Saturday, March 25, 2006

Shankara stands accused or Cordaux et al. study

Cordaux et al.(2004) study of Indian caste population observed that Indian caste and Tribal paternal lineages have independent origins. And went on to declare that most of the Indian castes(Note: In the genetic studies castes include Dalits explicitly under "lower castes") paternal lineages were infact derived from Central Asian migrations around ~3500 years ago(spot on for AIT period). Whereas, majority Tribal male lineages derived from original settlers of India. Of course, all the central Asian migrants in North and South basically spoke IE languages.

Then we have the admixture analysis. Here the authors found that, North Indian castes have 88% non-Indian contribution and 12% Indian contribution. South Indian castes have 68% non-Indian contribution and 32% Indian contribution. Tribals have 71% Indian contribution and 29% non-Indian contribution. Interestingly, South Indians with 32% non-Indian contribution lost their IE tongue adopted indigenous Dravidian languages.

Now, as with Bamshad et al(2001). study(I intend to discuss this study later) discussions of this prematurely conceived differences in North and South castes takes racial overtones even here. In the first place, what was the need to account for homogeneity of North Indian castes and admixed South Indian castes(of course according to Cordaux et al.). Because these studies all initiated with that clear motivation and just could not digress from that point of view. These researchers read and interpret everything to fit their prejudiced mindset. I'm going to talk one of those. In the research, they have used a reference to come up with their theory how racial purity and admixture reflected in North and South Indian castes respectively.

Of course, Richard Cordaux did not know much about Indian society. So he went and read articles written on Indian caste system. He came across an article written by Dr. Partha P. Majumder. Something catches his eyes,

The Aryan world comprised three classes (varnas): priests, nobles, and commoners. Aryans as the conquering people possibly placed their three classes on the indigenous Indian society. The varna organization is hierarchical. Initially, the system had names for two ranks, Brahma (Brahmin) and Kshatra (Kshatriya), Brahmin being of a socially higher rank than Kshatriya. The third rank was made up of Vis, that is, all the subjects. To this society, a fourth rank was added: Shudra, who had no rights to Aryan ritual. In southern India, the menial workers, the so-called "untouchables", were placed in a new varna, Panchama (meaning fifth).

Note : Let' s forget about Aryan invasion and imposition of caste system theory of Dr. Majumder. As that tells even the Shudras were not part of Aryan society but Cordaux et al. study thinks they were part of Aryan society as you see later. Anyway, I am not sure if it was invasion or migration. However, I don't think it has anything to do with our caste system as we know today.

The last in line the above quote is important for our discussion. Here, Mr. Cordaux found a perfect place for all those indigenous lineages among Dravidians in the caste system. Discussing about limited genetic flow between North Indians and tribals and pronounced genetic flow between South Indians and tribals he reasons,

A possible explanation for this geographic discrepancy is that the caste comprised four classes in north India, whereas a fifth class was introduced in south India to integrate local] people (those formerly called “untouchables”) in the caste system [19, 20].

Ergo, the so-called untouchables have to be included in the caste society in South India as fifth class, whereas in North India there were only four classes(because they didn't have indigenous population problem).

Let's see Indian caste composition.

Contrary to Mr. Cordaux's North India and South India societal variations, the Indian society was much more complex. First of all, there were no four classes in South and even in East but only two, Brahmins and Shudras(Check out this Caste System in Bengal, article written by a Bengali Brahmin who traces his lineage back to 10-11th century almost coinciding with the introduction of caste system in Bengal; He surely knows the story!) . Second, he says there were only four classes in North India; then how come there are so many Dalits in Vedic Punjab and Gangetic Uttara Pradesh, Bihar easily outnumbering Dalit populations of South India? Does he mean to say, in South India Dalits were included in the caste system as fifth caste but in North India they were excluded from the society. That would be the biggest irony of caste system in India. So if Untouchability was a phenonmenon because South Indians were admixed, how come so many people were declared untouchables in North India. Let's not even talk about how many millenniums passed after the entry of "Aryans" and the creation of caste system with Shudra and Asprishya hierarchies.

When I brought this to Dr. Partha Majumder's notice, this is what he had to say;

I never mentioned that the fifth varna originated in south India; just that it was called as Panchama in south India. Many scientists working on Indian populations have limited understanding of our historical social structure. Therefore, genetic findings vis-a-vis the social structure of India are sometimes incorrectly interpreted.

However, the problem is not only many of Geneticists of European descent are ignorant of Indian historical social structure, they are arrogant enough to make ridiculous conclusions out of it.

Cordaux et al. study has too many speculations about Indian society and weird logic about indegeneousness of various Haplogroups(as the later studies hardly confirm with them). However, I don't want to lose the opportunity to come out with my own theory how untouchability spread in India.

Blame it on Shankara:
If the untouchability was in fact South Indian phenomenon, then we need Brahmins to go to North(and everywhere) to introduce it in those societies. However, Brahmin movments were always from North to South. So common sense tells us unless any of the societal distinctions were there in North-West India(origins of endogamous Brahmin community), then you would hardly find them in South India. Any salient feature of South Indian society needs some kind of celebrated migrations from South for their introduction in North, West and East India.

And I find the only person who could do that was Shankara who travelled to all directions in India. Therefore, the untouchability that was introduced in South India went to North India along with him.

I hope just like "Indra stands accused" my "Shankara stands accused" becomes famous.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

My Y-chromosome Haplogroup is R2

My SNP test results were out little while ago. I'm M124+ and that means I belong to Y-Haplogroup R2 lineage.

This lineage is mostly confined to South Asia also observed in small frequency in nearby Central Asian and Caucasian regions. However, couple of groups viz. Kurds in Georgia, Chechens carry this lineage substantially. May be due to genetic drift(I'm not sure if I used it properly).

In the subcontinent, its highest occurence is among Eastern(West Bengalis) people and among Sri Lankans( big chunk of Srilankan males have Eastern origins). May be around 20%. Its occurrence among Bangladeshis is unknown.

However, it would be interesting to see how many Andhrites, Biharis and UP-wallahs carry this lineage. That would vary its present frequency in India which is now at 10%.

In South, only Tamils have been sampled for this lineage. The frequency may be around 5-6%. I wonder about Karnataka and Kerala

Well, it is kind of tough to calculate the exact frequency of the haplogroups in Indian context. Here almost all the studies are caste based. However, I'm not sure if there is a consistency in defining the upper/middle/lower castes and also if there is a proper data on what percentage of the population belongs to any of those.

Pakistan and North-West India probably have it at around 8-10%.

I have a two-step match with an Uzbek who belongs to Haplogroup P. I wonder about that person's haplogroup now. I have many other close matches with R, probably they all R2.

Possible origins:
I checked for 0-6 matches with this haplogroup at Ysearch. At present their database has limited samples. However, following the footsteps Dr. Wells(who declared South Indians carry Haplogroup L lineage at around 50% based on, probably, Toda tribe data), I'm going to present my own intuitions/fantasies about the possible origins of this Haplogroup.

I had matches with I, I1b, J, J1, R. However, most probably all Is are I1bs, all Rs are R2s and all Js are J1s. Here goes my idea about possible origins of the man who first carried this mutation and along with him possible origins of some others.

All 20000 years and above;

1. North Africa : E , F, G, H, I, J, K, R
2. Near East(Arab lands): R2, I1b, J1
3. Central-South Asia : L, O, Q

Friday, March 17, 2006

Origins of Malayalees-?

The origin of Malayalee ethnic identity is as intriguing as the people themselves. Here I'm trying to reconcile their matrilineal society which is supposed to be the earliest form of social structure with their language that is supposed to be the youngest of the major South Dravidian languages. However, I'm not saying anything new about their origins as I read about it during my primary school days. Let's see about the present theory.

Malayalee was Tamil once upon a time:
The present theory is that region of Kerala was inhabited by proto-Tamil people. Unlike the regions of Tulu Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu the region of Kerala was not inhabited until neolithic times. And the distinct Malayalam literary language branched from Proto-Tamil-Malayalam around 900CE. Since Tamils had distinct Tamil identity a millennium back before literary Malayalam started branching we can safely assume that Malayalees were Tamils once. However, my question is whether the people inhabited Kerala were Proto-Tamils or Proto-Tuluvas.

The uncomfortable Tulu connection:I am not really comfortable bringing up this Tulu-Malayalee connection for the simple reason that I am not sure if I was hallucinating when I read that text book in Kasaragod. I used to visit my grandparents house in Kasaragod during my summer holidays. I came across an old Kannada text book in the godown. I'm not sure if it was a text book or a general book related to Kerala history. There it was mentioned that Malayalees were basically Tuluvas. However, they did not like Tuluvas using the word for mother to father and the word for father to mother! And that was one of the reasons they developed their own distinct language. Well, Tuluvas do use mother to father and father to mother if you go by present day South Dravidian languages. But not so if you go back 1000 years(atleast in the case of Kannada). Tulu father is amme(r) and mother appe(r). In Kannada it used be amman and abbe, I suppose.

It was Proto-Tulu and not Proto-Tamil:
The reason author gave for Malayalees developing a distinct identity from Tuluvas might be hilarious; but I believe a big chunk of Malayalees were basically Tuluvas (or Proto-Tuluvas) in the past and Namboothiris might not be the only one.

Let us see the tree of South Dravidian languages. It is obvious that Proto-Tamil-Kannada and Proto-Tulu branch earliest from the Proto-South-Dravidian. So we infact had free Proto-Tuluvas to inhabit the region of Kerala along with ..ahem...Proto-Tamil(?). Who did? Now compare the culture of Tamil Nadu and Tulu Nadu. You will get the clear picture. The two factors that show that it was Tuluvas who inhabited the region of Kerala(at least the Malabar region) are;

1. Matrilineal system(Marumakkatayam in Kerala and Aliya Kattu in Tulu Nadu)
2. Spirit worship (Theyyam in Kerala, Nema in Tulu Nadu)

Probably, Tulu and Malayala regions continued connection could also be seen in the fact that Namboothiris consider themselves a branch of Tulu Brahmins.

Matrilineal system:
I strongly believe that matrilineal system was once widespread in both Tulu Nadu and Kerala but became irrelevent/absent in the case of weaker castes due to economic and religious dependency. I believe patrilineality in Kerala and Tulu Nadu was just an absence of matrilineal system.

According to William Logan's Malabar manual (19th century), the castes in Malabar and Travancore that practiced Marumakkatayam were;

Payyannoor Namboothiris, Kshatriya, Tirumalpad, Nayar, Urali, Andor, Pallichan, Kushavan, Vyabari, Kolayan, Chembotti, Pisharodi, Variyan, Nambi, Teyambadi, Attikurichi, Eradi, Vallodi, Nedungadi, Vellutedan, Chaliyan, Tiyan.

Also, in North Malabar and Lakshadweep Malayali muslims kept their matrilineal traditions intact. This fact could be used to understand why Malayali Christians and big chunk of Tiyas did not practice Marumakkatayam.

Matrilineal system can sustain itself only when females have economic and religious freedom, especially the former. The caste system was enforced on Kerala society medieval period 13-14th century onwards. Since because of matrilineal system there was no male community identity, a rapid degradation of families that were declared low followed. The females of those families lost their individual identity.

As a result, the conversions that took place after the enforcement of caste system resulted in Christian and Muslim families that did not belong to matrilineal traditions. However, the pre-caste system families, the ones converted to Islam around 9-10th century CE and the isolated Malayalee Hindus in Lakshadweep who converted to Islam followed the matrilineal traditions due to self-sustained identity of Malayali women.

Probably, the situation went worse in Tulu Nadu were only feudal caste and prosperous Jains(Jainism has nothing to do with matrilineality; the people were matrilineal from the beginning) remained matrilineal.

However, I do believe many of Malayalee communities have Tamil beginnings(especially in South Kerala).

How Tuluvas became Malayalees?:Well, it has to do something with the strong Tamil kingdoms that ruled over the region of Kerala for almost a millenium. When Tuluvas in Kerala adopted Tamil (Proto-Tamil-Malayalam?), their Tulu tongue twisted it to such an extent that language became distinct.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Origins of Shaivism : Part I

Shaivism has really mysterious origins. Of course, the colour of Shiva is not one of them, as I think Shiva's human form might be very recent. White phallus of Shiva in Kashmir is just a random natural phenomenon than a normal phenomenon. (Note: Please refer Wikipedia for all the unknown terms and concepts, I'll try to insert the links later).

Why Shivism could possibly have only Northern origins?
In one my previous posts, I speculated that goddesses might be the main deities of pre-Indo-Aryan matrilineal Dravidian Indians with phallus having a minor role in the broader scheme of the things. However, under the influence of patriarchal Indo-Aryans the phallus could have become powe ful in North Indian society.

A powerful testimony of the prevailing situation during those times could be found in Tulu/Malayali socities that practiced/practicing matrilineal system. Matrilineal systems are one of the oldest and derived from the primitive social organizations. In Malabar many castes have their own goddess temples and their own priests. They could consecrate the temples without any Brahmin intervention. However, that was not the case with Shiva temples. Probably, Narayan guru was the first person to defy Brahmin hegemony in consecrating Shiva temples in South India. Therefore, in Brahmanical Hinduism societies Shiva is part of Vaidik religion. The question is who are those non-Brahmancial Shaivites in South India.

Agama Shaivism and Vaidik Shaivism:
From my understanding the difference between those two was that the former was a Dravidian tradition accommodated Vedas, the later was an Indo-Aryan tradition that accommodated Shiva. However, we need to have a deeper understanding of Tamil Nadu Shaivism and Karnataka Shaivism. Unfortunately, my knowledge is limited at present.

I have read that the Shaivism in Tamil Nadu was an import from Kashmir. Interesting point is it came to South not as a part of Brahmanical religion. The present day Kashmiri Pundits might have a very complicated history of transition from Shaivism to Brahminism. It looks like the Shaivism that reached Tamil Nadu also brought Vaidik literature along with it. So it was not Brahmins who first brought Vaidik literature to South India.

In Tamil Nadu Shiva temples, Shivacharyas are the hereditary priests and even Brahmins donot have priestly privilieges there.

Are Vedas part of Shaivism and Shaivism part of Vaidikism?
The first part of the question is pertinent in Karnataka. Here, Veerashaivism rejected Vedas. In Tamil Nadu Vedas were part of Shaivism though not supreme. The question is who brought Shaivism to Karnataka. What is the origin of Jangamas(Shaiva Saints)? (note: Veerashaivism became Sanskritised in the later period)

The second part of the question lies in Vaishnava movement of Ramanujacharya. It seems Vaishnava movement did not accept Shaivism as part of Vaidik religion. This was one of the main divisive point between Shaivites and Vaishnavites in Tamil Nadu that led to Vaishnavites flight to the region of Karnataka. Why did Ramanujacharya consider Shaivism a non-Vaidik religion? Was supremacy of Vedas uncompromisable for him? Shankara before him declared Vedas were supreme and still remained part of Vaidik Shaivites. What was the position of Shivacharyas in Tamil society vis-a-vis Tamil Brahmins? Why were Vaidik and non-Vaidik Brahmin distinction there in Kerala society? At present I have only questions.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Random observations.

Kumari Kandam:
I was expecting a high Y-Haplogroup O (South East Asian - East Asian lineage) among Tamil castes. In my opinion the legend of Kumari Kandam was brought by these people. I was even encouraged by the observation of South-East Asian HLA alleles among Iyers, Nadars of Tamil Nadu. However, no luck. It looks like Y-Haplogroup O is observed only among tribals(who form 1% of Tamil Nadu population). But interestingly they are supposed to be later migrants. The later migrants who became tribals? I'm not really happy with that explanation. I feel something amiss there.

Will they be the first and only West Eurasian Brahmins in India(or predominantly with West Eurasian lineages)? I don't consider any of R1a1, J2, L, H, R2 as West Eurasian. However, R1b is. I suppose all the Haplogroup R1b persons migth have been wrongly identified with R1a(they might have tested positive for M173(R1) and negative for M17(R1a1)).
Check out the Marathi Haplogroups here. (Via Quetzalcoatl Anthropology forum).

Konkani Sarawsat Brahmins:
Previously, I have discussed about Konkani Saraswat Brahmins and Kashmiri pundits being the Dravidian priestly class representative in the North-West. They were historically known to be pure Shiva and Shakti worshippers. Since both of them are Indo-Aryans, I have tried to appropriate their surnames to further my claim. The common surnames of Konkani Saraswat Brahmins are;
Kamat, Shenoy, Baliga, Pai, Nayak.

Baliga : From Dravidian word bale = to grow
Find the reference here.

Kamat : From Dravidian word komati = trader
Find the reference here.

Nayak: It's very tricky. You find almost all the Nayaks in South India. This might have Nostratic origins (Find the reference here.) However, I feel Indo-Aryan Nayak might have Dravidian roots. Probably, the highest diversity(I like this argument) of Nayak is found in South India. That might show oldest origins of this word.
Kannada : Nayaka
Malayalam : Nayar
Telugu : Nayudu
Tulu: Nayaka, Nayara, Nanaya
Tamil: Naicker

Kannada and Tamil Nayaks look like derived from Indo-Aryan which inturn derived from Dravidian.

Malayalam and Telugu show sound changes in Dravidian context. Malayalam 'ra' - Telugu -'da'
eg: Andagara(Kn) - Andagada(Te)

Shenoy : I think it's original form is Shenawi; the sound change applied here is -w to -y
eg. Brohwi - Brahui
Gowi - Goyi ( A Srilankan caste)
However, I'm not sure of the origins of this word. My friend(a Shenoy himself) thinks it's derived from shANya (jANa(kn) = smart).

Pai: Again this should be Pawi or Pa...wi; No idea about the origins.

Kashmiri Pundits: The surnames Tikkoo, Mattoo look enticing. However, absolutely no idea about their meanings.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Origins of Indians: Version 2.3

Aryan invasion and imposition of caste system:

This model is built upon a naive premise that a community native to one place is totally incapable of messing up its own society. Probably, the inexplicably vulgar and blatantly biased nature of caste sytem might have driven the mainstream Indian anthropologists and historians to accept that theory in the past. However, presently instead of a single Aryan invasion, multiple migration model is gaining ground.

Other models and their relevence:
At present, three models try to explain the colonization of India and the development of caste system.
1. Aryan invasion model: The oldest. The light skinned Aryans migrated from Central Asia or South-Eastern Europe to present day Pakistan. Created the caste system and imposed themselves upon the dark skinned natives.
2. Aryan multiple migration: Gradual migrations of many Aryan tribes to India. I'm not sure what's their model for the caste system.
3. Vedic continuity theory: Pure propagandist and sometimes ridiculously unscientific. This envisages Indus valley civilization as a proto-Vedic civilization. The caste system was created as a division of labour.

Of course, none of these models bring any kind of solace to the victims of the system(Brahmins to Dalits). The interesting point is the creation of caste system is some kind of a puzzle that everybody wants to crack. But it's not some 19th century racist and narcissist Europeans who first tried to give the answer.

How Varnas were created?
The question was first asked some 2500-3000 years ago by the natives themselves. Poor things! They didn't have modern linguistic studies; there was no archeology; most importantly there were no written records. Unfortunately, they were in no position to check whether their ancestors invaded or migrated. Also, they would be totally unaware that there was a civilization where people when not taking bath would go for trading.

Of course, the first clue was the name itself. Varna, the colour. Sage Bhrigu opines that caste differences were related to skin colour differences. However, sage Bharadwaja rejects it saying that if that's the case all castes are mixed castes. This conversation was described in Mahabharata, which was supposedly composed around 500 BCE. What are the things that could be inferred from here?
1. The caste divisions were no longer 'division of labour', as division of labour would identify a person with a particular Varna based on his work and neither Bhrigu nor Bharadwaja needed to ponder over the question.
2. The castes had become endogamous units and were exclusively determined by birth.
3. Neither of the sages knew that they were the descendents of the invaders.
4. For their obvious sense none of the castes exclusively into the professions dictated by their caste position. Therefore, the 'labour' was not even discussed.
5. Both Bhrigu and Bharadwaja were light skinned.

Just as today even then the question of caste identity became a very puzzling issue and needed to be addressed and justified. And this reasoning and justification ofthe caste system is what led to its eventual "purity-pollution" degradation.

Not so scientific theories:
Krishna said he created Varnas according to character(guna) and Karma. Anyway, our gods' scientific temperament is always a suspect. What can we infer from his words?
1. Krishna himself was dark and that's the reason he didn't even mention about colour differences(Though I wonder what red(Kshatriya) and yellow(Vaishya) colours would mean).
2. Eventhough he was supposed to be god, he was unaware that his ancestors came from outside and imposed the caste system to keep their racial purity.
3. He being a god, infact knew whatever happened some thousand years back(or might be million in those days' system) but since both he and Arjuna being dark skinned, it would be a disgrace to say the truth. If this is the case, Krishna comes across as a god with a very low self-esteem and weak personality(a perfectly expected characters in our gods, no surprises here). Again since the question was asked by Arjuna because of the hereditary nature of the caste, he just cooked up a story.
4. Neither Krishna nor Arjuna were as sharp as Bhrigu and Bharadwaja to observe that people of a caste could take up the occupations of other castes.

Anyway, the damage had been done. Now the answer has been given for the origins of caste system. Only thing left was to enhance the "character" and keep the Karma safe. Here comes Manu with his laws.

The problem with racial construction of caste system is that it won't account for purity and pollution rules which determines not only the sexual relationship but all aspects of life.

Now, only Brahmins and Shudras:
As I have discussed above, the caste identity became hereditary around 2500-3000 years ago. By this time the Vedic religion was spread mostly North and West of India. Its introduction in East and South India was a much later phenomenon. Till 1000-1500 years ago East and South India were having an ideal casteless society where the feudal lords force landless men to work in their fields for next to nothing and force poor/weak family women into prostitution and to their entertainment without any religious justification and holy mythology to go with those practices.

Brahmins, who moved from North-West of India to East and South, were used to take Kshatriyas and Vaishyas granted in that part of India. The rest were of course Shudras but by this time because of purity-pollution rules there was a new community called Asprishyas or untouchables. Neither colour and nor division of labour was the defining of an identity in East and South. Also no priest even considered himself a Brahmin. Though they might have worshipped goddesses or phallus like Brahmins, there could have been hardly any traces of Vedas. Brahmins, who were hardly missionaries, had no option but to divide everyone into either Shudra or Asprishya positions but with varying degrees of purity as it could have been difficult to even move out of the house without those compromises. Of course, as Buddhist, Jain and Shaivite rulers made way to pro-Vedic rulers, the caste rules were implemented in the society, probably around 1000-1500 years ago.

What was in the beginning anyway?
I would say, the migration and invasion would have affected a small part of North-West of India(or Pakistan or Southern Afghanistan). Well, none of Vedic scripts seem to have any memory of migration from outside. Within few centuries the migrating or invading, the past might have been forgotten. However, since being a small community, Indo-Aryans might have developed marital relationship with other communities. The priests of Indo-Aryans might have marital relationships with priests of Dravidian and Semitic communities. As time passed, may be around 500-600 years after invasion/migration the individual classes became self-sustained in marital relationships because of bigger close family numbers and marriages became increasingly within the community. Probably, for the last 2000-2500 years there is hardly any mixing of blood between various castes. I would say, Brahmins might be least mixed especially the ones who moved South and they represent the original genetic make up of North-West of India from 3500BP to 2500BP.

Brahmins have Y-Haplogroup H, L, R2, J2b2 around 50-60% and these form 80-90% of other caste South Indian population. However, I don't think there were lot of intermixing (especially male lines) between these two groups. I would propose that those Haplogroups in fact throwback to North-West Indian genetic make up during a period when caste identities were just occupation markers and not represented the purity of birth. I would predict, South Indian Brahmins would make a close cluster with North-West Indian or Pakistani populations with rare to non-existent R1b, E and I Haplogroups(as these are mostly historical).