Dravidian race

From Academic Kids

The Dravidian Race is the name sometimes still given to the peoples of southern and central India and northern Sri Lanka who speak Dravidian languages, the best known of which are Telugu(తెలుగు) and Tamil.



The term arose from assumptions by nineteenth century Western scholars that Dravidian speakers were earlier inhabitants of India than the speakers of the Indo-Aryan languages in the north of the country. It was supposed that the generally darker-skinned Dravidians constituted a distinct race. This notion corresponded to racial hierarchies of the time according to which darker skinned peoples were more primitive than light-skinned whites. Accordingly, Dravidians were envisaged as primitive early inhabitants of India who had been partially displaced and subordinated by more advanced Aryans.

This concept has affected thinking in India about racial and regional differences and has informed aspects of Tamil nationalism, which has at times appropriated the claim that Dravidians are the earliest inhabitants of India in order to argue that other populations were oppressive interlopers from which Dravidians should liberate themselves. The discovery of the Indus Valley Civilisation in the 1920s, which was attributed to the displaced Dravidians of the north, further fuelled such Dravidianist ideas since it implied that the Indo-Aryans were uncivilised barbarians rather than a "superior race".

However, most recent historians have rejected the concept of a distinct Dravidian race, though some geneticists do assert that southern Indians have a distinctive genetic history that differentiates them from Indo-Aryans. Others argue that there is no significant ethnic or racial distinction between northern Indians and southern Indians and that differences in skin color are simply caused by climate, comparable to the fact that the Mediterraneans (southern Europeans) have darker skin, eye and hair color than the Nordics (northwestern Europeans), but they are otherwise very similar. The somewhat darker skins of the Dravidians may be explained by their adaptation to the hotter and sunnier climate.

Geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza maintained in his book The History and Geography of Human Genes that the proto-Dravidians of the Indian subcontinent were a Caucasoid people, preceded by an Australoid-type people whose linguistic origins remain unknown, and followed by Indo-European-speaking migrants sometime later.

Dravidian languages and Dravidian peoples

The Dravidian languages are grouped into Northern, Central and Southern categories. The Northern is mainly Brahui which is spoken in Southern or Southwestern Pakistan. The southern is the most active and mainly consists of the languages Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam. Kannada and Telugu, in particular, have seen a great penetration by Sanskrit. The speakers of Telugu and Kannada are said to be Aryans that moved south and mixed with some Dravidians. Telugu and Kannada have some striking similarity to Sanskrit, while Tamil is the least affected by Sanskrit. Telugu is over 70% Sanskrit. In Hindu tradition the creation of the Tamil language is credited to the Rig Vedic sage Rishi Agastya, a view that secular linguists would interpret as a myth designed to link Dravidians to Vedic Indo-Aryan culture. These languages are called Dravidian for purely linguistic reasons; the peoples who use them are of varying racial types.

Some believe that Dravidian-speaking peoples may have been spread throughout the Indian subcontinent and even in southwestern Iran (Elam, which may have had a language similiar to the Dravidian languages) before the Aryans settled much of India. The early Indus Valley civilization (Harappa and Mohenjo Daro) is often presumed to have been Dravidian. A theory which is controversial now suggests that its peoples were then forced southwards by the invasion of the Aryans. Most scholars believe that the Dravidians were not indigenous to India, and migrated to India from the Northwest, although according to Tamil tradition, the Tamils came from a submerged island in the Southeast. Some scholars like Michael Witzel (in The Languages of Harappa) believe that the Dravidians intruded upon an Indo-Aryan speaking area, after the oldest part of the Rig Veda were already composed. This theory would also further 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 must not necessarly be equated to a movement of populations. A small number of individuals, rather than populations, could have influenced the Sanskrit language. The influence of Sanskrit itself on the Dravidian languages was the result of individual Sanksrit speakers (and not of whole populations) migrating to South India.

Into the 21st century, Indians, with possible justification, continue to accuse the British Raj of exaggerating differences between northern and southern Indians, beyond actual anthropological 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.

Dravidian and Vedic culture

The Dravidians and South Indians have been in some respects the best preservers of ancient Vedic culture and traditions, especially when the north of India was dominated by Buddhism and later was affected by Islam. Some modern theories of the origins of both Hinduism and Buddhism focus on the resultant mixture of the "Aryan" and "Dravidian" cultures.

According to the Puranas, the Dravidians are descendants of the Vedic Turvasha people. According to the Matsya Purana, Manu is considered as a south Indian king. In Hindu tradition the creation of the Tamil language is credited to the Rig Vedic sage Rishi Agastya, a view that secular linguists would interpret as a myth designed to link Dravidians to Vedic Indo-Aryan culture.

Tamil literature and Tamil epics and classics have many references to Vedic gods and culture. The Tolkappiyam mentions non-Vedic, early-Vedic (Indra, Varuna) and Puranic (Vishnu) gods. The Paripadal (8; 3; 9 etc.), one of the "Eight Anthologies" of poetry (or ettuttokai), has homages to Vishnu, Lakshmi, Brahma, the twelve Adityas, the Ashwins, the Rudras, the Saptarishis, Indra, the Devas etc. The Kural, written by Tiruvalluvar, mentions gods like Indra (25) and Lakshmi (e.g. 167).

The Tamil epic Shilappadikaram, begins with invocations to Chandra, Surya, and Indra, and has homages to Agni, Varuna, Shiva, Subrahmanya, Vishnu-Krishna, Uma, etc. The epic states that “Vedic sacrifices [are] being faultlessly performed” and has many references to Vedic culture and Vedic texts. In the Buddhist work Manimekhalai, the submersion of the city Puhar in Kumari Kandam is attributed to the neglect of the worship to Indra.

Kumari Kandam

According to Tamil Tradition, the Dravidians originally came from a submerged island Kumari Kandam in the south of India. The Epics Shilappadikaram and Manimekhalai describe the submerged city of Puhar. Kumari Kandam has also been linked to Lemuria.

At Mahabalipuram, near Chennai, submerged ruins have been found in the ocean.

The Eastern Ethiopians

Herodotus, Homer and other Greek authors called the Dravidians the Eastern Ethiopians. Greek writers sometimes identified the Aethiopians of Egypt with the Eastern Aethiopians. Also the Egyptian and Indian geography were sometimes compared or identified: Arrian (vi. i.) mentions that the Indus River was thought by some ancient Greeks to be the source of the Nile. It is usually assumed that by 'Aethiopian' Herodotus simply means 'black person', so that the term really only functions to characterise southern Indians as Eastern black people.

Herodotus wrote about the Dravidians: They differed in nothing from the other Ethiopians, save in their language, and the character of their hair. For the Eastern Ethiopians have straight hair, while they of Libya are more woolly-haired than any other people in the world. (Herodotus: from The History of the Persian Wars, VII.70., c.430 BCE)

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, however, took up this connection between Dravidians and Ethiopians in order to claim a direct racial and cultural link between the two peoples. She was attempting show that Indian culture influenced Ancient Egypt via Ethiopia. She described many parallels between Egypt and India in her works. After the discovery of the Indus Valley Civilisation Gottfried de Purucker remarked (referring to Secret Doctrine, vol.2, p.417): A highly advanced urban civilization of Mohenjo Daro has been discovered on the Indus "between Attock and Sind," exactly the location mentioned in The Secret Doctrine as the abode of the Aethiopians.(Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary).

See also

External links

pl:Drawidowie sv:Dravidfolk


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