Cultural Unity of the Dravidian and African Peoples

There is anthropological and linguistic data which indicate an African origin of the Dravidian speaking people of India. In this Web Page we review the facts connecting the Dravidian and African peoples.


Clyde A. Winters

The Dravidians have maintained their ancient African

Heritage. There are numerous affinities between Dravidian and

Black African culture and languages.

As in Africa the Dravidians built there both small and large

vessels from a single log or planks tied together. This method of

boat construction has been common in Africa since the rise of

ancient Egypt, and continues today in East Africa, Chad and

along the Niger River.

In both Africa and Dravidian India the people were organized

into various "caste" or corporations. Many of the corporations

such as that of the blacksmiths in Africa and India have

corresponding names e.g., Wolof Kamara and Telugu Kamara.

The are similarities in agricultural technique in Africa and

India. For example both groups used the hoe for tilling the

ground, manuring the ground to fertilize crops, terracing

irrigation and canal building. There are also affinities in

animal husbandry, and even the names of animals. For example,

sheep: Wolof xar, Brahui

(Dravidian) xar 'ram'; and cow: Wolof nag , Serere nak, Tamil

naku 'a female buffalo' and Tulu naku 'heifer'.

There are also similarities between the Dravidian and

African religions. For example, both groups held a common

interest in the cult of the Serpent and believed in a Supreme

God, who lived in a place of peace and tranquility. There are

also affinities between the names of many gods including

Amun/Amma and Murugan. Murugan the Dravidian god of the

mountains parallels a common god in East Africa worshipped by 25

ethnic groups called Murungu, the god who resides in the


In addition among the ali tiravitar, the system of

inheritance passes from the uncle to his nephews, instead of to

his sons (maru makkal Tayam) as in Africa. And in both South

India and the Western Sudan of Africa, the dead were buried in

terra cotta jars.



1.1 Many scholars have recognized the linguistic unity of

Black African (BA) and Dravidian (Dr.) languages. These

affinities are found not only in the modern African languages but

also that of ancient Egypt. These scholars have made it clear

that lexical, morphological and phonetic unity exist between

African languages in West and North Africa as well as the Bantu



Dravidian languages are predominately spoken in southern India

and Sri Lanka. There are around 125 million Dravidian speakers.

These languages are genetically related to African languages. The

Dravidians are remnants of the ancient Black population who

occupied most of ancient Asia and Europe.


1.2 K.P. Arvaanan (1976) has noted that there are ten common

elements shared by BA languages and the Dr. group. They are (1)

simple set of five basic vowels with short-long consonants;(2)

vowel harmony; (3) absence of initial clusters of consonants; (4)

abundance of geminated consonants; (5) distinction of inclusive

and exclusive pronouns in first person plural; (6) absence of

degrees of comparison for adjectives and adverbs as distinct

morphological categories; (7) consonant alternation on nominal

increments noticed by different classes; (8)distinction of

completed action among verbal paradigms as against specific tense

distinction;(9) two separate sets of paradigms for declarative

and negative forms of verbs; and (l0) use of reduplication for


1.3 There has been a long development in the recognition

of the linguistic unity of African and Dravidian languages. The

first scholar to document this fact was the French linguist L.

Homburger (1950,1951,1957,1964). Prof. Homburger who is best

known for her research into African languages was convinced that

the Dravidian languages explained the morphology of the

Senegalese group particularly the Serere, Fulani group. She was

also convinced that the kinship existed between Kannanda and the

Bantu languages, and Telugu and the Mande group. Dr. L.

Homburger is credited with the discovery for the first time of

phonetic, morphological and lexical parallels between Bantu and


. For example, she noted that the Bantu infinitive with a final

-a, the subjunctive in -e, the preterit in -i or -idi,and the

doer's name in -i, are all found with identical values in

Kannanda and other Dravidian languages. Dr. Homburger also found

that both the Bantu languages and Kannanda there was the causal

suffix -is.

1.4 Prof. Tuttle (1932) also contributed to the investigation

of links between African and Dravidian languages. In a short

paper he wrote in the 1930"s he presents numerous lexical and

grammatical parallels for Dravidian and the Nubian.

1.5 One of the most interesting studies done to date on the

links between African and Dravidian languages was the work of N.

Lahovary (1963). Professor Lahovary in his review of the possible

link between the languages spoken by the founders of the major

ancient civilizations, gives a stimulating discussion of cognates

among various African languages and Dravidian (Dr.). He gives

numerous lexical examples for the ancient kinship of the

Dravidian group and BA languages, including ancient Egyptian,

Hausa, Bantu ,Nubian and Somali, to name a few.

1.6 By the 1970's numerous scholars had moved their

investigation into links between Dr. and BA languages on into the

Senegambia region. Such scholars as Cheikh T. N'Diaye (1972) a

Senegalese linguist, and U.P. Upadhyaya (1973) of India , have

proved conclusively Dr. Homburger's theory of unity between the

Dravidian and the Senegalese languages.

1.7 C.T. N'Diaye, who studied Tamil in India, has

identified nearly 500 cognates of Dravidian and the Senegalese

languages. Upadhyaya (1973) after field work in Senegal

discovered around 509 Dravidian and Senegambian words that show

full or slight correspondence.

1.8 As a result of the linguistic evidence the Congolese

linguist Th. Obenga suggested that there was an Indo-African

group of related languages. To prove this point we will discuss

the numerous examples of phonetic, morphological and lexical

parallels between the Dravidian group: Tamil (Ta.), Malayalam

(Mal.), Kannanda/Kanarese (Ka.), Tulu (Tu.), Kui-Gondi, Telugu

(Tel.) and Brahui; and Black African languages: Manding

(Man.),Egyptian (E.), and Senegalese (Sn.)
























Dravidian an, naa, ne i a an,anu a,ar aru

Somali ani adigu isagu innagu annagu

Nubian anni ir tar u ur tar

Bantu ni u a tu m wa

Manding na, n' i a,e alu

Hausa na ka,kin ya mun kun un

Wolof maa ya na ne,pu ngen na

Egyptian 'ink ntk,ntt ntf inn nttn ntsn

Elamite u un nun r,ir


1.10 In African languages and Dravidian there is a system of

five basic vowels and three-fold distinction of lip-rounded and

unrounded, and a two-fold distinction of duration (short, long).





i u ii uu

e o ee oo

a aa


1.11 There is also phonetic correspondence. Similarity

exist between the dull sonorous consonants, the nasal and labial

series. This is especially true in the pronunciation of the

sonorous consonants, e.g., clay: Malinke banko, Bambara bogo,

and Telugu banko-mannu; Telugu varu, vallu, vandru, vandlu,

(they,them), equal Mande/Manding alu or aralu.

1.12 In Dravidian and Black African the -f, and -b are

derived from -p, and therefore are also letters are inter-

changeable . The letters -r, -l, -d, and -c, -s, -z, are also





Dravidian i a u

Mande i a u

Fulani o a

Serere e a

Wolof i a u


2. Ancient Egyptian and Dravidian. There are numerous

corresponding lexical items in Egyptian and Dravidian languages,

below are a few:

Language abscess abyss to go with build

Egyptian bnw.t kiki hp hr qd

Dravidian pun kedu po -nnu kattu



Language chief great/noble young house

Egyptian neb bw hrd l

Dravidian nab'grand' bal kura il,ll


Language speak small to be

Egyptian mdw sr,srr wnn

Dravidian matu siru unn-


3. Dravidian and Mande languages. The Dravidian and Mande

group of languages are very close. In fact in Dravidian Mande

means "people". It would appear that the speakers of these

languages lived in close proximity of each other during the

neolithic in the Fezzan region of Libya. (Winters 1985b) Winters

has proved that the Dravidian and Mande languages are genetically

related and that speakers of these languages jointly colonized

parts of Africa, Asia Minor and the Far East.

3.1 The Manding group of languages and Dravidian are very

close. They share many grammatical and lexical similarities. In

both these languages -ka, is used to represent 'to be', as well

as a subjunctive. For example, in the Mande languages ka, is

particle of different values, which corresponds to kaa, the

infinitive in Telugu, of the verb ag-uta 'to become'(Ta. aga),

e.g., Man. a ka-nye 'its good', Tel. ka valenu 'it is

necessary'. The same radical ka, represents the optative form in

Telugu, e.g., aapani mundara kani 'how is labor given first

place' ; and in Manding a k'a a barka d'i ma 'it is god who

gives blessings'.

3.2 In Dravidian the suffixes -ke, -ge, -ka are used as the

primitive verb 'to be' or 'to do'. They are usually used with

abstract nouns, e.g., ol 'to reign', ol-ka 'domination'; ose

'to be content', ose-ge 'delight'; nammu 'to believe', nammu-ka

'confidence'. The Dravidian -ke, corresponds to the Mande verb

ke 'to do', which is often used with the suffix -la ,to form

derived nouns. For example in Manding, sene 'cultivation',

sene-li ke-la 'cultivator'; and tobi 'to cook', tobi-li ke-la

'the cook'.

3.3 In Telugu the suffix -tu, is used as the present partci-

ple while in the Mande group there is -to fulfilling the same

function e.g., Tel. chestu 'made', Man. tege 'to cut', tege-to


3.4 Moreover Telugu kani 'not to be', corresponds to Mande

kana the prohibitive negative participle and subjunctive, e.g.,

Man a kana bugo 'do not hit him'.

3.5 The past participle suffix in Tamil is -tu,-du or -i,

in Telugu we have -i and -ti. The -tu or -ti suffix of the

Dravidian languages, corresponds to the Mande -ti or -te , suffix

used to form the negative sense, e.g., Man. a ya 'he is here',

a ti ya 'he is not here'; a be ta 'he is coming', a te ta 'he is

not coming'.

3.6 In the Dravidian languages the plural is formed by the

-lu suffix, especially in Telugu. In the northern Mande group -

lu, -ru, -u, are used for the construction of the plural. We

thus see analogy in the formation of the plural tense in

Dravidian and Mande e.g., Tel. magadu ' husband,man', magalu

'men'; Man. mogo 'husband', mogolu 'husbands'.

3.7 Analogy exist between Manding and Dravidian terms.

I.Consonantal Correspondence

English Tamil Manding


woman asa musa


fire ti ta


house lon lu 'family habitation


law di tili

camp dagha otagh

forest kaadu tuu


mother amma ma

land man ma 'surface,area'


kill kal ki

man uku moko


great pal ba


sheep xar 'ram' sara


penis col sol-ma

abundant cal,sal s'ya

II. Full Correspondence

English Dravidian Manding

life zi 'abundance

clay banko-mannu banko

blacksmith inumu numu

lie kalla kalon

cultivation bey be

lord,chief gasa kana,gana

to recite sid, sed siti

great bal ba

to do cey ke

rock kal kulu

road sila

if,what eni ni

to cut teg tege

exalted ma

4.1 Somali-Dravidian. Many affinities exist between the

Dravidian and Somali languages. These affinities include

similarity in phonetic systems, pronominal concordance,

demonstrative and lexical items. In Dravidian the demonstrative

are characterized by the opposition of the radical vowels a, i

and u. This same type of opposition appears in Somali

demonstrative postposition -ka, -ki, and -ku. The pronominal

concordance is best typified in Dravidian and Somali (Som.) in

the possessive pronoun 'I or me', e.g., Dr. en 'me'; Som. -ani

'me'. Also in Dravidian and Somali they share similar terms to

denote youth, e.g., Dr. ar, aru of the second person used to

denote young; and Som. arur 'youth'.

4.3 Analogy between numerous grammatical points occur within

Dravidian and Somali. In Dravidian to make the plural form , the

suffix -lu is used. This corresponds to the Somali plural element

-o, yo , which is joined to nouns to make the plural form e.g.,

inan-ka 'boy,son' , inammo 'sons'; maga'a 'name', maga'yo


4.4 In Dravidian the suffixes -ke, -ge, and -ka are used

as the primitive verb 'to be', it is employed with abstract

nouns, .e.g, ose 'to be content', osa-ge 'gladness'. This

corresponds to the Somali suffix -kar 'can, be able', which is

used with the infinitive , e.g., waan sameyn kareuuey 'I was able

to do (it)'.

4.5 The past tense in many Dravidian languages is formed by

the suffix -i, -ya and -ti, especially in the case of Telugu.

The use of the Dravidian -ya suffix corresponds to the Somali

particle -yey, used to form the past tense. In Somali -nayya

is used as the present continuous, e.g., sameey 'do', waan 'I':

waan sameey 'I am doing, making', with the addition of the yey

suffix we have waan samayyey 'I made', or waan geeyyey 'I

brought'. This use of -yey, agrees with the Telugu use of both

-i and -ya.

4.6 Somali -ii, is used to make the past tense of the

definite article e.g., ninku faraska buu dilayya 'the man is

beating the horse', ninkii baa faraskii dilay 'the man beat the

horse'. As you can see from the example given above the -ii

element is joined to both the subject ninkii 'the man' and the

object faraskii 'the horse'. This use of -ii, parallel to

Dravidian -i.

4.7 In Somali the continuous present is ayya, e.g., waan

furayya 'I am opening'; and the present imperative for the

plural is -a, e.g., fur 'to open', fura 'open'. The Somali -a,

is also used with a noun to indicate the present even if the verb

has the past tense, e.g., kitaab 'book', safari 'journey:

kitaabkanu safarkaygii buu tilmaanayya 'this book describes the

journey which I took'. This use of the Somali -a, and ayya ,to

the Tamil present termination elements aal and aan.

4.8 Also, in both Dravidian and Somali the doers name is

suffixed by the elements -i or -ii.

4.9 Dravidian and Somali cognates.

English Dravidian Somali

to take kal gee, qaad

to become aagu garow

full ar dereg

to be ul ol

camp dagha deg

woman mag-wa naag-ta

fire ta-gula dab-ka

with -nnu na

beg ira bari

tree cettu ged

lose ila hallee

yield kay yeelo

sickness allal il-mo

to suck nag-il nug

hunger gasi,kasi gadzo

female sex organ al-ku a'lol

young man al y'il

ear kaatu deg-ta

cheek katuppal,kadapu laab-tab

" ,jaw gandu, kanda g-nd

neck kural,gantalu luqun-ta,

" " " hunguri-gaha

heart karalu,kard wadne-ka

belly basaru,vayiru alool(sha)

mother aay, ayya hooyo-da

father appa, appan aabbe-ha

sneeze ciintu siin,hindis

village uur tuulo-da

cultivate bele, bey beer

eat un

horse pari faras-ka


5.1 Dravidian and Nubian. There is visible correspondence

between the Dravidian (Dr.) group and Nubian : Nile Nubian (NN),

Kordofan Nubia (KN), Old Nubian (ON) and Modern Nubian (MN). The

unity between these languages first recognized by the Tuttle and

later elaborated on by Lohovary (1963).

5.2 There is a similarity between Dravidian and Nubian


1st Sing./ Plural 2nd Sing./Pl. 3rd Sing./ Pl.

Dravidian aan,na nam i,ni tan tam

Nubia aani ir, ur tar, ter

5.3 Dravidian and Nubia both use the suffix -ku or -ko for

the diminutive. In these languages -ke is often used to denote

'smallness' e.g., ke in Coptic, kenna in Dravidian , kina in


5.4 The dative suffix in Dravidian -ke, -ge,, -ki,-gi and -

ku corresponds to the Nubian dative-accusative suffixes :ON -ka,

MN -gi and KN -gi.

5.5 In both Tamil and Nubian there are similar genitive

endings: Ta. -n or -in, NN n-, in, and KN en, nini.

5.6 Nubian and Dravidian cognates.

English Dravidian Nubian

play aad od

sister akka keg

say an,en onul

woman,daughter asa as

elephant ane,enugu onul

bean avari ogod

water er iri

mother ia een

to be ir in

true olle ale

day ulla ul

son maga ga

mountain male mule

fish min anissi

eat tin,ti di

stone,rock kal kulu

tongue na nar,nad

shore kare gaar

6.1 Dravidian and Senegalese. Cheikh T. N'Diaye (1972) and

U.P. Upadhyaya (1976) have firmly established the linguistic

unity of the Dravidian and Senegalese languages. They present

grammatical, morphological, phonetic and lexical parallels to

prove their point.

6.2 In the Dravidian and Senegalese languages there is a

tendency for the appearance of open syllables and the avoidance

of non-identical consonant clusters. Accent is usually found on

the initial syllable of a word in both these groups. Upadhyaya

(1976) has recognized that there are many medial geminated

consonants in Dravidian and Senegalese. Due to their preference

for open syllables final consonants are rare in these languages.

6.3 There are numerous parallel participle and abstract noun

suffixes in Dravidian and Senegalese. For example, the past

participle in Fulani (F) -o, and oowo the agent formative,

corresponds to Dravidian -a, -aya, e.g., F. windudo 'written',

windoowo 'writer'.

6.4 The Wolof (W) -aay and Dyolo ay , abstract noun

formative corresponds to Dravidian ay, W. baax 'good', baaxaay

'goodness'; Dr. apala 'friend', bapalay 'friendship'; Dr. hiri

'big', hirime 'greatness', and nal 'good', nanmay 'goodness'.

6.5 There is also analogy in the Wolof abstract noun

formative suffix -it, -itt, and Dravidian ita, ta, e.g., W. dog

'to cut', dogit 'sharpness'; Dr. hari 'to cut', hanita 'sharp-


6.6 The Dravidian and Senegalese languages use

reduplication of the bases to emphasize or modify the sense of

the word, e.g., D. fan 'more', fanfan 'very much'; Dr. beega

'quick', beega 'very quick'.

6.7 Dravidian and Senegalese cognates.

English Senegalese Dravidian

body W. yaram uru

head D. fuko,xoox kukk

hair W. kawar kavaram 'shoot'

eye D. kil kan, khan

mouth D. butum baayi, vaay

lip W. tun,F. tondu tuti

heart W. xol,S. xoor karalu

pup W. kuti kutti

sheep W. xar 'ram'

cow W. nag naku

hoe W. konki

bronze W. xanjar xancara

blacksmith W. kamara

skin dol tool

mother W. yaay aayi

child D. kunil kunnu, kuuci

ghee o-new ney

Above we provided linguistic examples from many different

African Supersets (Families) including the Mande and Niger-Congo

groups to prove the analogy between Dravidian and Black African

languages. The evidence is clear that the Dravidian and Black

African languages should be classed in a family called Indo-

African as suggested by Th. Obenga. This data further supports

the archaeological evidence accumulated by Dr. B.B Lal (1963)

which proved that the Dravidians originated in the Fertile

African Crescent.

Thundy believes that the Dravidians may have left Nubia

after Senefru (c.2613 B.C. conquered Nubia. Senefru's raid

caused much destruction and may have encouraged many Kushites to

flee Nubia for safe areas of settlement.





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Above we have shown that the people of India and Africa share many cultural and linguistic features. This evidence makes it clear that we need to find out more about the links between South India and the people of East and West Africa.

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