Peoples and languages

I suppose nobody knows exactly the number of ethnic groups of India.

The aboriginal population was Negroid, but only small groups of them remained, mainly in the Southern forests.

Some of them refuse to do anything with the rest of the population. They come down to villages, exchange leather and small artefacts for salt and spices and quickly return “home”: you live in crazy world, they say.

The second group of peoples are the Dravidians , who arrived to India from Central Asia (it is questioned, some consider that such a culture could have been built only by people who had spent centuries on the same spot before) and established their empire in the area of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. If I add that Harappa is not very far from Lahore and Mohenjo-Daro from Karachi (both in today’s Pakistan), you can judge of the size of the ancient culture we are talking about. I mention here just a couple of interesting facts, the best is to study the site .

Harappa is certainly only one of the names of this culture. You can meet the names Mohenjo-Daro or Indus Valley civilisation as well.

The empire existed 5000 years BC, they had a script which is still not deciphered (one of the reasons this culture is considered to be prehistoric), the cities were rich, had modern facilities, like canalisation (no other civilisation had ever anything like that before the Roman empire), water supply to great baths, palaces, citadels and what is most striking: even the workmen had luxurious flats in comparison with present dwellings of those living in India of today.

One of the most inspiring facts about India is, that this culture – with tremendous changes – is uninterrupted till our days: 7000 years! Bow your head: India is the greatest of survivors.

The third group of peoples are the Aryans, who are also considered of Central Asian origin. It is still not properly proven that the fall of great cities of the Indus Valley civilisation was due to the direct invasion of these Aryans (some believe one or two centuries elapsed between the invasion of smaller barbarian groups and that of the Aryans), but the final result is that people who called themselves Aryas took over the power around the middle of the 2nd century BC. They had better weapons and tools and did ride on horses drawing light chariots with spoked wheels. They were the Vedic Aryans, who had religious verses like Rig Veda.

The name Aryas is the ancestor of Iran and Ire(land) as well – scientists consider.

What a well this Central Asia was?

The Dravidians were pushed down, into the sack of the subcontinent, where they make up the majority of the population.

The next big wave was that of the Moghuls, who are originated from (where?) Central Asia, sons of the great Mongol empire. They brought with them absolutely cruel habits, cruel religion, new language, destroyed whatever was foreign to them, but could not resist the swallowing power of India, settled down, became true citizens of the occupied country. Most of the muslims of India are their successors and a new language was born soon, the language that helped the Hindus and Muslims to understand each-other: Urdu.

The rest of invaders were insignificant groups, at least as far as the formation of ethnic structures is concerned (and as far as I see it). The Greek left small groups of soldiers behind in Kashmir, the Persian groups fleeing from the Arabs forms now the largest group of Parsis in the world (in and around Bombay), an effective group, but of negligible sizes. The British left a row of important systems and their language behind, but only around 3% Christians (including those converted by the Portuguese and French) and a few unfortunate Anglo-Indians.

Who would believe today (the story sounds like a joke) that the whole Indus Valley civilization was discovered by a British engineer, the supervisor of a railway construction. He noticed that bricks were brought to the site by the Indian contractor (subcontractor?) as filling material. He was curious enough to ask the question: Where is the brick-factory you purchase the bricks from? I do not know of any nearby. The contractor’s reply revealed one of the most ancient cultures of the human race: There are plenty around under the soil some miles from here.

One more interesting fact: a small Jewish community exists in India as well. They are called - as far as I know - white Jews. The site "The Jews of India" opens a window to this group.

 The number of languages is also a question, I believe. I recall two figures. One is: around 2600, including dialects, the other: 800 and something languages. Any of the two is good enough for me to point to the fact that India is vast and diversified language-wise as well.

There are as many main groups of languages as ethnic groups.

Dravidian languages dominate the South of India. The oldest of them is Tamil, spoken in Tamil Nadu, from Cape Comorin to Madras. Of the three other dominant Dravidian languages Canarese (Kannada) is spoken in Mysore and parts of Andhra Pradesh, Telugu from Madras (now Chennai) northwards to the borders of Orissa, Malayalam in Kerala. All of them – contrary to the Indo-Aryan languages – had been flourishing for centuries before the Moghul invasion, have distinctive scripts and written literatures. The Tamil literature goes back to the early centuries AC.

A found a source (A.L.Basham: The Wonder that was India) according to which “Some authorities believe that the Dravidian languages are remotely affiliated to the Finno-Ugrian group”. Somewhere else, probably in the same book, Hungarian and Tamil are compared, saying that the grammar of the two are similar, suffixes are added to the end of the words, “e” is the dominant vowel in both and both are excellent for poetry. Who knows? We, Hungarians believe we are originated from Far East, we easily could have met on the crossroads of moving masses.

The north is dominated by Indo-Aryan languages, the ancestor of which was Sanskrit. Sanskrit was also the language that helped scientists to establish that all European languages, with the exception of Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Turkish and Basque are part of the same Indo-European group of languages, to which most of the tongues of North-India belong. The main is Hindi, certainly, but Gudzsarati, Marati, Bengali, Orissi, Pandzsabi all are members of the same group.

It is an interesting fact that Sanskrit is not dead as it is widely thought, around 3000 people consider it to be their mother tongue.

Urdu is a language, born after the invasion of Moghuls. The grammar was brought by the muslims, significant part of the vocabulary was borrowed from Hindi. It is widely spoken in and around the capital and wherever the two ethnic groups mix.

There were 16 official languages in India in the seventies, including English, the biding tongue of India. It must be extremely difficult to organize education, jurisdiction in such a way that the ethnic groups be satisfied with it. One example: there were 10 of the 16 official languages spoken in Bombay, the courts had to secure that all of them felt that they were extended equal treatment during judicial procedures.

We do not suggest you sites this time, most of the Indian “general” sites deal with the subjects of peoples and languages in detail.