The Genetic Distance between Karunanidhi and Mallika Sherawat

Some Aryan invasion/migration theories are highly entertaining. One fascinating version originates in Central Asia around the middle of the fourth millennium B.C.E when an “unknown disturbance” triggered a cluster of Indo-European tribes on a trip across the continent. This group of nomadic people, wandered around, looking for a place where there is sun, water and grass for their cattle. They reached India, around 1500 – 1200 B.C.E,  “forgot” about their wanderings through Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan, and hence did not write anything about it in the vedas[1]

This Aryan migration theory created two groups of people — the Aryans who came from Central Asia and Dravidians, the people who were already in India.  In our diverse nation, these Aryans helped bring  up new differences.  Thus Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi still talks about the Aryan-Dravidian battles and Marxist historians write about the light skinned IE speakers over powering the dark skinned Dravidian speakers. Also, we have been told that the concept of caste groups came  with the Aryans while  tribals were the original inhabitants of the country.  These Aryans also helped historians to categorically state that the vedas were composed not by Indians, but by the Central Asians.

If these theories were true, shouldn’t there should be scientific evidence to back it up? Shouldn’t we see a genetic difference between caste and tribal groups and between Indo-European and Dravidian speakers? Also, shouldn’t there be genetic markers which show Central Asian incursion into India around the 1500 – 1200 B.C.E time frame? In fact some genetic studies have shown relatively small genetic distance between Indians and West Eurasians and this has been used as proof of Aryan migration, but recent studies tell a different story.

Modern humans left Africa 60,000 years ago, but carried something which helps us recreate human history. The genetic markers which we all carry can tell us our history and help  create the map our journey from Africa to each corner of the world. The mitochondrial DNA  gives the  matrilineal inheritance; Y-Chromosome, the paternal lineage. Genetic studies involving both paternal and maternal lineages were conducted on the Indian population. The studies also involved comparing large number of Indian samples against data from West/East/Southeast/Central Asia, Europe and the Near East for genetic distance.

Both studies  reveal that Southern castes and tribes are  similar to each other and their gene pool is related to the castes of North India. It was  not possible to confirm any difference between the caste and tribal pools and find any clean delineation between the Dravidian and IE speakers.  Besides this, there was neither a north-south gradient nor a language based gradient which means that dark skinned Dravidian Karunanidhi and fair skinned Indo-European speaking Mallika Sherawat  are not genetically distant.

Regarding the question of the ancestry of Indian populations, genetic research says that  there is no need to look beyond the borders of South Asia for the paternal heritage of majority of Indians since the time of agriculture. Also, there was no evidence of people coming through the North-West corridor in massive numbers indicating a  South Asian origin for the Indian caste communities and not a Central Asian one. Interestingly there is recent shared ancestry between the Central Asian folks and Indians, but it is explained by diffusion of Indian lineages northward which means that some Indians went to Central Asia and got lucky[2].

If there was no massive Central Asian incursion, then how do you explain the linguistic connection between the Elamite and Dravidian population.? In fact some western-Eurasian maternal DNA groups were found among Indian populations providing evidence of this connection. Investigating the time frame when this group of Indians branched off from the Western Europeans, a date of 9300 +/- 3000 years before present was found which is interesting because this is no where close to the dates (1500 – 1200 B.C.E) of the massive Aryan migration/invasion proposed by  proponents of the Aryan theory.[3]

This time frame of 9300 +/ 3000 years has historical significance. The earliest South Asian farming community  in Mehrgarh, at the foot of the Bolan Pass in the region of Baluchistan, is dated between 7000 – 5500 B.C.E. Mehrgarh, which is in the company of other early settlements like Çatalhöyük ,Jarmo, and Jericho, was five times larger than the site at Çatalhöyük and  two millenia before the Sumerians settled in Babylon, Mehrgarh had a  population of 20,000 people which was slightly less only than Egypt which had around 30,000 people at the same time.[4] The data provided by genetic evidence coincides with the theory that there is cultural continuity from the settlements of Mehrgarh in 6000 B.C.E. to the Harappan Civilization [4].

Also this time frame tells us that Indo-European speakers  reached India much before the fictional date and were not foreigners by the time the vedas were composed. It is now possible to say that the Vedic people were native to South Asia  for several millennia and derived Sanskrit from earlier Indo-European dialects

Sri Aruobindo  expressed doubts on the whole story of Aryan invasion through Punjab  and thought it was a myth of the philologists. In fact this should have been obvious when their proponents had no problems writing that the Aryans “forgot” about their origins when their creation, the vedas, were trasmitted over generations by memory.  Now genetic studies have confirmed what Sri Aurobindo doubted.  The studies also reveal something  best expressed by Shah Rukh Khan’s character in Chak De India!, “There is no Punjab or Jharkand, but just India and we are all one.” Don’t let a two bit politician like Karunanidhi tell you otherwise.


  1. Gem in the Lotus by Abraham Eraly
  2. A prehistory of Indian Y chromosomes: Evaluating demic diffusion scenarios by Sanghamitra Sahoo, Anamika Singh et. al.
  3. Deep common ancestry of Indian and western-Eurasian mitochondrial DNA lineages by T. Kivisild et al.
  4. In search of the cradle of civilization by Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak, David Frawley

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14 thoughts on “The Genetic Distance between Karunanidhi and Mallika Sherawat

  1. Not just Karunanidhi, let us also not let many two-bit “intellectuals” tell otherwise! If you remember, back in 2001, Frontline came up with an article propagating the nonsense theory about “genetics of caste” when a paper by Bamshad et al appeared.
    After that, it has been shown that Bamshad et al is wrong in many counts including poor molecular resolution and wrong statistical methods! And also, many later works proved that what Frontline wrote is nonsense(as you cited here; also Sengupta et al (Am J Hum Gen 2006 ) where including Dr. Majumder, whom from frontline quotes, wrote that Bamshad paper is wrong)
    I wonder will Frontline write an article describing what the current genetic research say about the “genetics of caste” ?!
    Also the error-bar of plus or minus 3000 yrs you mention is very interesting.
    (that is the kind of accuracy of any genetic study) Which implies that NO genetic study can prove that there was an Aryan migration around 1500 BCE. Becasue the error will span +/- 3000 yrs. That is, even if someone finds a few people in india with European-like genes, they can only say, at best, that it appeared somewhere between 4000 BCE and Present (total span of 6000 yrs!). On the other hand if you dont find them, that is clearly disproving Aryan migration(as we see here)
    Hey, thanks for the nice post. If you don’t mind i would like to come in touch with you. Could you send me a mail? (i guess you can see my mail id)

  2. Excellent article,
    sums up the entire argument against the myth . I’m going to quote you the next time someone brings up this issue.
    keep up the good work

  3. Hey Varnam,
    I am a final year student of journalism and i am doing a research on the blogging revolution. As you are a blog writer, i would like you to fill up a questionnaire for me which would help me in my project work.

  4. yes, Sri Aurobindo told about that based on his understanding of vedas etc and the similarities of roots between sanskrit and tamil. i read somewhere that he studied this after he arrived in pondicherry.
    i wonder when our history books at the school level will change.
    please continue writing articles on this issue.

  5. Hello JK,
    I have been reading your blog for some time. Very good topics and analysis.
    Recently I came across the following online book by Shrikant Talageri. Thought you would be interested in it.
    I am yet to read it carefully, but looks like lot of deconstruction has been done in the book, in the lines of Shri Aurobindo.

  6. Just a few queries that may reveal by over dependency on wikipedia on reading history rather than on actual history books :
    1) Rig Veda allegedly gives less relevance to Vishnu and no occurence of Siva (though there is a mention of Rudra which could be Siva). It instead focuses on the Deva Indra and the Asura Varuna
    2) The Asura Varuna later morphs into Ahura Mazda, the main deity of the Parsi faith.
    3) The Mittani worshiped both Indra and Varuna, whom they invoke in a treaty with the Hittites.
    4) The chariot was said to have arrived in India during the second millenium BC. Both the Andronovo culture and the Aryans have chariot burial rituals that may suggest a common ancestry for both the culture.
    5) The main deity of the Harappan culture was Siva. In fact there are no mention of other Vedic deities.
    Though genetically they may be similar, but can’t the Aryans be a section of the Andronovo people who migrated to India on the chariot? The reason I ask is because there seems to be a perceivable religious difference between the Aryans and the Harappans, but similarity among the Aryan and West Asian cultures.The Harappans and the Aryans may have arrived in India at different times. The incursion may have happened, most likely peacefully than by force.

  7. @Ranjith Kollannur | October 2, 2008 7:45 AM
    Although I do not claim to be a research scholar in Aryan/Dravidian controversy I do have fairly good understanding of the issue.
    The Chariot theory is completly idiotic: How could Central-Asians/Europeans come on Chariots crossing middle-eastern deserts and then through Mountainous Khyber on horse driven chariots. Chariots are best suited on Plains.
    The Aryan invasion theory is based on Aswamedha yaga which is horse based ritual and Horse is not native to India so whoever did it should have come from outside of India. It is extremely flimsy.
    The deeper political issues relating to Aryan myth needs to be explored to juxtapose research findings.
    The link above should shed some light on how Aryan myth has been politically injected into the world stage.
    Moreoever I did some research on the word Aryan itself. Arya means respectable person like Sir. It is a sansrit word. In south we use Ayyah while addressing a person with similar respect. I think firstly Indians have to take a fresh look at our history and not be colored by what the West wanted us to believe.
    Dwaraka is at least 5500 years old. I saw a program in Discovery and BBC that went deeply into this.

  8. The Indus Valley Civilization: Its Reality and Maddening Prevarications of Academia.
    Ever since the discovery of the IVC, the rush to Aryanize its society and culture has filled books, papers,
    media forums and other such articles and such entities has funded and encouraged historians and writers to
    let loose their imaginations in order to rewrite the history of India. The fierce debate whether the IVC is
    Aryan or not has opened up emotions and a stirring of nationalistic feelings among Indians of different social
    and political persuasions and has led to the rewriting of some history books. Even though the undertaking
    and exposing of the vast archaeological empire of the Indus still remains buried below the ground, opinions
    and speculations still persist that further and more radical change be made to the history of India.
    The proven point that the Aryans did not invade India and that horses existed in its society are two areas
    juxtaposed between the migrationist theories and those who proposed an “Aryan India” Between this sliver
    of Aryan and Indus woodwork, lies the heart of the matter, its linch-pin— the horse. Whoever can prove that
    the horse existed at the Indus empire will cap a belated crowning glory and achieve at the same time a
    kind of immortality in Indian history. The playing with historical dates like pushing them back further in time
    sounds like Russian roulette in order to achieve the inevitable and if such a hand can be played and the
    horse can be accommodated to form Indian history as among other things, thus far are historians are willing
    to go. The claims of historians and other writers of horse remains has so far has not been proven or
    recognized by some of local and international academia, even though such claims have been taken up by
    readers of different sorts of books and articles. The horse have remained evasive to not only archaeologists
    who would know one when they have analyzed its bones but to those who advocate its existence at the
    Indus. The so called tentative discovery of horse bones in the cities of the Indus, is the one weakness of
    those who want to weld Aryan history and Indus history together. This, I think will fail. The Indus civilization
    does not have a mythology that speaks of the existence of horse and chariot. First of all, all peoples have
    from their beginnings tales of mythology and from this, their civilizations are born, their society evolves, their
    beliefs entrenched and their livelihood maintained. Without these a people may not survive as a strong entity
    such like the Greeks and the Indian civilizations. Mythology is the fountain of a people, where a kind of fairy
    tale comes down to generation after generation, where images of the mythology are graven in the minds of
    its citizens and from which stories of daring and derring do are told. Greek mythology is filled with horses
    such as Pegasus and Arion, so we know that the Greeks knew about horses, Helios, the Sun god and the
    horses and also the Trojan horse. Our Hindu civilization also has a mythology of horses of the Sun, as well
    as other places mentioned in the Vedas and the Swat culture is one of the first places that the horse
    appeared in India. But can that be said of the Indus civilization? Where is the mythology of the horse and
    chariot in its ancient belief system? The belligerent screaming and writing by academia of horse bones in
    the Indus does not prove anything. There is not a shred of evidence of a horse culture or part of a
    mythologic reference to a horse or chariot in the history of the writing of the Indus nor in its society and the
    isolated claims of nationalistic writings has no foundation whatsoever. Claims of horse presence in the
    absence of a mythology in comparison with Hindu or Greek is not only a failure, but a historical greed to
    fulfill nationalistic grandeur for India which would be penitently false. I am sure Hindus would not like to
    incorporate a false version of historical data in their proud history. I personally would abhor such a travesty.

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