Monday, September 9, 2013
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Millions of years ago, long before humans existed, a dramatic union between the Eurasian and Indian plate resulted in the birth of the mighty Himalayas. From Himalayas came the great rivers of Indus, Saraswati and Ganges, making Indian subcontinent rich and fertile. The fertile subcontinent became the preferred home for the migrating human population from all parts of the globe, starting 70,000 years ago from Africa. Indian subcontinent thus became one of the most diverse countries the world has ever seen. While the subcontinent evolved as new cultures mearged with the old, relicts of the past somehow managed to linger on. The uniqueness of such a society lies in its non-uniqueness. Some of these complexities are difficult for an outsider to understand. This land thus mesmerizes and frustrates visitors at the same time. To understand this mysterious land one has to know its past. Only when we understand this land can we truly appreciate its beauty, and only then can we understand its problems. The key to the solution of many of India’s problems lies in its past, which is exactly what this book will attempt to unravel.
For long there existed a racist classification scheme for the people of the subcontinent, a legacy of the British Raj. Recently an equally bias classification trying to fit the ‘Out of India’ theory has been promoted. It is time we understand our diversity in a better and unbiased way so that we can really appreciate it. The diversity of Indians is evident in the study done by Indian Genome Variation Initiative funded by Government of India in 2003-2008 . Genetic studies have not only proved the diversity, but also showed that no mixing of genes happened in the last 10000 years, and that there is no genetic diference between the Aryan and Dravidian speaking Indians. This piece of evidence was the key in disproving the Aryan Invasion theory. Indians can be morphologically divided into four broad groups Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Protoaustraloid and Negrito (figure 1). Lingustically it can be divided into Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman and Austroasiatic (figure 2). It is important to mention here that word ‘Arya’ as used in ancient Indo-Iranian texts, has nothing to do with race as many would like to believe. ‘Aryan’ race displacing the ‘Dravidian’ race is nothing but a work of fiction. Though there is a broad match, there is no perfect correlation between linguistic and morphologic groups indicating a cultural effect of interaction between different groups over a long period of time.
1 Morphological Division 
2 Linguistic Division 
Negrito, the broad headed people from Africa, are the earliest known modern humans to colonize the subcontinent around 70 thousand years ago. From here some of them moved to South-East Asia and Australia. These hunters and gatherers were people who loved the sea, and they always sticked to the coast. This event was thus named the Great Coastal Migration. They were probably the first sailors as they colonized islands like Papua New Guinea and Andaman, and possibly Australia . These early migrators still exist in India as the Jarawas, Onges, Sentelenese, the Great Andamanis, Irulas, Kodars, Paniyans, Kurumbas, Baigas and Birhors . The population of Baiga of central India and the Birhor of eastern India not only share many cultural, linguistic, physical and genetic features with the Australian aboriginals but also share a perfectly matching DNA . We probably owe our sailing skills to them. Thousands of years later their successors will again come to the subcontinent. But this time they would not come as free man, but as slaves of the Islamic invaders. They would be known as Sheedi and live in modern Pakistan.
Protoaustraloids or Austrics were the next to land here. From India they would spread to Myanmar and the South East Asian islands. Austrics were farmers who cultivated rice, vegetables and made sugar from sugarcanes . We might owe a lot of our agricultural skills to these people. Belonging to this group are Santhal, Munda, Lotha, Kol, Irulas, Oraon and Korku tribes. There are many authors  who relate the Australian aboriginals with Austrics instead of Negroids. Interestingly, most of the people who linguistically fall into Dravidian and Austroasiatic group are Protoaustraloid. There are some who believe that they have migrated from around the Mediterranean region .
Mongoloids are very distinct group of people characterized by yellowish-brown skin pigmentation, straight black hair, dark eyes with pronounced epicanthic folds, and prominent cheekbones . The Mongoloid group of people migrated from South-East Asia and China and settled in the Himalayas. The Mughals who ruled India in the Middle Ages were distant relative of the Mongoloid people of Mongolia, the place from where the group takes its name. They first went towards south west Asia in and around Turkey and got converted to Islam and interbred with the local Caucasoid population before invading India. The third phase of Mongoloids, albeit a very minor one, happened during the British rule when the Chinese workers landed in Kolkata. Many Chinese even received milliary training on Indian soil during the World Wars. Some of their population still survives in Tangra, the best place to have Chinese food in Kolkata, and perhaps India.
Caucasians are Indo-Europeans and Aryans are Caucasians. From ancient Indo-Iranian texts one can infer that there came a time when Aryans split into the Persian Zoroastians and Indian Vedic Hindus. It is still difficult to understand their relation with Indus Valley Civilization, but their initial influence has mostly been across Indus-Saraswati belt where Indus Valley Civilization also flourished. There have been numerous migrations of Caucasians in and out of the sub-continent through its western borders. There had been a lot of intermixing, and if I may, interbreeding between the Greeks and Indians during the time of Alexaneder. Post Mauryan Empire there had been a brief Indo-Greek kingdom in India, and then Indo-Schythian and Indo-Kushans. Then came the Christians in the 1st century. Christianity found its foot on Indian soil for the first time with Saint Thomas's landing somewhere around Kerla. This was much before Christianity spread in UK. Newer Caucasoid group came again as Parsee and Jews when the Islamic rulers forced them out of their territory. The trend of migration continued with the Islamic and European conquests.
Different groups of people entered and re-entered the sub-continent over a period of 70,000 years. They sometimes got friendly and mixed with each-other and at other times fought with each-other, and many times they formed an alliance just to survive. While happy memories fade easily, the scars of battles remain. The diversity ensures lack of common ground for the people to unite. This is probably the biggest threat that India faces today, much bigger than the threat of our neighbors. Studies provide strong evidence that we all have migrated to the sub-continent at some point of time. But, what is more intriguing is the fact that even after so many phases of invasion none of the community has been totally erased. That’s the peculiarity of India, and Indians. We all have left our marks, and we all have survived. We all contributed to the growth of this wonderful land, and now we all must unite for the growth of this country.
When we enjoy the samosa we must not forget that the concept of samosa was brought by the Islamic invadors, and the potato stuffed inside the aloo by the Europeans from Peru, and the spices that makes it so yummy from South-East Asia. Variety is the spice of life, and we would have missed it without all the intermixing. The vibrant colourful India is a legacy of the divercity. We can either choose to remember the bitter fractions of out past and fight, or celebrate the uniqueness of our non-uniqueness. Our great diversity gives us this magnificent opportunity to show the world how to live together in peace and harmony. Our unity can not only make India, but the world, a much better place. The choice lies with us.
 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies; Jared Diamond; 1997
JOURNEY OF SURVIVORS: The History of the Sub-continent
CHAPTER 1: VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
CHAPTER 2: THE FLINTSTONES
ANCIENT [5000BC-300 CE]
CHAPTER 3: THE LEGEND OF INDUS [5000-2000BC]
CHAPTER 4: THE VEDIC PEOPLE [2000-1000BC]
CHAPTER 5: THE RENAISSANCE [1000-350BC]
CHAPTER 6: INDIA RISES [350-150BC]
CHAPTER 7: UNCERTAIN TIMES [100BC-300 CE]
CLASSICAL [300 – 1200 CE]
CHAPTER 8: THE GREAT REVIVAL [300-550 CE]
MEDIEVAL [1200 - 1700 CE]
CHAPTER 10: RISE OF ISLAM [1200-1500 CE]
CHAPTER 11: THE MUGHALS [1500-1700 CE]
MODERN [1700 - 2015 CE]
CHAPTER 12: EUROPEAN IMPERIALISM [1700-1857 CE]
CHAPTER 13: FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE [1857-1947]
CHAPTER 14: MODERN INDIA [1947-2014]
CHAPTER 15: WHAT LIES AHEAD
Sunday, January 20, 2013
It was a pleasant afternoon in the mid December of Kolkata. We came to our home town from Delhi for vacation. I was sitting in the balcony, reading a book, and watching the butterflies play in our garden. Coming from the busy life of Delhi it was a luxury, but here it was life as usual. This lazy careless elegance is what makes this place City of Joy. With plenty of time in hand, I took this opportunity to travel on the trails of Bangla’s, or Vanga as it was called, past. Lost amidst this laziness is a past filled with power, bravery and bloodshed.