The Iranian connection of the Kumlbi



We seem to be leading to a sharp bend in our story. Up to now we have held that the kumlbi along with similar communities spread across the Indian peninsula, which we have collectively called the kur group of communities, could be the descendants of the Out of Africa dispersals, and therefore adivasi (ab-origine) in the true sense. But there is one discrepancy in such a hypothesis; the veda or vedar or vedan, also called veddahs and wanniya-laeto, who appear to be very different from the kur, seem to have preceded the kur; the vetuvan and irula could also belong to the same group of communities. [Once Upon A Time, March 24, 2019]

New information seems to suggest that while the vedar group could be the adivasi, which is the descendants of the Out of Africa dispersals, the kur may be carrying another ancestry besides the native; its native lineage could be from the vedar.

Which is this ‘another ancestry’ that the kur carry ? Three recent studies by Sylvester et al in South Kanara district of Karnataka could change our understanding of the kur origins. The studies cover two tribal groups, uralikuruman and melakudiya. Uralikuruman are a sub-group of the bigger community of kuruman, called variously as kurumba or kuruba, and found mainly in Nilgiris and the Wayanad. The kuruman are divided into various sub-groups. On the other side, as we have seen earlier, the kuruman or kurumba belong to an almost pan-Indian community, that we have called the kur community. Irrespective of their geographical location and their cultural traits, they share certain commonalities that suggest that they emanate from a common ethnic stock. [The Kur Community, March 17, 2019]. Therefore, what is true of uralikuruman could be true of the entire kur community.

The melakudiya or malekudiya belong to a larger kudiya community; male kudiya means hill kudiya. [Thurston, 1909: Castes And Tribes Of Southern India, Volume 4, 96]. They are found at Neriya, Darmasthala, and Sisila in the South Kanara district of Karnataka. Kudiya is a relatively small community, and is different from the rest of the tribal communities in the area; according to Thurston, except in stature, they do not have the characteristics of a primitive race, and, as the result of racial admixture, or contact metamorphosis, some individuals are to be seen with comparatively lighter skin and narrower noses.

According to the study by Sylvester et al, uralikuruman exhibit 80 per cent of haplo group F-M89 lineage, indicating local origin; haplo groups F-M89 and H-M69 are supposed to have evolved within Indian sub-continent and constitute 25 per cent – 31 per cent of the Y-chromosome lineages (ancestry on the male side) in the country. Same lineages have been detected in other hilltop dwelling tribal populations of the Nilgiri–Wayanad–Kodagu belt. As against this, the melakudiya, geographically located in the same Nilgiri–Wayanad–Kodagu belt, exhibit a higher lineage from haplo group K-M9 and L-M11, both of which are of Near Eastern origin. The mitochondrial DNA (ancestry on the female side) of the melakudiya also shows the presence of Near Eastern element HV14 and U7, traced back to Iranian Plateau, sharing a maternal ancestry with the Iranians and the Pamiris of Tajikistan.[Sylvester et al, 2019b :Y-Chromosome Marker Characterisation of Epipaleolithic and Neolithic Groups of Southern India, in Proc Natl Acad Sci, India; Sylvester et al, 2018: Neolithic phylogenetic continuity inferred from complete mitochondrial DNA sequences in a tribal population of Southern India, in Genetica]. What this means is that the migration that gave the Near Eastern ancestry to the melakudiya was not sex selective, that is, both males and females migrated. According to Sylvester this could have happened towards the end of the last Ice Age. How the migrants reached so deep in the south in the Indian peninsula and remained so restricted geographically, is a matter for investigation.

The uralikuruman appear to be highly autochthonous (no genetic input from outside the region) with respect to the paternal lineage, in the case of the maternal lineage they share ancestry with native Iranians. The results revealed a combination of Near Eastern (Iranian) haplogroup U1a and Indian-specific haplogroup R30a with the emergence of novel sub-haplogroups R30a1c1 andU1a1c1d2a.[Sylvester et al, 2019a :Maternal Genetic Link Of A South Dravidian Tribe With Native Iranians Indicating Bidirectional Migration, in Annals of Human Biology]. This is a very interesting result; it suggests sex-selective and bi-directional migration. What this means is that there was a migration of Indian males into Iran and union with Iranian females carrying haplogroup U1a and a reverse migration of Iranian males into India and union with Indian females carrying haplogroup R30a. This genetic exchange could have happened around 6,000 BCE to 4,000 BCE. It is difficult to visualise the context of such an exchange. What adds to the enigma is the lack of Iranian ancestry on the paternal side of the uralikuruman. But then, the melakudiya in the same Nilgiri–Wayanad–Kodagu belt exhibit Iranian ancestry on both paternal and maternal side. Do the kudiya belong to the kur community? It is reasonable to suppose so, given the fact that almost all primitive communities in at least Deccan seem to have come from a common ethnic stock, except the vedar. At some point of time, in the range of 6,000 BCE to 4,000 BCE perhaps, the Indian autochthonous substratum, possibly vedar, seems to have had an encounter with the incoming Near Eastern farmers, producing the kur community; some of the vedar could have also spread to Near East. This sort of bi-directional movement is indicative of trade; mere spread of farming does not generate such patterns of travel.

For long we have supposed that the Iranian stock – the Zagros farmers – that we have called the ksatriya, mixed with the kur ancestry to produce the Indo-Gangetic ksatriya and then the Deccan ksatriya. If we accept the fact that the kur community is a result of the admixture of native Indian and Near Eastern ancestries, it calls for a drastic revision of our model of peopling of India. We do not have a problem of mismatch of dates here; the dates that we have worked with for the infusion of the ksatriya ancestry into India would fit well with the coalescence ages estimated for the relevant haplogroups.