by Kushal Mucon (Mookonda Kushalappa)
The National Geographic, IBM and the Waitt Family Foundation support the Genographic Project. It traces back the roots of the entire human race to South Central Africa around 50,000 years before period. You can call the first man Manu or Adam based on your religion, but science proves that he had lived in this region of Africa. From there some of them passed through the horn of Africa and Egypt into Eurasia. These early people went on to populate the rest of the world outside the African continent over thousands of years.
I had participated in the Genographic Project last year. Accordingly I bought the kit from them online. I scrapped the inside of my mouth with the small scalpel they provided, placed the scalpel with the saliva from the inside of my cheeks in a preservative and mailed it over to the Project people. A few weeks later I got to see the results; it said that my Y-chromosome was haplogroup R1a1 M17 (sub clade R1a1a, M198). This is a common gene found among speakers of the Indo-European languages (the language family which includes Sanskrit, Persian, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarathi, Marathi, Konkani and others). In India many North Indians and a few South Indians carry this gene.
People perceive this to be like the normal DNA medical tests but it isn't. The Y-chromosome in the case of men and the mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) in the case of women can be traced from the cheek cell samples. Y-chromosome is inherited from a father to a son and is absent in women. Likewise mDNA is passed on from a mother to a daughter and is not found in men. Sometimes rarely between several generations a gene would mutate. The carrier of this mutated gene would pass it on to their descendants; this marker helps distinguish the carrier's gene from that of other people. Thus an individual's ancestry thousands of years ago can be traced while nothing about their recent history can be determined.
|Forested hills of Kodagu (Coorg)|
It is strange that the R1a1 gene should be found among the Kodavas. The Kodavas have lived in Kodagu for thousands of years and were the first agriculturists of the region. The Kodavas aren't Aryan by culture nor Indo-European speaking. Both their language and their culture are Dravidian like that of the other South Indians. However a legend states that a prince Chandra Varma, a son of Emperor Siddhartha of Matsya (a region in North India) and Chandravamshi Kshatriya (warrior of the lunar dynasty), lived in the Kodagu region. He fathered a 'fierce' race which later came to be called the Kodava race. Their mother, Chandra Varma's first wife, was a Dravidian; Chandra Varma's other wife was barren. The ten sons of Chandra Varma were married to the daughters of the Raja of Vidarbha (an Indo-Aryan kingdom in Northern Maharashtra). Thus this Chandra Varma, if the legend is true in some way, maybe the progenitor of the R1a1 gene among the Kodavas. The legend again speaks of the sons of Chandra Varma being the first to till the land of Kodagu. Hence the progeny of a legendary Indo Aryan man became Dravidian in language and culture over the thousands of years. This legend was found in the Kaveri Purana section of the Skanda Purana, one of the eighteen major Puranas, or books on Hindu mythology.
|Male family members of a Coorg home.|
Note that the people were bare-footed
(From: Richter, 1870).
But this gene and legend doesn't exactly account for the Kodavas being Brachycephals (having a large cephalic index, an anthropological measurement). The Brachycephals are a broad-headed people, among them being the Gujarathis (Desastha Brahmins and Prabhus), the Maharastrians (Marathas and Kunbi) and the Bengalis (Vaidyas) of India, identified by their high cephalic index, a ratio of the length and the breadth of the top of their heads. A few of the Punjabis (like the Khatris), the Konkanis (like the Shenoys) and the Mysoreans (like Iyengar Brahmins) were also found to be Brachycephals.
Again we can look further into the same Kaveri Purana legend, if it is valid, for clues. The sons of Chandra Varma married the daughters of Vidarbha Raja of Northern Maharasthra, a region inhabited by Brachycephals, hence we can credit the princesses of that same legend for the Brachycephaly of the Coorgs. Yours truly happens to have a sizeable cephalic index as well, nearly 90 in measurement. The cephalic index is the ratio of the maximum width to the maximum length of the head. There are three human groups based on this, the Dolichocephals (the long-headed), the Mesocephals (the medium-headed) and the Brachycephals (the broad-headed). They are not related to any skin complexion and they are found across all the continents.
There could be other genes as well found among the Kodavas. No studied community, however closely knit, has been found to have a single gene. Definitely all communities on earth have migrated to their respective regions of habitation at some point of time.
The Kodavas are related to a number of other Indian communities, among them the Punjabi Khatri (represented by the ten Sikh Gurus), the Bengali Brahmin, the Konkani Shenoy and the Iyengar. These mentioned groups are classified as Brachycephals and have the R1a1 gene like the Kodavas. Indians have been grouped into six groups by anthropologists on the basis of their physical characteristics : Negritos, Austrics, Brachycephals, Tibeto-Burmans, Mediterraneans (Dravidians) and Nordics (Aryans).