Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Dravidians, properly the inhabitants of Dravida (Dravira), which in Hindu geography formed a main division of the Dekkan; but the term is now applied conventionally to all the inhabitants of South India who speak dialects of a now extinct stock language, which differs fundamentally from all other known forms of speech. The Dravidians, who, like the Aryans, probably entered India from the north-west, had already long been in possession of the greater part of the peninsula at the time of the Aryan migration, but were gradually driven by these intruders from the Indus and Ganges valleys southwards to their present domain, that is, the whole region south of Gondwana and the upper course of the Krishna, together with the northern half of Ceylon. Here they form five great nations, speaking five cultivated languages, besides numerous smaller groups speaking uncultivated languages, with a collective population (1890) of considerably over 50 millions, as under: Telugu, 19 millions; Tamil, 15; Kanarese, 9; Malayalam, 5; Gondi, 1; Tulu, 0.5; Khondi, 0.3; Oraon, 0.27; Kodagu (Coorg), 0.20; Rajmahal (Maler), 0.050; Tuda, Kota, Badaga, Kurumba, Irula, Rutluk, Madi (Maria), Keikadi, Yerukala, and others. The cultivated languages (Telugu, Tamil, Kanarese, Malayalam, and Tulu) are all written with syllabic alphabets derived from Devanagari [Devanagari], but betray no traces of Sanscrit influences in their structure, though containing considerable percentages of Sanscrit loan words. On the other hand the Dravidian populations have been largely assimilated by secular interminglings with the Aryan populations, so that Peschel (Races of Man, p. 451) goes so far as to assert that "the inhabitants of India form at present but a single race, and the separation of the peoples resident between the Himalayas and the Vindhya Hills from the Dravidas of the Dekkan is based solely on the fact that the former speak languages derived more or less directly from the Sanscrit." Nevertheless certain differences are observable between the Aryans and Dravidians, the latter being of much darker complexion and lower stature, with somewhat broader features, more kinky hair, scant beard, rather broad flat nose and dolichocephalic (elongated) skull. Most of these traits point at an admixture of a black element, and it is now generally believed that the Dravidians are not the aborigines, but found the peninsula when they arrived already occupied by a dark Negrito race, which they partly exterminated and partly absorbed. These Negritos may still be represented by certain black and almost dwarfish low caste tribes, such as the savage Kaders, Malsars, Madavars, Paligars, and Pulayas 6f the Anamaleh Hills and Travancore, the Veddhas both of the mainland and Ceylon, the Irulas, Khotas, and Kurumbars of the Nilghiri uplands. On the other hand there are several groups distinguished either by their finer physique or superior intelligence from the ordinary Dravidian standard. Such are the tall, hirsute Todas of the Nilghiries, probably of Aryan descent; the Nairs (Nayars) and Namburi of Malabar, who claim to be high caste Hindus (Brahmahs or Kshatriyas); the Moplahs (Mopilas) and Tirs (Tayars) of Travancore, many of whom are Mohammedans, and all of whom appear to have sprung from alliances between Arab immigrants and the Dravidian natives. Apart from these and a few Christian communities all the Dravidians profess some form of the Hindu religion, and the arts and letters of the civilised natives have been developed under Aryan influences. (Caldwell, Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Languages, 1852; Elphinstone, History of India, 1841; J. Campbell, Ethnology of India, in Journal of the Asiatic Society, ii. 1866; Malleson, The Native States of India, 1875.)