Indian Jews unique blend of Indian, Middle Eastern ancestry

Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi (Photo: Wikipedia)
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HYDERABAD– The Indian Jewish community is a unique blend of Indian and Middle Eastern ancestry, reveals a study by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) here.

Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi (Photo: Wikipedia)
Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi (Photo: Wikipedia)

According to the study, Indian Jews possess traces of Middle Eastern ancestry together with more likely unidirectional gene-flow from their contemporary Indian populations.

The study by the research institute along with others also estimates that the first migrant Jewish entered the Indian subcontinent (Cochin) about 1,500 years ago.

Interestingly, Indian Jews carry overwhelmingly South Asian ancestry and the proportion of Middle Eastern genetic ancestry was minor.

The analyses of autosomal data revealed a high level of heterogeneity among the Indian Jewish groups and their closeness with the local neighbours.

The international team of scientists led by Kumarasamy Thangaraj from CCMB, and involving scientists from Estonian Biocentre, Tratu, Estonia; Amala Institute of Medical Sciences, Thrissur, University of Kolkata, and Genome Foundation, Hyderabad traced the founder of the Indian Jewish populations, using genetic data.

This study has just been published in the recent issue of Nature’s online journal Scientific Reports.

“To trace the origin and mixture of Indian Jewish populations, the researchers analysed the DNA of Indian Jewish using high resolution genetic markers and compared them with native Indian populations and people from rest of the world,” said CCMB director Ch. Mohan Rao.

There are three main distinct Jewish groups living in India — the Jews of Cochin in Kerala, the Bene Israel in Mumbai, and Baghdadi Jews in Kolkata.

Each of these communities are socially linked to their neighbours than one another.

There are several legendary stories about their migrations to India, but because of lack of written records and inscriptions, the origin and migrations of Indian Jewish remain shrouded in legends.

The origin and migration of ‘Jewish diaspora’ has been curious among people across the world.

Although the genetic studies on European Jewish have traced to Middle East, the exact parental population group and time of dispersal of Indian Jewish has remained disputed.

The Jewish communities are distributed throughout the world, however, of all the Jewish diaspora community, Indian Jewish are among the least studied.


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