India is a 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 description.
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 Andaman Islands.
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 Kerala.
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 lost.
Less than one percent 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.