The North-South Cline

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TENSING RODRIGUES

Finding the contours of the kur and Deccan ksatriya inhabitation is the task that we have set before ourselves. Let us first reiterate the similarity and difference between these two communities, both produced by the fusion of native Indian and Near Eastern (Iranian) ancestries. Kur is an almost pan-Indian community to which kumlbi, kunbi, kurmi, kudubi, kurni, kanbi, kuruba, kurumba, etc belong. They are always designated as ‘tribal’, different from ‘caste’ population. As against this, the Deccan ksatriya are always designated as ‘caste’ population; though they have usually been relegated to the position of sudra in the caturvarnvyavastha. Based on the genetic studies done on uralikuruman and melakudiya, and assuming that the two are good specimen of kur and the Deccan ksatriya respectively, we can conclude that while the kur carry a trace of the Near Eastern ancestry on the maternal side, on the paternal side they have 80 per cent native Indian ancestry. What this means is that at some point of time, possibly around 6,000 BCE to 4,000 BCE, native males married Near Eastern females. It is difficult to visualise such a possibility, except in a situation where native males travelled to the Near East, or at least to where they came in contact with Near Eastern population. Trade could be a reason for the encounter.

The Deccan ksatriya carry significant traces of Near Eastern ancestry on both the paternal and maternal sides. What this means is that at some point of time there was a bidirectional exchange of genes – native males travelled out and married Near Eastern females and Near Eastern males came into the peninsula marrying native females. Here again the trade could be the reason. We have indeed come across evidence, though not very strong, of such trade happening at a very early period [The Bhil, June 30, 2019; The 7,500 BCE Deluge, September 8, 2019]. Having said that, let us not forget that the native Indian ancestry dominates in both the kur and the Deccan ksatriya. And that makes it fairly difficult to distinguish between the two in practice. What complicates the task further is the fact that there still exist communities that carry almost exclusively native Indian ancestry; distinguishing them from the kur is indeed difficult.

Let us now try to draw the contours of the inhabitation of the kur, Deccan ksatriya and the aborigines (those who carry exclusively native Indian ancestry). In the absence of any definitive data on the aborigines, and any genetic studies on them, preponderance of probability suggests that the vedar or vedan may be a good specimen of such a community. So we look for major areas of inhabitation of the vedar.

Vedar find mention in the District Manuals of North Arcot, Madurai, Coimbatore, Salem and Travancore of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. From the locations of these districts, it is obvious that they were spread across the Tamil territory. But most of the District Manuals also mention that their number has dwindled over time. It could be that the population of vedar itself has dwindled, or that they have moved elsewhere. Elsewhere cannot be in the adjoining Kannad or Andhra territory, for there are no mentions thereof in anthropological literature. One possibility is that, due to onslaught of ‘civilisation’, they sought refuge among their kin in the jungles of adjoining Sri Lanka. The occurrence of vedar is much higher there. Sri Lanka was connected to peninsular India by a land bridge which allowed hominins and fauna to move back and forth at least since 60,000 BCE till about 5,000 BCE. Hominin skeletal remains at the Batadomba-lenaand Fa-Hien Cave locations have been dated to about 30,000 BCE, while the stone tools at the locations have been dated to approximately 21,000 BCE. The discovery of microlithic artifacts in association with hominin fossils has led many scholars to believe that these could be settlements of early anatomically modern humans [Herrera et al, 2018: Ancestral DNA, Human Origins And Migrations, 242] they could be the ancestors of the vedar.

Does that suggest that the vedar migrated from Sri Lanka into the tamil territory? Could that further suggest that the early humans or pre-humans who came out of Africa went along the western coast of the Indian peninsula and crossed over to the eastern coast through the Palk Strait between Ramesvaram (India) and Talaimannar (Sri Lanka)? Stone tools dated to about 2,00,000 BCE have been found at Attirampakkam, located about 500 kilometres north of Ramesvaram.

We can reasonably surmise that the aborigine population spread into the Indian peninsula from the south. That could be anytime around 60,000 to 40,000 BCE, going by the accepted time of departure of AMH from Africa. In the next 50,000 years or less they could have spread across the Indian sub-continent, to constitute the native Indian ancestry. They could have encountered another ancestry, the ksatriya or the Near Eastern ancestry, only around 8,000 to 6,000 BCE, leading to the creation of the kur and Deccan ksatriya communities. The ksatriya ancestry came in from the north. Hence it would be natural to expect a north-south cline in the distribution of ksatriya ancestry in the population of the peninsula. That is, it would be natural to find a decrease in ksatriya ancestry and an increase in native Indian ancestry as we move from north to south, and vice-versa.

Perhaps we may need a small correction here. The southern end of the cline seems to be not in the geographical south of the peninsula, but rather where it is closest to the island of Sri Lanka, that is the south east. The highest concentration of the vedar we find in this region: the south east of the peninsula – the districts of Arcot, Madurai and Travancore of the erstwhile Madras Presidency. As we move towards the north and the west, we find less vedar; only Salem and Coimbatore seem to have had significant populations of vedar. And we find three other communities that seem to be sharing the aborigine character with the vedar: the vetuvan, the irula and the kurumbar. Here again we are handicapped by a lack of genetic studies; the relation of these communities to vedar is rather speculative. As Thurston puts it, the vetuvan are “probably of the same stock as the Vedans (vedar), though the exact connection is not clear” [Thurston, 1909: Castes And Tribes Of Southern India, Volume 7, 394].