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A Final Observation


Closing Chapter taken from the book "Bei den Australoiden Sudindiens" (1981)

By Ludmilla Shaposhnikova


My trips through Southern India were nearly up. Why i had choosen just Southern India ? Because ancient australoid tribes have gone through different fates. They’ve been destroyed more or less heavily by more recent populations, otherwise they were driven away. In Northern India, that was often exposed to these invasions, nothing of these tribes has been retained. In Central India, they’ve been more lucky, since there australoid type is yet currently widepsread among big tribes like Khond, Gond and Oraon. As far as Southern India is currently concerned, we can still find there some well-preserved enclaves in which live these ancient populations. At the beginnings of time this land was covered by impervious tropical forests, where australoid tribes lived. Several waves of migrant peoples took place leaving from north and west towards India, however Southern indian forests were left sheltered for a long time from the raids of these invaders. Therefore, australoids of Southern India have been allowed to keep pure their anthropological type.

What’s then this type?!! Short size, dark skin, long head, thick and curly hairs, broad nose, thick lips, heavy teeth – the same features that we can see also among australian aborigines. This continent gives his name also to somatic type – just "australoid". However, we could then ask ourselves: what have they got to do with Australia? Which link is there between India and that continent, who’s far away thousands of kms. From indian coasts?

The most ancient waves of migrant peoples are odd and they have taken place in a strange way. In the past wide areas of Southern and Southeastern Asia were already dwelled by australoid peoples. Around three thousands years ago, as scholars say, a migratory wave made by these populations went through a land-bridge at that time existing between South-East Asia and Australia, settling Australia itself. Then, across many thousands of years, the geography of that region, where migrations followed one another, underwent some changes. Consequently, Australia was set apart from asian continent by huge water extents, that only skilled seafarers could have crossed.

Through a long time in Asia as well as in Australia took place particular historical and ethnical courses, that let only small groups among old australoid peoples to survive.

To discover the life of ancient ages, particularly if it doesn’t change until our time, is always an important and interesting adventure. But really what’s the aim of this action? In which way we can take advantage from this? For which reason we should study australoids of India, who belong to the past? From this past rises our present time, and it’s difficult, sometimes even impossible to understand the present if we aren’t aware of past.

Who is living in Southern India currently? It’s the group of dravidian peoples, to which belong large populations, for example like Tamils, Telugus, Malayalis and Kannaras, but also small (among which even tribes) as Coorgs, Todas, Paniyas, Kadars and any others. What does it mean really "Dravida" and "Dravidian"? Which features does it fix this concept? Let’s to look to the somatical type. Is this one the same for all dravidians? Very hardly. Among them we can find a short-sized and dark-skinned Panya next to a long-limbed and fair-skinned Toda, that everyone could judge as belonging to different races. The Panya is an australoid, the Toda a typical mediterranean europoid. Do they exist possibly any cultural relationships among them? No, their cultures are similarly different, as well as are different Nayar and Kadar cultures. And what’s about the language? Yes, languages spoken by all these peoples, big ones and small ones, belong to only one linguistic family – the dravidian one. Therefore it’s the language that they share.

However the situation is not so simple. The so-called "dravidian problem" dragged on so far into scientist community, a problem that at this time is yet without solution. The question is: who are these dravidians? Are they autochtonous or invaders? This problem is hard to solve, if we want to regard dravidians as an ethno-cultural whole arisen in an ancient age. Their wholeness begins just now to take shape.

The past of Southern India must be seen in the perspective of their evolution. However evolution began with australoid tribes, that currently speak dravidian languages. These tribes, who are a part of dravidian people, are the aborigines of Southern India. Therefore among them a "dravidian problem" doesn’t exist. This problem is is given rather for an other section of southern indian population that, fair-skinned, belong to a mediterranean sub-race, but also speak the same dravidian languages. Maybe they are just the above-mentioned invaders, and probably ancient settlers. At a present time we are able to do only some rough deduction about the age when they came to India.

However if they – in this way we could reply – really came in a such ancient time, the unavoidable inter-ethnical blending process should have produced a new somatical type, in which the "racial pureness" of mediterranean-like earliest invaders hardly could be retained. This is true everywhere this process happened, however not in India.

Indian society, due to a strict and impenetrable barrier raised between castes and tribes, fully working until a few years ago, doesn’t see even today this process completed. Among Coorgs, Todas, the caste of Nayar from Kerala and other southern indian groups it’s possible even today to see a "pure" mediterranean type. These individuals are tall and fair-skinned, own a straight nose, thin lips, smooth hairs, almond-shaped eyes, long head or so-called "dolychocephal".

Two migrating waves, australoids and mediterranean-like settlers, have built up the so-called dravidian people, and this process followed up till now.

Several thousands of years ago in the countries belonging to the mediterranean basin rose ancient cultures and they were able to thrive, such as in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Iran. The oldest cultures of India rose more than five thousands years ago. They took their name from the town named Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, that rose at that time in the Indus valley. These cultures were born under a strong influence of mediterranean region. Maybe they were also mediterranean-like individuals who have established it. However the development of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa civilizations were related to earlier populations and through the time they acquired some typical features. There, into the Indus valley, possibly leaving from a few thousands years that blending process between different migrating waves was begun, enlarged then to Southern India. Probably the creators of Mohenjo-Daro civilization weren’t the only mediterranean-like settlers in India. Migrating waves leaded by these peoples could have happened several times one following an other.

It’s reasonable to believe – but only as a supposition – that mediterranean-like invaders, drawn by southern indian wealth, settled Southern India in an ancient age. It seems that this process didn’t happen peacefully. Australoid tribes set themselves against, but settlers had a better equipment, and this sealed the fate of australoids. Then a peacefully period began. However this relationships weren’t really peaceful. Submitted tribes have talked about slaughters and conflicts. Gradually a group made by mixed populations began to build up, and mediterranean-like invaders as well as australoids gave their contributions to this process. It can be defined on the whole by an anthropological point of view as "dravidian". The cultures belonging to both these stocks affected each other. In this way common cultural elements came out, given by both their descent. At the same time, whole cultural traits typical of australoids were drawn by mediterranean-like settlers, and on the opposite sense also. To single out the typical features of australoid ancient culture from joint cultural context of dravidian peoples, is needed in order to dispel any doubts related to origins of indian population. Some attempts towards this aim were undertaken one following an other by indian and british searchers. So writes the ethnographer Hutton: "The contribution of Proto-Australoids to indian culture is represented maybe by introduction of pottery kitchenware. The presence of boomerang as well as blowgun into Southern India can be explained in the same perspective. As far as religion is concerned, we can add the totems of Proto-Australoids…….."

Some typical features of animistic religions, whose some contributions have been found into induism, have australoid origins. Maybe also into Southern India was widespread the first level of megalithic culture related to australoid peoples. For example Kurumbas even today build up Dolmens and deck the graves with stone-made walls.

The skillful indian dance Kathakali has its roots into the "Devil’s dances" performed by the tribes of the woods. We could mention many others again among these elements.

Just both these races have also given their contribution to make the dravidian language, therefore these languages share common elements with mesopotamic and elamitic languages on a side and with australian ones on the other side, although many scholars are doubtful about this last relationship.

Two thousands years before our age so-called aryan tribes, belonging to the indo-european stock of peoples, came to India. This last was the third relevant migrating waves that gave a contribution to make indian people and its culture. Aryans came slowly also to Southern India and brahminical priestly caste supported their interests. This caste got in touch with southern indian population, and among them also the australoids. Brahmins set themselves against australoids and they tried to subdue them to their beliefs. At this purpose the temple played a role not less important than aryan warriors’ sword, the Shatriya. Southern India gives many examples on this subject, like brahminical priests who usurped tribal temples and gods for their needs. Australoid population on the other side, fell down under induist influence and prayed the gods belonging to hindu pantheon.

The question of influence exerted each other by different cultures in India is complex and multidisciplinary. In this perspective ancient australoid tribes take an important place. To understand this is possible, if we survey on the culture of remnants from the oldest indian populations.

There is also a further element that to talk about. When i’ve visited australoid tribes, i’ve always thought about their fate, about the strange and entangled path they did. What did them allow to retain till now their lifestyle and tribal organization?

Southern India is located into a backward position than Northern India by a geographical and historical point of view. As we have earlier talked, just here into Southern India they were allowed to retain, into locations quite lonely and hardly accessible from outside world, the remnants of oldest populations. The subdivision of indian society into castes impermeable each other, in everyone of which ruled a strict law, hindered any attempts of ethnical and social melting between these tribes in such a way retained, and the more advanced mainstream indian population. The social order made by castes ruled through several thousands of years over the country, and through this time australoid tribes, due to the caste system, were set apart from the main course of events, along which India’ s evolution went on.

Natural and regular evolutional process of India was steadily affected by british colonists. English authorities through two centuries "carefully" managed backwardness and splitting of lands. Managing their traditional "tear and subdue" politics foreign lords of India took advantage from persisting caste system, permanent strife among religious communities and at last splitting between different tribal groups. Besides, they let them manage their fate, a fate however that seemed strongly declining. The tribes were compelled to face unprepared the world of exploitation, gain and money. Someone among them died, someone went to rack and ruin, some others became parias and beggars, who begged along town avenues, some others again took shelter into deep jungle and mountaineous chains, and suitably closed out every doors to this world dreadful and difficult to understand for them. Tribal organization and solidarity acted as an important protective barrier against that world for these small tribes. Therefore these tribal organizations tried to save themselves and to get hold of last hope.

In the year 1947 India became an indipendent state. Among problems and troubles that the country inherited from his colonial past, there was also the tribal problem. How to help them? How to relieve their difficult path? How to protect them from little and big exploiters?

The first head of government of indipendent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, moved a lot of interest towards tribes. Among governments of federated states of India, whose population belongs mainly to tribes, boards and special committees were set up. In many parts of the country rose organizations aimed to the development of tribals. The government set apart amounts of money in order to build roads, as well as homes, schools and hospitals. Co-workers of organizations undertook the challenge against oppression that traders, usurers and landowners committed towards tribes, and sometimes really they were able to reach this purpose.

Every years, at national summits for tribal welfare, representative of progressive political parties as well as government officers and ethnologists, talk about these problems. The question, however, about the means through which to support tribal development and to make their life easier, is currently open. A solution is, in front of the capitalist social order, that rules in India, very difficult. The aim they pursue, a better fate for small tribes, places on their path many hindrances without join their wished outcome sometimes.

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