Dravidian peoples explained

Pop:approx. 200 million
Region2:Andra Pradesh
Region5:Tamil Nadu
Region9: Balochistan
Languages:Dravidian languages
Religions:Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity
Related:Brahui people Gondi people Kannadigas Kodavas Malayalis Tamils Telugus Tuluvas

Dravidian people also Dravidians refers to the peoples that natively speak languages belonging to the Dravidian language family. Populations of speakers are found mostly in southern India. Other Dravidian peoples are found in parts of central India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Scholars widely hold that the Dravidian peoples were the originators of the Indus Valley Civilization. Recent genetic studies revealed that these people were indeed of Indian subcontinent origin. Dravidian peoples with the most speakers include Telugus, Tamils, Kannadigas and Malayalis. Populations with fewer speakers include Gonds and Tuluvas.


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 (Zvelebil 1990:xx). Caldwell coined the term "Dravidian" from the Sanskrit drāvida, which was used in a 7th-century text to refer to the Tamil language of the south of India. The publication of the Dravidian etymological dictionary by T. Burrow and M. B. Emeneau was a landmark event in Dravidian linguistics. As for the origin of the Sanskrit word , there have been various theories proposed. Basically the theories are about the direction of derivation between and . That is to say, while linguists such as Zvelebil assert that the direction is > (ibid. page xxi), others state that the name Dravida also forms the root of the word Tamil (Dravida -> Dramila -> Tamizha or Tamil).

The word Dravida may also have its origin from Sanskrit 'Drava' - meaning water or sea. The word Dravidian may have been used to identify people living in India close to the sea. Since southern India is surrounded by sea on three sides, the word may been used predominantly to identify the inhabitants of these areas.

There is no definite philological and linguistic basis for asserting unilaterally that the name Dravida also forms the origin of the word Tamil (Dravida -> Dramila -> Tamizha or Tamil). Zvelebil cites the forms such as dramila (in 's Sanskrit work Avanisundarīkathā) (found in Ceylonese chronicle Mahavamsa) and then goes on to say (ibid. page xxi): "The forms /damila almost certainly provide a connection of dr(a/ā) " and "... < ...whereby the further development might have been * > * > - / damila- and further, with the intrusive, 'hypercorrect' (or perhaps analogical) -r-, into dr(a/ā). The -m-/-v- alternation is a common enough phenomenon in Dravidian phonology" (Zvelebil 1990:xxi)Zvelebil in his earlier treatise (Zvelebil 1975: p53) states: "It is obvious that the Sanskrit dr(a/ā), Pali damila, and Prakrit d(a/ā) are all etymologically connected with " and further remarks "The r in > dr(a/ā) is a hypercorrect insertion, cf. an analogical case of DED 1033 Ta. kamuku, Tu.kangu "areca nut": Skt. kramu(ka).".

Further, another eminent Dravidian linguist Bhadriraju Krishnamurti in his book Dravidian Languages (Krishnamurti 2003:p2, footnote 2) states:"Joseph (1989: IJDL 18.2:134-42) gives extensive references for the use of the term , dramila first as the name of a people, then of a country. Sinhala inscriptions BCE [Before Christian Era] cite -, damela- denoting Tamil merchants. Early Buddhist and Jaina sources used - to refer to a people of in south India (presumably Tamil); - was a southern non-Aryan country; -, , and - were used as variants to designate a country in the south (, Kādambarī, Daśakumāracarita-, fourth to seventh centuries CE) (1989: 134-8). It appears that - was older than - which could be its Sanskritization."

Based on what Krishnamurti states referring to a scholarly paper published in the International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics the Sanskrit word itself is later than since the dates for the forms with -r- are centuries later than the dates for the forms without -r- (, -, damela- etc.). So it is clear that it is difficult to maintain Dravida -> Dramila -> Tamizha or Tamil.

The Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary[1] lists for the Sanskrit word dravia a meaning of "collective Name for 5 peoples, viz. the Āndhras, Karāakas, Gurjaras, Tailagas, and Mahārāras".


See main article: Proto-Dravidian, Substratum in Vedic Sanskrit and Elamo-Dravidian languages. Kamil V. Zvelebil has suggested that proto-Dravidian was part of a larger Elamo-Dravidian language family[2] . However, S.A. Starostin has disputed the existence of an Elamo-Dravidian language family.

According to a view put forward by 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 followed by Indo-European-speaking migrants sometime later. The original inhabitants may be identified with the speakers of the Munda languages, which are unrelated to either Indo-Aryan or Dravidian languages. However, the Munda languages, as a subgroup of the larger Austro-Asiatic language family, are presumed to have arrived in the Indian subcontinent from the east, possibly from the area that is now southwestern China, so any genetic similarity between the present-day speakers of the Munda languages and the "original inhabitants" of India is likely to be due to assimilation of the natives by Southeast Asian immigrants speaking a proto-Munda language.

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. [3] . Cultural and linguistic similarities have been cited by researches 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 Dravidians moved into an already Indo-Aryan speaking area after the oldest parts of the Rig Veda were already composed (see Bryant 2001: chapter 5)}

This theory might be supported if a higher antiquity of the Indo-Aryan languages could be established. However, since this theory is mainly a linguistic hypothesis, the Dravidian influence on Aryan languages need not necessarily be equated to a movement of populations.

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.

state that there is strong evidence that Dravidian influenced Indic through "shift", that is, native Dravidian speakers learning and adopting Indic languages. claims that the presence of the Brahui language, similarities between Elamite and Harappan script as well as similarities between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian indicate that these languages may have interacted prior to the spread of Indo-Aryans southwards and the resultant intermixing of languages. 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.

Zvelebil remarks[4] 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".


See main article: Dravidian languages. The best-known Dravidian languages are Kannada (ಕನ್ನಡ), Malayalam (മലയാളം), Tamil (தமிழ்) and Telugu (తెలుగు).

There are three subgroups within the Dravidian linguistic 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 Asian subcontinent. Some linguistic scholars incorporate the Dravidian languages into a larger Elamo-Dravidian language family, which includes the ancient Elamite language (Haltami) of what is now south-western Iran. Dravidian is one of the primary linguistic groups in the proposed Nostratic language system, linking almost all languages in North Africa, Europe and Western Asia into a common family with its origins in the Fertile Crescent sometime between the last Ice Age and the emergence of proto-Indo-European 4-6 thousand years BC.

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.[5]

Ethnic identity

Concept of the Dravidian people

The term Dravidian is taken from the Sanskrit term Dravida, historically referring to Tamil.[6] 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.[7] Further, the languages are spread out and cover parts of India, south eastern Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.[8] Robert Caldwell was a Catholic missionary and used the term Dravidian to refer to the people of South India.[9]

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.[10]

The circumstances of the advent of Dravidian speakers in India are shrouded in mystery. There are vague linguistic and cultural ties with the Urals, with the Mediterranean area, and with Iran. It is possible that a Dravidian-speaking people that can be described as dolichocephalic (longheaded from front to back) Mediterraneans mixed with brachycephalic (short-headed from front to back) Armenoids and established themselves in northwestern India during the 4th millennium BC. Along their route, these immigrants may have possibly come into an intimate, prolonged contact with the Ural-Altaic speakers, thus explaining the striking affinities between the Dravidian and Ural-Altaic language groups. Between 2000 and 1500 BC, there was a fairly constant movement of Dravidian speakers from the northwest to the southeast of India, and about 1500 BC three distinct dialect groups probably existed: Proto-North Dravidian, Proto-Central Dravidian, and Proto-South Dravidian. The Dravidian people are generally a caucasoid group like their Indo-Aryan counterpart but the Dravidian are shown to have austroloid like features. This fact suggests that Mediterranean people who were the ancestors of the Dravidian, mixed with the native negrito groups to form a "somewhat hybrid" ethnicity. Although they resemble the Indo-Aryan in some ways, the Dravidians can be separated by culture, languages and aforementioned, certain facial traits. [11]

When Hiouen Tsang (Hsuan-Tsang or Xuanzang) traveled in India he described two kingdoms, one Dravida (with its capital as Kanchipura) and the other Malakuta.[12] Scholars believe that Dravida country was of the Pallavas although are confused of Malakuta.[12] Some believe it was of the Cholas, others that it was a Malaya kingdom.[12]

List of Dravidian people

People belonging to the north-Dravidian subgroup, mostly found in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. They now culturally and ethnically largely resemble the Balochi people around them, with whom they have mixed with substantially.

People belonging to the south-Dravidian subgroup. Mostly found in Karnataka and parts of northern Kerala.

Tribal people who speak the Dravidian Kui language. Mostly found in the eastern Indian states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

People belonging to the south-Dravidian subgroup. Mostly found in the Kodagu (Coorg) region of Karnataka.

People belonging to the north-Dravidian subgroup. Found in India and Bangladesh. It is the only Dravidian language indigenous in Bangladesh.

People belonging to the south-Dravidian subgroup found primarily in Kerala.

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.

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.

People belonging to the south Dravidian subgroup, found in coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala, alternatively named Tulu Nadu.


See main article: Genetics and archaeogenetics of South Asia. A number of earlier anthropologists held the view that the Dravidian peoples together were a distinct race. Comprehensive genetic studies have proven that this is not the case, although they do indeed reveal significant genetic differences to north-western Indian peoples. The genetic studies also indicated that the origin of the Dravidian speakers is the Indian subcontinent.[13] [14] [15] Recent studies of the distribution of alleles on the Y chromosome,[16] microsatellite DNA,[17] and mitochondrial DNA [18] in India have cast overwhelmingly strong doubt for a biologically identifiable "Dravidian race" distinct from non-Dravidians in the Indian subcontinent. The only distinct ethnic groups present in South Asia, according to genetic analysis, are the Balochi, Brahui, Burusho, Hazara, Kalash, Pathan and Sindhi peoples, the vast majority of whom are found in todays Pakistan.[19]

The genetic views on race differ in their classification of Dravidians. According to population geneticist L.L. Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford, based on work done in the 1980s, Indians are genetically Caucasian, but Lewontin rejects the label Caucasian. Cavalli-Sforza found that Indians are about three times closer to West Europeans than to East Asians.[20] Dr. Eduardas Valaitis, in 2006, found that India is genetically closest to East and Southeast Asians with about 15% more genetic similarity than to Europeans; he also found that India could be considered very distinct from other regions.[21] Genetic anthropologist Stanley Marion Garn considered in the 1960s that the entirety of the Indian Subcontinent to be a "race" genetically distinct from other populations.[22] [20] Others, such as Lynn B. Jorde and Stephen P. Wooding, claim South Indians are genetic intermediaries between Europeans and East Asians.[23] [24] [25]

Political activism


See main article: Aryan Invasion Theory (history and controversies) and Dravidian movement. Some Indians believe that the British Raj exaggerated differences between northern and southern Indians beyond linguistic differences to help sustain their control of India. The British Raj ended in 1947, yet all discussion of Aryan or Dravidian "races" remains highly controversial in India. It is now widely believed that the British used this only as their "Divide and rule" blueprint for taking over the region.[26] The British also used this "theory" of perceived differences between so-called "Aryans" and "Dravidians" to propagate racist beliefs concerning the inherent "inferiority" of the Dravidians when compared to the "Aryans", thus justifying their colonization of South Asia (since the British identified themselves as "Aryans").[27]

See also


External links

Notes and References

  1. Sanskrit, Tamil and Pahlavi Dictionaries
  2. Kamil V. 1974. "Dravidian and Elamite - A Real Break-Through?", Journal of the American Oriental Society 94.3 (July-Sept.): 384-5.
  3. http://www.harappa.com/arrow/stone_celt_indus_signs.html Stone celts in Harappa
  4. http://www.britannica.com/ebc/article-74968 Dravidian languages - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  5. Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju (2003) The Dravidian Languages Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-77111-0 at p. 40-41.
  6. Web site: Facts about Dravidian languages. Annamalai. E.. 2003-11-07. 2008-09-17.
  7. http://www.ethnologue.com/show_family.asp?subid=90422 Ethnologue study
  8. http://www.nvtc.gov/lotw/months/april/DravidianLanguageFamily.htm Dravidian language family study
  9. P. 678 Dancing With Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism, By Himalayan Academy, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, Master Subramuniya.
  10. "Dravidian languages." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 5 June 2008
  11. Encyclopædia Britannica
  12. P. 125 Ancient Jaffna By M. C. Rasanayagam.
  13. Sahoo. Sanghamitra. Anamika Singh, G. Himabindu, Jheelam Banerjee, T. Sitalaximi, Sonali Gaikwad, R. Trivedi, Phillip Endicott, Toomas Kivisild, Mait Metspalu, Richard Villems and V. K. Kashyap. A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of United States of America. 103. 4. 843–8. 2006. Jan. 16415161. 1347984. 10.1073/pnas.0507714103.
  14. Sengupta. S.. et al.. Polarity and temporality of high-resolution y-chromosome distributions in India identify both indigenous and exogenous expansions and reveal minor genetic influence of Central Asian pastoralists.. Am J Hum Genet.. 78. 2. 201–21. 2006. Feb. 16400607. 1380230. 10.1086/499411.
  15. Sharma. S.. Saha A, Rai E, Bhat A, Bamezai R.. Human mtDNA hypervariable regions, HVR I and II, hint at deep common maternal founder and subsequent maternal gene flow in Indian population groups.. J Hum Genet.. 50. 10. 497–506. 2005. 16205836. 10.1007/s10038-005-0284-2.
  16. Sahoo. Sanghamitra. Anamika Singh, G. Himabindu, Jheelam Banerjee, T. Sitalaximi, Sonali Gaikwad, R. Trivedi, Phillip Endicott, Toomas Kivisild, Mait Metspalu, Richard Villems and V. K. Kashyap. A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of United States of America. 103. 4. 843–848. 2006-01-24. 10.1073/pnas.0507714103.
  17. Sengupta. S.. et al.. Polarity and temporality of high-resolution y-chromosome distributions in India identify both indigenous and exogenous expansions and reveal minor genetic influence of Central Asian pastoralists.. Am J Hum Genet.. 78. 2. 201–221. The American Society of Human Genetics. 2006-02-01. 2007-12-03.
  18. Sharma. S.. Saha A, Rai E, Bhat A, Bamezai R.. Human mtDNA hypervariable regions, HVR I and II, hint at deep common maternal founder and subsequent maternal gene flow in Indian population groups.. J Hum Genet.. 50. 10. 497–506. 2005. 10.1007/s10038-005-0284-2. 2007-12-03.
  19. Human Genome Diversity Project
  20. Robert Jurmain, Lynn Kilgore, Wenda Trevathan, and Harry Nelson. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. 9th ed. (Canada: Thompson Learning, 2003)
  21. Valaitis, E., Martin, L. DNA Tribes. 2006. January 22, 2007. http://dnatribes.com/sample-results/dnatribes-global-survey-regional-affinities.pdf
  22. Garn SM. Coon. On the Number of Races of Mankind. In Garn S, editor. Readings on race. Springfield C.C. Thomas.
  23. Jorde LB, Wooding SP. Genetic variation, classification and 'race'. Nature genetics. 36. 11 Suppl. S28–33. 2004. Nov. 15508000. 10.1038/ng1435.
  24. Bamshad MJ, Wooding S, Watkins WS, Ostler CT, Batzer MA, Jorde LB. Human population genetic structure and inference of group membership. Am J Hum Genet.. 72. 3. 578–89. 2003. Mar. 12557124. 1180234. 10.1086/368061.
  25. Rosenberg NA, Pritchard JK, Weber JL, et al. Genetic structure of human populations. Science. 298. 5602. 2381–5. 2002. Dec. 12493913. 10.1126/science.1078311.
  26. Book: Nelson, Robin. Robin Nelson

    . Robin Nelson. Antinomies of Modernity: Essays on Race, Orient, Nation. 2003. Duke University Press. English. 0822330466. 37-38.

  27. Book: van der Veer, Peter. Peter van der Veer

    . Peter van der Veer. Conversion to modernities: The Globalization of Christianity. Routledge (UK). English. 0415912733. 130.