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Genetics Proves Indian Population Mixture

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A new study indicates that population adm ixture in the pre-caste

era occurred, shedding light on our understanding of present-day
Indian populations

Harvard Medicine
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August 8, 2013

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Bet w een 4 ,0 0 0 a n d 2 ,0 0 0 y ea r s a g o, in t er m a r r ia g e in In dia

w a s r a m pa n t . Fig u r e by T h a n g a r a j Ku m a r a sa m y
Scientists from Harvard Medical School and the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and
Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India, provide evidence that modern-day
India is the result of recent population mixture among divergent demographic
The findings, published August 8 in the American Journal of Human
Genetics , describe how India transformed from a country w here mixture
betw een different populations w as rampant to one w here endogamythat
is, marrying w ithin the local community and a key attribute of the caste
systembecame the norm.
Only a few thousand years ago, the Indian population structure w as vastly
different from today, said cosenior author David Reich, professor of
genetics at Harvard Medical School. The caste system has been around for
a long time, but not forever.
In 2009, Reich and colleagues published a paper based on an analysis of 25
different Indian population groups. The paper described how all populations
in India show evidence of a genetic mixture of tw o ancestral groups:
Ancestral North Indians (ANI), w ho are related to Central Asians, Middle
Easterners, Caucasians, and Europeans; and Ancestral South Indians (ASI),
w ho are primarily from the subcontinent.
How ever, the researchers w anted to glean clearer data as to w hen in
history such admixture occurred. For this, the international research team
broadened their study pool from 25 to 73 Indian groups.
The researchers took advantage of the fact that the genomes of Indian
people are a mosaic of chromosomal segments of ANI and ASI descent.
Originally w hen the ANI and ASI populations mixed, these segments w ould
have been extremely long, extending the entire lengths of chromosomes.
How ever, after mixture these segments w ould have broken up at one or
tw o places per chromosome, per generation, recombining the maternal and
paternal genetic material that occurs during the production of egg and
By measuring the lengths of the segments of ANI and ASI ancestry in Indian
genomes, the authors w ere thus able to obtain precise estimates of the age
of population mixture, w hich they infer varied about 1,900 to 4,200 years,
depending on the population analyzed.




Genetics Proves Indian Population Mixture | HMS

While the findings show that no groups in India are free of such mixture, the
researchers did identify a geographic element. Groups in the north tend to
have more recent dates and southern groups have older dates , said cofirst author Priya Moorjani, a graduate student in Reichs lab at Harvard
Medical School. This is likely because the northern groups have multiple
This genetic datatells us a three-part cultural and historical story, said
Reich, w ho is also an associate member of the Broad Institute. Prior to
about 4000 years ago there w as no mixture. After that, w idespread mixture
affected almost every group in India, even the most isolated tribal groups.
And finally, endogamy set in and froze everything in place.
The fact that every population in India evolved from randomly mixed
populations suggests that social classifications like the caste system are not
likely to have existed in the same w ay before the mixture, said cosenior
author Lalji Singh, currently of Banaras Hindu University, in Varanasi, India,
and formerly of the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology. Thus,
the present-day structure of the caste system came into being only relatively
recently in Indian history.*
But once established, the caste system became genetically effective, the
researchers observed. Mixture across groups became very rare.
An important consequence of these results is that the high incidence of
genetic and population-specific diseases that is characteristic of presentday India is likely to have increased only in the last few thousand years
w hen groups in India started follow ing strict endogamous marriage, said
cofirst author Kumarasamy Thangaraj, of the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and
Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India.**
Mohan Rao, Director, CSIR-CCMB said, CCMB's continuing efforts over a
decade on this field had helped in understanding the complexity of Indian
population history and social structure, such as caste systems.
This study w as funded by the NIH (GM100233); NSF (HOMINID grant
1032255); a UKIERI Major Aw ard (RG-4772); the Netw ork Project (GENESIS:
BSC0121) fund from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research,
Government of India; a Bhatnagar Fellow ship grant from the Council of
Scientific and Industrial Research of the Government of India; and a J.C.
Bose Fellow ship from Department of Science and Technology, Government
of India.
*, ** Quotes adapted from American Journal of Human Genetics new s



1. Shashin
Bodaw ala
10 Aug 2013
02:34 am

The analysis w ould be really complete w ith

prevelance data of chronic diseases. How ever
epidemiological data in India on health care is
scarce. Most treatment guidelines also use w estern
data and iterate it to Indian context on the basis of
smaller sample studies. It is high time that
government institutions like CSIR drive such data

2. Andrea M.
16 Aug 2013
09:28 pm

I w ant to study this fabulous studies w hen I grow


3. Doosri Radha
17 Aug 2013
09:12 pm

JAYA JAYA SHRI KRUSHNA! There is something

w rong w ith the research. The caste system is not
a recent arrangement. It has been in existence
since time immemorial. Because, Lord Krushna has
said in Gita that it is He w ho has prescribed the
caste system (Gita 4.13). Sanatana Dharma is
eternal. The view that there have been rampant
mixed marriages, is an insult. The sages w ere
enlightened enough to prevent such a thing. What I
have seen in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh is that the
families are quite conservative and w ould not marry
at random. Earlier, they w ere more strict. Very
recently, how ever, inter caste marriages have
come up, w ith government encouraging it w ith
financial rew ard etc. I w ant to know conclusively
about the reality. HARI BOL!




Genetics Proves Indian Population Mixture | HMS

22 Aug 2013
10:15 am

Mixed marriage children in communities of Rajput or

Rajput descent are a seperate caste ,so yes its
mixed. That's according to our samaj w ho takes
population counting ev year and records births.
Yes it saved as that community of father but childs
details are given show ing a mixture. They belong to
a seperate caste. Even the same w ay now . The
child is called by the name of both castes of
parents toghter pronounced. But mixture is as few
as the anglo indians. I guess all over india is same .
Yes its mixed but small.if a maid married a brahmin
boy their child be called brahmin?I guess called

5. Sudheendra
03 Jan 2014
06:21 pm

@DoosriRadha You are confusing Varna system

(That Krishna spoke of in Geetha) and Caste

6. Nick
28 May 2014
01:57 pm

North Indians and Pakistanis w on't like this, w edded

as they are to the myth that they derive primarily
from "w hite" Indo-Aryans/Sakas/IndoGreeks/Arabs/Persians, etc. But the proof of ANI
and ASI admixture to varying degrees in virtually all
Indo-Pakistani groups is undeniable.

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