Dravidian peoples

Dravidian peoples
Dravidische Sprachen.png
Areas in South Asia where Dravidian languages are presently spoken
Total population
approx. 217 million  
Regions with significant populations
           Andra Pradesh
           Tamil Nadu
 Sri Lanka

Dravidian languages


Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity

Related ethnic groups

Brahui people · Gondi people · Kannadigas · Kodavas · Malayalis · Telugus · Tamils · Tuluvas · Indo-Aryan peoples

'Dravidian peoples also ' is a term used to refer to the diverse groups of people who natively speak languages belonging to the Dravidian language family. Populations of speakers of around 220 million are found mostly in Southern India. Other Dravidian people are found in parts of central India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The most populous Dravidian people are the Telugus, Tamils, Kannadigas and the Malayalis. Smaller Dravidian communities with 1–5 million speakers are the Tuluvas, Gonds and Brahui.



The English word Dravidian was first employed by Robert Caldwell in his book of comparative Dravidian grammar based on the usage of the Sanskrit word drāvida in the work Tantravārttika by Kumārila Bhaṭṭa (Zvelebil 1990:xx). The origin of the Sanskrit word drāviḍa, there have been various theories proposed. These theories are about the direction of derivation between tamiẓ and drāviḍa. Lnguists such as Zvelebil assert that the direction is tamiẓ >drāviḍa (ibid. page xxi). The word Dravida may also have its origin from Sanskrit 'drava' – meaning "flowing" or "watery",.[1]


Origins of Dravidian people are informed by various theories proposed by linguists, anthropologists, geneticist and historians. According to geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza in the book The History and Geography of Human Genes, the Dravidians were preceded in the subcontinent by an Austro-Asiatic people, and were followed by Indo-European-speaking migrants sometime later.

Some linguists believe that Dravidian-speaking people were spread throughout the Indian subcontinent before a series of Indo-Aryan migrations. In this view, the early Indus Valley civilization (Harappa and Mohenjo Daro) is often identified as having been Dravidian.[2] Cultural and linguistic similarities have been cited by researchers such as Finnish Indologist Asko Parpola as being strong evidence for a proto-Dravidian origin of the ancient Indus Valley civilization.

Some scholars like J. Bloch and M. Witzel believe that the Indo-Aryan moved into an already Dravidian speaking area after the oldest parts of the Rig Veda were already composed.[3] The Brahui population of Balochistan has been taken by some as the linguistic equivalent of a relict population, perhaps indicating that Dravidian languages were formerly much more widespread and were supplanted by the incoming Indo-Aryan languages.[4]

Thomason & Kaufman (1988) state that there is strong evidence that Dravidian influenced Indic through "shift", that is, native Dravidian speakers learning and adopting Indic languages. Erdosy (1995:18) states that the most plausible explanation for the presence of Dravidian structural features in Old Indo-Aryan is that the majority of early Old Indo-Aryan speakers had a Dravidian mother tongue which they gradually abandoned. Even though the innovative traits in Indic could be explained by multiple internal explanations, early Dravidian influence is the only explanation that can account for all of the innovations at once – it becomes a question of explanatory parsimony; moreover, early Dravidian influence accounts for the several of the innovative traits in Indic better than any internal explanation that has been proposed.[5] Zvelebil remarks[6] that "Several scholars have demonstrated that pre-Indo-Aryan and pre-Dravidian bilingualism in India provided conditions for the far-reaching influence of Dravidian on the Indo-Aryan tongues in the spheres of phonology, syntax and vocabulary".

Genetic anthropology

Genetic views on race differ in their classification of Dravidians. Classical anthropologists, such as Carleton S. Coon in his 1939 work The Races of Europe, argued that Ethiopia in Northeast Africa and India in South Asia represented the outermost peripheries of the Caucasoid race. In the same vein, the geneticist L.L. Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford, based on work done in the 1980s, classified Indians as being genetically Caucasian. Cavalli-Sforza found that Indians are about three times closer to West Europeans than to East Asians.[7] In the 1960s, genetic anthropologist Stanley Marion Garn considered the entirety of the Indian subcontinent to be a "race" genetically distinct from other populations.[7][8] More recently, other geneticists, such as Lynn B. Jorde and Stephen P. Wooding, demonstrated that South Indians are genetic intermediaries between Europeans and East Asians.[9][10][11] Nevertheless, Indians are classified by modern anthropologists as belonging to one of four different morphological or ethno-racial subtypes, although these generally overlap because of admixture: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Australoid and Negrito.[12][13] Dravidians are generally classified as members of the Proto-Australoid or Australoid race. [14][15][16] In one study, southern Indian Dravidians clustered genetically with Tamils, a socially endogamous, predominantly Dravidian-speaking Australoid group.[17]

While a number of earlier anthropologists held the view that the Dravidian peoples together were a distinct race, a small number of genetic studies based on uniparental markers have challenged this view. Some researchers have indicated that both Dravidian and Indo-Aryan speakers are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent; however, this point of view is rejected by most researchers in favor of Indo-Aryan migration, with racial stratification among Indian populations being distributed along caste lines.[18][19][20][21] Because of admixture between Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Australoid racial groups, one cannot speak of a biologically separate "Dravidian race" distinct from non-Dravidians on the Indian subcontinent. However, northern Indians have more in common genetically with Central Asian/West Eurasian populations than southern Indian or Dravidian populations, who are more similar to East Asians, further demonstrating that there still exist significant genetic differences between Indo-European- and Dravidian-speaking populations.[22]

In a 2009 study of 132 individuals, 560,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 25 different Indian groups were analyzed, providing strong evidence in support of the notion that modern Indians (both Indo-Aryan and Dravidian groups) are a hybrid population descending from two post-Neolithic, genetically divergent populations referred to as the 'Ancestral North Indians' and the 'Ancestral South Indians'. According to the study authors, ASI ancestry, which is represented in pure form by the Negrito populations of the Andamanese archipelago, is significantly correlated with Dravidian speakers, suggesting that ASI may have been a Dravidian-speaking population before mixing with ancestral ANI groups.[23] The intermingling of ANI's and ASI's happened in the same period as the ANI's first appeared, 1,200-3,500 years ago, which roughly coincides with the Indo-Aryan invasion of the Indian subcontinent.[24]


The best-known Dravidian languages are Tamil (தமிழ்), Telugu (తెలుగు), Kannada (ಕನ್ನಡ) and Malayalam (മലയാളം). There are three subgroups within the Dravidian language family: North Dravidian, Central Dravidian, and South Dravidian, matching for the most part the corresponding regions in the Indian subcontinent.

Dravidian languages are spoken by more than 200 million people. They appear to be unrelated to languages of other known families like Indo-European, specifically Indo-Aryan, which is the other common language family on the Indian subcontinent.

Dravidian grammatical impact on the structure and syntax of Indo-Aryan languages is considered far greater than the Indo-Aryan grammatical impact on Dravidian. Some linguists explain this anomaly by arguing that Middle Indo-Aryan and New Indo-Aryan were built on a Dravidian substratum.[25]

Ethnic identity

Concept of the Dravidian people

The term Dravidian is taken from the Sanskrit term Dravida, historically referring to Tamil.[26] It was adopted following the publication of Robert Caldwell's Comparative grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian family of languages (1856); a publication that established the language grouping as one of the major language groups of the world. Over seventy-three languages are presently listed as Dravidian.[27] Further, the languages are spread out and cover parts of India, south eastern Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.[28] Robert Caldwell was an Anglican missionary and used the term Dravidian to refer to the people of South India.[29]

Although in modern times speakers of the various Dravidian languages have mainly occupied the southern portion of India, nothing definite is known about the ancient domain of the Dravidian parent speech. It is, however, a well-established and well-supported hypothesis that Dravidian speakers must have been widespread throughout India, including the northwest region.[30]

List of Dravidian peoples

  • Bhil: Mostly found in the Tharparkar district of Sindh in Pakistan
  • Bonda: People belonging to the Munda subgroup, mostly found in the isolated hill regions of the Malkangiri district of southwesternmost Orissa, India, near the junction of the three states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Brahui people: People belonging to the north-Dravidian subgroup, mostly found in the Balochistan province of Pakistan.
  • Gond people: A prominent group of Dravidian-speaking tribal people inhabiting the central region of India.
  • Kannadiga: People belonging to the south-Dravidian subgroup. Mostly found in Karnataka and parts of northern Kerala and parts of southern Maharashtra.
  • Khonds/Kondha: Tribal people who speak the Dravidian Kui language. Mostly found in the eastern Indian states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Kodavas : People belonging to the south-Dravidian subgroup, found in Karnataka and parts of northern Kerala who speak the Kodava language.
  • Kurukh: People belonging to the north-Dravidian subgroup. Found in India and Bangladesh. It is the only Dravidian language indigenous in Bangladesh.
  • Malayali: People belonging to the south-Dravidian subgroup found primarily in Kerala.
  • Tamil: These people belong to south-Dravidian linguistic subgroup. Mostly found in Tamil Nadu, Singapore, Andaman and Nicobar, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and parts of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and South Africa.
  • Telugus: These people belong to south-Dravidian subgroup (formerly classified with the Central Dravidian but now more specifically in the South Dravidian II or South Central Dravidian inner branch of the South Dravidian (Krishnamurti 2003:p19)). Mostly found in Andhra Pradesh also in Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
  • Tuluvas: People belonging to the south Dravidian subgroup, found in coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala, alternatively named Tulu Nadu.

See also


  1. ^ Macdonell, Arthur Anthony, "A practical Sanskrit dictionary with transliteration, accentuation, and etymological analysis throughout", London, Oxford University Press, 1929 – http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/macdonell/
  2. ^ Stone celts in Harappa
  3. ^ (see Bryant 2001: chapter 5)
  4. ^ (Mallory 1989)
  5. ^ Thomason & Kaufman (1988:141–144)
  6. ^ Dravidian languages – Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  7. ^ a b Robert Jurmain, Lynn Kilgore, Wenda Trevathan, and Harry Nelson. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. 9th ed. (Canada: Thompson Learning, 2003)
  8. ^ Garn SM. Coon. On the Number of Races of Mankind. In Garn S, editor. Readings on race. Springfield C.C. Thomas.
  9. ^ Jorde LB, Wooding SP (Nov 2004). "Genetic variation, classification and 'race'". Nature genetics 36 (11 Suppl): S28–33. doi:10.1038/ng1435. PMID 15508000. http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v36/n11s/full/ng1435.html. 
  10. ^ Bamshad MJ, Wooding S, Watkins WS, Ostler CT, Batzer MA, Jorde LB (Mar 2003). "Human population genetic structure and inference of group membership". Am J Hum Genet. 72 (3): 578–89. doi:10.1086/368061. PMC 1180234. PMID 12557124. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=1180234. 
  11. ^ Rosenberg NA, Pritchard JK, Weber JL, et al. (Dec 2002). "Genetic structure of human populations". Science 298 (5602): 2381–5. Bibcode 2002Sci...298.2381R. doi:10.1126/science.1078311. PMID 12493913. 
  12. ^ The Indian Genome Variation database (IGVdb): a project overview, "... All the four major morphological types—Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Australoid and Negrito are present in the Indian population (Malhotra 1978). The ‘‘Caucasoid’’ and ‘‘Mongoloid’’ populations are mainly concentrated in the north and northeastern parts of the country. The ‘‘Australoids’’ are mostly confined to the central, western and southern India, while the ‘‘Negritos’’ are restricted only to the Andaman Islands (CavalliSforza et al. 1994) (Fig. 1)." 
  13. ^ Genetic structure of Indian populations based on fifteen autosomal microsatellite loci, "... Anthropologically, the populations are grouped into four major ethnic categories, which include the Australoid, Indo-Caucasoid, Indo-Mongoloid and Negrito populations and linguistically broadly classified as Indo-European, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic and Sino-Tibetan speakers." 
  14. ^ Gene differentiation among ten endogamous groups of West Bengal, India, "... Since in the current ethnohistoric literature the terms Caucasoid and Proto-Australoid are commonly used to indicate Indo-Aryan and Dravidian ancestry, in this paper we will use the terminology of Caucasoid for Indo-Aryan and Proto-Australoid for Dravidian interchangeably." 
  15. ^ Genetic heterogeneity of population structure in 15 major scheduled tribes in central-eastern India: A study of immuno-hematological disorders, "... The tribes in Orissa, as in the whole of India, are by no means homogeneous in their history, language, culture or social organization. It may be mentioned here that the major tribes of Orissa belong to three linguistic groups, namely, Indo-Aryan or Indo-Europeans (Non-Australoid), Austro-Asiatic (Mundari) speakers (Proto-Australoid) and Dravidian (Gondi or Kuvi) speakers (Australoid). Mundari speakers (Austro-Asiatic) belong to Proto-Australoid racial group, which include Bhumiz, Gadaba, Juang, Kharia, Koda, Kolha, Mahali, Mirdha, Munda, Santal and Saora tribes. The Northern Mundari comprise of tribes such as the Bhumiz, Juang, Kharia, Kolha or Ho, Korku, Munda and Santal; and from the southern region, the Southern Mundari covering the tribes, namely, Bonda, Didayi, Gadaba, Parenga and Saora. Tribes like Bathudi, Bhatra, Binjhal, Bhuyan, Lodha and Saunti are Indo-Aryan or Indo-European speakers and belong to non-Australoid racial stock. The Dravidian (Kuvi or Gondi) speaker group belongs to Australoid racial stock and includes Gond, Kondh, Kissan oraon, Paraja and Pentia Halva tribes." 
  16. ^ EVALUATION OF PLASMA HORMONE CONCENTRATIONS USING ENZYMEIMMUNOASSAY/ENZYME-LINKED IMMUNOSORBENT ASSAY IN HEALTHY INDIAN MEN: EFFECT OF ETHNICITY, "... They belonged to the following : Rajput, Gorkha and South Indian. They represent different geographical, ecological and cultural settings of India. The Rajputs are from northwest India (Rajasthan), the Gorkhas are basically sub-mountainous people living in northern parts of India and South Indians are people from southern parts (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu) of the country. Place of origin and age (i.e., date of birth) were self-reported. Based on morpholinguistic classification of the Indian population (4): Caucasoid=Indo-European (Rajputs), Mongoloid=Tibeto-Burman (Gorkhas) and Australoid=Dravidian (South Indians) subtypes." 
  17. ^ [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14763604/ Microsatellite Diversity among Three Endogamous Tamil Populations Suggests Their Origin from a Separate Dravidian Genetic Pool], "... Population groups inhabiting Tamil Nadu have the distinction of belonging to the Dravidian linguistic family and are predominantly of Australoid ethnicity ... In the study reported here, we attempt to verify the indigenous origin of the Dravidian linguistic group represented by the three endogamous Australoid groups from Tamil Nadu as a separate genetic pool and analyze the extent of diversity and gene flow among them using autosomal microsatellite markers ... The NJ dendrogram also suggests a strong association between the migrant Indian population in United Arab Emirates and Dravidian populations of India [including all 3 Tamil populations in Fig.3], which can be expected since a considerable number of the southern Indian Dravidians reside in the Emirates." 
  18. ^ http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982204000405
  19. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2621241/
  20. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19058044
  21. ^ The Human Genetic History of South Asia, "... Historical and anthropological studies suggest that in the establishment of the caste system in India there have been varying levels of admixture between the tribal people of India and the later immigrants bringing along with them agriculture, pottery and metals from central and west Asia. In other words, castes of different ranks in the contemporary Hindu society putatively have had different degrees of admixture with immigrants into India from central and west Asia. The immigrants from central and west Asia who likely entered India through the north-western corridor, spread to most areas of northern India, but not to southern India. In other words, southern and northern India had differential inputs of genes from central and west Asia. This differential admixture is expected to have differential impacts on the genetic structures of castes of different ranks." 
  22. ^ http://genome.cshlp.org/content/13/10/2277.short
  23. ^ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2842210/
  24. ^ http://www.ichg2011.org/cgi-bin/ichg11s?author=Moorjani%20P&sort=ptimes&sbutton=Detail&absno=20758&sid=15004
  25. ^ Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju (2003) The Dravidian Languages Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-77111-0 at p. 40-41.
  26. ^ Annamalai, E. (2003-11-07). "Facts about Dravidian languages". The Hindu (Chennai, India). http://www.hindu.com/fline/fl2022/stories/20031107000807300.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  27. ^ Ethnologue study
  28. ^ Dravidian language family study
  29. ^ P. 678 Dancing With Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism, By Himalayan Academy, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, Master Subramuniya.
  30. ^ "Dravidian languages." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 5 June 2008


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