The Indo-Aryans who make up around 74% of India's population are a wide collection of peoples united by their common status as the ethno-linguistic descendents of the Indic branch of the ancient Indo-Iranians (also known as Aryans). Today, there are close to a billion native speakers of Indo-Aryan languages, mostly indigenous to the region of South Asia, though in ancient times, they could have been found on the eastern part of the Iranian plateau (Afghanistan) pakistan and in areas as far west as modern Syria and Iraq (the Mittani) and as far east as modern Cambodia and Vietnam (Hindu Khmer and Champa kingdoms). There are also millions of Indo-Aryans now living abroad (see Non-resident Indian and Person of Indian Origin and Roma people).
The separation of Indo-Aryans proper from Proto-Indo-Iranians is commonly dated, on linguistic grounds, to roughly 2000 BC. The Nuristani languages probably split in such early times, and are either classified as remote Indo-Aryan dialects, or as an independent branch of Indo-Iranian. It is believed that by 1500 BC, Indo-Aryans had reached Assyria in the west (the Mitanni) and northern Afghanistan in the east (the Rigvedic tribes).
The spread of Indo-Aryan languages has been connected with the spread of the chariot in the first half of the second millennium BC. Some scholars trace the Indo-Iranians (both Indo-Aryans and Iranians) back to the Andronovo culture (2nd millennium BC). Other scholars like Brentjes (1981), Klejn (1974), Francfort (1989), Lyonnet (1993), Hiebert (1998) and Sarianidi (1993) have argued that the Andronovo culture cannot be associated with the Indo-Aryans of India or with the Mitanni because the Andronovo culture took shape too late and because no actual traces of their culture (e.g. warrior burials or timber-frame materials of the Andronovo culture) have been found in India or Mesopotamia (Edwin Bryant. 2001). The archaeologist J.P. Mallory (1998) finds it "extraordinarily difficult to make a case for expansions from this northern region to northern India" and remarks that the proposed migration routes "only gets the Indo-Iranian to Central Asia, but not as far as the seats of the Medes, Persians or Indo-Aryans" (Mallory 1998; Bryant 2001: 216).
Other scholars like Asko Parpola (1988) connect the BMAC with the Indo-Aryans. But although horses were known to the Indo-Aryans, evidence for the presence of horse in form of horse bones is missing in the BMAC (e.g. Bernard Sergent. Genèse de l'Inde. 1997:161 ff.). Asko Parpola (1988) has argued that the Dasas were the "carriers of the Bronze Age culture of Greater Iran" living in the BMAC and that the forts with circular walls destroyed by the Indo-Aryans were actually located in the BMAC. Parpola's hypothesis has been criticized by K.D. Sethna (1992) and other scholars.
The first undisputed horse remains in India are found in the Bronze Age Gandhara Grave culture context from ca. 1600 BC (although there are claims of horse bones found in Harappan and even pre-Harappan layers). This likely corresponds to an influx of early Indo-Aryan speakers over the Hindukush (comparable to the Kushan expansion of the first centuries AD). Together with indigenous cultures, this gave rise to the Vedic civilization of the early Iron Age. This civilization is marked by a continual shift to the east, first to the Gangetic plain with the Kurus and Panchalas, and further east with the Kosala and Videha. This Iron Age expansion corresponds to the black and red ware and painted grey ware cultures.
The Vedic Kuru and Panchala kingdoms in the first millennium became the core of the Mahajanapadas, archaeologically corresponding to the Northern Black Polished Ware, and the rise of the Mauryan Empire, and later the medieval Middle kingdoms of India.
For Hellenistic times, Oleg N. Trubachev (1999) elaborating on a hypothesis by Kretschmer (1944), suggests that there were Indo-Aryan speakers in the Pontic steppe. The Maeotes and the Sindes, the latter also known as "Indoi" and described by Hesychius as an "an Indian people".
The various Prakrit vernaculars developed into independent languages in the course of the Middle Ages (see Apabhramsha), forming the Abahatta group in the east and the Hindustani group in the west, see also History of the Hindi language. The Roma people (also known as Gypsies) are believed to have left India around AD 1000.
Contemporary speakers of Indo-Aryan languages are spread over most of the northern Indian Subcontinent. The largest group are the speakers of the Hindi and Urdu languages of the India and Pakistan, together with other dialects also grouped as Hindustani, numbering at roughly half a billion native speakers, constituting the largest community of speakers of any of the Indo-European languages. Other Indo-Aryan communities are in Nepal, Bangladesh and parts of Afghanistan. Of the 23 national languages of India, 16 are Indo-Aryan languages (see also languages of India). The only Indo-Aryan branch surviving outside the Indian Subcontinent and the Himalayas is the Romani language, the language of the Roma people (Gypsies).
Hindustani is an umbrella term for various dialects descended from the Prakrits of medieval India. The largest of these are the Hindi and Urdu languages. Hindustani speaking people inhabit modern-day Pakistan and northern India. During the British Raj, this region was identified as "Hindustan", the Persian for "Land of the Hindus". Related languages are spoken all over Indian subcontinent, from Bengal to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Roma and Sinti
The closely related Roma and Sinti people, also known as "Gypsies", are traditionally nomadic. They are believed to have left India in about 1000 AD and to have passed through what is now Afghanistan, Persia, Armenia, and Turkey. People recognizable by other Roma as Roma still live as far east as Iran, including some who made the migration to Europe and returned. By the 14th century, the Roma had reached the Balkans, by the 15th century they appeared in Western Europe, and by the 16th century, they had reached Scotland and Sweden. Peoples with some similarity to the Roma still exist in India, particularly in the desert state of Rajasthan.
Roma immigration to the United States began in colonial times, and larger scale immigration began in the 1860s with groups from Britain. The largest number of immigrants came over in the early 1900s. A large number also moved to Latin America.
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