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Studying Lotli Pai Kaundinya

TENSING RODRIGUES

 

The study by Mascarenhas et al is about some kaundinya gotra bramhan families from Lotli bearing the surname Pai (Lotli Pai Kaundinya= LPK) [Mascarenhas et al, 2015 : Genetic and Cultural Reconstruction of the Migration of an Ancient Lineage, BioMed Research International, Vol 2015, Article ID 651415]. It is a highly restrictive study, in the sense that it gives results about a very small clan – only those who have descended from the families that first settled in Lotli (founder families) belonging to the 5th, 7th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 15th vamgod of the gamvkari (comunidade) of that village, and carrying the surname Pai. But it is a very valuable study as it highlights for the first time some important genetic and cultural characteristics of this clan, which differentiate it from the rest of the gaud sarasvat bramhan community. The study compares the genetic and cultural parameters of LPK with those of some founder families from the adjoining village Kudtari, 8th vamgod, with the surname Kamat (KK).

The subjects of the study are Y haplogroup R1a1 individuals carrying the defining SNPs Z93 and L342.2, with branch L657 thereof being the most abundant. Further dissecting the patrilineages within L657, they carry the STR profile DYS456 < 16, DYS458 > 15, and GATAH4 > 12; Mascarenhas et al call this haplotype LPKSTR. This haplotype is essentially absent from European R1a1 individuals, quite rare in L657 individuals from South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, but abundant in Afghanistan. This suggests that the LPK individuals picked their distinguishing ancestry in Afghanistan. It is this specific location that suggests passage through the Bolan pass.

The founder families from the adjoining village Kudtari, carrying the surname Kamat (KK), share a nearly identical STR profile (62/63 loci identity) and appear to be only distantly related to the LPK; the time to most recent common ancestor between the two was found to be 3,200 years. That is, the LPK and the KK have descended from a common group that split about 1,200 BC. Up to now we have generally believed that the bramhan in general and the gaud sarasvat bramhan in particular originated in Central Asia and ingressed into Indian subcontinent via the northern route through the Khyber pass.

The study proceeds to document differences between LPK and KK on certain cultural parameters. The first is the extinction rates for vamgod over time; vamgod get extinguished when the males of the founder families leave the village permanently. The extinction rate for LPK vamgod has been significantly higher than that for KK; out of the original LPK vamgod in 1848, 85.7 per cent were extinguished by 1950, and from the remaining, 71.4 per cent were extinguished by 2012; as against this not a single KK vamgod was extinguished between 1848 and 2012. In terms of total vamgod in Lotli and Kudtari, out of the original 26 vamgod in Lotli, 3 were extinguished by 1848 (11.5 per cent); out of the original 20 vamgod in Kudtari, 1 was extinguished (5.0 per cent) [Xavier, 1903: Bosquejo Historico Das Communidades Das Aldeas Dos Concelhos Das Ilhas, Salsete e Bardez]. A higher rate of extinction shows a higher rate of emigration out of the village.

The next difference between LPK and KK is in terms of career choices; the study uses family data from the eighteenth through early twentieth centuries to examine the rate at which male offspring joined the seminary versus more liberal professions like medicine. Using the data contained in two databases, Costa, 1957 : Medicos que Concluiramo Curso na Escola Medico-Cirurgica de Goa Desde a Sua Fundação Até o Ano Lectivo de 1955-1956, and Vaz, 1925: Monumenta Goana Eclesiastica, the study concludes that the ratio of medical school graduates to ordained priests was higher among the LPK then among KK.

The third is the reluctance to convert to Christianity. Although Lotli and Kudtari were located roughly equidistant from the Jesuit headquarters at Rachol, during the first twenty five years of evangelisation (1560 to 1586), virtually all bramhan converts to Christianity originated from LPK families, with none from the KK families [Gracias, 1934: Os Primeiros Cristãos em Salcete, in Oriente Portugues].

The fourth is the surnames attained on conversion. Customarily all the converts from a vamgod in the village gamvkari generally took the baptising Jesuit missionary as the godparent. The choice of godfathers for early converts of the LPK families is unique: two of the first five LPK converts, whose names are memorialised in a document dated May 31, 1586 appears to have broken the convention by taking as godfathers, not Jesuit missionaries, but wealthy sea merchants [Gracias, 1934: Os Primeiros Cristaos em Salcete, in Oriente Portugues].

This sea merchant orientation of LPK clan seems to hark back to an early connection of the clan in its ancestry. Examining the presumed kinship between the LPK sample and Punjabi khatri (a mercantile community), 3 of 7 L657 individuals tested were LPKSTR. The published data on 17 STR profiles for Punjabi sarasvat bramhan was found to throw up no LPKSTR. The LPK seem to be more closely related to khatri than to sarasvat bramhan. This sea merchant orientation of LPK needs further investigation, as it connects to similar orientation of the kathiyavadi caddi.

This is for the first time that a genetic and cultural distinction within the gaud sarasvat bramhan in Komkan has been brought to light. Is the LPK clan the odd group out of the universe of sarasvat bramhan in Komkan? Could these genetic and cultural markers of LPKSTR be found among the founder families of some more bramhan villages in Salcete?  The Mascarenhas et al study is restricted to Lotli; so we are unable to say anything about other villages. But there is just one fact to which perhaps attention may be drawn: the rate of extinction of vamgod in Kuththali (Cortalim) and Kelsi (Quelossim) also seems to have been high; out of the original 24 vamgod in Kuththali, 17 were extinguished by 1848, and 5 out of 8 in Kelsi. Could that spell a possibility that the Lotli, Kuththali, and Kelsi bramhan belong to one clan? We need to look for further evidence.

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