Stark Truth About Aryans: a story of India (part 1)

My Substack piece is up, Stark Truth About Aryans: a story of India. I’m pretty proud of this, as it wasn’t a single-sitting blog post, but something I worked over several times. Since it’s for paid subscribers I’ll post the first few paragraphs below, with an infographic that I think illustrates a lot of what’s going on.

Nearly one in four human beings lives in the Indian subcontinent. The region’s genetic and cultural diversity are unparalleled, spanning a vast spectrum from blue-eyed Muslim Kashmiris in the north who speak a tongue distantly related to English, to dark-skinned animistic Tamils in the far south whose language has no known relatives outside South Asia. Though Indian genetic research goes back decades, a legacy of P. C. Mahalanobis, the “father of Indian statistics,” only over the past twenty years has our understanding of the present genetic and physical variation and its roots expanded to a point where we can confidently trace the origins of South Asia’s bewildering diversity.

But science doesn’t exist in a vacuum. What the latest findings mean to Indians is still an issue subject to public debate, long after the data has been collected, reported, and analyzed. What does it mean to say that half the ancestors of modern Indians were related to the people of the Andaman Islands, and the other half to Europeans? Or that this synthesis of lineages occurred only within the last 10,000 years? Instead of being ancient and primal, a child of the  Pleistocene tens of thousands of years in the past, to be genetically Indian is to be younger than the pyramids of ancient Egypt. Indian diversity is the result of a massive mixing between various streams of humanity that occurred thousands of years ago to produce a mosaic with startlingly different shades and features. European pastoralists, farmers from the subcontinent’s northwest reaches, and hunter-gatherers who clung to the Indian-Ocean shores on the southern fringe of India, came together to stitch a complex tapestry.

Though the Indian press and public take a keen interest in how their genetic origins map onto the history of their storied civilization, interpretation of any empirical results is inevitably politically fraught. Geneticist David Reich recounts in his book Who We Are and How We Got Herealmost losing a 2009 paper right before publication due to its potential social and political ramifications. As Reconstructing Indian Population History was coming out, he had to navigate treacherous socio-political shoals. Indian collaborators made it clear that there were limits to what he could explicitly conclude because of cultural red lines. If Reich’s lab insisted on concluding that there was a massive migration of people into the subcontinent from the northwest, the Indian researchers would have to withdraw their cooperation, and therefore their essential data.

Reich’s work showed that all the nearly two billion people of Indian subcontinental origin emerged out of a fusion of two very distinct ancestral populations, which he termed “Ancestral North Indian” (ANI) and “Ancestral South Indian” (ASI). This amalgamation was then thought to have occurred only about 4,000 years ago. The closest contemporary relatives of the ASI are the indigenous people of the Andaman Islands, while the ANI are genetically similar to today’s Europeans and Middle Easterners.


37 thoughts on “Stark Truth About Aryans: a story of India (part 1)”

  1. Still haven’t read but I may conclude – pretty impressive effort which requires not only good knowledge than a great courage, too. I am intrigued with a Kashmiri language ‘distantly related to English’, I expect to see where this relation came from. I guess that this text additionally confirms the transition, recently made on these waves, from AMT/OIT to IT.


    “Before nationalists and patriots, before colonizers and invaders, before emperors and kings, India was woven together by pilgrim paths. Seekers and sages travelled north and south, east and west, across mountains and along rivers, ignoring artificial boundaries, seeking and finding gods. Renowned mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik takes us on an insightful journey to thirty-two holy sites where ancient and modern deities unravel the complex and layered history, geography, and imagination of the land once known as ‘land of the Indian blackberry’ (Jambudvipa), ‘land of rivers’ (Sindhusthala in Sanskrit, or Hindustan in Persian), ‘expanse of King Bharata’ (Bharatvarsha, or Bharatkhanda), and even ‘abode of joy’ (Sukhavati to the Chinese).”

  3. “European pastoralists, farmers from the subcontinent’s northwest reaches, and hunter-gatherers who clung to the Indian-Ocean shores on the southern fringe of India, came together to stitch a complex tapestry.”

    Are Steppe people considered ‘European’ in academic literature?

    1. no. 3,000 years ago “europe” didn’t exist.

      that being said, to a lay audience, with lots of indians, i decided to “bite the bullet” and use the word because what else are you going to call people who are the ancestors of modern northern europeans and lived betwen the elbe and somewhere in belarus 3,500 years ago? (corded ware). get the sense that lots of indians were rooting for yamnaya ancestry since that’s more liminal to europe and situated to the east.

      1. All Indian ethcnitities want to be European or European-shifted. Just they don’t want someone telling them that they came from Europe. ??

      2. Is this the entire piece as in the whole of Part 1? Or is there a read more option somewhere which I missed?

  4. From the previous comments…
    ‘Dvipa’ is a Serbian word present in Rg Veda. There are few meanings. It was mostly used for ‘island’ (e.g. from ‘serpska dvipa’ became ‘Serendib’). ‘Dvi’ is in Serbian ‘two’, while ‘pa’ came from ‘apia’ (water) what is old Pelasgian name for Peloponnese (both names are Serbian).

    ‘European’ is also interested. At that time, this name did not exist. It would be very brave if the word ‘Slavic’ was used instead and super-brave if the proper name for proto-Slavic was used. ‘Europ‘ was a Serbian/Macedonian principality on the river Vardar (‘Var’ is the same as in ‘Varuna’) where Seleukic was born and who took this name after Alexander to Persia and it was also the old name of Teheran (!). From this ‘Europ’, the whole continent got the name.

  5. My last comment in this thread…

    “… what else are you going to call people who are the ancestors of modern northern europeans and lived betwen the elbe and somewhere in belarus 3,500 years ago?” >>> that is THE ($1M) question! Polish?

    ” … lots of indians were rooting for yamnaya ancestry” >>> wasn’t yamnaya (mostly) R1b?

  6. Isn’t it a misnomer to call them Iranian farmers as the mixture happened before the advent of farming in the fertile crescent?

    1. Could you write a small para up front emphasizing that it would be a misnomer to use modern cultural and geographical terms for regions and people that existed 5000 years ago? Terms like “Iran”, “Europe”, even “India”? But that some labels gotta be used, so you are picking modern ones. Alternatively, you can say “farmers from what is today Iran”, “pastoralists from what is today NE Europe”, etc.

      (The usual suspects may still dismiss your article based on the labeling and the inconvenient conclusions though. Most people don’t think scientifically, and are uncomfortable with the fact that cultures aren’t eternal.)

      1. \Most people don’t think scientifically,\
        True; most people mistake label with the unlying phenomenon, and these labels itself are of pragmatic usage. That is for the cuting edge of knowledge and the political abuse of labels for racist politics is widespread as if the labels justify their racist politics . When Caldwell made the term Dravdian to refer to a language group , he did not foresee a whole racist political movement around this label , his intention was only religious conversions.

    2. @Razib any idea about who are related to Indo Greeks, Parthians, Achaemenids, Sakas, Kushanas, Hunas etc ? Wouldn’t all of them be carrying some sinthasta components ( naturally) as all came from CAsian and NWest.

        1. @Razib bro, Saka/Hunas were supposed to be a Indo-Iranian grp ( as you said Sinthasta guys were precursors to them, so there is a chance that Scythians would also be carrying the similar components). What I think is Saka/Huna/Kushana/Parthian/Indo-Greeks invasion was bigger in numbers than 3500 – 4000 old Aryan. And yes this Saka/Huna/Kushana etc was clearly a military invasion, so it should show genetic influence in Y components in the NWest . I am open to any counter view on it.

  7. “sure. what would call them?”

    Why not Iranian hunter gatherers? Did we know they were more ‘civilized’ compared to AASI in that period of mixture that formed IVC?
    Recognize that Narasimhan used that term but does not sit well.

  8. The new infrographic has improved in readability but I miss the percentage shares going into each generation. That was really clear and lucid from the first variation. Is there a way to bring the old one back but with text placed differently so you don’t have to turn your head?

  9. I would have liked the term Arya to be in the infographic somewhere. Between 3000 BC and the modern era. It’s way too big a reference to be left out. It feels very anodyne and “purged” now. Of course, this is how the nomenclature has been set starting from the pushback that Reich mentioned. But as Indians, we should have owned that term. Feels like extinguishing your own personality to fit in.

    1. I realise Arya is there in the infographic after all – Eastern Aryan Farmers!!! This is a paradox though, unlike the term European pastoralists for Steppes people.

  10. “We are the people. We are One.”
    And look how our revered political masters have/are dividing us. If Sapien Evolution had even an iota of prime value
    , then i respectfully bow my head with gratitude to Razib Khan to bring these very possible (beyond Romila Thapar) facts before me which gives me immense reading pleasure. In that our evolution has a message- that we are all One. We are the people!.

  11. I intended to publish this in OT but it maybe more appropriate to be here because it is related to this topic…

    RE (1/2): RG VEDA for Dummies (or mini-tractate for common sense people)

    We are about to finalize our discussion regarding the meaning of Rg Veda. Why is this important? Not only because it is the first literary creation in human history. This is also some kind of linguistic DNA which can explain very important part of SA and world history. This discussion should complement Razib’s infographic. We will discuss this from the common-sense (CS) guy perspective. When all CS checks are done, scientists can enter and provide their solution. We will not present this solution now and will offer an opportunity to do research and find this solution by themselves.

    1) Recently, there were some attempts to explain words RG and VEDA. It was said that VEDA means ‘knowledge’. Specifically, it was even mentioned that its literal meaning is VISION or SIGHT. But, it was not said in WHICH language is this. If someone knows which this language is, he/she could try to explain the meaning of RG in the same language.

    2) If it is known that Aryans, who brought Rg Veda, were R1a then, the meaning of the title should be looked for in the language(s) spoken by R1a people.

    3) Wiki or wiki-like ‘explanations’ of RG are simply a joke. First, they disconnected RG from VEDA. They found in Old Irish (?) and Old Armenian (?) some groups of consonants for which they say that sound as RG. This is simply a joke because Old Irish/Armenian even did not exist at the time when Rg Veda was created. At least, to be consequent, they should explain VEDA in these ‘languages’ but of course it is impossible.

    4) Some ‘explanations’ tell us that the meaning of RG are HYMN or VERSES or PRAISE. Who can believe that these sophisticated words are used in 3500 or so BC for the first literary creation ever? Some other estimates say that Rg Veda was created btw 3000-6000 BC.

    5) Previous explanations try to convince us that RG examples which they found in old languages immediately disappeared and they do not exist anymore. The logic says that such words, evolved directly from the pra-language, evolved further and became parts of new words as their roots. A modern language which evolved further in last 5000 years should have dozens of words consisting RG. Is this a good direction to conduct further research?

    6) Why it was not investigated if the VEDA is still used in modern languages? It is highly unlikely that such important word also disappeared from all languages.

    7) VEDA is used today, for example, in Serbian language. The word – ‘pripoVEDA’ means ‘narrate, telling stories’; ‘zapoVEDA’ means ‘commanding, giving orders’; ‘propoVEDA’ means ‘preaching’; ‘pripoVEDkA’ means ‘narrative, tale’; etc.

  12. RE (2/2): RG VEDA for Dummies (or mini-tractate for common sense people)

    8) What has happened with RG? Has this also disappeared? Does it exist in modern languages and, if does, is there a connection with pra-language? For example, in Serbian language there are dozens of verbs and nouns which contain this root word.

    9) Let see for example the word BERG which is worldwide present in the name of toponyms (e.g. BeRGamo, BeRGen, BReGenz, StrasbouRG, GothenbuRG, etc.) or personal names (e.g. EdbeRG, StrindbeRG, WallbeRG, StoltenbeRG, etc). What does it mean the word BERG and from which language it originated? What is the meaning of RG in these words?

    10) It is almost obvious for CS guys that RG is not very far from pra-language. It is characteristic for these primordial consonant groups that they have a minimum number of consonants and that they are very hard and rough in pronunciation. Who can pronounce RG or RrrrrrrrrrrrrG? Newer words are softer, and it is easy to distinguish the old from new words. There are so many youtube videos how to pronounce rolled/thrilled R.

    In conclusion, RG cannot be from Old Irish/Armenian or so, because these people/languages probably did not exist at that time, they did not have a word VEDA, they were not Aryans, it is very suspicious that consonant groups allegedly presenting RG really sounds as RG and simply, and simply – they are NOT Sanskrit.

    Second, RG and VEDA are words still present in Serbian language as parts of few dozens of words, e.g. frequently used – RGati (inf). It seems that all agree about the meaning of VEDA, but RG is still unexplained. It is also a part of many toponyms and personal names (RG or BERG).

    Before I present my solution, I will give a chance to pundits to do this research by themselves. Research-pundits can for e.g. first find from which language BERG came from, the meaning of the word BERG and from there they may find the meaning of RG, but they can also approach differently.

    Pundits already know the drill – a worldwide delivered 6-bottle pack of red is cooling down in my cellar.

    1. How’z goin’ punditos?

      Just passing by and wanted to have a quick look on your progress. Are you enjoying the journey?
      I was thinking to give you a hint or two.

      #1 For example – do you know the English equivalent to the above-mentioned BERG? It may optionally help.

      #2 Or, while searching for the solution we can utilize a logical diagram. I will use the quasi-program steps instructions and follow only the path which leads to the satisfactory solution. I will ask Razib to make a comprehensive infographic diagram for the third part of this serial which will include all relevant percentages and will not require the turning of head or twisting the neck.

      First – reset your variables and initialize them by putting initial values.
      PRINT – ‘Hello Brown World!’
      Let start with a question – what is the language where VEDA means VISION?
      GO to this language.
      Question – Is there at least a dozen of composite words in this language which contain the word VEDA?
      If YES – Does this modern language has RG and/or at least 50 verbs/nouns which contain the word RG?
      If YES – Save the name of the language in the LANGUAGE variable.
      Question – Does this RG have several meanings?
      If YES – Is there a meaning of RG which is compatible with the word KNOWLEDGE (i.e. VISION)?
      If YES – Translate this meaning into English and save this result in the RG_VEDA_MEANING variable.
      Question – Are speakers of this language belong to R1a haplogroup?
      If YES – Can at least some speakers ride the horses?
      If YES – Are some of these speakers officially the tallest people in the world?
      If YES – Do some of these speakers have moustaches?
      If YES – Calculate the variable SPEAKERS := d/dt ( ∫ “LANGUAGE”)
      PRINT – ‘SOLUTION – The meaning of Rg Veda is:’ @”RG_VEDA_MEANING”, ‘and Aryans were:’ @”SPEAKERS”, ‘who spoke the:’ @“LANGUAGE”, ‘language!’
      GO to the MESSAGE
      MESSAGE: /Wine reached the optimum temperature and it is slowly aging./

      1. Keep momentum pundits and don’t relax. Hope you have already some variables populated. More important than a case of wine is a worldwide glory. Keep working over the weekend, too. Just a small sub-hint: #1a – Churchill.

  13. i generally like reading razib, and he is the chief writer for which i frequent this blog. therefore i was genuinely taken aback by the tone of the article which somehow seems so quaint and dated. it appears to be pandering to the 20th century stereotypes. take for example.

    “blue-eyed Muslim Kashmiris in the north who speak a tongue distantly related to English, to dark-skinned animistic Tamils in the far south “

    you are presumably drawing upon the common indo european origins of kashmiri and english. but what is the big deal? over a billion south asians, including all of us run of the mill and not-so-blue-eyed UPites and marathis and biharis speak a language distantly related to english. kashmiris are not unique in this regard.

    and it is a bit jarring to see a label of animistic for tamils. while there is nothing wrong in being animistic, the word gives the impression of being somewhat primitive and less developed than the followers of organized religions. but technically all hindus (including some blue eyed kashmiri pundtis) are animistic, simply because hinduism attach spiritual essence to all sorts of natural natural phenomena and rivers and mountains etc.

    sometimes one can be factually correct and yet so misleading.

    1. you are presumably drawing upon the common indo european origins of kashmiri and english.

      no, i’m drawing upon the kashmiri idea that they are white alliens in an ugly brown subcontinent, something you see even in nehru’s writings.

      but technically all hindus (including some blue eyed kashmiri pundtis) are animistic, simply because hinduism attach spiritual essence to all sorts of natural natural phenomena and rivers and mountains etc.

      the connotations of animism and monism are different. monism is “high religion” and animism is “primal.” i understand that animism DOES seem pejorative and wondered about using it, but the fact that it seems pejorative says more about the audience than me, as it’s all superstition to me (personally i reject the distinction btwn high and low religion). i was alluding here to the local peasant religious beliefs distinct from the hinduism exposited by the brahmins (peasants in kashmir are now muslim so not technically animistic).

      that piece was heavily edited by my wife who doesn’t think my blog writing is good enough to charge for so if you see a different tone, that’s. 90% of my readers are male and always have been it. i think there’s a different sensibility btwn the sexes. my wife insists on heavily editing i write for pay since she thinks i’m a horrible writer and i routinely get feedback from ppl about why i sound so different.

      1. Didn’t know Nehru did that too lol. Go figure. It’s just so common that I’m surprised when some doesn’t do it.

      2. @Razib

        Holy shit, does that explain everything, or does it! Not a subscriber, but I’ve read the free stuff.

        Her editing really does take your writing to the next level. She makes you sound like a real intellectual or something.

        If you want a smarter audience, keep her at the steering wheel. Good stuff.

      3. yes, but that’s why i said that this one para is factually correct, but completely misleading. a novice western reader can walk away with a completely misplaced notion that tamilnadu is a last redoubt of animism in a largely higher religion north india. kind of animistic south sudan vs muslim khartoum.

        the fact is, HDI indicators of southern indian states outstrip northern states. fertility rates of south compares with europe. in some places they have fallen below replacement level. (i am sure you are aware of it as you have written posts on the fertility rates of india). in fact the falling birth rates of south has led to labor shortages, and made them a destination for migrant workers from north. that is quite an achievement for an “animistic” people.

        1. yeah that’s a good point

          tbh i had the indian audience more in mind when reading the piece so they would know that stuff. no offense, but white ppl don’t care much about these details.

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