What is Southern India DNA Ethnicity on Ancestry?

The results of our AncestryDNA tests may sometimes be what we expect or on occasion may be a big surprise. Either way, often we need a little more information regarding some of the regions that arise in our ethnicity estimates.

One region that is not at all uncommon is the Southern India DNA region. Those who still live in this region already understand all about its history and culture. There are others, however, who may never have even visited or in fact been aware that they have ancestors from that area.

In this post, we will go into more detail with regard to the history, geography, and culture of the Southern India region. We will also discuss what it means to be from this region and how easy or difficult it might be to trace our roots in the Southern India Region.

What Is the Southern India DNA Region?

The Southern India DNA region is small in comparison to Ancestry's Northern India region but it is distinct in its own way. As the name would suggest it covers the more southerly Indian states as well as the island nation of Sri Lanka. The states that make up this region are:

  • Southwest Maharashtra
  • Telangana
  • Andhra Pradesh
  • Karnataka
  • Tamil Nadu
  • Kerala
  • Goa

Southern India DNA Region Subregions

There are two subregions to the Southern India region the first of which is Southeastern India which focuses on Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. The second subregion is Sri Lanka which pertains only to the Island nation of Sri Lanka.

Those who discover they have DNA from one of the subregions may be able to more accurately pinpoint where their Southern India DNA may have come from.

Southern India Region History

Prehistoric Indian History

It is estimated that it was roughly 55,000 years ago that homo sapiens otherwise known as modern humans arrived in India. They would have migrated there from Africa where they had initially evolved as a species.

Ash mounds unearthed in South India were carbon tested and showed a Neolithic culture that dated back to 8,000 BC. Among the finds were ground stone axes and minor copper objects. It wasn’t until 1,000 BC that iron technology appeared in the fossil record of the region although there never really occurred a fully formed Bronze Age.

Central to Trade

During the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, Southern India was virtually in the middle of a vast oceanic trading route that linked the Mediterranean to East Asia. This would bring trading cultures such as the Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, Jewish, and Chinese. It was essentially part of the Silk Road network of trade and would have seen a great deal of immigration into the area.

Dynasties of Southern India

Between the 6th century BC and the 4th century AD, several dynasties ruled over Southern India. These included:

  • Cheras of Karuvur
  • Pandyas of Madurai
  • Cholas of Thanjavur
  • Zamorins of Kozhikode
  • Travancore royal family of Thiruvananthapuram
  • The Kingdom of Cochin
  • Mushikas of Kannur
  • Satavahanas of Amaravati
  • Pallavas of Kanchi
  • Kadambas of Banavasi
  • Western Gangas of Kolar
  • Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta
  • Chalukyas of Badami
  • Hoysalas of Belur
  • Kakatiyas of Orugallu

After these dynasties all ultimately reached their end, in the 14th century the Vijayanagara Empire was founded taking control of much of Southern India. It was established in 1336 by brothers Harihara I and Bukka Raya I of the Sangama dynasty.

The empire rose to prominence because of attempts to ward off the advances of the Perso-Turkic Islamic invasions. At the empire's peak it had managed to subjugate almost all of South India’s ruling families and pushed the sultans of the Deccan back from their lands.

Lasting until 1646 this empire began its own decline after the 1565 Battle of Talikota. It would be the last dynasty to rule South India and they would be replaced by the Deccan Sultanates of Delhi.


Due to its location along ancient trade routes, Southern India was well known to European powers and in the 15th century, Europeans started to arrive in greater numbers. It was by the middle of the 18th century that both the French and English became involved in a struggle for military control of the region.

Ultimately this conflict would end in 1806 with the British Empire coming out the winner. They quickly consolidated their power over Southern India with the only noted exception being the French Pondichery.

Sri Lanka History

Sri Lankan Prehistory

Although a small island nation, Sri Lanka and its history is likely important to the DNA of Southern India. The earliest known peoples of Sri Lanka were probably the ancestors of the modern-day Vedda people. Studies of the modern-day Vedda people turned up links to South Asia and western Eurasians which may indicate where the first peoples of Sri Lanka came from.

During the protohistoric period 1,000 – 500 BC Sri Lanka was culturally connected to Southern India. Their common culture likely arose from Southern Indian groups migrating to Sri Lanka and assimilating into the indigenous population.

How Did You Get Southern India Region DNA?

If you already know that you had family who came from Southern India then you likely know why you have Southern India region DNA. If this result came as a surprise you may not know how exactly you came by DNA from this region.

If you have a sizable percentage of DNA from this region then it is likely you have an ancestor who was born in or close to the country of Southern India.

Is the Result Accurate?

When it comes to ethnicity estimates the higher the percentage you have from a certain region the more likely it is to be accurate. If your percentage is low, however, then it is harder to pinpoint exactly where your most recent ancestors came from.

A low result could mean a distant ancestor from that region. It is best to focus on your highest-rated region's matches to determine where your ancestors came from more recently. A low percentage can often be hard to locate because the ancestor in question could be many generations back in your tree.

How to Research My Ancestry from These Regions

The results of a DNA ethnicity test are of course a great place to start especially if there is an unexpected result found in the report. As always of course the DNA cannot tell the whole story and we need to actually do the research work.

A percentage on an ethnicity estimate means very little unless you follow through and start building up your family tree. The relevant ancestors may be several generations back and it may take a lot of research to discover who they were.

If you have specific regions mentioned in your report then you have a good idea of where your ancestor may have originated from. Ancestry DNA even has migratory information from some of these regions through to the final settlement places in the United States or elsewhere in the world.

Using Ancestry you may be able to determine not only who your ancestors were from the British Isles but perhaps the reason they decided to move.

Southern Indian Migration

The earliest migration out of South India to the United States would have been as a result of the famed East India Company. With Southern Indian ports being frequented by the company, slaves and Indian servants from the region would have been taken to the New World during the 17th century. Records in fact show “East Indian” slaves in Maryland and Delaware. With the end of slavery, these individuals would have likely become part of the African American community and may even have been considered “mulattos.”

Various waves of deliberate migration followed over the centuries with Southern Indians seeking new lives and opportunities in growing industries within the United States.

Final Thoughts

The Southern India region has not seen the same level of conflict as the northern region but dynasties and empires have risen and fallen in the area. The DNA of the population combines ancient influences from Northern India, and Sri Lanka as well as later influences from global empires such as the Greeks and the Romans.

A very populous region millions around the world can likely trace their lineage to this region which is rich in history and a varied plateau of religions.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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