontier / contact zones.

    And as you’ve mentioned before, there’s likely a separate Austroasiatic component higher in interior West Bengalis relative to a the Tibeto-Burman component higher in frontier Bangladeshis.

    Did you attend that ASHG session on the new West Bengali and Bangladeshi samples? Any take home messages?

    https://eventpilotadmin.com/web/page.php?page=Session&project=ASHG19&id=134003

    “We focused this work on samples from Birbhum district, West Bengal due to the presence of additional metadata on caste and religion. We used 704 general-caste individuals from Birbhum as the focal group, and estimated divergence times for all other individuals. Mean divergence times ranged from ~2,600 years for the Santal, an Austro-Asiatic language speaking tribal group, to 850 years for “scheduled castes” (i.e., Dalits), 625 years for Bangladeshis and 225 years for “Other Backward Castes” (OBC) individuals.”

    For Bangladeshis this fits in very well with the start of the Muslim period and presumably eastward migration with forest clearance / general population growth / rise of the rural population. ie general (?mixed) caste W Bengalis + local tribal groups.

    Certainly East Bengal was not a completely depopulated region – the 7th CE Nidhanpur copper plates from Sylhet document the granting of land for the settlement of Brahmans.

    Was it the breakdown / lack of a strict caste based system + mixing with local tribes in the newly settled regions that explains the relative homogeneity in Bangladeshis despite population size?

    A PCA plotting the various regional Bangladeshi samples you’ve acquired through the SAGP and the West Bengali ones would be an eye opener.

  3. I wonder if you know what pattern holds for the Bengali Baidya caste. They claim Brahmin status, but I don’t think they are the same as “real” Bengali Brahmins. Are they shifted over to UP, or conversely like other Bengalis/Bangladeshis? In my personal experience, there are quite a few originally from what is now Bangladesh, and they often but not always have noticeable East Asian features.

    For those that might not be familiar, Baidya are one of the Hindu upper castes in Bengal, sometimes the grouping refered to as bbk – Brahmin, Baidya, and Kayastha.

    1. bulbul, I don’t know about the Bangla Baidya jati.

      You ask complex questions. Have you been to Gaya or other pilgrimage places in India? If you go to one of them, they might ask you a lot of information. Your gotra, your ancestors going back many generations, jati, ancestral village. Based on this they can tell you about many of your relatives who visited this place going back hundreds of years.

      It is very hard to clearly separate the large majority of Jatis clearly into Varnas.

      What I think would be interesting would be to ask for the family trees. Many families keep a family tree going back hundreds of generations . . . often back to Brahma (alien ancestry).

      From the tree we can try to guess which members of the tree were in which Varna. Not easy . . . but that is where I would start. I suspect that each family has a specific ancestor who was initiated as a Dvija (Vaishya, Kshatriya, Brahmin) by some spiritual master or parampara. This gives us an idea about how many generations a Jati has been at least partly connected with a specific Varna.

      If you examine carefully, however the history is often more complex. With several Varna switches back and forth over hundreds of generations. As well as ancient systems of organization and psychological profiles that have been lost in the current of time.

      Another thing I have observed is that while the lines are patriachal, the lines have some females mixed in. Or:
      ——son, son, son, daughter, son, son, son

  4. “And, unlike Bengali Brahmins, Bengali Kayasthas do not seem to be that different from generic Bengalis as such.”

    Its strange, considering that Kayasth in socio-economic conditions are more closer to Brahmins than native (OBC and dalit) folks. In many cases they are just Brahmins without the sacred thread.

    Or perhaps there is some truth to their origin story, that they were shudras earlier and perhaps the only major shudra group to move “up” the ladder and become upper caste, second only to Brahmins and Kshatriyas. In many states they are even considered higher than Kshatriyas.

    1. Or perhaps there is some truth to their origin story, that they were shudras earlier and perhaps the only major shudra group to move “up” the ladder and become upper caste, second only to Brahmins and Kshatriyas. In many states they are even considered higher than Kshatriyas.

      that’s what it looks like to me in this case.

      the ASHG results fro west bengal suggest OBC is a new group that is highly heterogeneous

        1. I remember reading that Kayasthas are more of a ‘guild’ caste than a ‘tribe’ caste in that groups across the country involved in administrative tasks coalesced to form it.

          So Kayasthas might not resolve as neatly into AASI, Steppe, Iran HG factors as, say, Brahmins or Jatts.

          Bengali Kayasthas generally inter-marry with other Bengali groups rather than with Kayasthas from north India.

          I have heard that Harivansh Rai Bachchan (Amitabh Bachchan’s father) has written about the origins of the caste in his autobiography. That might contain folk origin stories for those interested. Haven’t read it.

          Further, there are various Kayastha sub-groups that have different origin stories like Srivastava, Ambastha, Saxena etc.

          My patrilineal family belongs to Karan Kayastha group from Mithila and I was told once that we had migrated from Karnataka hundreds of years ago. I think its bullshit but haven’t really talked about it much with them.

          Phenotypically, the family looks slightly more NW shifted than average upper caste Bihari.

          1. “Phenotypically, the family looks slightly more NW shifted than average upper caste Bihari.”

            This penotype-genotype relation is sketchy. Most of my Bangladeshi family members also show strong NW traits, genetically we have less ANI than even Bengali Brahmins. I would like to call it Iran_HG+Steppe or purely Iran_HG look instead of NW as these looks can be found all over south Asia and not only in the NW.

          2. An reason why you doubt the karnataka origin myth? At least in terms contributing to the founding population? As a karnataka person I have been told about how certain dynasties like the rashtrakootas, kalachuris, chalukyas, and seuna yadavas spawned cadet branches in distant regions. When polities collapse, doesn’t seem implausible that a skilled administrative caste would be able to resettle itself in another region.
            Alternatively, i get the skepticism insofar as I really don’t consider oral folk history in india reliable over 4 generations let alone 14.

        2. @Saurav
          “Also i haven’t read anywhere of any S-Indian Kayasth equivalent, even though they seem to be in other corners of India.”

          The Dravidian speaking south has always been a different situation. It almost seems conveniently, with rare exception, when the Brahmin groups, who came/spread “Vedic” Hinduism and its accompanying caste/varna labels/structures to south India, everyone including the ones who would of been kayasthas, the warriors/administrators like the Nairs and Reddys, as well as those in the business class, i.e. chettiars, were all labeled “Shudras” caste, despite their societal roles, but had some weird extra title like “Sat-Shudras” or “clean” Shudras, whatever that meant.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddy#Varna_status

          The only ones that got higher than shudra in the south (again with some rare exceptions) were the rajahs who brought/”bought” Brahmins to come down south to convey “Kshatriya” varna status on them, with the Brahmins being richly awarded and getting royal backing as well.

  5. “Bengal Kayasthas”

    Swami Vivekananda was one I believe?

    Many Kayashas are:
    ——brahmins
    ——kshatriyas
    ——vaishyas
    ——shudras
    ——all four at the same time

    This is why some people variously regarded Swami Vivekananda as Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra.

    Jatis switch around Varnas depending on time and circumstance. Vivekananda’s ancestors had been all four Varnas at different times as per their preference and circumstances.

    I have heard that Kayasthas are Vishwamitra Gotra. As in the saint who was born Kshatriya and became not just Brahmin but one of the great 7 sages of this Manvantara. Vishwamitra composed several of the most ancient Samhitas in the Vedas; as well as the Gayatri Mantra. His descendants were suppose to be Brahmin. However some of his descendants preferred to be Kshatriya or Vaishya. Vaishyas get to be rich and enjoy worldly life more.

    Shudras if they wish can get to be rich and enjoy life with even more abandon. Shudras can eat rich food, many types of meat, many types of alcohol, take drugs. And are not expected to perform an extensive structured daily Sadhana (meditation) practice. For this reason many Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas preferred to become Shudras.

    Of course in practice many Shudras choose a spiritual life as per their choice. Some choose a spiritual life as a Shudra.

    Other Shudras choose to become Dvija (Brahmin Kshatriya Vaishya) and practice spirituality as Dvija.

    If any of the above is incorrect, please let me know. Are there any “Kayasthas” who are not Vishwamitra gotra? What other Jatis are Vishwamitra Gotra?

  6. @Razib Did you get non-brahmin non-Dalit samples from Bihar and UP to compare with Bengalis in South Asian genotype project? It would be interesting to see with which UP/Bihari community( Kayastha, Baniya, Nai, Kurmi, etc.) we are more related. The only UP_Kayastha sample in the project looks quite Reddy-like due to similar Iran_HG-AASI ratio? Also, consider creating an ancient version with reference populations (Iran_HG-AHG-Steppe_MLBA-Dai) to the SAGP.

    1. The Indus valley people didn’t have appropriately realistic depictions of themselves which is why the statue looks broad and short headed (brachycephalic), when in fact the IVC people were mostly dolichocephalic (narrow and long headed), and you seem to be dolichocephalic as well. If anything, you might be a better representation of IVC people than that statue is.

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