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Overcoming the Aryan-Dravidian divide

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Indian Culture


Source: The Hindu

Context: Governor of Tamil Nadu was recently criticised for his views on the Aryan-Dravidian divide.

Direction: Although not a very important topic, however, UPSC can ask about language and culture-related themes based on this issue.

Aryans and Dravidians

  • View of historian P.T. Srinivasa Iyengar: He maintained that cultural differences existed between the Vedic and non-Vedic people.
  • Contribution of Caldwell to Dravidian languages: Caldwell (in 1856) gave the idea of the Dravidian language family as a scientific entity.

The pattern of migration from ancient times and the evolution of languages

  • Prehistoric migration:
    • First Indians: The first modern humans arrived in India around 65,000 years ago as part of an Out of Africa migration. The genetic lineage of these first migrants still dominates the Indian population and accounts for 50-65% of the Indian ancestry today.
    • 2nd major migration ( 9000 to 5000 years ago): Agriculturists from the Zagros region of Iran moved into India’s northwestern part and mixed with the First Indians and helped speed up the farming ( esp. wheat and barley).  It laid the foundation for the Harappan Civilisation (2600 BCE to 1900 BCE). Although, the pictorial script of Harappans has not been deciphered yet.
    • 3rd major migration (around 2000 BCE): When farming-related migrations originally started from the Chinese heartland overran south-east Asia and then reached India, bringing the Austro-Asiatic family of languages, e.g. Mundari and Khasi spoken in the eastern and central parts of the country.
    • 4th major migration (2000 to 1000 BCE): It brought central Asian pastoralists, who spoke Indo-European languages and called themselves Aryans.
  • Ancient India migration:
    • Iron Age: The use of iron enabled settlement in interiors, into the Ganga valley and Central India. Further, the formation of Maha janpads led to the formation of empires e.g. Nandas, Mauryas, and constant tussle for land and control, which led to the further intermingling of people. This led to the spread of Sanskrit, and Prakrit to different parts of India and even to south-east Asia (through Buddhism)
    • 200 BCE to 300 CE: Invasion of Indo-Greeks, Central Asian rulers (e.g. Kushans, speaking various Indo-European languages): led to the cultural intermingling of Greeks, central Asian traditions with the Indian culture.
    • Sangam age: By the 3rd century BCE, the Megalithic people migrated from the uplands into the fertile river basins and reclaimed the marshy deltaic areas. They formed three powerful kingdoms, the Cholas, the Pandyas, and the Cheras. They helped in the spread of Tamil languages in South India and South-East Asia.
    • Trade: Silk Road and Spice trade, Christianity mission (e.g. Thomas the Apostle sailed to India around the 1st century CE.), etc. carried goods, ideas, and languages between the ancient civilizations of the World and India.
  • Medieval India:
    • In the medieval period, Indians and Indian languages were influenced by the Islamic conquest from central Asia (e.g. Ghaznavids and Ghurids), Arabs (in western India), Turkic dynasties, invasion of Mongols, and Mughals from Fergana Valley (modern-day Uzbekistan). They brought in various dialects e.g. Turkic, Persian, Arabic, etc.
    • India’s northeast Ahom kingdom (originally from Yunan province in China) and their subsequent invasion by Burma led to the spread of Siamese-Chinese culture and languages.
  • Modern India:
    • European traders and missionaries led to the introduction of various European languages, Western Culture, and Renaissance Ideas into India.



Waves of migration over millennia have left their mark on what we speak and how we speak, but over time indigenous languages have also continued to survive (India has 453 ‘living’ indigenous languages in the world). Also, the outmigration of Indian ideas, religion, people, and languages has had a profound impact on other countries esp. East and Southeast Asia.

 Other related News:


AI4Bharat is an initiative by IIT Madras. This initiative would contribute to and accelerate Indic language AI work as a public good.

  • It has been aligned with the objectives of the Digital India Bhashini Mission.
  • It has been started to build open-source language AI for Indian Languages.
  • The Digital India Bhashini mission was launched with the objective of making all services and information available to citizens in their own language.

Insta Links

Classical Languages


Mains Link

Q. Discuss in what ways Sanskrit Literature has imparted diversity and richness to Indian Literature. (10M)


Prelims Link

Which one of the following was given classical language status? (UPSC 2015)

(a) Odia

(b) Konkani

(c) Bhojpuri

(d) Assamese

Answer: A

Six languages in India namely Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada, Malayalam and Odia have been given the status of classical language. The first language to be accorded with that status is Tamil. Tamil was declared a classical language back in 2004.