Maharashtra genetics

Novel insights on demographic history of tribal and caste groups from West Maharashtra (India) using genome-wide data (OA):

The South Asian subcontinent is characterized by a complex history of human migrations and population interactions. In this study, we used genome-wide data to provide novel insights on the demographic history and population relationships of six Indo-European populations from the Indian State of West Maharashtra. The samples correspond to two castes (Deshastha Brahmins and Kunbi Marathas) and four tribal groups (Kokana, Warli, Bhil and Pawara). We show that tribal groups have had much smaller effective population sizes than castes, and that genetic drift has had a higher impact in tribal populations. We also show clear affinities between the Bhil and Pawara tribes, and to a lesser extent, between the Warli and Kokana tribes. Our comparisons with available modern and ancient DNA datasets from South Asia indicate that the Brahmin caste has higher Ancient Iranian and Steppe pastoralist contributions than the Kunbi Marathas caste. Additionally, in contrast to the two castes, tribal groups have very high Ancient Ancestral South Indian (AASI) contributions. Indo-European tribal groups tend to have higher Steppe contributions than Dravidian tribal groups, providing further support for the hypothesis that Steppe pastoralists were the source of Indo-European languages in South Asia, as well as Europe.

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58 Replies to “Maharashtra genetics”

  1. “ Indo-European tribal groups tend to have higher Steppe contributions than Dravidian tribal groups, providing further support for the hypothesis that Steppe pastoralists were the source of Indo-European languages in South Asia, as well as Europe.”

    Don’t tribal groups show a decline in IVC type DNA as you go further south east as well of IVC core?

    I don’t really understand how it supports the steppe hypothesis necessarily (over northwest India for eg.) But I don’t know much about genetics so many be someone more knowledgeable can elaborate.

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  2. @ Razib
    I think kunbi Marathas are very much similar to South Indian populations.
    And also
    Marathi Brahmins(Deshastha) are also very much similar to South Indian brahmins

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      1. I think from the Bangladesh all the way to Srilanka are having almost similar proportion of West Eurasian ancestry.

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    1. Paniyas must have the highest AASI, Warlis are steppe shited after all. I googled their pics and some of them look pan-Indian.

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    1. only in appearance from inbreeding. They cluster with the rest of Marathi Brahmins. Phenotype is misleading for them like it is for Kalash

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  3. @Razib Khan – is there substantial Chitpavan Brahmin data available in any of your Databases ? Where do they lie on the Indian / Maharashtrian cline ? Some of the theories about Chitpavans seem very absurd and implausible. As the warlock said- Phenotypes can be very misleading – but phenotypically some of the Chitpavan Brahmins i have come across in my family and society in general stand out substantially in appearance. I belong to that caste but i dont share any of those typical phenotypical properties

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    1. “but phenotypically some of the Chitpavan Brahmins i have come across in my family and society in general stand out substantially in appearance.”

      You mean folks who look like Ajit Agarkar?

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          1. Assuming men are selecting arranged marriage partners more based on certain looks, and women more based on socio-economic status.

            Does this indicate surplus females maybe ?

            Otherwise what accounts for different fertility rates for women?

            Alternatively could it be the founder population for chitpavans, was small and just unusually light featured relative to their overall genetic composition?

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          2. I don’t have the information to answer those specific questions so you’ll have to wait longer for an answer.

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  4. I read the whole paper from start to end. It is a facsimile of the logical grammar from the Vagheesh paper (2019). The fallacies continue in to this paper as well.

    Vagheesh made two apriori assumption in that paper –
    1. Whatever language that the Yamnaya and the BMAC peoples spoke had to be IE or a form of IE.
    2. And the IVC is non IE.

    This is entirely unsubstantiated. Vagheesh was called out on Twitter to prove if any literary, epigraphic or textual source underpins these assumptions.

    No reply on evidence. The weak response is that linguistic continuity is assumed into the ancient era. The “logic apartheid” begin practiced is so transparent that it beggars belief. A linguistic break is being assumed in subcontinental India where no evidence of any intrusion is detected.

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  5. Are there any genetic studies comparing any specific region’s Tribal Vs Schedule Caste Vs OBC’s Vs General castes ? Even then all conclusions will always come with multiple riders as most regions {hence need to include spatiality} constantly changed under various dynasties which affected the choices of people living in those regions.

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  6. @Razib

    “has to be selection.

    those brahmins seem close to other south indian brahmins.”

    Forgive my ignorance of the subject, my curiosity is piqued and a few questions come to mind:

    Could Chitpavan brahmins be the source population for other south indian brahmins?

    Are they the group that diverged from North Indians brahmins first on the southward spread maybe?

    Also as it was mentioned by someone else, they might be more inbred, is it because they have less non-brahmin south indian than other south indian brahmins, i.e. meaning they picked up geographically local brides more reluctantly?

    From the phenotypes of Deshastha brahmins I have seen, they definitely picked up local brides, don’t know if more so than Chitpavans.

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    1. Are Chitpavans even true traditional Brahmins or did they jump caste hierarchy recently? There origin is obscure like of bhumihar ‘Brahmins’. Do they maintain Vanshavali in like other Brahmins?
      My own native village had a few families who share surname with brahmins of the village but actually they were converts. After fall of muslim influence many people converted themselves back to Hinduism to be specific to ‘Brahminhood’. Earlier generation didn’t associate with them but now they are very much part of the community.

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  7. Culturally and linguistically as well, I think Maharashtra is the most Dravidian of the Indo-Aryan speaking states. Understandable, given the geography.

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    1. Does it mean Orissa also becomes “most Dravidian of the Indo-Aryan speaking states” of the other end?

      And to how much “culturally Dravidian” marathis are, it was clear from the fact that Shivaji had to invent both an Aryan lineage( Sisodia Rajputs) and also get a Aryan Brahmin from Benaras (and not from Rameshwaram) for his coronation. 🙂

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      1. “Does it mean Orissa also becomes “most Dravidian of the Indo-Aryan speaking states” of the other end?”

        lol I don’t know.

        I read somewhere that when you look at West India, there’s a somewhat deep historical difference between Gujaratis & Rajasthanis vs. Maharashtrians & Konkanis, and that the latter have some historic affinity with South Indians (esp. modern day Karnataka).

        With East India, I don’t know if there’s that kind of split. Bengalis, Maithilis, Magadhis, Odias seem kind of similar to me. That might just be my ignorance though. NE is different.

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  8. Could Chitpavan brahmins be the source population for other south indian brahmins?

    it looks to me that the brahmins from the four southern states come from same source population

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  9. It is a facsimile of the logical grammar from the Vagheesh paper (2019).

    the paper doesn’t care about the deep history. it’s pretty clearly just put those in to try and get pushed into a higher h-index publication. if you think it did care, you don’t know the field (which i think is clear). this was really about pushing out some maharashtra samples and getting a line on the cv.

    but i think the genetics of the kunbi are good to know

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    1. Reading up on the H index now. Its funny when metrics regress to become an indicator of how successfully they can be gamed.

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  10. Was there ever a Dravidian speaking population in Orissa, Bengal and Assam? Also did y H settle those regions or did Austroasiatic get there first? I think there’s also good amounts of y T in the area too.

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    1. y L is quite low in Bangladesh, presuming it is related to Proto-Dravidians. The Austroasiatic presence is quite low as well. y H in all probability settled there first IMO given it’s high presence there.
      As for Dravidian speaking people living now, there are around 50,000 Dravidian speaking Oraon(Kurukh) people in Bangladesh, probably imported from Jharkhand during British rule as tea plantation workers.

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    2. “Also did y H settle those regions or did Austroasiatic get there first? I think there’s also good amounts of y T in the area too.” —- @Jatt_Scythian, why do you think of a possibility where bengal and coastal orissa was settled by austroasiatics first and then later by H guys ? Btw, apart from y-HG T ,there are rumors of basal R2( R2*(xM124) ) being found in those regions too. We will probably see a paper on this in an year or two.

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  11. Outside of S-India, only Chattisgarh has some sizable Dravidian pops. King of Bastar claimed lineage from Kakatiyas

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  12. @Razib you said Brahmins from four South states- but technically Maharashtra ain’t a southern state- Chitpavans are found predominantly in Maharashtra with some populations in MP and Karnataka.

    On a lighter vein – Maharashtrians don’t take it well when they’re called south Indians

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    1. “Maharashtrians don’t take it well when they’re called south Indians”

      To paraphrase what Saurav very rightly commented on a similar thread last year, “Maharashtra is not the south, but its also not the north.”(he was obviously talking in terms of culture, and I dont refer to this at this point to be pejorative, sorry if i come across as such)

      And having lived there since a year now, I can attest to that.

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    2. Well Maharashtrians wont even take it well if called north Indian, isnt it? Thats just language chauvinism. It exists in Bengal or TN too.

      One cannot generalize over whole MH. The people in southern MH could identify with Karnataka in same way as some others would identify with north.The number of common cultural practices between Karnataka and MH is significant.

      Thts why one will hear more about who they DONT identify with rather than who they positively identify with

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      1. The point is what would u rather NOT be called. What irks u more, being called a N-Indian or a S-Indian. For marathis, its the latter. So they definitely aren’t Dravidian in their own view, at least, and that’s true even for their Southern parts

        Unlike TN, Bengal … Marathi sub-nationalism isnt at odds with Indian nationalism (which at its core is N-indian nationalism) . That’s y marathi nationalism (even from Maratha;s time) concern on all matters North to them , rather than South , even though geographically the Southern regions might be closer.

        On Karnataka-MH similarities, i have a growing view that forget MH, Karnataka itself is moving slowly towards N-Indian nationalism than Dravidian nationalism. Or as Hoju would say, Karnataka is the most Aryan of all Dravidian states 🙂

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        1. Saurav, I think the MH self-identification with/opposed to “south india” is a bit nuanced. Not long ago, pre-independence, MH was considered south, and bombay was referred to as a southern metropolis. Partition recalibrated things, and the cardinal directions became codes for ethno-linguistic categories. Sort of like east european is code for slavic. The current dissociation from south started with urban marathis who have gotten so acculturated to the GJ, PB and other resident northern pops that they barely have a sense of their culture without it. The dravidian category has become so racialized (in a non-valorous or aspirational way) that anyone with a way to opt out of being black will. That said, most vernacular heartland marathas of my parents gen who didnt really know english or hindi, would not recoil from a telangana/kannada association. In fact, we share a deep history, cuisine, dress as well as family deities. The 17-18th century marathas concerned themselves with the north in a way because they saw it as a wealthy near-abroad to plunder, whereas the their kin were already entrenched in the courts of every southern kingdom. North karnataka was administered as home counties. The close association popular geography makes with gujarat, rajasthan and mh as “western india” is bizarre and lazy and doesn’t account for a fairly dramatic cultural faultline that anyone would notice on a drive from say nashik to surat

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          1. Bro, i have no quarrel with who identifies as what, as long as they are honest enough to admit it. Also most of my observation is what its today and not necessarily what was. That u being a marathi urself are not contradicting me outright, itself shows that my observations are not wrong. Just u are adding a bit more nuance, understandable.

            The subaltern Marathi association with Telegus/Kanndigas is not a novel thing, all states especially the boundary regions have that. East of Benaras, u would not know whether you are still in UP or have entered Bihar (and vice versa). Lot of examples like that.

            Also i am not totally convinced by the whole “Maratha concern for North was mostly plunder” . There are more maratha kin entrenched today in the North than they were ever in the South. Multiple personalities from their diaspora are from North, something which cannot be matched by their Southern diaspora. They send Kar Sevaks to my state, and not to Kerala to support Sabrimala. Almost any marathi issue which has nothing to do with state, happens to be a N-Indian issue. And so forth.

            What i agree would that Marathas own “homeland” might have extended to a limited extent to Northern Karnataka/parts of Telangana. Which again is not novel. But that’s is completely separate thing to say that they associate more with Dravidian vis-v Aryans.

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          2. As a marathi myself, I agree with both the views somewhat. Linguistically I can say based on my limited knowledge – marathi is closest to Dravidian languages among all the Indo-Aryan languages. The use of retroflexes and the 2 sounds of La are very common in Marathi which appears to be shared with Dravidian languages. However, as a Marathi, I tend to understand Gujarathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Haryanavi much more than I understand Kannada. Though i have been able to catch more words in overheard Kannada than Telugu, Tamil, or Malayalam. This may also be due to the fact that my family hails originally from the Kolhapur region – which has a lot of Kannada influence. But the ease I feel with North Indian languages mentioned above draws the minuscule ease with Kannada. Konkani and Goan are more relatable than Kannada. On food fronts I feel Maharashtra shares lot with Gujarat and Rajasthan than any other states – be it Bajra, Jowar Rotis, or many other older foods.

            All this said – the strongest modern cultural identifier of a Marathi manoos is reverence/worship of Chh.Shivaji especially from Central and western parts.

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          3. Saurav, was speaking to the idea that peoples stated associations aren’t necessarily indicative of historical realities. Most kannadigas don’t percieve a commonality with tamils, even right up to the border regions. This belies millennia of cultural exchange. Much like the category of dravidian itself, being tamil has become associated with being black and hence people shrink from it. The tamils are the only people owning it. In reality, the racial differences between kannadigas and tamils of congruent caste status is trivial. I just propose that MH people are acting the same way, considering their entire cultural and spiritual geography is south oriented. I’d even go so far as to say that MH people are prakritized dravidians of recent vintage

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          4. Lets agree to disagree.

            People are what they say they are. No what they genetically or historically were. Pakistan is the best example

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        2. The word Dravidian did not exist before the 18th century. Many Tamils do not call themselves Dravidian, where is the question of Kannadigas or Marathis calling themselves Dravidian?

          At least in the north, the usage of the word Arya was quite extensive in the historical period and before. So there is considerable continuity. To make matters worse, many South Indian kings called themselves Arya (Rajaraja Chozha and Krishna Raya)

          Calling the four languages of South India as Dravidian was quite tone deaf (pun intended).

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  13. It would be interesting to see a DNA comparison between modern Maharashtra populations and late copper age ones like Inamgaon and Jorwe in general.

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  14. Razib, I noticed something interesting in the PCA plot of the study with ancients (Figure 2). It appears the steppe MBLA samples are actually shifted more towards AASI than the Neolithic Iranian sample from Ganj Dareh. That one is farthest on the right, whereas a few of the steppe samples are approaching the cline. Could this be because of an ANE affinity with ASE? It’s been said R and Q are east eurasian in origin. Many have hypothesized that they came from Southeast asia since the groups that carry the most P*, and the closely related K2b, S and M, are located there (aeta, negritos, melanesians, etc).

    I wonder what would it would look like if they used Steppe EMBA instead, since the MBLA had more Anatolian admixture. I think it may be incorrect to use certain MBLA populations for south asians. I’ve read articles that say EMBA can be used for a good fit, which makes me believe that the steppe pastoralists were more central or eastern (and thus more ANE) rather than western MBLA.

    Lastly, I’m surprised by how many populations appear to be almost 100% AASI using onge as a proxy (Figure 3). I mean looking at appearances, I thought this intuitively. But these researchers are always changing their minds or altering their numbers. I wonder if they were to use a real AASI sample instead of the distantly related onge, would the proportion increase even more dramatically?

    And on an unrelated note, I have begun to wonder if AASI is even one population or a mixture of multiple ancient populations. My reasoning is that the Paniya, supposedly one of the most ‘AASI’, are predominantly basal F-M89*, followed by haplogroup C and C*. These are all very ancient. Haplogroup F is ancestral to most modern populations, consistent with an early dispersal through India. However haplogroup H is also associated with tribal groups and south indians (but absent in the Paniya) with a high in frequency all over. But this looks more west eurasian, because it belongs to the same group as G, I and J. If AASI was just one population, is it normal to see such significant variation? Contrast this with western european hunter/gatherers who were mainly haplogroup I.

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    1. I don’t know of any such projects as of now. There is something going on in a Tamil site, Razib has mentioned it in the past, but that is a separate thing.

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