Monday, August 27, 2007

The Tulu Tribes - III

The various cultural groups that became part of Tulu tribes are;
1. Native tribes - Matriarchal/spirit worshippers - mtDNA M
2. Iranians - Asura worshippers
3. Dravidians - horse mounted warrior worshippers

1. Native tribes:
Most of the anthropologists do not believe that matriarchy ever existed and vote only for matriliny. In my opinion, Tulu tribes might have had a matriarchal society initially even as they made the transition to non-tribal* way of life.

The Pandya connection:
Present day Malayalis consider Chera kingdom as native to the region. I just think that is Tamil imperialism. Also, Tulu speaking region never had any connection with Chera kingdom. Since I believe Tulu and Malayali speaking communities came from the common cultural root I have been hoping for a kingdom that has been part of both of these community legends.

The other day, I came across a passage from Megasthenes' Indika.

But those who live near the sea have no kings.. The Pandaean nation is governed by females, and their first queen is said to have been the daughter of Hercules.

Let's forget all those Greek fantastic legends. I think that Pandya region could have been Kerala. The legend of maMgaLe after whom the city of Mangalore is believed to be named also consists few curious facts. Mangale was said to be the queen from Kerala, the region that was governed by females**.

The Tulu region also has an interesting connection to Pandya and matrilineal tradition. According to the legend of Bhutala Pandya, he (Bhutala Pandya or Jaya Pandya) inherited the kingdom from his maternal uncle Deva Pandya and established matrilineal tradition in the whole kingdom.

The manuscript that contains this legend appeared suddenly in 19th century in Tulu region. As of now, legal experts consider it a forgery/hoax with some ulterior motives(the manuscript also describes the matrilineal inheritance rules and caste rules and initially made the basis for matrilineal judicial laws during British rule). The legend also dates the period of this event around 77 CE. However, kings/chieftains with surname Pandya appeared only in 13-14 century in Tulu region.

Whatever be the authenticity of the manuscript, I find it is interesting that matrilineal tradition is associated with kings named Pandya. There were only few kings with that family name. Why the legend didn't make use of more well known and the longest ruling family like Alupa? Of course, Pandya-s who later ruled Tamil region were patriarchal. There could have been cultural changes by that time.

In my opinion, the region of Tulu and Malayalam were initially matriarchal. When the power passed from females to males the children of the ruling matriarchal houses inherited the throne. The transition from female inheritance to male inheritance of the throne was probably brought about patriarchal interlude in these two regions.

In the case of Tulu region, Kadamba period and in the case of Malayali region Ay, Ezhimalai and Chera period are those interludes. After the downfall of these kingdoms the local chieftainship passed to sons of erstwhile ruling matriarch families. The complete patriarchization was probably prevented as the families in this region did not incorporate marriage rules of patriarchal communities. By this time the native tribes might have been overwhelmed by Dravidian speakers( I believe initially patriarchal) who took up the native tradition and also assimilated Iranians speakers.

2. Iranians:
I believe there could have been some migration by Iranian speakers because of the legend of Asura king Bali. He is revered by both Tulu and Malayali communities. Please check Ravi Mundkur's posts at Tulu Research. They might have migrated along with Dravidian speakers.

3. Dravidians:
In my opinion, Dravidians were originally a pastoral community and worshipped the deity who protected them. A horse mounted deity is very common to lower classes in South India. Even though nowadays the deity is worshipped as an incarnation of Shiva or Vishnu etc... the old depiction is that of a warrior astride the horse. The deity is known by various names.

Maharashtra (herders) -> Khandoba
Andhra Pradesh (herders)-> Mallanna
Karnataka (herders) -> Mailara
Karnataka (Hallaki tribe) -> Bommayya
Karnataka (Tulu region) -> Bermer
Tamil Nadu -> Ayyanar
Kerala -> Sastha

I have not come across any source where it is mentioned that Mallanna in Andhra Pradesh or Mailara in Karnataka is a warrior mounted on the horse. But Khandoba, a pastoral horse mounted deity, has been equated with these two deities.

Probably, the original name of the deity could have been close to Bomm* or Berm* (-ayya and -er are honorifics in Kannada and Tulu respectively) as the Dravidian tribes supposedly inhabited the region close to Semitic tribes. I have already speculated about Abraham and Bermer.

* The tribal matriliny/matriarchy isn't a solid societal structure.

** The female rule phenomenon could be found in epic Mahabharata. However, the region itself had only females. That probably is some kind of fantasy. But in the case of Megasthenes' Pandya-s, he mentioned that kingdom had men and females bore children by the age of six!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Absurdities of caste genetic studies

The population genetic studies on caste population that began truly with Bamshad et al. (2001) study has seen many additions in the last six years. In one of my previous posts I had discussed about total lack of knowledge on part of Geneticists about internal migrations of Indians and the unique political developments in central and eastern India.

Aryan Invasion Theory and Bamshad et al.
The mainstream anthropologists now mostly hold Aryan Migration Theory in place of Aryan Invasion Theory. However, this study conducted thousand miles away from the region of putative Aryan invasion concluded that Aryans indeed invaded and developed the caste system.

The study has following drawbacks:
a. Kshatriya problem
-> It cannot distinguish Y-Hg-R1a1 of so-called Aryans( a misnomer in my opinion) from that of later invaders.
-> East and Central Indian tribes did become Kshatriyas married other ruling families (See my post: Identities - II)
b. Dravidian genes
-> Even today Dravidian genetic composition is unclear. The biggest Indian Y-Haplogroup H is too old in India to be associated with any linguistic family.
c. R1a1 problem
-> The idea behind selecting a South Indian state being north India was too much mixed with the later invaders to retain the purity of original Aryan composition. However, this does not negate the fact that Haplogroup R1a1 is observed in similar frequencies across caste groups in north India. The only problem is zaka (Indo-Scythian) R1a1 as they are thought to be from the region inhabited by older R1a1 migrants. Therefore, their composition might have been similar.
d. Clustering for various castes
-> According to Bamshad et al. upper castes cluster together with East Europeans and lower castes with East Asians(Asian in the study). However, some of the later studies have shown conflicting results on this. One of the studies has found Indians forming genetic continuum from west Asia/East Europe to East Asian/SE Asia. Another has found Indians (upper and lower included) forming their own cluster and being significantly closer to Europeans than to East Asians. Of course, Europeans include West Asians which is rather absurd. However, all these show non-reliability of autosomal analysis. Probably, overemphasis of known markers of European population in the studies might be the reason behind it.

Semitic Introgression Theory(SIT) and Sahoo et al. (2006)
Also, studies can be used to prove some of the other theories too. Let us consider my theory. Keeping Austro-Asiatics and Dravidians out of it, I propose two main migrations that overlapped in the single word Aryan migration.

1. European Migration: Defining haplogroup R1a1. Migratin from European lands to South Asia via Central Asia. Period 5000 BCE to 2000 BCE. These people mostly came as refugees and labourers to present day Iranian and Indian lands. Indologist like Michael Witzel believes there could have been only few Indo-Aryan speaking migrants who spread their languages due to Elite Domination. I think that is only true for western and southern European countries.

Consider Greece. Greeks have R1a1 frequency around 10-15% same as that of Dravidians. That shows Elite Domination is responsible for the spread of an IE language in Greece. However, Indo-Aryan speaking population in north-west India and Pakistan carry this lineage at around 30-40%. That is a huge number. That probably shows European pastorals migrating to South Asia in search of greener pastures spread their language because of sheer numbers. Probably, were helped by IE-ised Aryan migration from west Asia as an elite society in the later stage.

2. Semitic Introgression: Defining haplogroups J2a and G2. Migrants from Iran and Caucasus. Also spoke Indo-Iranian languages. The self identification of these people is 'Arya'. The original language could have been different. However, the huge migration from eastern Europeans to eastern Iran and southern Caucasus changed the linguistic profile. These people heraled Vedic civilization that blended eastern European gods and classes with western Asian purity-pollution rules.

From Norse mythology it is clear that early PIE society had three fold varNa (colour) system or had three classes.
Vedic India had four fold varNa system
I have discussed about this in one of my previous post. We have already seen that herders position became low or became equal to that of serfs or zUdra

The Aryan Invasion Theory believes the natives became part of zUdra. However, SIT believes since the caste system with purity and pollution rules has nothing to do with original European society even the other eastern European migrants must have been degenerated into lower castes. It has nothing to do with racial purity of Europeans but rather deals with racial purity of West Asians.

Sahoo et al. (2006) study "Phylogeography of Mitochondrial DNA and Y-Chromosome Haplogroups Reveal Asymmetric Gene Flow in Populations of Eastern India" examines four castes from Orissa.

Brahmins (upper castes)
Karan and Khandayat (middle castes)- scribes(?) and Kshatriya
Gope (lower caste) - herders

The study makes an observation;
Analysis of Y-chromosomes revealed that the average
genetic distance between Orissa Brahmins and Eastern
Europeans (0.066) is relatively less than the distance
between Eastern Europeans and the Karan (0.098), Khandayat
(0.150), or Gope (0.067). Since both upper and lower
caste populations, i.e., the Brahmins and Gope, were
closer to Europeans and Central Asians, than were the
middle caste populations, the Karan and Khandayat, this
indicated that genetic distances have no correlation with
their position in the caste hierarchy. Similar findings were
reported by Bamshad et al. (1998) and Wooding et al.

Of course, Bamshad made some other observation after few years. A post at Eurasian Linguistics at yahoo group mentioned that scientists deliberately make controversial statements to attract public interest and funding(especially in population genetics field). Probably, the kind of people they want to attract and who would pour money probably could be gauged from Bamshad et al. (2001) study.

Brahmins and Gopes being close to east Europeans is entirely expected. Interestingly, Khandayat who became Kshatriya are overwhelmingly Y-haplogroup R2. And authors ascribe their origin to tribes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Identities - II

Unstable identities:
Two main unstable identities in India today are tribal and matrilineal. These unstable identities are characterized by;
1. Illiterate traditions until the modern times
2. Easy to manipulate by the communities with the patriarchal identities
3. The development of a sense inferiority associated with the customs part of that identity as the community become literate*. These customs can be either harmful or beneficial or can even be neutral.

Tribal identity in India:
An ideal society is probably a civilized one with a tribal identity. The tribal identity is generally associated with lack of hierarchy. However, my reading of Dravidian tribes (Koitor or Gond) in Central India sort of gives the opposite picture. A tribal society with a civilized identity (caste hierarchies).

Probably, the tribes of Central India are not meant to remain tribes. The Koitor did make a transition to non-tribal form of government in medieval times. However, the required literate tradition probably was filled by the non-tribals from the surrounding area. This was the case with religious tradition too.The tribal shamanic religious tradition was completely devoid of literate tradition.

This phenomenon, Sanskritization in the words of Anthropologist M N Srinivas, has led to the caste mobility and caste stagnation in the case of Koitor tribes. Instead of Koitor as a whole making a transition to mainstream life only the ruling elites have become Kshatriya and the rest have remained tribal. In my opinion, the tribal hood of Koitor is not their ancestral state but a derived state from caste structure. Though Srinivas coined Sanskritization and extensively used caste mobility in his writings, forgot to coin the terms for degradation for many communities, never part of the caste system, once they become part of caste mainstream. However, Srinivas noticed the absurdity of caste mobility attempts by people by changing the names of their castes or by inventing some mythological greatness/heritage.

This situation is observed, not for good reasons, in Andhra Pradesh too. Here certain families of tribes have become Kshatriya but have not completely lost their tribal identities. But most of them now an endogamous entity themselves. Some of these Kshatriya-s contest in the elections in the seats reserved for tribes. For obvious reasons, Supreme Court of India does not recognize them as tribes and in few instances have disqualified them from continuing as Member of Parliament or Member of Legislative Assembly.

Matrilineal identity:
When I started to understand the matrilineal identity of myself three years back, I started with a rather ideal form of life( probably a matriarchal one). Not only I have lost all those ideas (that anthropologists had given up a century back) I am increasingly looking at it as an unstable identity. The fundamentals of such an identity do not protect it from patriarchal over lordship.

Kerala society for most part of the history was under partrilineanl Tamil kings(Ezhimalai, Ay and Chera)** and later under elite society of patrilineal Namboodiri-s. It should be noted here that many rulers where themselves sons of Namboodiri-s. Therefore, the ground reality was ruling class was part of patrilineal society. If a population geneticist comes and does a study of Brahmin-s and Kshatriya-s of Kerala most probably s/he would observe that they make a separate cluster exclusive of other castes of Kerala. I hope that total lack of knowledge of historical accounts that characterized Bamashad et al. (2001) study won't be repeated.

Matrilineal Tuluva society probably because of Jain ruling class(which was also matrilineal) did not show the extreme subservience that characterized the Kerala society in the past.

The society of matrilineal ethnic group, Mosuo, in China probably best illustrates the drawbacks of matrilineal society. This society is very similar to matrilineal Malayali society.

From Wikipedia article:

There is also a very important historical component which is often unknown to (or ignored by) those studying the Mosuo. Historically, the Mosuo actually had a feudal system in which a small “nobility” controlled a larger “peasant” population. The Mosuo nobility practiced a more ‘traditional' patriarchal system, which encouraged marriage (usually within the ‘nobility'), and in which men were the head of the house.

It has been theorized that the “matriarchal” system of the lower classes may have been enforced (or at least encouraged) by the higher classes as a way of preventing threats to their own power. Since leadership was hereditary, and determined through the male family line, it virtually eliminated potential threats to leadership by having the peasant class trace their lineage through the female line. Therefore, attempts to depict the Mosuo culture as some sort of idealized “matriarchal” culture in which women have all the rights, and where everyone has much more freedom, are often based on lack of knowledge of this history; the truth is that for much of their history, the Mosuo ‘peasant' class were subjugated and sometimes treated as little better than slaves.

* "Aliya Santana Kattu", a research work by Shankara Bhat on the judicial laws of matrilineal communities, mentions that Tulu communities felt low and disappointed that their kind of marriage was not considered as a true marriage by other Hindu communities in India. This resulted in rapid changes in marriage customs that more or less conformed with other Hindu marriage customs.

** The transition from patrilineal Tamil kings to matrilineal Malayali chieftains could be observed in the development of local dialect(Malayalam) as the official language. As long as Chera kings ruled that area most of the works that came out were in Tamil.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Two Ridiculous Studies on Obesity

Obesity 'triggers' disease fears

They found, for some people, the sight of obesity sparked strong subconscious reactions, such as disgust.

The Evolution and Human Behaviour study suggests this is part of a deep-seated behavioural reponse designed to help detect and avoid those with infections.

"Our results suggest that it might be ameliorated through interventions that focus on individual's often irrational concerns about infectious disease."

Obesity 'contagious', experts say

Having a friend, sibling or spouse who is overweight raises a person's risk of being obese too, US researchers say.

"Rather, there is a direct, causal relationship. What appears to be happening is that a person becoming obese most likely causes a change of norms about what counts as an appropriate body size."

"People come to think that it is OK to be bigger since those around them are bigger, and this sensibility spreads."