India is a land of great diversity, more
heterogenous than any other country in the world.
Four major racial groups have met and merged in
India resulting in a complex demographic profile.
The pale-skinned Europoid entered from the western
mountain passes, encountering settled populations of
Dasyu, the dark skinned ones of Rig Vedic
The Aryans established a dominant presence in the
northwest and the Gangetic plain, but the people of
Mongoloid descent remained undisturbed in the
Himalayan region and the highlands of the northeast.
Their affinity with the southeast Asian world is
remarkable and is reflected in the motifs used in
the crafts. Though the Mongoloid people influenced
the racial pattern of tribes in the eastern
provinces of Orissa and Bihar, by and large, they
stayed within central India. Southerners in
peninsular India might have had a link with Negroid
racial elements, as deduced from contemporary
populations with dark skins and tightly curled hair.
But the only true Negrito are isolated in the
The ethnic diversity is reflected in the variety of
languages and dialects used in India - 17 major
languages and 900 dialects or closely related
subsidiary languages. The Indo-European group,
particularly the sub-branch of the Indic languages,
concentrated as dialects of northwest India and the
Gangetic plains, share a linguistic pool with modern
French, English, Greek and Persian, indicative of
migrations of Europoid people. The Dravidian
language family alone consists of 23 languages.
Tamil is spoken in TamilNadu, Telugu in Andhra
Pradesh, Kannada in Karnataka and Malayalam in
Tribal groups of Oraon, Munda and Santhal scattered
through the highlands of eastern and central India
use the languages of the Austro-Asiatic family, but
many of the dialects with only oral traditions have
Less than one per cent of modern India's population
- comprising the Mizo, Naga, Lushai and Khasi , to
name a few tribes - is inheritor to the languages of
the Tibeto-Burman family. Secluded by geography and,
later, protected by policy, their ethnological and
linguistic identity has survived. Christian
missionaries have contributed to the standardization
of some of these languages.