Master Ceaser Frederick who passed near Nicobars in 1566 said,”The islands are inhabited by wild people and they call their people savage and wild because they eat one another. If by evil chance any ship is lost on those islands, as many have been, there is not one man of those ships lost there that escapeth uneaten or unslain.”
What is so strange with the tribes of Andaman that it gives goosebumps to all scientists, mariners, and anthropologists?
The Andaman Islands are located in the Bay of Bengal, the territory of India. These are a small chain of roughly 572 islands of which 38 are permanently inhabited. The Islands consist of Great Andaman and Little Andaman, and a number of smaller islands.The Islands are divided by small creeks of the sea into four, known as North Andaman, Middle Andaman, Baratang and South Andaman. It is said that in the historical times these islands have been avoided by the Mariners.The natives of Andaman were so hostile that they don’t even use to take a second to attack the outsiders.
The mystery of Andamanese still remains unsolved, leaving us with many questions related to human evolution. Due to which there were many arguments between the US anthropologists and Asian anthropologists. US anthropologists believe that the tribes of Andaman are the earlier tribes of Africa, who sailed to the Andamans.On the other hand, Asian anthropologists think that it’s not necessary human evolved from Africans.That’s the reason this topic always heats up the scene between scientists and government authorities.
Maybe all of the tribes are a part of Andaman itself but there’s a huge difference in between their language, culture and life style. For example, the behaviour of the tribes of Andaman can be classified into two Ar Yoto ( coast dwellers) and Erem-taiga ( forest dwellers). Coast dwellers are the ones who obtain their most of the food from the sea. They are highly skilful in the hunt of sea turtles and fishes. On the other hand, Forest dwellers rely on the forests to satisfy their stomachs.They are skilled in pig hunting.
It is highly improbable that even after having such fears, some of the visitors succeeded to make friendly relationships with the tribes of Andaman.
The Hidden Tribes of Andaman
1. The Great Andamanese
The Great Andamanese group were divided into 10 tribes, each having their own grammatical structure and dialect. They were major in number, occupying the area from South Andaman to North Andaman i.e the largest area. When the islands were invaded by the Britishers there was a great effect on the population of Great Andamanese.The Great Andamanese were the first people to revolt against British. Unfortunately, being hostile and away from the modern humans, they just had bows and arrows which led to the depopulation of the tribe.Anyhow, they surrendered themselves to British officers. They were highly exploited and even sexually assaulted by the invaders which caused many diseases like Syphilis.
Culture and Behaviour
Each group had friendly relationships with each other. The groups used to meet together for few days to join dancing and feasting. The Great Andamanese consisted both forest and coast dwellers. They had both sea and forest to draw upon their substances. It is not easy to assume a proper numerical value of people in each group. But they can be classified into families having man, wife and unmarried or adopted children.
The Great Andamanese married women wore the belt of pandanus leaves and the ornaments of dentalium shells. While the men carried bow and arrow in order to hunt fish and to protect their families.
These are one of the tribes of Andaman who had dark skin and short height.This tribe was perfect in making mats and huts of palm leaves. The fascinating part of their way of living was that they had a common cooking area. If they used to hunt pig then firstly it had to get roasted and then divided equally into the group. So, united they were.
Today, unfortunately, they are just 50 in number in which none of them remembers their native language and culture. There was one couple who had an idea about their culture but they too passed away. The government of India displaced them to the Strait Island and provided them with various amenities like food, shelter, clothes and government jobs.
2. The Jarawa
Jarawas had a chronic enmity with the Great Andamanese. There was so much hatred ness between the tribes that whenever they used to meet accidentally, the larger party would attack the another one. Although, after the settlement of Port Blair ( capital of Andaman), a friendly relation was established between the tribes. The population of Jarwas is estimated to be 250-400. They were largely depopulated by diseases like measles and by the introduction of alcohol and opium. At one time Jarwas were also considered as a very hostile tribe but after many successful interactions, they became friendly to the outsiders.
Culture and Behaviour
Jarawas are not good at making canoes but can make some good piece of rafts to cross the streams. They are mainly forest dwellers and their staple food is the wild boar. Jarawas appeared to be having smooth and skin. They have black curly hair and having an average height of 4 feet. Jarawa also gathers fruits, wild roots and honey. Collection of honey is one of their main activity and they do enjoy it by singing some of their traditional songs.
Jarawas originally resided in the South of Andaman. But when the Great Andamanese started depopulating they planned to move upwards. Some of them shifted to middle Andaman and some stayed in South. Jarawas personally didn’t wish to adopt the life of modern humans. They were quite satisfied staying in the deep forests.
These days they’re under some major threat which is due to the construction of Andaman trunk road dividing their home into two halves.The construction of road allowed huge tourist crowd to enter their home. Jarawas women were highly sexually harassed by the common men with the use of marijuana. There’s is an activity named Human Safari which takes place in this area for the entertainment of tourists. By entertainment, we mean “Jarawas”.
Is it valid to treat our fellow humans in such way? If No then it’s us who can make the change.
The way Onge live their life today is quite different from the past years.At one time they used to reside mostly in the entire Little Island. Onge had friendly relations with the British empire. In fact, MV Portman described them as the ” mildest, most timid and inoffensive” tribes of Andaman.
Culture and Behaviour
The natives of Little Andaman make pots which are much larger and deeper than any other tribes in Andaman. The most impressive part of their creativity is that they are very skilful in making baskets i.e. exactly in the same shape. Their religious beliefs lie in nature i.e. the Sun and the moon. They believe that there shouldn’t be any bright light lit during the time moon is up as it makes the moon angry. It is said that Onges had a connection with Sentinelese. As they built canoes to sail across the sea. While on the other hand, Sentinelese built rafts.
The Onge’s population has reduced to hundred due to diseases. At one time the whole island was their home but in 1967 they were moved from hills to the coastal area. In early years they used to live by hunting. In compensation of their shifting, the government provided them with food, clothes and shelter. But it’s not easy to change their traditional lifestyle.Unfortunately, they have never developed farming skills.
4. The Sentinelese
North Sentinelese Island is the only island in the world where modern hood has never peeped in from over 60,000 years. The Sentinelese are believed to be pre neolithic tribe who can lead us to the story of our ancestors. They are the most isolated people of the world who chose to remain away from the modern humans. It isn’t that the Indian government didn’t try to make contact with this tribe. The government did try to make contact by offering gifts like coconut, pig etc but in return, the Sentinelese showered their poisonous arrows. According to the resources of the island, it is assumed that they are hardly from 60 to 70 in number.
The Champagnes resides in the remote forests of Nicobar Islands.They are not really dark skinned people.In fact, they have a wheatish skin colour. This committee is also very hostile in nature. They live in forests and continue with their daily activities. There isn’t much known about this tribe but yes the scientists assured that they are linked to Africa.
The tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands are just human like us. The only difference is that they are confined to nature and we modern humans are into to our own modern gadgets or equipment.Helping our fellow human beings is our religion and humanity. We strongly believe that the Human Safari should be shut down as they’re not animals for a show. They’re just like us having a different way of living.