In recent years, mtDNA and Y chromosome studies involving human populations from South Asia and the rest of the world have revealed new insights about the peopling of the world by anatomically modern humans during the late Pleistocene, some 40,000–60,000 years ago, over the southern coastal route from Africa. Molecular studies and archaeological record are both largely consistent with autochthonous differentiation of the genetic structure of the caste and tribal populations in South Asia. High level of endogamy created by numerous social boundaries within and between castes and tribes, along with the influence of several evolutionary forces such as genetic drift, fragmentation and long-term isolation, has kept the Indian populations diverse and distant from each other as well as from other continental populations. This review attempts to summarize recent genetic studies on Indian caste and tribal populations with the focus on the information embedded in the socially defined structure of Indian populations. BioEssays 29: 91–100, 2007. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.