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The Dravidians were the majority population across the Indian subcontinent before the second millennium. The evidence of early Dravidians comes from studying the Indo-Aryan culture, languages, and findings at many mounds, the preeminent of which are Mohenjodaro in Punjab and Harappa in Larkana District in Sind. The sources indicate an early Indian civilization with developments parallel to those of Mesopotamia and Sumeria. Excavations from the 1920s found craftsmanship that defines the Indus (or Harappa) culture of 5,000 years ago. The presence of spears, bows, and cattle suggests societys transition from a matriarchate to a patriarchate state. For transactions they used seals as coins, some of which depict a prototype of the god Shiva.

Dravidians had an advanced city culture more ancient than the Aryans, who, as Indian legends tell and some dispute, invaded India from central Asia in several waves around 1500 BCE. The Rig Veda, an ancient Hindu scripture, records the destruction of Harappa, then called Hariyopiyah (5.27.5). In particular, the Aryan invaders targeted for extinction the Dasyus tribe, who were dark-skinneda Dravidian feature. Yet another view indicates that the Harappa culture was already disintegrating when the Aryans arrived, perhaps due to natural causes such as a flood.

Among the jungle tribes in the Indus Valley were the Bhils, Kols, Santals, Kukis, Todas, and Oraos, some of which were Dravidians. One theory is that the Dravidians escaped into the hills after the first Aryan invasion, making the hills the safe ground for the Dravidians. The Aryans, being familiar with farming and cattle breeding, had the incentive to clear the lowlands in cooperation with the Dravidians. Thus, savannas and fens were transformed into rice fields. In this civilization building, the Aryans contributed knowledge of horse-power, iron, and the distinct Sanskrit language to the Harappan oxen-force, copper, and the difficult to define Dravidian language.

The link between the Harappan language and the Dravidians is controversial. One theory holds that the Harappans used a sign language that is not alphabet-based, as in Sanskrit, whereas others maintain that the Harappan language is close to the Dravidian language. The proto-Dravidian language was placed at the scene of the Harappan culture. The prominent language groups of the Dravidians today are Brahue in the north, Gonds in north and central India, Kannadigan in Karnataka and Maharastra, Malayali in Kerala, Tamil in the South, and Telugu in Andhra Pradesh. Inscriptions at Harappan sites suggest a resemblance to the old Tamil that is spoken by Dravidians in southern India today. Geneticists are now exploring relatedness among speakers of over 20 different language groups associated with the Dravidians.

SEE ALSO Anthropology; Anthropology, Linguistic; Archaeology; Aryans; Caste, Anthropology of


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Lall Ramrattan

Michael Szenberg