Andaman tribes impart an exotic look to the ethereal Andaman and Nicobar islands. The original population of the islands comprises aboriginal indigenous people who have been living in forests and jungles for a long time. These Andaman tribes have been leading a primitive life gathering food mainly by hunting and living an isolated quiet life away from the touch of civilization and urbanization. The Andaman islands can therefore be a prime subject for case study on the lives of indigenous and isolated Andaman tribes.
The Andaman islands are a group of over 500 islands situated 1,400 kms off the east coast of India and characterized by an exotic belt of coral reefs, tropical evergreen vegetation and alluring tourist destinations. However, there is a very remote side to the Andaman islands which is yet to be discovered and explored. This side constitutes the life of the aboriginal Andaman tribes. The four cardinal Andaman tribes include Sentinelese, Jarawa, Onge and Andamanese. It is not an unknown fact that the present scenario of these four Andaman tribes is disturbing. They have been faced with severe problems like colonization and imperialism. It can be said that out of these four Andaman tribes, only the Sentinelese are considered healthy and intact. But it may not take long for this group to dwindle into insignificance.
4 DISTINCT ANDAMAN TRIBES
THE GREAT ANDAMANESE
The great Andamanese is a term used to denote 10 different Andaman tribes that dwelt on Andaman islands. These Andaman tribes were of Negrito origin and spoke different but closely related languages. Until the late 18th century, the Andaman tribes were protected from outside influences, but the British attempt at colonization changed everything. Initially, the population was 5000-8000 and together they were successful in resisting the British attacks. However, after ‘The Aberdeen War’, the population of the great Andamanese suffered heavily. By 1901, only 625 great Andamanese were left. Today, only two tribes Jeru and Bo remain while the other 8 have gone extinct.
The Great Andamanese live on Strait island and they have transformed just a bit. While they still gather food by fishing and hunting, they have also started consuming rice and other Indian food. They also speak Hindi and practice agriculture and have established poultry farms.
The Sentinelese tribe is so hostile that their abode is termed as ‘the hardest place to visit’ in the world. They are the most isolated and primitive of all Andaman tribes. They live on the North Sentinel island. The Indian government has tried to retrieve this group. Since 1967, the government has tried to access them by sending them food, gifts and coconuts but they were met with hostility. In 2006, 2 fishermen were killed by them. After the tsunami, the government tried again to help them but was met with the same response. Any access to North Sentinel island is strictly forbidden.
Jarawa translates to ‘the hostile ones’ or ‘people of the earth.’ The Jarawa population ranges from 250 to 400 and is one of the largest Andaman tribes. The tribe mainly lives in the western region of the islands. They are still untouched by civilization and depend completely on forests and seafood for survival. Wild boar, monitor lizard, fruit, honey and tubers are largely consumed. They move around naked and wear ornaments made of shells and palm leaves.
Onges are one of the most primitive and semi-nomadic Andaman tribes belonging to the Negrito race and dwelling near Duging Creek in Little Andaman. The Onge population dropped considerably from 672 in 1986 to 92 in 1901 but has remained stable ever since. The current population of Onge is 110. The Onge population has recently seen the touch of urbanization. The Administration has provided them with incentives like food, clothes and medicines. The tribe practices artistry and crafts and a primary school has also been established to educate them.
Andaman tribes are examples of the wild and untamed side of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Although it is practically impossible to access them you can still explore their history and tradition by acquainting the Andaman islands. Andaman Love offers exclusive customized Andaman packages that will offer you a closer perspective of the islands. Visit our website (www.andamanlove.com) or contact us for more information.
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