• India’s present day population is a conglomeration of people belonging to different racial groups with different ethnic backgrounds. The people entered India from different parts of the world at different time periods adopting themselves.
  • India has been a meeting point of different races and tribes from times immemorial. Almost all the major races of the world are found in India. As a result, India has a varied population and diversified ethnic composition.
  • Various attempts have been made, under the British Raj and since, to classify the population of India according to a racial typology. After independence, in pursuance of the government’s policy to discourage distinctions between communities based on race, the 1951 Census of India did away with racial classifications.
  • Today, the national Census of independent India does not recognise any racial groups in India.

Ethnic Group

  • Ethnic diversity is one of the social complexities found in most contemporary societies. Historically it is the legacy of conquests that brought diverse peoples under the rule of a dominant group.
  • Ethnicity refers to the differentiation of groups of people who have shared cultural meanings, memories, and descent produced through social interaction.
  • Ethnicity is considered to be shared characteristics such as culture, language, religion, and traditions, which contribute to a person or group’s identity.
    • An ethnic group, or an ethnicity, is a category of people who identify with each other based on similarities such as common ancestry, language, society, culture or nation.
    • Ethnicity is usually an inherited status based on the society in which one lives.
    • Membership of an ethnic group tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language or dialect, symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art, and physical appearance.
    • An ‘ethnic group’ has been defined as a group that regards itself or is regarded by others as a distinct community by virtue of certain characteristics that will help to distinguish the group from the surrounding community.

Racial classification of Indian People

  • India’s present day population is a conglomeration of people belonging to different racial groups with different ethnic backgrounds.
  • The people entered India from different parts of the world at different time periods adopting themselves.
  • India has been a meeting point of different races and tribes from times immemorial. Almost all the major races of the world are visible in India. As a result, India has a varied population and diversified ethnic composition.
  • The population of the country mainly derived from the following racial groups:
  • Different Anthropologists classify racial composition of Indian people based on their works.
  • Some of the notable classification are Sir Herbert Hope Risley (1915), B.S. Guha (1937), Giufrida-Ruggeri (1921), A.C. Haddon (1924), Eickstedt (1934), S.S. Sarkar (1961) etc

Racial Groups of India – General Classification


  • The word Negrito is the Spanish diminutive of negro, used to mean “little black person“.
  • The Negritos from Africa were the earliest people to have come to India. This is the oldest tribe in India.
  • They have survived in their original habitant in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The Jarawas, Onges, Sentinelese and the Great Andamanese are some of the examples.
  • Some hill tribes like Irulas, Kodars, Paniyans and Kurumbas are found in some patches in Southern part of mainland India.
  • Badgi in Rajmahal (Bihar), Jaroya in Andaman, Kadar in Karnataka, Naga+khasi in North East etc.
  • This has often been interpreted to the effect that they are remnants of the original expansion from Africa some 70,000 years ago.
  • However, another study suggests that the Onge (indigenous to Little Andaman) are “more closely related to Southeast Asians than they are to present-day South Asians”, and that the Great Andamanese “appear to have received a degree of relatively recent admixture from adjacent regional populations but also share a significant degree of genetic ancestry with Malaysian negrito groups.
  • Significant geographical distribution (Globally): Andaman Nicobar island in India, peninsular region in Malaysia, Thailand’s Southern part, Philippines’s luzan, negros, Palawan region etc.
The Negritos Tribe
The Negritos Tribe
  • Racial features:
    • Height : short stature
    • Skin color : brown to black
    • Hair: woolly or curly hair
    • Noise: wide and fatty
    • Lips: wide and reverse
    • Head: wide
    • Forehead: bulbous forehead

Proto-Austroloid or Australo-Melanesian

  • The term “Australoid” was coined in ethnology in the mid 19th century, describing tribes or populations “of the type of native Australians“.
    • In physical anthropology, Australoid is used for morphological features characteristic of Aboriginal Australians by Daniel John Cunningham in his Text-book of Anatomy (1902).
    • An Australioid racial group was first proposed by Thomas Huxley in an essay On the Geographical Distribution of the Chief Modifications of Mankind (1870), in which he divided humanity into four principal groups (Xanthochroic, Mongoloid, Negroid, and Australioid).
    • The term “Proto-Australoid” was used by Roland Burrage Dixon in his Racial History of Man (1923). In a 1962 publication, Australoid was described as one of the five major human races alongside Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Congoid and Capoid.
Global distribution of Proto-Austroloid or Australo-Melanesian
Global distribution of Proto-Austroloid or Australo-Melanesian
  • South Indian tribes specifically described as having Australoid affinities include the Oraon, Munda, Santal, Bhil, Gondi, the Kadars of Kerala, the Kurumba and Irula of the Nilgiris, the Paniyans of Malabar, the Uralis, Kannikars, Mithuvan and Chenchus, Malpaharis of the highland of central India. This tribe is dominant in Middle and South India.
  • Proto Australoids or Austrics were the next to come to India after the Negritos. They are people with wavy hair lavishly distributed all over their brown bodies. Long headed with low foreheads and prominent eye ridges, noses with low and broad roots, thick jaws, large palates and teeth and small chins.
Proto-Austroloid or Australo-Melanesian
Proto-Austroloid or Australo-Melanesian
  • Racial features:
    • Height : short to medium stature
    • Skin color : brown to black
    • Hair: clean hair
    • Noise: broad flat
    • Lips: wide and reverse
    • Head: wide
    • Forehead: bulbous forehead


  • Mongols: The Mongols are an East-Central Asian ethnic group native to Mongolia and to China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. They also live as minorities in other regions of China, as well as in Russia.
  • Mongoloid is a grouping of various peoples indigenous to Asia, North America, South America, and the Pacific Islands (with some exceptions).
  • In 2019 Mongoloid comprised 29%, Negroid 27% and Caucasian 20% of earth population.
  • The first use of the term Mongolian race was by Christoph Meiners in 1785, who divided humanity into two races he labeled “Tartar-Caucasians” and “Mongolians”.
    • The word “mong” derives from the word “mongol” and “mongoloid”. Dr. John Langdon
      Down, who discovered Down’s syndrome in the 1860s, used “mongolism” and “mongoloid”
      to describe the people from Mongolia and Mongoloid race (those of Asian ethnicity).
  • Mongoloids found in the North-Eastern part of India in the States of Assam, Nagaland, Mizomram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Tripura and in Northern parts of West Bangal, Sikkim, and Ladakh are people with yellow complexion, oblique eyes, high cheekbones, sparse hair and medium height.
  • Indian tribes belonging Mongoloid race: Lepcha. Toda, Rava, Khasi, Limbu, Garo, Naga, Chakma etc.
  • Mongolian community in India:
    • Onward migration from Tibet: Mongolians who were originally studying in Tibet in the 1950s followed the Tibetans and fled to India after the 1950 invasion of Tibet and the 1959 Tibetan uprising. Many of them settled in Kalimpong, West Bengal.
    • Direct migration from Mongolia: They entered India through northern or eastern mountain. Presently they occupy large areas of Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and others part of north east India.
    • The Mongoloid race of India can be divided two sub groups:
      • Palaeo– Mongoloids: Assam and Myanmar border.
      • Tibeto-Mongoloids: Bhutan border, Sikkim and Trans Himalayas.
  • Racial features
    • Height : medium to tall
    • Skin color : Yellowish to fair
    • Hair: straight and dark hair.
    • Noise: flat to steep
    • Lips: simple
    • Head: wide and round
    • Forehead: high
    • Check bones: high


  • The origin of the Sanskrit word dravida is the word tamiz (Tamil). The Sanskrit word dravida is used to denote the geographical region of South India. In Prakrit, words such as “Damela”, “Dameda”, “Dhamila” and “Damila”, which later evolved from “Tamila”, could have been used to denote an ethnic identity.
  • While the English word Dravidian was first employed by Robert Caldwell in his book of comparative Dravidian grammar based on the usage of the Sanskrit word dravida in the work Tantravarttika by Kumarila Bhatta, the word dravida in Sanskrit has been historically used to denote geographical regions of Southern India as whole.
  • Dravidian people or Dravidians are speakers of any of the Dravidian languages. There are around 245 million native speakers of Dravidian languages.
  • Dravidian speakers form the majority of the population of south India and are natively found in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
  • Origin of the Dravidians:
    • The origins of the Dravidians are a “very complex subject of research and debate.”
    • They may have been indigenous to the Indian subcontinent, but origins in, or influence from, West-Asia has also been proposed.
    • According to Narasimhan et al. (2018), Dravidians formed as a mixture of Archaic Ancestral South Asians, and neolithic farmers from Iran.
    • Although in modern times speakers of various Dravidian languages have mainly occupied the southern portion of India, Dravidian speakers must have been widespread throughout the Indian subcontinent before the Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent.
    • According to Carole Davies, “many academic researchers have attempted to connect the Dravidians with the remnants of the great Indus Valley Civilisation, located in Northwestern India,“ most noteworthy Asko Parpola, who did extensive research on the IVC-scripts. The Brahui population of Balochistan in Pakistan has been taken by some as the linguistic equivalent of a relict population, perhaps indicating that Dravidian languages were formerly much more widespread and were supplanted by the incoming Indo-Aryan languages.
    • Nowadays Tamils, Malayalis, Telugus, Kannadigas that make up around 20% of India’s population.
Geographical distribution of Dravidians
Geographical distribution of Dravidians
  • Racial features:
    • Height : medium to tall
    • Skin color : black, brown, fair
    • Hair: plentiful hair with slight curls
    • Noise: steep
    • Lips: simple
    • Head: wide and round
    • Forehead: high


  • The Mediterranean race (Mediterranid race) is one of the sub-races into which the Caucasian race was categorized by most anthropologists in the late 19th to mid-20th centuries.
  • This racial stock may be related to the Caucasian physical type i.e. the white race.
  • It is one of the dominant races in India.
  • The Mediterranean is characterized by medium or short stature, slender build, long head and dark complexion.
  • The Mediterranean race is divided into three types such as:
    • Palaeo-Mediterranean
    • Mediterranean and
    • Oriental.
  • The Paleo-Mediterranean racial type is found in Tamil-Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and is represented by the Tamil and Telegu Brahmins in South India.
  • The Mediterranean is considered one among the most dominant racial strains in India who are believed to have been the builders of the Indus Valley Civilization.
  • The oriental Mediterranean is almost similar to the Mediterranean type. Even though the Mediterranean race was once pre-dominant throughout India, but now it is confined to the South, among the Dravidians.
Racial diversity in India
Racial diversity in India
  • Racial features:
    • Height: shorter or medium (not tall) stature,
    • Skull: long or moderate skull,
    • Nose: a narrow and often slightly aquiline nose,
    • Hair and Eyes: prevalence of dark hair and eyes,
    • Skin Colour: cream to tan or dark brown skin tone,


  • Western Brachycephalics include the broad headed people living mainly on the Western side of the country such as the Ganga valley and the delta, parts of Kashmir, Kathiawar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • The Parsis and Kodavas also fall under this category.
  • It is believed that the western Brachycephals have entered India from the west.
  • This race is divided into three sub-groups:
    • The Alpinoid
    • The Dinaric and
    • The Armenoid.
  • The Alpinoid is characterized by broad head, medium stature, light skin and are found amongst the Bonias of Gujarat, the Kayastha caste of Bengal etc.
  • The Dinaric is found among the Brahmin of Bengal, non-Brahmin of Karnataka. This strain is also claimed to be found among the Orissans. People belonging to this strain are characterized by broad-head, long nose, tall stature, dark skin colour.
  • The Armenoid is characterized by more marked shape of the back of head, a prominent and narrow nose. The Parsees of Bombay possess these characteristics and therefore they are believed to be the true representatives of this racial type

Nordic or Indo-Aryan:

  • Russian-born French anthropologist Joseph Deniker that initially proposed “nordique” (meaning simply “northern”) as an “ethnic group” (a term that he coined).
  • He defined nordique by a set of physical characteristics such as the concurrence of somewhat wavy hair, light eyes, reddish skin, tall stature and a dolichocephalic skull. Of six ‘Caucasian’ groups Deniker accommodated four into secondary ethnic groups, all of which he considered intermediate to the Nordic: Northwestern, Sub-Nordic, Vistula and Sub-Adriatic, respectively.
  • Nordics points were the last one to immigrate to India. They came to India somewhere between 2000 and 1500 BC.
  • They are now mainly found in the Northern and Central part of India.
  • People belonging to this racial stock are characterized by tall stature, long head, light skin and hair and blue eyes.
  • This physical stock has come to India from the North South East Asia, South West Siberia through Central Asia and spread all over the Northern part of our country during the second millennium B.C.
  • At present, this strain is found amongst the Bania castes of Gujarat, the Kayasthas of Bengal etc., in North India, not in a pure form, but in a mixed form with the Mediterranean race.
  • They are, in particular, found in Punjab and Rajputana. This racial type is represented by the Kho of Chitral, the Red Kaffirs, and the Khatash.
  • It is believed that they have influenced Indian culture through their contribution of new ideas to philosophy and literature.
  • Racial segregation :
    • Racial segregation is the systemic separation of people into racial or other ethnic groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a public toilet, attending school, going to the movies, riding on a bus, or in the rental or purchase of a home or of hotel rooms.
  • Amity-Enmity Complex:
    • The amity-enmity complex was a term introduced by Sir Arthur Keith. His work, A New Theory of Human Evolution (1948), posited that humans evolved as differing races, tribes, and cultures, exhibiting patriotism, morality, leadership and nationalism.
  • Ethnocentrism :
    • The term ethnocentrism was coined by Ludwig Gumplowicz and subsequently employed by social scientist William G. Sumner. Ethnocentrism is the act of judging another culture based on preconceptions that are found in the values and standards of one’s own culture – especially regarding language, behavior, customs, and religion. These aspects or categories are distinctions that define each ethnicity’s unique cultural identity.
  • Pygmy peoples:
    • In anthropology, pygmy peoples are ethnic groups whose average height is unusually short. The term pygmyism is used to describe the phenotype of endemic short stature for populations in which adult men are on average less than 150 cm (4 ft 11 in) tall. The term is primarily associated with the African Pygmies, the hunter-gatherers of the Congo basin.
  • Anthropometry:
    • Anthropometry (from Greek anthropos, human and ‘measure) refers to the measurement of the human individual. An early tool of physical anthropology, it has been used for identification, for the purposes of understanding human physical variation, in paleoanthropology and in various attempts to correlate physical with racial and psychological traits. Anthropometry involves the systematic measurement of the physical properties of the human body, primarily dimensional descriptors of body size and shape.
  • Mongolian spot:
    • A Mongolian spot, also known as Mongolian blue spot, is a congenital birthmark with wavy borders and irregular shape. It normally disappears three to five years after birth. The most common color is blue, although they can be blue-gray, blue-black or deep brown. The spot is prevalent among East, South, Southeast, North and Central Asian peoples, Indigenous Oceania’s (chiefly Micronesians and Polynesians), Sub-Saharan Africans, Amerindians, non-European Latin Americans, Caribbeans of mixed-race descent, and Turkish people.

Racial Groups of India – Risley’s Classification

  • Turko-Iranian – Both of these locations are currently in Pakistan. Iranians-Turks People are tall and have a light skin tone.
  • They have dark eyes and a small nose.
  • Indo-Aryan – This ethnic group is mostly found in Punjab, Rajasthan, and Kashmir.
  • This group includes Rajputs, Khatris, and Jats. Long heads and big noses characterise the majority of the population.
  • They have a tall stature, a light complexion, and black eyes.
  • Scytho-Dravidians – This race is a cross between Scythians and Dravidians. They may be found in the states of Saurashtra, Coorg, and Madhya Pradesh. Scythian people belong to the top layers, whereas Dravidian people belong to the lower strata. They have a large head, a nice nose, are of medium height, and have a fair complexion.
  • Arya – Dravidian – it is a hybrid of two races: Indo Aryan and Dravidian. They are mostly found in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • Brahmins and other members of the upper castes are classified as Aryans, whereas Harijans and other members of the lower castes are classified as Dravidians.
  • Their skin ranges from light brown to black, and they have a long head.
  • Dravidian-Mongol – This race is a cross of Dravidian and Mongolian races. They are mostly concentrated in West Bengal and Orissa.
  • This group includes Brahmins and Kshatriyas from these areas. This racial type emerged as a consequence of the intermixture of Mongolians and Dravidians, with some Indo-Aryan elements also present.
  • These folks are usually dark, have a round head, a medium nose, and are of average height.
  • Mongoloids – This race includes the tribal peoples of Assam and the North-Eastern border.
  • Dravidian – Dravidians are primarily found in South India and Madhya Pradesh. Chotanagpur’s Santhals are an example of this genre. Their skin is black, their eyes are dark, their head is long, and their nose is big.

Racial Groups of India – J.H. Hutton Classification

  • The first residents of India, according to Hutton, were most likely the Negrito people, who have left little trace in India.
  • The Proto-Australoid comes after them. Then there was an early branch of the Mediterranean race that spoke an agglutinative language that gave rise to the current Austro-Asian languages.
  • These are attributed with a rudimentary understanding of agriculture as well as a megalithic cult.
  • Later waves of Mediterranean immigrants arrived from Eastern Europe, bringing with them metalworking skills and the ability to build city-states.
  • The broad-headed features in India’s population, according to Hutton, may be traced back to the Armenoid branch of the Alpine race.
  • They communicated in a Dravidian dialect.
  • Mongolians arrived from the east and made their way to the south. In 1500 B.C, the Indo–Aryan race arrived in India.
  • According to Hutton, India’s population is made up of the following races:
    • Negrito
    • Proto-Australoid
    • Mediterranean
      • East Mediterranean
      • Mediterranean,
    • Armenoid branch of Alpine
    • Mongoloid
    • Indo–Aryan.

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