The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), encompassing seven countries of a large landmass covering one-fifth of the total world population, was formed in August 1980. The organisation was constituted to disseminate knowledge about the life and culture of the people of its member-nations in order to build up a mass-based stable relationship so that the common people would become aware of each other'scultural heritage and draw nearer. South Asia comprising India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal is tremendously rich in biotic and abiotic resources. Despite being rich in an endless source of minerals and talented human resource endowment, development of the region has been rather slow.
In the first part of the book, which carries papers presented by research scholars from the Anthropological Survey of India, Chumki Piplai, talks of the biological relationship of Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan with India. Migration of people from India to its neighbouring countries, particularly the SAARC nations, has been a prehistoric phenomenon, which continues to this day. Talking of Sri Lanka, the author points out that Mahavamsa, the most ancient chronicle, traces the origin of the Sinhalese to pre-Buddhist invaders from northern India during the 6th century BC. Archaeological remains from Pomparippu in north-west Sri Lanka show considerable influence of South Indian megalithic culture over the region till the 3rd century BC. Sites of urn burials, pottery and other objects have been found here and which are similar to objects found in Adittanalur site across the Gulf of Mannar in India. Its rich mineral resources and dense equatorial rainforests made Sri Lanka an entrepot for long-distance trade between South-east Asia and the Middle East, attracting the people to Sri Lanka. Rapid urbanisation of Sri Lanka began in 300 BC at the time of Ashoka. The author Chumki Piplai explains through various readings and theories that the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka possess some biological traits, which are similar to those of the North and South Indians. ?Modern Sinhalese are closer to the Tamils and the Keralites of South India and upper castes of Bengal.?
Talking of Pakistan, Chumki says, ?Biologically a higher degree of endogamy existed among the hill tribes than the people of the plains. The process of miscegenation and migration had taken place in the past. Islam reached the Indus through the Arabs and a mixed array of Turks and Iranians at a later stage.? This explains the migration of populations from various countries into Pakistan, leading to cultural diffusion and linguistic exchange.
S.M. Sarkar explains how biological affinities between the people of India with those of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan suggests existence of miscegenation and admixture between them in the epic age. India witnessed a continuous wave of immigrants from the north, south and west during the Mughal invasion in AD 1526. This led to inter-mixture of Mongoloid groups from Tibet with Indo-Aryan people from northern India who had settled in Nepal.
Regarding Bhutan, the author of the article says that historically Bhutan maintained intimate ties with Sikkim as well as Nepal.
Bangladesh was inhabited by proto-Australoids who came from Asia. The Austro-Asians were the first to inhabit this territory in the prehistoric period and subsequently followed the Dravidians, Tibeto-Burmese and Mongolians at different periods of history. Later came the Turks, the Pathans and the Afghans.
These articles show through extensive study that the socio-cultural linkages that existed between India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan acted as the backbone of a biological relationship between them. The second part of the book presents the cultural perspective.
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