Demographics of India, Ethnic Groups, Genetics and Sexuality

Glide to success with Doorsteptutor material for UGC : Get detailed illustrated notes covering entire syllabus: point-by-point for high retention.

Download PDF of This Page (Size: 126K)

2020 Estimate


2020 Estimate
2020 Estimate


Under 15





























Ethnic Groups

  • The national Census of India does not recognize racial or ethnic groups within India, but recognizes many of the tribal groups as Scheduled Castes and Tribes (see list of Scheduled Tribes in India). Nevertheless, modern anthropologists classify Indians as belonging to one of four major ethno-racial groups, which significantly overlap because of racial admixture between populations: Caucasoid, Australoid, Mongoloids and Negritos.

  • The Caucasoid are found in the north, central and south-western regions of India and generally speak Indo-Aryan languages; Australoid are found in the south and generally speak Dravidian languages; Mongoloids are largely confined to the North-eastern region of the country and for the most part, speak Tibeto-Burman languages; and Negritos are found on the Andaman Islands located on the southeaster side of the country. These speak a language known simply as Great Andamanese, a linguistic isolate not related to any known language. And finally, Austroasiatic languages are spoken by only tribal or Adivasis, who can be of either Australoid or Mongoloid racial stock.

  • According to a 2009 study published by Reich et al., the modern Indian population is composed of two genetically divergent and heterogeneous populations which mixed in ancient times (about 1,200-3,500 BC), known as Ancestral North Indians (ANI) and Ancestral South Indians (ASI).

  • ASI corresponds to the Dravidian-speaking population of southern India, whereas ANI corresponds to the Indo-Aryan-speaking population of northern India. This demonstrates that there is a genetic basis to ethno-linguistic labels such as “Indo-Aryan” and “Dravidian”. For a list of ethnic groups in the Republic of India (as well as neighbouring countries) see ethnic groups of the Indian subcontinent or the tree diagram above.


Y-chromosome DNA

Y-Chromosome DNA Y-DNA represents the male lineage, The Indian Y-chromosome pool may be summarized as follows where haplogroups R-M420, H, R2, L and NOP comprise generally more than 80% of the total chromosomes.

  • (Excluding R)

  • Other Haplogroups 15%

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA Mt DNA represents the female lineage. The Indian mitochondrial DNA is primarily made up of Haplogroup M

  • Haplogroup M

  • Haplogroup UK

  • Haplogroup N (Excluding UK)

Autosomal DNA

  • Numerous genomic studies have been conducted in the last 15 years to seek insights into India’s demographic and cultural diversity. These studies paint a complex and conflicting picture.

  • In a 2003 study, Base, Majumder et al. have concluded on the basis of results obtained from Mt DNA, Y-chromosome and autosomal markers that

    • There is an underlying unity of female lineages in India, indicating that the initial number of female settlers may have been small;

    • The tribal and the caste populations are highly differentiated;

    • The Austroasiatic tribal are the earliest settlers in India, providing support to one anthropological hypothesis while refuting some others;

    • A major wave of humans entered India through the northeast;

    • The Tibeto-Burman tribal share considerable genetic commonalities with the Austroasiatic tribal, supporting the hypothesis that they may have shared a common habitat in southern China, but the two groups of tribal can be differentiated on the basis of Y-chromosomal haplotypes;

    • The Dravidian tribal were possibly widespread throughout India before the arrival of the Indo-European-speaking nomads, but retreated to southern India to avoid dominance;

    • Formation of populations by fission that resulted in founder and drift effects have left their imprints on the genetic structures of contemporary populations;

    • The upper castes show closer genetic affinities with Central Asian populations, although those of southern India are more distant than those of northern India;

    • Historical gene flow into India has contributed to a considerable obliteration of genetic histories of contemporary populations so that there is at present no clear congruence of genetic and geographical or sociocultural affinities.

  • In a later 2010 review article, Majumder affirms some of these conclusions, introduces and revises some other. The on-going studies, concludes Majumder, suggest India has served as the major early corridor for geographical dispersal of modern humans from out-of-Africa. The archaeological and genetic traces of the earliest settlers in India has not provided any conclusive evidence. The tribal populations of India are older than the non-tribal populations. The autosomal differentiation and genetic diversity within India’s caste populations at 0.04 is significantly lower than 0.14 for continental populations and 0.09 for 31 world population sets studied by Watkins et al., suggesting that while tribal populations were differentiated, the differentiation effects within India’s caste population was less than previously thought. Majumder also concludes that recent studies suggest India has been a major contributor to the gene pool of Southeast Asia.

  • Another study covering a large sample of Indian populations allowed Watkins et al. to examine eight Indian caste groups and four endogamous south Indian tribal populations. The Indian castes data show low between-group differences, while the tribal Indian groups show relatively high between-group differentiation. This suggests that people between Indian castes were not reproductively isolated, while Indian tribal populations experienced reproductive isolation and drift. Furthermore, the genetic fixation index data shows historical genetic differentiation and segregation between Indian castes population is much smaller than those found in East Asia, Africa and other continental populations; while being similar to the genetic differentiation and segregation observed in European populations.

  • In 2006, Sahoo et al. reported their analysis of genomic data on 936 Y-chromosomes representing 32 tribal and 45 caste groups from different regions of India. These scientists find that the haplogroup frequency distribution across the country, between different caste groups, was found to be predominantly driven by geographical, rather than cultural determinants. They conclude there is clear evidence for both large-scale immigration into ancient India of Tibeto-Burman speakers and language change of former Austroasiatic speakers, in the northeast Indian region.

  • The genome studies through 2010 have been on relatively small population sets. Many are from just one southeaster state of Andhra Pradesh. Any conclusions on demographic history of India must therefore be interpreted with caution. A larger national genome study with demographic growth and sex ratio balances may offer further insights on the extent of genetic differentiation and segregation in India over the millenniums.


  • Homosexuality in India

  • Prostitution in India

  • Sexual exploitation of boys November 2008- Children interviewed said the abusers were foreign and domestic tourists, as well as local residents. The study was carried out in the temple towns of Puri in Odisha, Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and Purveyor in Kerala. The report says the abuse starts at about age six and by the time the boys turn nine they get drawn into full-time prostitution.

  • May 2011- One of more than 90 children rescued from a shelter in the Indian town of Rohtak has filed a complaint saying she was forced into prostitution.

Developed by: