Friedreich's ataxia (FRDA) is caused by expansion of GAA repeats in the frataxin (FXN) gene on chromosome 9q13-q21.1. We analysed the origin of FRDA in 21 North Indian (NI) and eight South Indian (SI) families using five single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and a microsatellite marker spanning the GAA repeats. The NI and SI families were derived from Indo-European and Dravidian linguistic backgrounds respectively. The frequency of large normal (LNs) alleles of the GAA repeat correlate with the overall lower prevalence of FRDA in India compared to the European population. All of the expanded alleles in the Indian population share a common core haplotype suggesting a founder effect. The expanded alleles in the NI population demonstrate more similarity to those of Europeans in terms of age of GAA repeat expansion (15975 ± 2850 years) and association of LNs with expanded alleles. FRDA seems to have been introduced recently in the South Indian population since the average estimated age of the mutation in SI is 5425 ± 1750 years and unlike NI some of the haplotypes of LNs are not associated with the expanded alleles. © 2010 IGIB, CSIR, Delhi, India Journal compilation © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/University College London.