Anthropological Definitions and Classifications of the Population in India–Explained!

There are different ethnic elements in Indian population. As regards these ethnic elements opinions of anthropologists differ. In different times different anthropologists attempted to analyze the ethnic elements present in Indian population. Of these who have made note-worthy contribution on this aspect and are included in our syllabus, are Risley, Guha and Sarkar.

1. Classification of H. H. Risley (1915):

According to Risley, Indian population can be classified in to following racial groups:

(i) The Scythio-Dravidian:

This type has medium to broad head, medium nose, fair complexion and scanty hair on face and body. They are medium-statured. They differ from the Turko Iranians in having larger heads, flatter faces, higher noses and shorter stature.

This type is the result of an intermixture of two distinct racial elements, the Scythians and the. Dravidians. They are distributed in the region extending from Gujarat to Coorg. The Dravidian element is more prominent in the socially lower groups of these regions, while the Scythian elements predominate among the higher groups of people.

(ii) The Indo-Aryan:

They have long heads and in this character they markedly differ from the Turko-Iraninans. Nose is long, narrow and prominant; complexion is fair; eyes has a dark colour. They have plentiful facial hair. They are tall-statured people. This type is found to predominate in Rajputana, the Punjab, and the valley of Kashmir. The Jats, the Khatris are some of the examples of this type.

(iii) The Turko-lranian:

The Turko-Iranians have broad heads and fine to medium nose which is long and prominent. They are fairly tall, the average stature varying from 162 cm. to 172 cm. They have plentiful hair on the face.

Their eyes are generally dark though grey eyes are also not uncommon and the complexion is fair. These people live in the Baluchistan Agency and Frontier Province, which are now in Pakistan. The type is represented by the Balochis, the Afghans, etc. Risley suggests that this type was formed as a result of a mixture of Turki and Persian.

(iv) The Aryo-Dravidian (Hindustan Type):

Their heads are long with tendency towards medium. Nose is generally medium but broad noses are also not unknown. The skin colour is also variable; it varies from light brown to dark. Stature ranges from 159 cm. to 166 cm. Thus they are differentiated from the Indo-Aryans in shorter and broader nose. This type is found in the Uttar Pradesh, Rajputana and Bihar. As the name implies, this type is a result of an intermixture of two distinct racial types—the Aryans in the male and the Dravidians in the female line.

(v) The Mongoloid Type:

Head is generally broad; nose shows a wide range of variation being fine to broad. Stature is short or below medium. They have characteristically broad Mongolion face with oblique eyes showing epicanthic fold. Skin colour is dark with yellowish tinge. Hair on the face and the body is scanty. This type is found in Assam, Nepal and Burma.

(vi) The Dravidian:

They are short-statured people. Head is long. Nose is very broad and sometimes a depression is seen at the root of the nose. Skin colour is very dark; eyes also have a dark colour.

Hair is also dark, it is plentiful and occasionally it tends to curl. They are found in the region extending from Ceylon to the Ganges covering the whole of South-Eastern-India, Madras, Hyderabad, Central Province and Chota Nagpur.

The Paniyans of South India, the Santals of Chota Nagpur, etc. are some of the best examples of this type. According to Risley they are the true aborigines of India and now they have been modified by an infiltration of Aryan, Scythian and Mongoloid elements.

(vii) The Mongolo-Dravidian (Bengali Type):

The members of this type have broad head with a tendency to medium and medium nose which tends towards broad in some cases. Skin colour is dark with plentiful facial hair. Stature is generally medium, but short stature also occurs quite frequently. They inhabit Bengal and Orissa.

Some of the representatives of this type are Bengali Brahmins, Bengali Kayasthas, etc. They I differ from the Aryo-Dravidians and the Indo-Aryans in having broader heads. Risely suggests an intermixture of the Mongolians and the Dravidians in this type, to which some Indo-Aryan strains were also added.

2. Classification of B. S. Guha (1973):

B. S. Guha has divided the Indian racial elements in following groups:

(i) The Mongoloid:

The Mongoloids are distinguished by scanty growth of hair on body and face: obliquely set eyes showing epicanthic fold, flat face with prominent cheek bones and straight hair. The Mongoloid peoples entered India probably through the north-eastern routes in successive waves of migration.

The Mongoloid comprise two types namely, the Palae-Mongoloid and the Tibeto-Mongoloid. The Palae-Mongoloids have again been subdivided into long-headed type and broad-headed type.

The long-headed type possesses long head, medium nose, and medium stature. Their cheek bones are prominent; skin colour is dark to light brown; face is short and flat; supraorbital regions are faintly developed.

They inhabit the sub-Himalayan region. This type is found in the tribes of Assam and Burma Frontier. The Sema Nagas of Assam and the Limbus of Nepal are said to be true representatives of this type.

The other sub division of the Palae-Mongoloid, the broad-headed is represented by the Lepchas of Kalimpong. This type is found in the hill tribes of Chittagong, like the Chakmas, the Maghs, etc.

Their characteristic features are: broad head, round face, dark skin colour, and medium nose, obliquely set eyes which show marked epicanthic fold.

Among the Tibeto-Mongoloids the head is broad and massive; face is long and flat; stature is tall; nose is long or medium; eyes are oblique having marked epicanthic fold: body hair and facial hair are markedly absent; skin colour is light brown. The Tibetans of Bhutan and Sikkim have these characteristics.

(ii) The Proto-Australoid:

They are characterised by dolichocephalism head; markedly platyrrhine nose, which is depressed at the root; short stature; dark brown skin colour; wavy or even curly hair. Their limbs are delicate.

The forehead is less developed and slightly retreating. Supraorbital ridges are often prominent. They are closely akin to the Australian tribes. They markedly differ from the Neuritis in having wavy hair instead of the frizzly or woolly of the latter.

This element is found in the Pulayan women (Travancore), Urali (Travancore), Baiga (Rewa), etc. The tribes like the Male Chenchu, Kannikar, Kondh, Bhil, Santal, Oraon, belong to this group.

(iii) The Negrito:

They are considered to be the first comers and the true autochthones of India. Their physical characteristics are—head is small; it is round, medium or long; nose is straight, flat and broad; stature is very short or pygmy stature; skin colour is dark brown to dark; hair is woolly; forehead in bulbous; supraorbital ridges are smooth. This type is represented by the Kadars, Pulayans (Cochin and Travancore), Irular and primitive tribes of the Wind.

In respect of the head form and hair structure the Indian Negritos are more close to the Melanesion Pygmies than to the Andamanese.

(iv)The Mediterranean:

The three distinct racial types of this group are:

(a) The Mediterranean:

They are characterised by long head with arched forehead; long face; narrow and prominent nose; tall to medium stature; light skin colour. Chin is well-developed; hair is dark; eyes also have dark brownish to dark colour. They possess plentiful facial and body hair; and slender-built body.

They are found in Uttar Pradesh, Bombay, Bengal, Malabar, etc. The true representatives are the Numbudiri Brahmins of Cochin, Brahmins of Allahabad, and Maratha ladies of Indore. The Bengali Brahmins also show this type of characteristic.

Probably this type was responsible for the building up of Indus Valley Civilization.

(b) The Palae-Mediterranean:

They are the most ancient people and in many characters they resemble the Proto-Egyptian type. Their distinctive characters are; long and narrow head with bulbous fore – head, projecting occiput and high vault; small and broad nose; medium stature. Face is narrow; chin is pointed; body is slightly built. Their skin colour is dark and hair on face and body is scanty.

The human skeletal remains found at Adittanallur show this type of characteristics. These people probably introduced Megalithic culture of India. At present the Dravidian- speaking people of South India show the preponderance of this type. The Tamil Brahmins of Madura, Nairs of Cochin and Telugu Brahmis form the best example.

(c) The Oriental of Fischer:

They very closely resemble the Mediterranean in almost all the characters except the nose which is long and convex in the former. This type is found in the Punjab, Sind, Rajputana, etc. The typical representatives are the Punjabi Chettris and the Pathans.

(v) The Nordics:

Their head is long with protruding occiput and arched forehead; they are tall statured people with long face, strong jaw and powerfully built body. Nose is fine, narrow and straight; complexion is fair. Eyes often have bluish tinge.

This element is found sporadically in different parts of Northern India, especially in the Punjab and Rajputana. The Kho of Chitral, the Red Kaffirs, the Khatash are some of the representatives of this type.

The Nordics came from the north, probably from South-east Russia and South-west Siberia, through Central Asia to India.

(vi) The Western Brachycephals:

These are divided into three types:

(a) The Armenoid:

In most of the characters the Armenoids show resemblance with the Dinarics. In the former the shape of occiput is more marked and the nose is more prominent, narrow and aquiline. The Parsis of Bombay show typical Armenoid characteristics.

(b) Characterised by broad head with rounded occiput; prominent nose; medium stature; round face. Skin colour is light; hair on face and body is abundant, body is thickly set. This type is found among the Bania of Gujarat, the Kathi of Kathiawar, the kayasthas of Bengal, etc.

(c) The Dinaric. Amongst these people the head is broad with rounded occiput and high vault; nose is very long and often convex; stature is tall; face is long; forehead is receding; skin colour is darker, eyes and hair are also dark. This type is represented in Bengal, Orissa and Coorg. The Brahmins of Bengal and the Kanarese Brahmins of Mysore are also some of the representatives.

The Alpino-Dinaric people entered India through Baluchistan, Sind, Gujarat, Maharastra into Kannada, thence to Ceylon. The presence of this type is found in the Indus Valley site, Tinnevelley Hyderabad.

3. Classification S. S. Sarkar (1961):

S. S. Sarkar has divided the Indian population in six ethnic elements:

(i) The Indo-Aryan:

The physical type of the Indo Aryan is quite distinct from that of the Australoid. The Indo-Aryans are tall in stature, lighter in skin colour and eye colour and even the head hair is not as dark as that of the Australoid.

Their head is also long but massive. Their cranial capacity is higher than that of the Australoid. The whole physique of the Indo-Aryan is most robustly built than the Australoid. The Baltis of the Hindukush mountains are the best representatives of the Indo-Aryan.

The Indo-Aryan are frequently met with in the Indus and the Gangetic valley in Western India. Their extension in an almost unbroken manner is seen up to Western Bihar. Beyond that region towards east the Indo-Aryan type is sporadic in distribution in eastern Bihar, Bengal and Assam. In these regions this type is mostly confined among the higher castes only.

(ii) The Mongolian:

The Mongoloids are distributed in the north-eastern borders of India and the foothills of the Himalayas. The skin colour of the Mongoloid is yellowish. Hair is sparsely distributed in their face and body.

They exhibit Mongolian eye fold. By these and such other criteria the Mongoloids are easily distinguishable from the other populations of India.

(iii) The Irano-Scythian:

Almost at the same time during the Indo-Aryan migration to India, other ethnic elements entered India from north-west and that is Irano-Scythian. The Irano-Scythians are medium statured people.

Their head is monocephalic and by that they are different from the dolichocephalism Indo- Aryan. Otherwise the two elements are more or less similar to one another. In eastern Bihar, Bengal and Assam the long headed Indo-Aryan element is replaced by the medium headed Irano- Scythian.

Among the Indo-Aryan the cephalic index vary round 73, while among the Irano- Scythian it ranges between 77 and 79. The Irano-Scythians appear to be more variable in physical features than the Indo-Aryans.

After entering India the Irano-Scythians moved southward along the valley of the Indus to arrive at Gujarat, Bombay and Maharashtra. Their extension is seen up to northern Mysore, Deccan, etc., also.

Therefore, in the population of these regions this element is frequently observed. From the western littoral the Iran-Scythians migrated to eastern India following the river valleys of the Narbada and the Son.

(iv) The Australoids:

The Australoids are known by different names, like Proto-Australoid, Pre-Dravidian, Nisada, Veddid. Certain tribes of South India, e.g., Urali, Kannikar, Malapantaran, Paniyan, Kadar and such other tribes, are to some extent preserving the original form of the Australoids.

According to Sarkar at one time the Australoids were widely distributed throughout India and they form the earliest substratum of the population of India. Sarkar is of opinion that the Australoid make-up is present among all castes of India though its greatest concentration is found among the lower castes.

The Australians are short statured people having dark complexion. Their head is dolichocephalism and nose is platyrrhine. Their hair is wavy.

(v) The Mundari-Speakers:

The Mundari-speaking people are confined to the river valleys and plateaus of eastern central India, i.e., Chota Nagpur, Orissa hills and Madhya Pradesh. They migrated from east and they appear to have some sort of affinities with the Mongoloid.

“The Mundari-speakers” as described by Sarkar “are a stucky, thickset people with short stature and robust constitution, long head and skin colour somewhat lighter than the Australoid. Their head hair is not the usual thin curly or wavy hair of the Australoid rather their thick straight lank hair is nearly similar to those of the Mongolians.”

(vi) Far Eastern:

It is an established fact that from the ancient times India had connection with the islands of south­east Asia. Cultural relationship continued till historical times. Therefore, some amount of Malaya Polynesian element is observed in certain populations of eastern littoral, more particularly along the Tuticorin-Tinnevally coast at the extreme south and along the coast of Chittagong hill tracts, Sarkar writes that “the Malayan racial strain is distinct from the ethnic elements, mentioned before in having a darker skin colour, broad to wavy broad head, short stature with tendency to obesity in general”.

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