People & Culture
At one time, the Great Andamanese had the largest population among all the tribes inhabiting the Andaman Islands. Their population in 1789 was approximately 10,000. By 1999,their number has decreased to 41. These tribals have been rehabilitated in a small island named Strait Island. Their traditional food items are fish, dugong, turtle, turtle eggs, crabs, roots and tubers. At times, they still go for hunting and gathering. Some of them are also engaged in agriculture,producing different vegetables. Recently, they have also started poultry farms. Their culture is totally different from the other tribes of the island.
Onges are one of the oldest tribes in India. They are a part of Negrito racial stock and they have been relegated to the reserved pockets both at Dugong Creek and South Bay of Little Andaman Island. They are also diminishing in number. They are the semi-nomadic tribes and fully dependent on the food provided by nature. They have now experienced the impact of outsiders. At the same time efforts at befriending them have proved to be successful. They have been provided with pucca hut type houses, food, clothes, medicines, etc. by the Administration. They eat turtles, fish, roots, jack fruits etc. They have developed artistry and craft. The Onges can make canoes. A primary school has been functioning at the Dugong Creek settlement of Onges.
The Sentinelese are the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island. The island is about 60 Sq. Kilometres. They are probably the world’s only Paleolithic people surviving today without contact with any other group or community. They are considered as an off- shoot to the Onge and Jarawa tribes which have acquired a different identity due to their habitation in an isolated island and have lost contact with the main tribes. The Sentinelese are very hostile and never leave their Island. Very little is known about this tribe.
They are now friendly and voluntarily seek medical assistance. They do not have good canoes but can make rafts which they build to cross streams. The year 1974 was a landmark in the history of Jarawas. Dropping of gifts was done in February and March 1974. After establishing this friendly mission with the Jarawas, the contact party of the Administration quite often met the Jarawas and gave them gift items like banana, coconut and other fruits. With the passage of time, the behavioural patterns of Jarawas have changed. Till the beginning of 1998, they remained hostile, but now they are coming out of the jungle quite often and are becoming friendlier.
The Jarawas are coming out from their habitat to mix with the local people. After giving them gift items like bananas, coconuts, etc., they are being sent out to live in their own natural habitat, with a view not to force them to interact with the outside world. Isolated so long, the Jarawas otherwise appear to be healthy, with smooth skin, deep curly hair, long and sturdy hands and legs and sturdy bones. They are physically fit for hunting and fishing. The Jarawas are not welfare dependent people. As nomadic tribes subsisting on hunting, fishing and gathering activities, their traditional food articles consist of boar (wild boar), turtles and their eggs, crabs and other sea creatures, wild pigs, fruits and honey.
The Karen in the Andaman & Nicobar Island has their roots in Burma (Myanmar), therefore it will be appropriate to introduce the origins of the Karen as a tribe. As history records, the Karens originally descended from the normal Tribe. The Mongolious branched out into three ethnic groups of which ‘Karen’ is one of them
There are altogether eleven Karen tribes
- PA-O(TAU THU)
- MAN NE PWA
- WHITE KAREN
- EASTERU BWEH KARENNI OR KAYAN
- GEN BAH
The Karen’s have a total population of about 2000 in Andamans. At present their settlement spread out in nine villages namely Webi, Deopur, Lataw, Lucknow, Burmadera, Karmatang, Borong, Chipo and Panighat etc.
Cultural Patterns of the Indigenous Tribes of Andaman and Nicobar:
The most distinguishing aspect of Andaman and Nicobar culture is the culture of the indigenous people of the islands. Andaman and Nicobar islanders can be divided into two major groups. The inhabitants of the Andamans are of Negroid origin and migrated from Africa thousands of years ago, way back in the later Paleolithic age.
The main ethnic groups are: Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa, Sentinalese.
The inhabitants of Nicobar are equally old, if not older. They are however of a Mongoloid origin. The main groups of Nicobar tribes are the Nicobari (Nicobarese) and Shompen.All these tribes have continued with their indigenous culture at Andaman and Nicobar islands, and still continue to do so. The relative isolation of these tribes has helped to preserve these streams of Andaman and Nicobar culture.