People and Culture

The People of Andaman can  be broadly categorized into two groups viz. Indigenous or Aborigines and Immigrants or Settlers. Prior to 1858, the Andaman Islands were inhabited by Autochthons only and with the founding of Penal Settlement at Port Blair after Indian Mutiny, Non-autochthons came to inhabit these Islands.

Indigeneous People of South Andaman

The Aborigines of Andaman Island consist of the following four tribes:

  • Great Andamanese
  • Onges
  • Jarwas
  • Sentinalese

GREAT ANDAMANESE

The Great Andamanese tribe is settled presently on the Strait Island by the Andaman & Nicobar Administration. This was the largest tribe earlier before the establishment of Penal Settlement in Andaman Islands. Various diseases including influenza etc. took large toll and the population was reduced to present 43 individuals only. The Administration has provided  houses and raised Coconut Plantation for the upliftment of Andamanese. Further free ration including cloths is also being provided to them. As such, Andamanese are no longer a nomadic tribe. However, they do sometime go for hunting and fishing.

The great Andamanese is also known for their brave History in the past where they fought with bows and arrows with the English men who tried to occupy their land. On 14th May 1859 great andamanese having a soldier strength of 400-600 people bravely fought the British soldiers who had  modern equipments, thus has its impression in the history as “The Battle of Aberdeen”. The Andaman Government setup a statue for these Brave Soldiers in the Sea Shore of Marina Park as a memorial as it brings the spark of first freedom movement in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The population of great Andamanese is only 43 as per the census 2001.

ONGES

Onges are one of the most primitive tribes in India.  The Onges are inhabiting the Little Andaman Island. This Hunting and Gathering tribe has also been settled by the Andaman & Nicobar Administration at Dugong Creek and South Bay on Little Andaman Island. Coconut plantation has been raised for the benefit of Onges Medical care, free ration etc.  are being provided t by the Administration. Onges go for hunting and fishing occasionally . The present population of Onges is 96 as per the census 2001.

JARWAS

The Jarawas are inhabiting presently the Western coast of Middle Andaman and South Andaman Islands. They are hostile and, at times, enter into areas where the Bengali and other people have been settled by the Government. The Andaman & Nicobar Administration have started  the Contact Expeditions periodically to Jarawas to befriend them. The first friendly contact was made in 1974 and since then the Jarawas are not hostile to the Contact Team which go with gifts like Coconut, Banana and other fruits.

Jarawas continue to be hunting and gathering nomadic tribe. They hunt wild pigs, monitor lizard with bows and arrows. Tips of the arrow is made of Iron. Unlike Onges and Andamanese, Jarawas do not use dogs for hunting. Men fish with bows and arrows in the coastal waters while women catch fish with basket. Molluscus constitute major part of their Pisces food. Jarawas collect fruits and roots including honey from the forest. They build temporary huts in their camps. They use crude rafts to cross creeks and streams. The population of Jarawas is 240 as per the census 2001.

SENTINELESE

The Sentinelese tribe inhabits the small North Sentinel Island. They also are hostile like Jarawas to outsiders. The Contact Expeditions of Andaman and Nicobar Administration goes to the North Sentinel Island periodically. A break through was achieved when the Contact team of the Administration led by Shri S.A.Awaradi, former Director of Tribal Welfare could establish the first ever friendly contact with the Sentinelese on 4th January 1991. Since then the Sentinelese have accepted gifts from the Contact Party. However, the Sentinelese continue to be skeptical about the outsiders including the Contact Expedition Team.
Sentinelese are the hunting, fishing and gathering tribe. They fish in the coastal waters with bows and arrows and hunt wild pigs available on North Sentinel island. Sentinelese have dug – out Canoe which is used to move in the shallow coastal waters. They do not have the oars and therefore Canoes are propelled with long poles. Sentinelese also build temporary huts in their camps. Sentinelese, both men and women do not wear cloths. The population of Sentinelese is 39 as per the 2001 census.