Tribals of Andaman Islands

Andaman and Nicobar Islands are getting popular with the domestic and international travellers lately , Because of increased air connectivity to the islands and also because of the opening of more hotels and resorts in the area ,The latest enterant being the Taj hotel in Havelock islands .There are islands in the area which have a local tribal population and are not allowed to visit by the tourists . The Aboriginals of the tribals of the Andaman Islands are known as Andaman Tribals. They are of Negrito stock / race. Their main occupation is food gathering. Andaman tribals are a four types namely

  1. Jarawas
  2. Sentinalese
  3. Onges 
  4. Great Andamanese

Jarawas

Among the four tribals, Jarawas are forest dwellers and hostile. They inhabit and live in the west coast of South and Middle Andamans in the reserved forest area. They are claimed to be one of the purest and most primitive races in the world with a human memory “who live on hunting and food gathering”. The jarawas do not have any relation with the other types of tribals and non-tribals and that’s why nothing is known about their life style and economy, habits and characteristics. They look dark like other Negrito tribes and have thick skin and long but curly hair. Both the males and females are tall. It is understood that they love deers and like red colour. They do not wear dresses of any type. But they wear necklace, big mala waist bands, head bands made out of sea-shells, palm leaves and some bones. Sometimes they decorate their body with clay. They collect fruit honey, tuber from different plants, fish monitor lizard, wild pig etc., for their food. But there is no evidence that they have killed deer and birds who are very friendly with Jarawas. Till 1973, the Jarawas could not be contacted. In 1974, the Andaman  & Nicobar Administration, with the joint efforts of Anthropology Department, successfully contacted one group of Jarawas and presented them gifts. From 1974 onwards, at irregular intervals, the Administration has been contacting the Jarawas and presenting them gifts, in the form of coconuts, red coloured clothes, drinking water, other eatables etc., No attempt, however, has been made to stay with them because the behaviour of the Jarawas is still unpredictable.

Sentinalese

The Sentinalese are also forest dwellers and are very hostile. They are unapproachable. They inhabit and live in the isolated island named North Sentinal Island, situated in the west direction to the Port Blair. The Sentinalese are left alone in the reserved small island, the area of which is about 50 sq.kms. During the years 1967, 1978, 1982, 1984 — 1989 frequent attempts have been made to contact them by the Anthropoligical department. But the last one was fairly successful in which the Sentinalese felt free to come close to the venturers’ boat in their (Sentinalese) canoes to pick the gifts of coconuts which were floated by the venturers the sea. The Sentinalese live in mall sized huts arrow cum s under trees.

They use arrow and bow, plucking stick,  cane basket, , bamboo pot, nautilus shells, fishing net, waist band, grinding stone, hammer stone,  pig skull, dug out canoe, multi-pronged wooden harpoon to serve their different ends.

Onges

Onges are a friendly tribe among the four Negrito tribes. They inhabit and live in the Little Andaman Islands and come in contact with outside civilisation, following the setting up of the settlement. They are very friendly with the non tribals. Occasionally, they come out of their residence or islands. They are of dark colour, short statured with unusual growth of buttocks (both males and females). Their hands and feet are small but strong. Their eyes are bright and clear white in contrast to their complexion. Their teeth are remarkably strong and are retained till old age though not regularly cleaned”. Most of the Onges are very weak and some of them suffer from a disease like tuberculosis.The Administration has opened a dispensary and individual health cards are being maintained. The local administration has constructed some modern double storeyed residential louses for them. They call themselves “Onges” a verbal noun meaning of “Man Being”.

Great Andamanese

Great Andamanese are also one of the Andaman tribes like Negrito race. Once they dominated the full South Andaman Islands with an estimated population of 5000 but due to the ill-treatment by the authorities in different years their strength has come down to 26 as per 1981 census. The main reason for this is that they have been contacted by the non tribals. “Great Andamanese were enjoying a free, independent and healthy life, free from disease. But the contact with the outside world brought epidemics like cholera, small pox, measles and contagious diseases like T.B, V.D etc.”. Great Andamanese are short in height. The colour of their skin is light black. Now-a-days they have started wearing all types of dresses including ‘T’ shirts, available in the market.

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