Roman Catholics of India’s West coast remnants of early Brahmin lineages: Study
Hyderabad: Roman Catholics of Goa, Kumta and Mangalore regions are the remnants of very early lineages of the Brahmin community, majorly with Indo-European-specific genetic composition, finds a genetic study.
The joint study by the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, and DST-Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences (BSIP), Lucknow, found consequences of Portuguese inquisition in Goa on the population history of Roman Catholics. They also found some indication of Jewish component.
The first high throughput study on Roman Catholic population was conducted by Kumarasamy Thangaraj, Chief Scientist, CSIR-CCMB, and Director, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad; and Niraj Rai, Senior Scientist, DST-BSIP. The findings were published in the journal ‘Human Genetics’ on August 23.
The West coast of India harbours a rich diversity of various ethno-linguistic population groups. The Roman Catholic is one such distinct group, whose origin is much debated. Some historians and anthropologists relate them to ancient group of Gaud Saraswat. Others believe they are members of the ‘Lost Tribes’ of Jews in the first century migration to India.
Till date, no genetic study was done on this group to infer their origin and genetic history, the CCMB said in a statement.
The researchers analysed the DNA samples of 110 individuals from the Roman Catholic community in Goa, Kumta and Mangalore.
They compared the genetic information of the Roman Catholic group to the previously published DNA data from India and West Eurasia. They put this information alongside archaeological, linguistic and historical records.
All of these helped the researchers fill in many of the key details about the demographic changes and history of the Roman Catholic population of South-West India since the Iron Age (until around 2,500 years ago), and how they relate to the contemporary Indian population.
“Our genetic study revealed that majority of the Roman Catholics are genetically close to an early lineage of the Gaur Saraswat community,” said Thangaraj, senior author of the study.
“More than 40 per cent of their paternally inherited ‘Y’ chromosome can be grouped under the R1a Haplogroup. Such a genetic signal is prevalent among populations of North India, Middle East and Europe, and unique to this population in the Konkan region,” he added.
“This study strongly suggests profound cultural transformations in ancient South-West India. This has mostly happened due to continuous migration and mixing events since last 2,500 years,” said Rai, co-author of the paper.
“The origins of many population groups in India like the Jews and Parsis are not well-understood. These are gradually unfolding with advances in modern and ancient population genetics. Roman Catholics are part of them with much-debated history of origin based on inferences of anthropologists and historians,” said Lomous Kumar, first author of the paper.
“This multi-disciplinary study using history, anthropology and genetics information have helped us understand the population history of Roman Catholics from one of the most diverse and multicultural regions of our country,” said Vinay K Nandikoori, Director, CCMB.
The other institutes involved in this study include Mangalore University, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, and Institute of Advanced Materials, Sweden.