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Old March 13th, 2018, 11:57 AM   #1
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Satavahana - Nagas or Brahmins?


Satavahana rulers are said to be of ambiguous origin as they claimed to be Brahmanas but followed Dravidian customs such as using mother's name to identify themselves.

Example : Gautamiputra <- Son of a woman of Gautam gotra.
Vashishtaputra <- Son of a woman of Vashishta gotra.


So it seems that gotra could be inherited through mother's side and the rulers took great pride in having mothers of Brahmin origin. However, we don't have any clue as to the origin of the founder himself, Simuka.IMO, Satavahanas couldn't have been Brahmins originally because of their Dravidian sounding names and cultural practices. These Satavahanas may have been tribal lords who elevated themselves to Brahmin status like Pallavas may have done later.Also, I have heard mention of Naga princesses marrying into the Satakarni family.

But somehow scholars still see them as Brahmanas. Why?

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Old March 13th, 2018, 05:03 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Gautamiputra View Post
Satavahana rulers are said to be of ambiguous origin as they claimed to be Brahmanas but followed Dravidian customs such as using mother's name to identify themselves.

Example : Gautamiputra <- Son of a woman of Gautam gotra.
Vashishtaputra <- Son of a woman of Vashishta gotra.


So it seems that gotra could be inherited through mother's side and the rulers took great pride in having mothers of Brahmin origin. However, we don't have any clue as to the origin of the founder himself, Simuka.IMO, Satavahanas couldn't have been Brahmins originally because of their Dravidian sounding names and cultural practices. These Satavahanas may have been tribal lords who elevated themselves to Brahmin status like Pallavas may have done later.Also, I have heard mention of Naga princesses marrying into the Satakarni family.

But somehow scholars still see them as Brahmanas. Why?
Hello, first of all!

The wikipedia page on Gautamiputra Satakarni cites Upinder Singh's 2008 book and Indian History Congress of 1976 to suggest that the parts referring to mothers' or mothers' family names in Satavahana rulers' names were not indicative of matrilineal descent at all and that

Quote:
The real explanation for matronymics seems to be that since the rulers married a number of wives from different royal families, a prince was best identified with reference to his mother.
Also, is it certain that the pre-Indo-Aryan contact Dravidians followed matrilineal customs? I mean, there are some indications in the behaviour of some modern day Tuluvas and Nairs among Malayalis but the vast majority of Dravidians do follow patrilineal system. But still, some practices seemingly indicative of matrilineal systems like maternal uncle performing important ritual roles in people's lives such as for performing tonsure ceremony, coming-of-age ceremony for boys and girls, etc. do exist in major Dravidian ethnicities though- at least they are present in Telugus who are patriarchal and patrilineal in all other ways and with whom I am acquainted the most.
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Old March 13th, 2018, 05:21 PM   #3
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Hello, first of all!

The wikipedia page on Gautamiputra Satakarni cites Upinder Singh's 2008 book and Indian History Congress of 1976 to suggest that the parts referring to mothers' or mothers' family names in Satavahana rulers' names were not indicative of matrilineal descent at all and that



Also, is it certain that the pre-Indo-Aryan contact Dravidians followed matrilineal customs? I mean, there are some indications in the behaviour of some modern day Tuluvas and Nairs among Malayalis but the vast majority of Dravidians do follow patrilineal system. But still, some practices seemingly indicative of matrilineal systems like maternal uncle performing important ritual roles in people's lives such as for performing tonsure ceremony, coming-of-age ceremony for boys and girls, etc. do exist in major Dravidian ethnicities though- at least they are present in Telugus who are patriarchal and patrilineal in all other ways and with whom I am acquainted the most.

Hello! Thanks for your well thought out reply!

I am a Telugu myself (but can't quite read or write it, can speak it a little), and to be honest, I find mainstream Telugu consciousness to be quite Aryanized in its outlook. Chaste Telugu is Sanskritized quite thoroughly. Just watching a Telugu newscast can show how Sanskritized the language is. Telugus as a society don't seem to have any notion of a separate "Dravidian" identity for themselves like Tamils. This present state of Telugus could be because of the process started by the Satavahanas themselves. Andhra even in the pre Satavahana era was considered as an Aryan Mahajanapada - Asmaka I think. So in my mind, culture of Andhra is neither Dravidian nor Aryan but more Aryan than anything else (but this could be bias because of my family background).

As for matrilineal societies, I do believe that pure Dravidian culture may have been matrilineal precisely because of the examples you have listed above. Those same customs are followed by most Tamils and perhaps there may be parallels in other Dravidian peoples as well.

But I still strongly feel that Satakarnis were tribal lords, with an infusion of Brahmin and Naga blood. An interesting process IMO.
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Old March 13th, 2018, 06:26 PM   #4

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Originally Posted by Gautamiputra View Post
Satavahana rulers are said to be of ambiguous origin as they claimed to be Brahmanas but followed Dravidian customs such as using mother's name to identify themselves.

Example : Gautamiputra <- Son of a woman of Gautam gotra.
Vashishtaputra <- Son of a woman of Vashishta gotra.
I don't think these matronymics in and of themselves are proof of any "Dravidian" or "tribal" ancestry. Rather, it seems that (for whatever reason) such names were popular during the early centuries CE, not just among the Satavahanas but among other Indian dynasties as well. For example, the kings of the Magha dynasty (who ruled the Kosambi/Allahabad region of modern-day UP) had names like "Maharaja Vasisthiputra Bhimasena," "Maharaja Kautsiputra Prausthashri," "Maharaja Kaushikiputra Bhadra Magha," "Maharaja Gautamiputra Shiva Magha," "Maharaja Kautsiputra Shiva Magha," etc. These kings were ruling in a core area of Indic civilization in the Gangetic plain that was quite heavily Aryanized, so I personally think it is unlikely that such names represent some non-Aryan custom.

Also, Dravidian peoples in general are quite patriarchal and patrilineal. As far as I know, none of the great Dravidian dynasties like the Cholas, Pandyas, Kakatiyas, Hoysalas, etc. traced their ancestry through their maternal line. The Satavahanas themselves were heavily Aryanized and clearly referred to themselves as "brahmans" in their own inscriptions, and also used Maharashtri Prakrit as their court language and not any Dravidian language. The homeland and core territory of the Satavahanas was located in the western Godavari river valley of Maharashtra, which was probably already Indo-Aryan-speaking back then as it is now. The territory of Andhra did not come under Satavahana rule until the reign of Vasisthiputra Pulumavi, one of the later Satavahana kings.
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Old March 13th, 2018, 06:26 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Gautamiputra View Post
Hello! Thanks for your well thought out reply!

I am a Telugu myself (but can't quite read or write it, can speak it a little), and to be honest, I find mainstream Telugu consciousness to be quite Aryanized in its outlook. Chaste Telugu is Sanskritized quite thoroughly. Just watching a Telugu newscast can show how Sanskritized the language is. Telugus as a society don't seem to have any notion of a separate "Dravidian" identity for themselves like Tamils. This present state of Telugus could be because of the process started by the Satavahanas themselves. Andhra even in the pre Satavahana era was considered as an Aryan Mahajanapada - Asmaka I think. So in my mind, culture of Andhra is neither Dravidian nor Aryan but more Aryan than anything else (but this could be bias because of my family background).

As for matrilineal societies, I do believe that pure Dravidian culture may have been matrilineal precisely because of the examples you have listed above. Those same customs are followed by most Tamils and perhaps there may be parallels in other Dravidian peoples as well.

But I still strongly feel that Satakarnis were tribal lords, with an infusion of Brahmin and Naga blood. An interesting process IMO.
I don't think having mother's name is anything unique to Dravidian culture. To cite a few examples from Vedas and upanishads:

The great Rig Vedic Rshi KakshivAn was known both by his father's name as Dairghatamas (son of DIrghatamas), and by his mother's name as Aushija (son of Ushija).

Krishna is referred to as Krishna Devakiputra in Chandogya Upanishat.

An entire lineage of more than 60 Rishis have been named with their mother's name in BrihadAranyaka Upanishat (Ex: GautamIputra, BharadvAjIputra, AtrEyIputra, etc..).
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Old March 13th, 2018, 06:45 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Gautamiputra View Post
Hello! Thanks for your well thought out reply!

I am a Telugu myself (but can't quite read or write it, can speak it a little), and to be honest, I find mainstream Telugu consciousness to be quite Aryanized in its outlook. Chaste Telugu is Sanskritized quite thoroughly. Just watching a Telugu newscast can show how Sanskritized the language is. Telugus as a society don't seem to have any notion of a separate "Dravidian" identity for themselves like Tamils. This present state of Telugus could be because of the process started by the Satavahanas themselves. Andhra even in the pre Satavahana era was considered as an Aryan Mahajanapada - Asmaka I think. So in my mind, culture of Andhra is neither Dravidian nor Aryan but more Aryan than anything else (but this could be bias because of my family background).

As for matrilineal societies, I do believe that pure Dravidian culture may have been matrilineal precisely because of the examples you have listed above. Those same customs are followed by most Tamils and perhaps there may be parallels in other Dravidian peoples as well.

But I still strongly feel that Satakarnis were tribal lords, with an infusion of Brahmin and Naga blood. An interesting process IMO.
I forgot in the last post to just note the difference between patriarchy/matriarchy and patriliny/matriliny. It is generally observed throughout the world that no human culture tends to be matriarchal though some may have matrilineal descent systems, etc. So Dravidian society may also have been boringly patriarchal though it may indeed have had matrilineal descent, etc. (I don't believe it as certainly known at this point though) This can be illustrated using the Nair example itself- though the Nairs were matrilineal in that a child belonged to the mother's family and not the father's, the actual lord of the house was always the maternal uncle, that is the elderly male progeny of the matrons. Not that you were not aware of this- I just wanted to mention it. But then, it is strange that Tamils do not retain any of the patterns seen in Tuluvas and Nairs though. Tamils are very Indo-Aryanised as far as culture is concerned, sure- but don't we expect something more than the Telugu-like traces of matrilineality in Tamils?

And yes, I am a "mainstream" Telugu myself though a bit atypical, actually a lot atypical; I was naturally born (I'm sure of it) with a somewhat purist-extremist outlook towards language (I don't care what culture Telugu people follow if they try to coin at least some new words from Dravidian Telugu linguistic roots and stop so irresponsibly replacing native words in usage with shiny Sanskrit and English equivalents; it sometimes feels strange that Telugu people use Sanskrit words for even those terms as 'sun', 'moon', 'sky', 'star', 'blood', 'fear', etc.) and that tends to give me nothing but a lot of mental stress as far as interactions with Telugu people are concerned. Most of the Telugu people are utterly oblivious of the way the native part of Telugu has constantly been eroding throughout history and is almost a moribund language as far as lexical development and such things are concerned, and they also tend to close themselves off just on mention of things such as this. Some may even weirdly increase their singing of the praises of Sanskrit (but they do not appreciate Perso-Arabic and English borrowings though and consider both of them as making the language impure) because of this reason that the native vocabulary of Telugu is not developed to the extent of Tamil and Sanskrit.

Another stupid thing that the coastal Andhra people to whom I myself am related also biologically, do is to constantly disparage the dialect of Telangana as impure because it apparently contains a lot of Perso-Arabic and Urdu borrowings according to them- while it is in fact the case that most central coastal people also use lots of Urdu and Persian words in their so called pure Telugu which they entitle themselves. While there are no pure languages anywhere in the world, it is a matter of fact that degrees of purity do exist and Sanskrit and Tamil are two languages in India which take that concept very seriously and perceive it accurately while Telugu people erroneously deem the Sanskrit + Telugu mixture as the purest language. This is deeply embedded in the Telugu psyche and I do not know the reasons for this at all. I mean, it is indeed the case that the early urban societies of Prakrit-and-Sanskrit speaking north India were more advanced than the megalithic cultures of the Deccan but was pre-Indo-Aryan-contact Telugu really that backward and useless as a language with no capacity to derive new words and capable of semantic extensions of existing words? I don't know; I'm very much prepared to be humbled but I'd like to know the truth. I don't know when I would be able to.

Coming to the Satavahanas themselves, the reading that I did so far indicates that their earliest inscriptions appear in the northwestern Deccan, i.e. Maharashtra rather than the typical Telugu areas and definitely not Andhra. Also, the term "Andhra" as used to refer to the Satavahanas was done in Puranas which were composed considerably later and at which time, the Satavahana power was strong in the actual Andhra region which also did not refer to the entire Telugu speaking area but just the lower Krishna valley or something which was religiously very Indo-Aryanised (Buddhism) too, by then. Thus, Asmaka/Assaka is not Andhra; Asmaka was likely to have been a typical Indo-Aryan janapada located in southern Maharashtra and northern Telangana borne out of significant migration from northern locales and it was perhaps not entirely composed of Dravidian people either recently-language-shifted or still-Dravidian-speaking. Another intuition of mine to believe that the Satavahanas were originally Indo-Aryan-speaking is that the concept of kingdoms and imperialism seems not to have been existent in the Dravidian-speaking Telugus much at that time- I imagine (without much basis though) that they may have been somewhat like the initial Indo-Aryan tribes of India- having tribal organisation in society mostly, with internal tribal struggles and virtually no language-based ethnic consciousness at all. Contrast this with the situation in the contemporary Sanskrit world with its authors occasionally describing to what extent people spoke Sanskrit in various parts of the country and also their dialectal features, etc. The tribal chiefs of the far south did evolve to become kings and began to be imperialistic but I read somewhere that they behaved very much tribal chiefs a lot of the time after becoming kings too. There is also this strange possibility that some Indo-Aryans from Mathura in the north came and mixed into/formed the Pandyas who even named their capital city exactly the same as the northern Mathura! In Karnataka too the same thing seems to have happened with Kadambas being a Brahma-Kshatriya dynasty and even Gangas considered by some scholars as originally having migrated from the north (even though the majority opinion seems to be that the Gangas are likely the natives of southern Karnataka which does not exclude the possibility of them being nativised Indo-Aryans from a somewhat older migration). There seems to be something strange about the Dravidian (at least the dominant ethnicities like Kannada people and Tamil people) psyche of the period. Were they really that extremely backward compared to the undoubtedly quite advanced Indo-Aryans? Perhaps; it seems to be the case.
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Old March 13th, 2018, 07:28 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Aatreya View Post
I don't think having mother's name is anything unique to Dravidian culture. To cite a few examples from Vedas and upanishads:

The great Rig Vedic Rshi KakshivAn was known both by his father's name as Dairghatamas (son of DIrghatamas), and by his mother's name as Aushija (son of Ushija).

Krishna is referred to as Krishna Devakiputra in Chandogya Upanishat.

An entire lineage of more than 60 Rishis have been named with their mother's name in BrihadAranyaka Upanishat (Ex: GautamIputra, BharadvAjIputra, AtrEyIputra, etc..).
Good to know! This further strengthens the concept that we cannot make any suggestions about the native language and ethnicity of the Satavahanas based on their naming patterns.
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Old March 13th, 2018, 07:33 PM   #8
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I don't think these matronymics in and of themselves are proof of any "Dravidian" or "tribal" ancestry. Rather, it seems that (for whatever reason) such names were popular during the early centuries CE, not just among the Satavahanas but among other Indian dynasties as well. For example, the kings of the Magha dynasty (who ruled the Kosambi/Allahabad region of modern-day UP) had names like "Maharaja Vasisthiputra Bhimasena," "Maharaja Kautsiputra Prausthashri," "Maharaja Kaushikiputra Bhadra Magha," "Maharaja Gautamiputra Shiva Magha," "Maharaja Kautsiputra Shiva Magha," etc. These kings were ruling in a core area of Indic civilization in the Gangetic plain that was quite heavily Aryanized, so I personally think it is unlikely that such names represent some non-Aryan custom.

Also, Dravidian peoples in general are quite patriarchal and patrilineal. As far as I know, none of the great Dravidian dynasties like the Cholas, Pandyas, Kakatiyas, Hoysalas, etc. traced their ancestry through their maternal line. The Satavahanas themselves were heavily Aryanized and clearly referred to themselves as "brahmans" in their own inscriptions, and also used Maharashtri Prakrit as their court language and not any Dravidian language. The homeland and core territory of the Satavahanas was located in the western Godavari river valley of Maharashtra, which was probably already Indo-Aryan-speaking back then as it is now. The territory of Andhra did not come under Satavahana rule until the reign of Vasisthiputra Pulumavi, one of the later Satavahana kings.
Great to read, as always! Sorry for my over-enthusiasm today though.
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Old March 15th, 2018, 03:48 PM   #9
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I don't think these matronymics in and of themselves are proof of any "Dravidian" or "tribal" ancestry. Rather, it seems that (for whatever reason) such names were popular during the early centuries CE, not just among the Satavahanas but among other Indian dynasties as well. For example, the kings of the Magha dynasty (who ruled the Kosambi/Allahabad region of modern-day UP) had names like "Maharaja Vasisthiputra Bhimasena," "Maharaja Kautsiputra Prausthashri," "Maharaja Kaushikiputra Bhadra Magha," "Maharaja Gautamiputra Shiva Magha," "Maharaja Kautsiputra Shiva Magha," etc. These kings were ruling in a core area of Indic civilization in the Gangetic plain that was quite heavily Aryanized, so I personally think it is unlikely that such names represent some non-Aryan custom.

Also, Dravidian peoples in general are quite patriarchal and patrilineal. As far as I know, none of the great Dravidian dynasties like the Cholas, Pandyas, Kakatiyas, Hoysalas, etc. traced their ancestry through their maternal line. The Satavahanas themselves were heavily Aryanized and clearly referred to themselves as "brahmans" in their own inscriptions, and also used Maharashtri Prakrit as their court language and not any Dravidian language. The homeland and core territory of the Satavahanas was located in the western Godavari river valley of Maharashtra, which was probably already Indo-Aryan-speaking back then as it is now. The territory of Andhra did not come under Satavahana rule until the reign of Vasisthiputra Pulumavi, one of the later Satavahana kings.
You bring up some good points, esp. about matronymics. I think I have also read that in ancient times, women's gotra was considered quite important unlike today. That clears up a lot of confusion. However, are early Satavahanas names Indo Aryan? Like the first king Simuka, his brother Kanha.. etc? They don't sound Indo Aryan to me but I could be wrong here

Also im getting the message that the Satavahanas were not originally Andhras. I think a certain Greek historian was referring to the Satavahanas when he spoke of the Andrae. He described them as a powerful race in India with 30 towns. This must have been after Pulumavi's takeover of the region then
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Old March 15th, 2018, 04:01 PM   #10
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I forgot in the last post to just note the difference between patriarchy/matriarchy and patriliny/matriliny. It is generally observed throughout the world that no human culture tends to be matriarchal though some may have matrilineal descent systems, etc. So Dravidian society may also have been boringly patriarchal though it may indeed have had matrilineal descent, etc. (I don't believe it as certainly known at this point though) This can be illustrated using the Nair example itself- though the Nairs were matrilineal in that a child belonged to the mother's family and not the father's, the actual lord of the house was always the maternal uncle, that is the elderly male progeny of the matrons. Not that you were not aware of this- I just wanted to mention it. But then, it is strange that Tamils do not retain any of the patterns seen in Tuluvas and Nairs though. Tamils are very Indo-Aryanised as far as culture is concerned, sure- but don't we expect something more than the Telugu-like traces of matrilineality in Tamils?

And yes, I am a "mainstream" Telugu myself though a bit atypical, actually a lot atypical; I was naturally born (I'm sure of it) with a somewhat purist-extremist outlook towards language (I don't care what culture Telugu people follow if they try to coin at least some new words from Dravidian Telugu linguistic roots and stop so irresponsibly replacing native words in usage with shiny Sanskrit and English equivalents; it sometimes feels strange that Telugu people use Sanskrit words for even those terms as 'sun', 'moon', 'sky', 'star', 'blood', 'fear', etc.) and that tends to give me nothing but a lot of mental stress as far as interactions with Telugu people are concerned. Most of the Telugu people are utterly oblivious of the way the native part of Telugu has constantly been eroding throughout history and is almost a moribund language as far as lexical development and such things are concerned, and they also tend to close themselves off just on mention of things such as this. Some may even weirdly increase their singing of the praises of Sanskrit (but they do not appreciate Perso-Arabic and English borrowings though and consider both of them as making the language impure) because of this reason that the native vocabulary of Telugu is not developed to the extent of Tamil and Sanskrit.

Another stupid thing that the coastal Andhra people to whom I myself am related also biologically, do is to constantly disparage the dialect of Telangana as impure because it apparently contains a lot of Perso-Arabic and Urdu borrowings according to them- while it is in fact the case that most central coastal people also use lots of Urdu and Persian words in their so called pure Telugu which they entitle themselves. While there are no pure languages anywhere in the world, it is a matter of fact that degrees of purity do exist and Sanskrit and Tamil are two languages in India which take that concept very seriously and perceive it accurately while Telugu people erroneously deem the Sanskrit + Telugu mixture as the purest language. This is deeply embedded in the Telugu psyche and I do not know the reasons for this at all. I mean, it is indeed the case that the early urban societies of Prakrit-and-Sanskrit speaking north India were more advanced than the megalithic cultures of the Deccan but was pre-Indo-Aryan-contact Telugu really that backward and useless as a language with no capacity to derive new words and capable of semantic extensions of existing words? I don't know; I'm very much prepared to be humbled but I'd like to know the truth. I don't know when I would be able to.

Coming to the Satavahanas themselves, the reading that I did so far indicates that their earliest inscriptions appear in the northwestern Deccan, i.e. Maharashtra rather than the typical Telugu areas and definitely not Andhra. Also, the term "Andhra" as used to refer to the Satavahanas was done in Puranas which were composed considerably later and at which time, the Satavahana power was strong in the actual Andhra region which also did not refer to the entire Telugu speaking area but just the lower Krishna valley or something which was religiously very Indo-Aryanised (Buddhism) too, by then. Thus, Asmaka/Assaka is not Andhra; Asmaka was likely to have been a typical Indo-Aryan janapada located in southern Maharashtra and northern Telangana borne out of significant migration from northern locales and it was perhaps not entirely composed of Dravidian people either recently-language-shifted or still-Dravidian-speaking. Another intuition of mine to believe that the Satavahanas were originally Indo-Aryan-speaking is that the concept of kingdoms and imperialism seems not to have been existent in the Dravidian-speaking Telugus much at that time- I imagine (without much basis though) that they may have been somewhat like the initial Indo-Aryan tribes of India- having tribal organisation in society mostly, with internal tribal struggles and virtually no language-based ethnic consciousness at all. Contrast this with the situation in the contemporary Sanskrit world with its authors occasionally describing to what extent people spoke Sanskrit in various parts of the country and also their dialectal features, etc. The tribal chiefs of the far south did evolve to become kings and began to be imperialistic but I read somewhere that they behaved very much tribal chiefs a lot of the time after becoming kings too. There is also this strange possibility that some Indo-Aryans from Mathura in the north came and mixed into/formed the Pandyas who even named their capital city exactly the same as the northern Mathura! In Karnataka too the same thing seems to have happened with Kadambas being a Brahma-Kshatriya dynasty and even Gangas considered by some scholars as originally having migrated from the north (even though the majority opinion seems to be that the Gangas are likely the natives of southern Karnataka which does not exclude the possibility of them being nativised Indo-Aryans from a somewhat older migration). There seems to be something strange about the Dravidian (at least the dominant ethnicities like Kannada people and Tamil people) psyche of the period. Were they really that extremely backward compared to the undoubtedly quite advanced Indo-Aryans? Perhaps; it seems to be the case.
My friend, I think Dravidians were actually quite warlike and may have offered stiff resistance to invaders, if we accept AIT or some form of it (Aryans definitely moved from North to South at least). I do not buy that they were that backward or placid that they lost everything to the Aryans, because this does not tie into the violence of early Tamil literature, and also the general ruthlessness of Dravidian warfare throughout the ages. Yes, they were somewhat backward in terms of social organization, but I don't the disparity was that great. Later Vedic culture or Brahmanism lent itself well to monarchy because of its stricter social organization. This was what may have enabled these Northern migrants to set themselves up as elites, along with perhaps better knowledge of agricultural techniques (but this point can be disputed).

There were many non Brahmin kings like Yadavas in the later period who invited brahmans to their regions, gave them land, settled them, made them administrators, generals etc, to "stabilize" the realm as they acted as a non local power center, who would be loyal to the king only. So this might give us a clue on how the older migrants set themselves up too..
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