The African Presence in India

In the world of yoga, most cite India as being its birthplace. However, more information is coming out about the existence of forms of “yoga” in ancient African civilizations, namely Kemet (now Egypt). This isn’t a far-fetched idea, especially because the concepts at the root of yoga – philosophy, enlightenment, Self development – are universally practiced throughout all of humanity, which hails from the cradle of Africa.

But perhaps even more interesting than the African roots of Indian yoga is the African roots of India itself. One of the most populous nations in the world, India is made up of people with an incredibly wide variety of ethnic and genetic backgrounds, from indigenous to migrant, many of whom originate from the southeastern area of Africa and its Bantu-speaking people.

Irrespective of region and language, most population groups in the country trace their ancestry to the first humans who migrated out of Africa and reached India.

Article: Tracing Indian’s Ancestry to Migrations From Africa

What makes this so interesting to me is how, in Western yoga spaces, the centuries-long existence of African-Indians is never mentioned. In the time that I’ve been teaching, I’ve never heard a White teacher, or even an Indian teacher, allude to the presence of Africans in India’s culture, past or present.

(But most yoga teachers don’t say anything about India’s colorism, classism, or caste system either. After all, that wouldn’t feel very “yoga-ish,” would it?)

It’s all just another reminder of the need for us to always go deeper. A reminder that we of African ancestry are the ones who have to do the work to reclaim our histories. And that our African histories are truly a part of the history of the entire world.


The following resource links give a more detailed background of the African presence in India:

Tracing Indian’s Ancestry to Migrations From Africa

The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World

Recent Admixture in an Indian Population of African Ancestry