The Roman Catholic people in Goa — Kumta and Mangalore regions – have the very early lineages of Brahmin community of India, majorly with Indo-European-specific genetic composition. The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has come out with this revelation in a new study.
The major study also throws light on the on the genetic history of the Roman Catholic populations of West Coast of India.
CCMB, Hyderabad, director Vinay K Nandikoori told the media that their multi-disciplinary study used history, anthropology and genetics information. All these helped in understanding the history of Roman Catholics from one of the most diverse and multicultural region of the country, Nandikoori said.
The west coast of India harbours a rich diversity of various ethno-linguistic human 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 Jews Lost Tribes in the first century migration to India.
The researchers analysed DNA samples of 110 people from Roman Catholic community of Kumta and Mangalore in Goa. Then they compared the genetic information of this group with previously published DNA data from India and West Eurasia. They put this information alongside archaeological, linguistic, and historical records. All of these resulted in the findings about the demographic changes and history of the Roman Catholic population of South West of India since the Iron Age (until around 2,500 years ago), and how they relate to the contemporary Indian population.
It found that consequences of Portuguese inquisition in Goa on the population history of Roman Catholics. They also found some indication of Jewish component.
Senior author of the research said that the study on genetics revealed that majority of the Roman Catholics were genetically close to an early lineage of Gaur Saraswat community. More than 40 percent of their paternally inherited Y chromosomes can be grouped under R1a haplogroup, he said and added that such a genetic signal was prevalent among populations of north India, Middle East and Europe, and unique to this population in Konkan region.
The researchers pointed out that there were profound cultural transformations in ancient South West of India. This has mostly happened due to continuous migration and mixing events since last 2500 years, they noted.
First author Lomous Kumar noted that the origins of several population groups in the country like the Jews and Parsis are not well-understood. These are gradually unfolding with advances in modern and ancient population genetics. Roman Catholics are one of them with much debated history of origin based on inferences of anthropologists and historians, he said.
“Human Genetics” journal published the findings. Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj, Chief Scientist, CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) & Director, Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad and Dr. Niraj Rai, Senior Scientist, DST-Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences (BSIP), Lucknow, were part of the study team.
Mangalore University, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research and Institute of Advanced Materials, Sweden are the other institutes that collaborated in the study.