While a huge section of the Indian population is said to have a fascination for fairer skin, here comes a study that connects skin color with the Indian caste system. According to the study, skin pigmentation and the so-called caste hierarchy are intimately linked. The study was conducted among 27 ethnic groups from the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
The study involved 1,167 people from the states, particularly known for its strict caste system in the society. Anything from marriage to jobs are said to suffer a direct influence from the caste system, which is severely criticized by many at the same time. The study has revealed that skin color varies significantly in accordance with various ethnic groups.
According to Kumarasamy Thangaraj from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; rs1426654 has a direct influence on skin color. The major single nucleotide polymorphism in SLC24A5 gene marks the difference between up to 38% of the difference of pigmentation between West Africans and Europeans. According to the study, another SNP also has a major influence on Indian or Asian skin color. That is rs2470102.
The Brahmins (upper caste population) in Uttar Pradesh are the ones with the fairest skin. And, Manjhis (lower caste population) are the ones with the darkest skin. The maximum variation in skin color in the Indian caste system is found among Bhagats.
Thangaraj and his associates conducted a subsequent study with 1,825 individuals from 52 ethnic groups in India. It was found that the allele frequencies of the two SNPs affect the skin color of people from the rest of India as well. The study was published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
"Like in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the proportion of both mutant and wild homozygous alleles is distributed in differently frequencies in different populations across the Indian population," The Hindu quoted Thangaraj as saying. "Also, the H1 haplotype was not exclusive to any particular population or social category."
The study has also explained why people with darker skin are found in the fair skin group and vice versa. It aims to understand the relation between the Indian caste system and skin pigmentation. Whether Indians should be fixated about either is a different question altogether.