Multiple waves of Indians migrating to Southeast Asia over a period of more than 1,200 years and their mixing with the local population led to the establishment of Indian culture throughout the region, according to a new genetic study released Thursday.
An international team has provided detailed genetic evidence of Indian ancestry in various Southeast Asian populations in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, identifying migration patterns of people from the Indian subcontinent to South Asia. Southeast, mainly between the 5th and 17th century AD.
Such population movement may have led to the establishment of Indian culture as seen in the region’s state formation, laws, religions, arts and literature.
Ancient Sanskrit inscriptions have been found throughout Southeast Asia, and several present-day languages contain many Sanskrit loanwords.
Mainland Southeast Asia has a complex demographic history and includes hundreds of indigenous languages from five different major language families.
During the first millennium of the common era, after the start of trade with the subcontinent, Indian culture influenced the establishment of the first states in the region.
However, few studies have adequately explored the extent of evidence for earlier admixture of South Asian genetic lineages in present-day Southeast Asian populations.
To provide a clearer picture, Piya Changmai of the University of Ostrava, Czech Republic, and her colleagues analyzed the genetic signatures of 119 individuals from 10 ethnic groups in Thailand.
They probed for single nucleotide polymorphisms – specific genetic variation found in the DNA sequences of different individuals that may be associated with different genetic lineages – and compared the data with previously published genetic data.
By analyzing the data set using various genetic methods, the scientists reported significant South Asian genetic signatures (between 2 and 16%) in various population groups across Southeast Asia.
“We demonstrate for the first time South Asian admixture in populations from Cambodia and Vietnam, extending previous results of the detection of this ancestry component in Thailand and confirming the detection of such an ancestry component in Myanmar. and Singapore,” they reported in the journal PLOS Genetics.
While genetic admixture occurred nearly 400 to 1,600 years ago, the more frequent mixing of the two distinct populations was observed 500 to 1,000 years before the present era. Historically, it belongs to a period after Rajendra Chola’s naval expedition in 1025 CE against the Srivijaya kingdom.
Changmai added, “The Indian genetic heritage in Southeast Asian populations suggests multiple waves of migrations from India to Southeast Asia in the past, which may have been responsible for the spread of Indian culture in the region”.
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