This article explains in detail the people of India. The article includes the profile of people of India, the physical, social and cultural characteristics of the people of India, and its general characteristics.

Besides, it also explains the earliest migrants in India’s, racial and linguistics types, and its unifying features.


The Anthropological Survey of India has completed a survey for a pan-Indian profile of the people in areas, such as languages and scripts, settlements, food habits, social structure, economy, occupations, the impact of developments and interaction between religious in India. The survey gives meaning to the term ‘unity in diversity’ which is a title to India and her people.

As Per Survey The Profiles Of The People Of India

The survey has come out with some interesting findings:

  1. The States and Union Territories of India are not only linguistic and cultural entities but social categories. Further sub-division of states is not necessary except for administrative reasons.
  2. Only 20 percent of Indians are vegetarians. More males are meat-eaters than females. Indians are therefore largely a drinking, smoking, and meat-eating people.
  3. There is a degree of homogenization in the language they speak. The number of spoken languages has reduced greatly. Half of the people of India speak the 22 languages listed in the Constitution (except Sanskrit)
  4. Bilingualism has greatly increased. Most states and Union Territories follow a pattern of one dominant language and several languages from different families.
  5. Biologically and linguistically, India is a very mixed race, and there is no ground for the claim that upper castes belong to the Caucasian race. There is greater homogenization in terms of morphological and genetic traits at the regional level (e.g. Brahmins of Tamil Nadu have more in common with non-Brahmins of the state than With fellow Brahmins of the west or north).
  6. 15 percent of people change their religion. Even in converts, Pre-conversion practices survive.
  7. Castes and occupations are no longer coterminous. There is no community whose members all follow one occupation.
  8. Most communities in India have migrated from other parts. This demolishes the sons of the soil theory.
  9. Bigamy is more common among the Hindus than Muslims who are large.

Summarising the Profile of the People Of India

The survey covers 4,635 communities in 5,500 Villages and towns. We get the Pieces of information on the basis of a questionnaire. The survey has been criticized on the ground that sufficient time was not taken to examine each community and a fixed questionnaire will not give a full picture. However, the Anthropological Survey of India says that the field data was cross-checked at three or four levels and finally by a committee of eminent anthropologists and sociologists.

Characteristics of the People of India

Physical, Social & Cultural Characteristics of the People

The population of India is consists of several races with unique characteristics who have migrated to India and settled in various places over long periods of time.

When there is no free inter-marriage between racial types, the differences are secure and tend to persist. This tendency is historically important as it helps the study of racial features and to understand the history of civilization. Systematic studies of physical characteristics of the people of India began only about 80 years ago. Only a tiny portion of the vast population was present during a sample survey by anthropologists.

On the basis of certain physical standards, we can see the classification of the people into various types. The physical features relate to stature (St), Cephalic Index (CI), and Nasal Index (NI).

According To Stature (or St), It Identifies Five Groups:

Very short a person between 1300 mm 1499 mm.

Short a person between  1500 mm 1599 mm.

Medium a person between 1600 mm 1699 mm.

Tall a person between  1700 mm 1799 mm.

Very Tall a person between  1800 mm 1899 mm.

According To The Cephalic Index (CI)

The Cephalic Index is the ratio of the breadth of the head to its length expressed as a percentage. Six groups of CI are classified as follows:

Very long head less than 70.9

Long head  71 mm- 75.9 mm

Medium head  76mm –  80.9 mm

Broad-head 81 mm – 85.4 mm.

Very broad head 85.5 mm – 90.9 mm

Extremely broad head more than 91 mm

According To Nasal Index

The Nasal Index (or N I) which is the ratio of the breadth of the nose to its height expressed as a percentage is grouped as shown below:

Very long nose less than 54.9

Long-nose 55 – 69.5

Medium nose 70 – 84.5.

Broad nose 85 – 99.9

Very broad nose more than 100.

The developments in Science and Technology indicate that certain chemical blood composition and markings on palms and fingers are very stable and could be more authentic in grouping characteristics. But, adequate study and collection of data on these aspects have not been made.


Although there is a wide difference over various parts of India in the physical characteristics of people, certain broad conclusions have been arrived at. Thus, the major part of India’s inhabitants seems to be medium statured, long or medium head and medium nose. This includes the Mediterranean and Paleo Mediterranean races who were in India before the coming of the Aryans.

Towards peninsular India, the population seems to be a longer head. In north India “upper castes” seem to be more long-nose while “lower” and “middle” castes are broad-nose.

A larger part of tribal populations is broad-nose peoples. As these views are based on limited sample surveys, they cannot form the basis for major conclusions.

The physical characters have gone through changes in the way of living, e.g., nomads and shifting cultivators have become plain settlers and cultivators causing certain changes in their physical forms, over a period. ‘

Classification Of Indian Culture Into Categories

In material arts and productive organization of the people by which the common needs of the people are met, there was rich diversity in the various regions of India. While there was a unity in philosophical thinking, there was a great diversity in food, dress, agricultural methods, and occupations.

Techniques of pottery, basseting, eating of cereals (boiled or ground into flour and baked), etc., were different depends on the factors such as climate and soil. But the manner of cooking certain cereals, the treatment of some foods as sacred, etc., are not governed by geographical factors but by some deep-rooted traditional belief.

Temple architecture broadly followed a northern or southern form but the underlying ideas and symbolic-meanings were common.

The Indian character developed a spirit of tolerance owing to these social factors. Certain ideas were shares in common all over India while differences in social customs, occupations, and pursuits arising from geographical and other reasons were tolerated within the fold.

This was one of the important reasons for the success of this civilization. As different regions of India were affected unequally by changing forces due to the inherent differences in economic and cultural resources, the productive organization reflected these changes.

General Characteristics Of Indian Society

India’s social structure is a unique blend of diverse religions, cultures, and racial groups. Historically, India has been a friendly land for many immigrants. Hence, they fell easy prey to invaders from distant parts of Asia and Europe.

The cultural patterns of these alien settlers have, over the past many centuries, are mix with the native culture to produce India’s glorious cultural heritage. The uniqueness of Indian social structure lies in its unity amidst diversity. The population of India is racially diverse, combining elements of six main racial types. All the great religions of the world are present here.

There are 22 major literary languages, apart from numerous other languages and dialects. There is striking diversity between various communities and groups in kinship and marriage rites, customs, inheritance, and modes of living.

We can also see the diversity in the pattern of rural as well as urban settlements, community life, cultural, and social behavior as also in the institutional framework.

Castes & Sub-Castes Of India

Indian society today is now divided into many castes and sub-castes, each having its unique place in the social hierarchy. But at the same time, castes of a region form part of a single social framework. In spite of these many social, cultural, religious, and racial diversities, India remains a largely unified society.

Apart from the fact that India is now a single political entity, one must remember that the idea of unity has been there among various Indian religions and cultures. India is a secular state which treats all religions as equal, and this is a clear acceptance of the fact that India is a unified nation of diverse people practicing different faiths, customs, traditions, and modes of worship.

Later Castes & Sub-Castes Result In Class Structure

The salient features of Indian society as it has emerged today are the caste system, the agrarian class structure, the urban class. Besides, multiple religions such as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, etc., and different regional cultures based on language, spiritual outlook, and beliefs.

The joint family system is also another important feature in many regions. There is also an extreme reluctance to give up traditional customs, beliefs, and values. Though this leads to stability in the structure, it also results in stagnation.

For E.g. the reluctance to change reflects the dependence of the majority of the population on agricultural activities for their living. This has remained near about 70% in India for several decades since 1911 whereas in countries around us in Asia it has declined from 70 to 40% during the same period.

The caste system, though it may have evolved from the four-fold Varnas of the Vedic Aryans, has vastly Changed itself and divided society into many strata, castes/sub-castes, etc. But they are related to each other in many ways.

The caste system has cast its shadow even on religions other than the Hindu religion. In its origin, the caste system was merely a division of society into major occupational groups and it was not the exploitative character that develops afterward.

Castes & Sub-Castes Even Result In Ethnic Variations

Later it came to be identified with ethnic variations and hierarchical groupings. These cause some castes and occupations that consider being superior to others.

Gradually landless laborers and occupations of the lowest kind were even placed beyond the caste system and such persons were treated as untouchables or outcastes.

Although the practice of untouchability is illegal, caste groupings in rural areas are still strong beside the efforts of the Government. The dominant caste consciousness among peoples is a very important problem. Its effects result even in the political structure, as in our democratic setup or democracy. Hence the powerful castes can make their presence felt in the elections and achieve their ends.

Whereas languages are a regionally unifying force, religions and caste groupings, which cut across regional barriers, all these factors divide the people of India.


India is a vast country. It consists of various communities that belong to various religions, languages, castes, races, and creeds. However, with all this diversity there is certain homogeneity leading to the emergence of a characteristic Indian pattern.

The present Indian population is largely descended from immigrants who cross the country through the Himalayan passes. It has not been decisively established whether there was any native human race on Indian soil before the earliest migrations took place.

Some researches indicate that a human species in the line of hominids (human family) known as Ramapithecus may have lived in the Siwalik foothills in the north-western Himalayas.

Recent researches have shown the existence of a species resembling Australopithecus on Indian soil. However, the researchers did very little factual research on the ethnic origins of the Indian population.

For practical purposes, the whole Indian population can be considered to be the result of thousands of years of human migration and settlement.

We can see the racial intermingling in the ethnic diversities in the population of India. It is unlikely that any pure racial people exist in India except perhaps in remote tribal areas. Generally, the people show in varying degrees the physical features of the major ethnic groups which have come to India.


The First People Who live In India

The earliest migrants who live in India appear to be of the Negroid race (Negritos) who had woolly hair, broad flat noses, and slightly protruding jaws.

They were short in stature and are best represents today by the tribes inhabit in the Andaman’s such as Jarawas, the Kadar’s, and Puliyans of the Peninsular hills and some tribes in the Rajmahal hills. These tribes live by hunting and food gathering.

The Second People Who live In India

The proto-Australoids (or Austrics) came after the Negritos. They had wavy hair, long heads, and low foreheads. Some of the tribes of Central and Southern India like the Santhals and Mundas can be traced back to this race.

As Proto-Australoid remains have been found in Mohenjodaro and Harappa excavations, it would appear that these races existed before the Indus Valley civilization.

Their descendants today live in the Ganga plains as landless laborers.

The Third People Who live In India

The third race consists of three sub-types grouped as the Dravidian race viz. Paleo Mediterraneans, the true Mediterranean and Oriental Mediterranean.

The Paleo Mediterraneans were the pioneers of agriculture in the Indus basin. The true Mediterranean built the Indus Valley civilization discovered at Harappa and Mohenjodaro.

The Oriental sub-type settled in the north-western hills and Punjab.

They were broad-head people who mingle with the Mediterraneans that already live in the Indus valley.

The Origin Of Dravidian Races In India

Some even believe that the Dravidian races were originally People of Asia Minor, Crete, and pre-Hellenic Aegeans of Greece.

The term “Dravidian is believed to have been derived from a pre-Hellenic race of Asia Minor who were called Trmmili which the Greeks wrote as Termilai which later became Dramizia.

This changed in the South to Dramiz, Tamiz, and Tamil and in the North. But, the Aryans changed Dramizia to Dramila and Dravida. The Palaeo-Mediterranean descendants now live in the south.

The Origin Of Mongloid Races In India

The Mongoloid races came to India from Tibet through the Himalayan passes. They are of two types, Palaeo-Mongolian and Tibeto-Mongoloids.

They are divided into two sub-races, broad-headed, and long-headed Mongoloids. Besides, the Mongoloid races were of yellow complexion, with oblique eyes, sparse hair, and medium height.

The western broad-headed people or Brochycephals include Alpinoids, Dinarics, and Amenoids. Their modern representatives are Coorgs, Parsis, etc.

The Last Migrant in India

The last migrant races Were the Nordics or Indo-Aryans who came towards the latter part of the second millennium BC.

Their physical features are noticeable by strong bodies, long heads, well-develop noses, and a fair complexion. Their descendants are now live in Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan.

Summarising the Ethnic Group of India

Despite the ethnic structure of India’s population is derived from races of origins, the interaction between them during the last two thousand years and particularly in the last two hundred years which brought the people closer together because of advances in travel and communication has produced a distinctively Indian ethnic type.

Intermingling, marriage, and migration have contributed much towards this development. Even though physical differences between the people of India are still there, these have not affected the growth of a common Indian tradition which is transcending social, religious, and linguistic barriers.

The unique development of Indians as such owes much to the country’s geographical location, protected by the impenetrable Himalayas in the north and the seas around peninsular India.

The Himalayas extend over 1500 miles with an average elevation of 18,000 ft. constitute one of the most formidable barriers whose height, Width and length exceed any other mountain range in the world. Through its passes, streams of migrants and invaders have come in various periods and their inter-mixture has produced the Indians of today

Racial & Linguistic Types 

Seven physical types among the people of India were classified on measurements of head and nose and on physical characters like stature and pigmentation. 

There is an objection to considered language as a test of race. Though the reasoning from language to race is not always valid, it is not correct to say that it has no force at all.

The word Dravidian applies to the linguistic family of Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam. This conception of linguistic unity as given rise to the idea of racial unity of people speaking these languages. 

Broadly, three elements can be recognized in the ethnic pattern of India Pre-Dravidian represented by hill and forest tribes, Dravidian the common type, and Indo Aryan the fair type.

Adivasis and Dravidians were perhaps the most important of the early inhabitants. From the combined material of the cultures imposed by various races on the civilization found here arose “the philosophy, religion, art, and letters that were the glory of ancient India”.


India is equal to Europe (excluding Russia) in extent. There is a wide variety in the country’s physical features, the structure of its population, the cultural, racial, and linguistic features of its people. Thus, we cannot expect a rigid uniformity and an attempt to achieve it would also not be desirable.

The interaction between man and the environment has been different in diverse regions of India. The varying physiography, climate, soils, and vegetation have created varying responses from the inhabitants.

Thus we have, farmers who control the Gangetic plains, shepherds in the Pir Panjal, and other ranges in the Himalayas, shifting cultivators of Purvachal, coal miners in the Damodar valley and factory workers in cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, etc.

Diversity In Climatic & Geographic Features

The differences in climatic and other geographic features have resulted in changes in food habits, methods of dressing, and housing. These show the differing ways in which the challenges of the environment were met by the various inhabitants in India giving rise to the diversity in its population characteristics.

Diversity In Ethnic Groups, Languages, Religions

Differences in ethnic groups, languages in India, religions, and cultural activities contribute further to diversity. The differences in physical features, complexion, etc., are also varied.

The peninsular regions from early times have had contact with countries across the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea as they were maritime states.

On the other hand, north-western and north-eastern regions had more exchanges with countries on the other side of the Himalayas through the passes in the mountain ranges.

Thus regionalization in the middle of an overall unity had developed in India thousands of years ago.

Agricultural communities in various parts live in isolation from others in the absence of means of communication. Even to this day, certain small agricultural communities in the Ganga plains maintain their distinct identities in their dialects.

Diversity In Settlements

Ethnic groups settled down in different areas and developed on their own without much contact with others.

Groups practicing agriculture settled in the valleys, pastoral tribes live in mountain slopes and food gatherers and hunters live in the forest regions, fishermen live along the coasts.

Between these settled groups there were vast tracts of forests occupied by tribal groups. The Vindhyan range and the Chota Nagpur plateau were such regions that formed barriers of forests between settled groups.


Monsoon As The First Unifying Features In India

One of the great unifying features of the country is the monsoon. This seasonal rhythm along with the long season that precedes it. Besides, it forms an indissoluble link between the various regions of India which feel its impact to a larger or lesser extent. The monsoon has control over farming in India because every region depends on rains for farming.

Thus in one way or the other, the farmer in every part of India depends on the monsoon. Farming being the basic factor in our economy, all other activities are directly or indirectly connect with it.

For E.g. Agro-based industries rely on agricultural produce, other consumer industries which depend, on the agricultural sector for their wider marketing. Hence, monsoon affects the entire Indian economy.

Even in our annual budgets, an important concern is the performance of the agricultural sector whose health is reflected in all other sectors, and the greatest single factor governing agriculture is the monsoon.

Transport & Communication As The Second Unifying Features In India

The second unifying factor in India is the improvement in the methods of transport and communications. As we have noted in earlier studies, surface transport by the improvement of roads was important from early times.

As early as the days of the Mauryans and Guptas, the building of proper roads throughout the empire was the aims of rulers. Samudra Gupta, Sher Shah, and many others were great road builders. Movement of pilgrims to holy places was a feature of Indian life from early times and the rulers of those times thought it fit to encourage pilgrims. The movements were however very slow.

With the opening of railways in India, a new era in transportation started. Safe and speedy travel became possible. Interaction between the people in the diverse regions of India increased. Hence, it strengthens the underlying unity of the country.

The advance in transport led to more trade links between the various regions which became another unifying force. Trade and commercial links also caused the migration of skilled people to areas where their work was more in demand.

Transport has contributed to the rapid economic development of the country in the last 50 years. Hence, it has strengthened the unity and stability of the country. Besides, we can see its contributions during the crisis like the Chinese aggression, hostilities with Pakistan, etc.

Thus, The Plurality of our society is based on strong unifying links. The differences in language, religion, and culture add. All these factors add to the richness of our heritage. India is not a mixture of diverse elements, but a country With unique cultural and racial features strongly linked together by traditional values.


To summarise the ethnic groups of migrants enters and live in India:

The main migrations of ethnic groups into India consist of the Negroids (or Negrito) the Proto-Australoids (or Austrics), the Dravidians (or the Mediterranean), the Mongoloids, and the Nordics (or Indo-Aryans).

The Negrites had woolly hair, flat noses, and protruding jaws. The Jarawas of Andamans and Kadar’s and Puliyans of peninsular hills belong to this race.

The Proto-Australoids had wavy hair, long heads, and low foreheads. Some of the tribes of Central and Southern India like Santhals and Mundas are the heir of Proto-Australoids.

The Dravidians are divided into three sub-types: Paleo-Mediterraneans, true Mediterraneans (they found the Indus Valley Civilisation revealed in Harappa and Mohenjodaro excavations) and the Oriental sub-type.

The Mongoloids can be determined by their yellow complexion, oblique eyes, sparse hair, and medium height.

The Nordics were the last migrants who came during the second millennium BC. They had strongly built bodies, long heads, well-developed noses, and a fair complexion.

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