Visualizing caste & linguistic differences in India (Fst)

By Razib Khan | September 27, 2009 6:03 pm

I took the Fst values from Reconstructing Indian population history, and decided to plot them in different ways. Remember that Fst measures the proportion of between population variance, the variation which can’t be accounted for by the normal variation you’d find within a population. So it’s a rough measure of genetic distance. I’ve removed the Chenchus, Siddis and Tibeto-Burmans from the data because they’re outliers, especially the last two. I’ve taken the Kashmiri Pandits as reference group, so that all Fst values are such that they measure the distance between Pandits and group X. I selected the Pandits because they perceive themselves to be the most racially pure Aryan group in South Asia (read The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru, or talk to a Kashmiri Pandit!), and I think that many Indians would accept this on some level (though the two Pakistani groups, Pathans and Sindhis, both had slight higher “Ancestral North Indian” (ANI) than the Pandits). Also, I believe that the Fst values for the two Austro-Asiatic groups are not totally comparable with the rest because while most South Asian groups are a combination of ANI and “Ancestral South Indian,” these groups likely have some admixture or relationship to populations in East Asia. In any case, charts below.

I took the caste-rank from the paper. If you do a search online you’ll see there’s some ambiguity as to whether a group is labelled as a tribe or a lower caste (to a great extent it has to do with what the government of India says). It will be interesting when the data sets and results become more extensive to match up oral histories of various groups with their genetic relationships. For example, the Meghawal are a low caste group in northwest India who do not seem very different from upper caste groups in the local area. But they are slotted into occupations which are considered unclean and degrading (e.g., leather working), so their caste status has to be low. In contrast, the Vysyas seem to be more closely related to tribal and lower caste populations of their regions. But as a mercantile oriented group known for their orthodox Hinduism (e.g., strict vegetarianism, they seem to have gone the route of Sanskritization whole hog) means that they are a “forward caste.”


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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