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Dravidian people

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Title: Dravidian people  
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Subject: Dravidian, Malé, Gondi people, Malayali, Dravidar Kazhagam, Tamil Muslim, Demographics of Kerala, Karnata Kingdom, Elur Chetty, Udeep tribe
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Dravidian people

For other uses, see Dravidian (disambiguation).

Areas in South India where Dravidian languages are currently spoken
Total population
approx. 217 million  
Regions with significant populations
Dravidian languages
Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Judaism
Related ethnic groups
Brahui people · Gondi people · Kannadigas · Kodavas · Malayalis · Telugus · Tamils · Tuluvas ·

Dravidian people are people whose native speech belongs to the Dravidian language family. There are around 220 million, mostly in Southern India, with others in parts of Central India, Eastern India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives and Nepal. The most populous Dravidians are the Telugus, Tamils, Kannadigas, and the Malayalis. Smaller Dravidian communities with 1–5 million speakers are the Tuluvas, Gonds and Brahui.


There are two definitions for Dravidian ethnicity which are generally divided between proposing that Dravidian people are an ethnic group in their own right, or Dravidian peoples are a collective group of ethnolinguistic ethnicities. The World Book encyclopaedia, Volume 10 says: "Most southern Indians belong to the Dravidian ethnic group;" referring to them as one ethnic group,[1] while the The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Volume 8; Volume 21 refers to 'Dravidian ethnic groups', suggesting the latter definition.[2] Hence, depending on the definition and context, both 'Dravidian people' and 'Dravidian peoples' may be used.


The English word Dravidian was first employed by Robert Caldwell in his book of comparative Dravidian grammar based on the usage of the Sanskrit word drāvida in the work Tantravārttika by Kumārila Bhaṭṭa.[3] For the origin of the Sanskrit word drāviḍa, various theories have been proposed. These theories concern the direction of derivation between tamiẓ and drāviḍa; such linguists as Zvelebil assert that the direction is from tamiẓ to drāviḍa.[4]


Although in modern times speakers of the various Dravidian languages have mainly occupied the southern portion of India, nothing definite is known about the ancient domain of the Dravidian parent speech. It is, however, a well-established and well-supported hypothesis that Dravidian speakers must have been widespread throughout India, including the northwest region.[5] Origins of Dravidian people are informed by various theories proposed by linguists, anthropologists, geneticist and historians. According to geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza in the book The History and Geography of Human Genes, the Dravidians were preceded in the subcontinent by Austroasiatic speakers, and were followed by Indo-European-speaking migrants sometime later.

Some linguists hypothesized that Dravidian-speaking people were spread throughout the Indian subcontinent before a series of Indo-Aryan migrations. In this view, the early Indus Valley civilisation (Harappa and Mohenjo Daro) is often identified as having been Dravidian.[6] Cultural and linguistic similarities have been cited by researchers such as Finnish Indologist Asko Parpola as being strong evidence for a proto-Dravidian origin of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation.

Some scholars like J. Bloch and M. Witzel believe that the Indo-Aryan moved into an already Dravidian speaking area after the oldest parts of the Rig Veda were already composed.[7] The Brahui population of Balochistan has been taken by some as the linguistic equivalent of a relict population, perhaps indicating that Dravidian languages were formerly much more widespread and were supplanted by the incoming Indo-Aryan languages.[8]

Thomason and Kaufman state that there is strong evidence that Dravidian influenced Indo-Aryan through "shift", that is, native Dravidian speakers learning and adopting Indo-Aryan languages.[9] Erdosy states that the most plausible explanation for the presence of Dravidian structural features in Old Indo-Aryan is that the majority of early Old Indo-Aryan speakers had a Dravidian mother tongue which they gradually abandoned.[10] Even though the innovative traits in Indo-Aryan languages could be explained by multiple internal explanations, early Dravidian influence is the only explanation that can account for all of the innovations at once – it becomes a question of explanatory parsimony; moreover, early Dravidian influence accounts for several of the innovative traits in Indo-Aryan languages better than any internal explanation that has been proposed.[11] Zvelebil remarks that "Several scholars have demonstrated that pre-Indo-Aryan and pre-Dravidian bilingualism in India provided conditions for the far-reaching influence of Dravidian on the Indo-Aryan tongues in the spheres of phonology, syntax and vocabulary".[12]

Genetic anthropology

Genetic views on race differ in their classification of Dravidians. Classical anthropologists, such as Carleton S. Coon in his 1939 work The Races of Europe, argued that Ethiopia in Northeast Africa and India in South Asia represented the outermost peripheries of the Caucasoid race. In the 1960s, genetic anthropologist Stanley Marion Garn considered the entirety of the Indian subcontinent to be a "race" genetically distinct from other populations.[13][14] The geneticist L.L. Cavalli-Sforza of Stanford, based on work done in the 1980s, classified Indians as being genetically Caucasian. Cavalli-Sforza theorised that Indians are about three times closer to West Europeans than to East Asians.[13] More recently, other geneticists, such as Lynn B. Jorde and Stephen P. Wooding, demonstrated that South Indians are genetic intermediaries between Europeans and East Asians.[15][16][17]

While a number of earlier anthropologists held the view that the Dravidian people together were a distinct race, a small number of genetic studies based on uniparental markers have challenged this view. Some researchers have indicated that both Dravidian and Indo-Aryan speakers are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent; however, this point of view is rejected by many researchers in favour of Indo-Aryan migration, with racial stratification among Indian populations being distributed along caste lines.[18][19][20][21]

Because of admixture between Australoid, Caucasoid, and Mongoloid racial groups, one cannot speak of a biologically separate "Dravidian race" distinct from non-Dravidians on the Indian subcontinent. In a 2009 study of 132 individuals, 560,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 25 different Indian groups were analysed, providing strong evidence in support of the notion that modern Indians (both Indo-Aryan and Dravidian groups) are a hybrid population descending from two post-Neolithic, genetically divergent populations referred to as the 'Ancestral North Indians' and the 'Ancestral South Indians'. According to the study, Andamanese are an ASI-related group without ANI ancestry, showing that the peopling of the islands must have occurred before ANI-ASI gene flow on the mainland.[22]


Main article: Dravidian languages

The best-known Dravidian languages are Tamil (தமிழ்), Malayalam (മലയാളം), Telugu (తెలుగు), and Kannada (ಕನ್ನಡ). There are three subgroups within the Dravidian language family: North Dravidian, Central Dravidian, and South Dravidian, matching for the most part the corresponding regions in the Indian subcontinent.

Dravidian languages are spoken by more than 200 million people. They appear to be unrelated to languages of other known families like Indo-European.

Dravidian grammatical impact on the structure and syntax of Indo-Aryan languages is considered far greater than the Indo-Aryan grammatical impact on Dravidian. Some linguists explain this anomaly by arguing that Middle Indo-Aryan and New Indo-Aryan were built on a Dravidian substratum.[23] There are also hundreds of Dravidian loanwords in Indo-Aryan languages, and vice versa.

List of Dravidian people

Name Country Population Notes
Gond  India 9,319,000 (1991) A prominent group of Dravidian-speaking tribal people inhabiting the central region of India.
Kannadigas  India 45,000,000 (2001 only India) Kannadigas: People belonging to the south-Dravidian subgroup. Mostly found in Karnataka and parts of northern Kerala and parts of southern Maharashtra, northwest region of Tamil Nadu, India. A minority group is found in Arab states of the Persian Gulf, United States, United Kingdom, Canada.
Khonds/Kondha  India  ? Mostly found in the eastern Indian states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
Kodavas  India 160,000 (approx) People belonging to the south-Dravidian subgroup, found in Karnataka and parts of northern Kerala who speak the Kodava language.
Kurukhs  India,  Bangladesh  ? People belonging to the north-Dravidian subgroup. Found in India and Bangladesh. It is the only Dravidian language indigenous in Bangladesh.
Malto  India  ? Malto/Malar mostly live in the northern end of the subcontinent, such as in West Bengal, Bangladesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.
Malayalis  India 35,757,100 (1997) These people belong to south-Dravidian linguistic subgroup. Mostly found in Kerala, Lakshadweep, Puducherry, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India. A minority group is found in Arab states of the Persian Gulf, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Malaysia and Australia.
Tamils  India,  Sri Lanka 77,000,000 These people belong to south-Dravidian linguistic subgroup. Mostly found in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, parts of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, southern Karnataka, Maharashtra and Delhi.There is also a significant presence in Sri Lanka, Singapore, Andaman and Nicobar, Maldives, Mauritius, Philippines, Bali, Sumatra and Malaysia. A minority group is found in Arab states of the Persian Gulf, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Telugus  India 80,000,000 These people belong to south-Dravidian subgroup (formerly classified with the Central Dravidian but now more specifically in the South Dravidian or South Central Dravidian inner branch of the South Dravidian). Mostly found in Andhra Pradesh also in Orissa, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka and also in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Singapore and United States.
Tuluvas  India 10,000,000 (approx) People belonging to the south Dravidian subgroup, found in coastal Karnataka and northern Kerala, alternatively named Tulu Nadu.
Giraavarus  Maldives  ? The Giraavarus or Tivaru people are the indigenous people of Giraavaru Island, part of the Maldives.
Brahuis  Pakistan 2,528,000 Brahuis are an ethnic group of about 2.5 million people with the majority found in Sindh and Baluchistan, Pakistan.

See also


External links

  • Dolmens, Hero Stones and the Dravidian People
  • Glimpses of South Asia before 1947
  • Peoples and Languages in pre-Islamic Indus valley
  • Dravidians Organization International (NPO & NGO) Since 2004

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