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Indo-Aryan people
Total population
ca. 1 billion
Regions with significant populations
 India 821 mil [1]
 Pakistan Over 164 mil [2]
 Bangladesh Over 150 mil [3]
 Nepal Over 26 mil
 Sri Lanka Over 14 mil
 Maldives Over 300,000

Indo-Aryan languages


(Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain) and Islam, some non-religious atheist/agnostic and Christians

Related ethnic groups

Other Indian people · Bangladeshis · Sri Lankans · Nepalese · Maldivians · Pakistanis · Afghans · Dravidian peoples  · Europeans · Romani people · Iranians · Nuristanis · Dard people · Dom people · Lom people · Indo-Iranians

Indo-Aryan is an ethno-linguistic term referring to the wide collection of peoples united as native speakers of the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian family of Indo-European languages. Today, there are over one billion native speakers of Indo-Aryan languages, most of them native to South Asia, where they form the majority. It is believed that their linguistic roots can be traced back to the ancient Indo-Iranian peoples.



Indo-European topics

Indo-European languages (list)
Albanian · Armenian · Baltic
Celtic · Germanic · Greek
Indo-Iranian (Indo-Aryan, Iranian)
Italic · Slavic  

extinct: Anatolian · Paleo-Balkans (Dacian,
Phrygian, Thracian) · Tocharian

Indo-European peoples
Europe: Balts · Slavs · Albanians · Italics · Celts · Germanic peoples · Greeks · Paleo-Balkans (Illyrians · Thracians · Dacians) ·

Asia: Anatolians (Hittites, Luwians)  · Armenians  · Indo-Iranians (Iranians · Indo-Aryans)  · Tocharians  

Language · Society · Religion
Urheimat hypotheses
Kurgan hypothesis
Anatolia · Armenia · India · PCT
Indo-European studies

The separation of Indo-Aryans proper from the Iranians is commonly dated, on linguistic grounds, to roughly 1800 BCE.[4] The Nuristani languages probably split in such early times, and are classified as either remote Indo-Aryan dialects or as an independent branch of Indo-Iranian. By the mid 2nd millennium BCE early Indo-Aryans had reached Assyria in the west (the Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni) and the northern Punjab in the east (the Rigvedic tribes).[5]

The spread of Indo-Aryan languages has been connected with the spread of the chariot in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. Some scholars trace the Indo-aryans (both Indo-Aryans and European aryans) back to the Andronovo culture (2nd millennium BCE). Other scholars[6] have argued that the Andronovo culture proper formed too late to be associated with the Indo-Aryans of India, and that no actual traces of the Andronovo culture (e.g. warrior burials or timber-frame materials) have been found in India and Southern countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives[7]

Archaeologist J.P. Mallory (1998) finds it "extraordinarily difficult to make a case for expansions from this northern region to northern India" and remarks that the proposed migration routes "only [get] the Indo-Iranian to Central Asia, but not as far as the seats of the Medes, Persians or Indo-Aryans" (Mallory 1998; Bryant 2001: 216). Therefore he prefers to derive the Indo-Aryans from the intermediate stage of the BMAC culture, in terms of a "Kulturkugel" model of expansion. Likewise, Asko Parpola (1988) connects the Indo-Aryans to the BMAC. But although horses were known to the Indo-Aryans, evidence for their presence in the form of horse bones is missing in the BMAC.[8] Parpola (1988) has argued that the Dasas were the "carriers of the Bronze Age culture of Greater Iran" living in the BMAC and that the forts with circular walls destroyed by the Indo-Aryans were actually located in the BMAC. Parpola (1999)[9] elaborates the model and has "Proto-Rigvedic" Indo-Aryans intrude the BMAC around 1700 BCE. He assumes early Indo-Aryan presence in the Late Harappan horizon from about 1900 BCE, and "Proto-Rigvedic" (Proto-Dardic) intrusion to the Punjab as corresponding to the Swat culture from about 1700 BCE.


An influx of early Indo-Aryan speakers over the Hindukush (comparable to the Kushan expansion of the first centuries CE) together with Late Harappan cultures gave rise to the Vedic civilization of the Early Iron Age. This civilization is marked by a continual shift to the east, first to the Gangetic plain with the Kurus and Panchalas, and further east with the Kosala and Videha. This Iron Age expansion corresponds to the black and red ware and painted grey ware cultures.

For Hellenistic times, Oleg N. Trubachev (1999; elaborating on a hypothesis by Kretschmer 1944) suggests that there were Indo-Aryan speakers in the Pontic steppe. The Maeotes and the Sindes, the latter also known as "Indoi" and described by Hesychius as an "an Indian people".[10]

Middle Ages

The various Prakrit vernaculars developed into independent languages in the course of the Middle Ages (see Apabhramsha), forming the Abahatta group in the east and the Hindustani group in the west. The Romani people (also known as Gypsies) are believed to have left India around 1000 CE.

Contemporary Indo-Aryan peoples

Contemporary Indo-Aryans are spread over most of the northern, western, central and eastern regions of the Indian subcontinent, Hyderabad in southern India, and in most parts of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Non-native speakers of Indo-Aryan languages also reach the south of the peninsula. The largest groups are the Hindi, Bengali and Urdu (Hindustani) speakers of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, together with other dialects also grouped as Hindustani, numbering at roughly half a billion native speakers, constituting the largest community of speakers of any of the Indo-European languages. Of the 23 national languages of India, 16 are Indo-Aryan languages (see also languages of India).


Genetic studies

A study headed by geneticist S.Sharma et al.(2009), collated information for 2809 Indians (681 Brahmins, and 2128 Tribals and Scheduled Castes). The results showed "no consistent pattern of the exclusive presence and distribution of Y-haplogroups to distinguish the higher-most caste, Brahmins, from the lower-most ones, schedule castes and tribals". In its conclusions, the study proposed "the autochthonous origin and tribal links of Indian Brahmins" as well as the origin of R1a1* in the Indian subcontinent[11]

In a study led by Mukherjee et al.(2001), the R1a lineage was found to form around (35)–(45)% among all the castes in North Indian population.

Contradicting these findings, however, a genetic study in Kerala state of India found that the upper caste Hindus were closer relatives to Eastern-Europeans than to Hindus from lower castes.[12]

A study conducted by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in 2009 (in collaboration with Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT) analyzed half a million genetic markers across the genomes of 132 individuals from 25 ethnic groups from 13 states in India across multiple caste groups.[13] The study asserts, based on the impossibility of identifying any genetic indicators across caste lines, that castes in South Asia grew out of traditional tribal organizations during the formation of Indian society and that the Indian population derives largely from two groups, with the "ancient north indian" group predating the advent of the Indo-Aryan languages. According to Kumarasamy Thangarajan, "The initial settlement took place 65,000 years ago in the Andamans and in ancient south India around the same time, which led to population growth in this part...At a later stage, 40,000 years ago, the ancient north Indians emerged which in turn led to rise in numbers here. But at some point of time, the ancient north and the ancient south mixed, giving birth to a different set of population.".[14] However, this study fails to explain the presence of R1a1 in significant frequencies (About 30% average over all of India) in the Indian population, given that R1a1 originated no more than 17,000 years ago.

List of Indo-Aryan peoples




  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Mallory, J.P. (1989), In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology, and Myth, London: Thames & Hudson, p. 38f.  
  5. ^ e.g. EIEC, s.v. "Indo-Iranian languages", p. 306.
  6. ^ Brentjes (1981), Klejn (1974), Francfort (1989), Lyonnet (1993), Hiebert (1998) and Sarianidi (1993)
  7. ^ Edwin Bryant. 2001
  8. ^ e.g. Bernard Sergent. Genèse de l'Inde. 1997:161 ff.
  9. ^ Parpola, Asko (1999), "The formation of the Aryan branch of Indo-European", in Blench, Roger & Spriggs, Matthew, Archaeology and Language, vol. III: Artefacts, languages and texts, London and New York: Routledge.
  10. ^ Sindoi (or Sindi etc.) were also described by e.g. Herodotus, Strabo, Dionysius, Stephen Byzantine, Polienus. [1]
  11. ^ "The Indian origin of paternal haplogroup R1a1 substantiates the autochthonous origin of Brahmins and the caste system", S.Sharma et al.(2009)
  12. ^ Bamshad et al. Genetic Evidence on the Origins of Indian Caste Populations (2000)
  13. ^ Indians are one people descended from two tribes
  14. ^ Aryan-Dravidian divide a myth: Study, Times of India


  • Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513777-9.  
  • Mallory, JP. 1998. "A European Perspective on Indo-Europeans in Asia". In The Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Peoples of Eastern and Central Asia. Ed. Mair. Washington DC: Institute for the Study of Man.
  • Trubachov, Oleg N., 1999: Indoarica, Nauka, Moscow.

See also


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Plural form of Indo-Aryan.


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