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#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 21: U for Untouched & Unexplored Tribes of Andaman Islands

In the current times where technology has taken over everything and left no area influenced by its advancements and everything possible just by the touch of a button there are still people residing in these islands who rub wood to light a fire or sharpen the stones and branches to catch a hunt. Yes they still exist and not just few but the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to probably the most primitive tribes of the world. Tag along as i talk to you about the Untouched and Unexplored Tribes of these Islands.

The Andamanese and Nicobarese can be split into two broad tribal groups mainly based on their place of origin. The Andaman Islands are home to four ‘Negrito’ tribes where as – the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Sentinelese. Where as the Nicobar Islands are home to two ‘Mongoloid’ tribes – the Shompen and Nicobarese.
The ‘Negrito’ tribes are believed to have arrived in the islands from Africa up to 60,000 years ago.The ‘Mongoloid’ tribes probably came to the islands from the Malay-Burma coast several thousand years ago.These primitive tribes have been living in isolation with each other; that is the reason why language of one tribe is not understood by another.

Great Andamanese :
Great Andamanese inhabit the ‘Strait Island’ located 53 nautical miles from Port Blair towards the east. The Great Andamanese are a Negrito tribe. The Great Andamanese tribe was killed in large numbers by the British during their occupation of the Andaman Islands, There population at that time was estimated to be above 6000. One such event known as the ‘Battle of Aberdeen’ killed thousands of Great Andamanese in a single day. Due to their decreasing population the Andaman and Nicobar Administration decided to colonize the tribes on isolated Strait island.

Memorial in the honor of the Battle of Aberdeen in Port Blair

Their population has grown to a number of 43 at present from a lowest known low of 10 in past. Since Andaman group of Island is very accessible, the culture of Great Andamanese is greatly affected by outside modern world. The popularity of Hindi movies and film-stars is one such example of outside influence. In spite of the all influences they still have retained much of their traditional cultures and customs. They are superstitious, for instance they believe that by chopping palm leaves into the sea water they are able to keep the sea storms away.
The Great Andamanese are good artisans and they are comfortable with both traditional and modern tools. They prepare their own ornaments, baskets, tools and Earthen pots. The ornaments they wear is made up of leaves, barks, and shells which is worn during traditional functions and dances. They have their own system and practice of medicine for instance for chronic back aches they pierce their body with a small piece of glass in a belief that it will drain off the bad blood from the person and thus relieve him/her from the pain. Before the advent of glass pointed stones were used for the purpose of piercing.
The new generation is sent to school and few of the local youth have been absorbed into Govt. jobs in the Island itself.

Courtesy – Abhishek’s blog on Rise and Falls of Great Andamanese

1901 Census figures indicate a total of 625 Great Andamanese with the largest number, 218 from the Jero tribe. In 1921 these figures came down.In 1949 the Forest Department tried to bring them together and settle them at the Bluff island, but because of their nomadic nature and different habits, these Great Andamanese tribes did not stay together for long. In 1969 the A & N Administration offered to help them if they stayed in Strait island. By this time the total number was just 23.

from left to right Neremo and his father Late Nao Junior in 2006

Very soon they all spoke one language which is Jero, with some words from the languages of the other tribes completely assimilated in Jero language. Since then their numbers have increased from 26 (1961 census), 23 (1971), 42 (21 males and 21 females) in the year 1981. The 1991 census shows their population as 47 and in 2001 census the figure is 43 (24 males and 19 females). Post Tsunami, all 43 have been reported safe. The numbers have mostly increased as a result of mixed marriages, since these people are free to mix with the people of the mainland, and have adapted to their way of life, speak Port Blair Hindi, dress like them, eat their kind of food, some of them have contractual jobs with the A&N administration, and it is not surprising at all that the younger generation does not know more than a few words of their language. Some of them do not know any Jero at all since most often they also communicate with each other in Local Andaman Hindi. The younger people like to spend maximum time in Port Blair at “Adi Basera” which is the base camp for the tribal provided by the Andaman & Nicobar administration.

Jarawa
Jarawa tribes were once the most feared tribals among all the aborigines of these Island group till 1995-96. Jarawa’s are ‘Negriod‘ tribes – They are short heighted and dark in colour. The term “Jarawa” is coined by the Great Andamanese people which means “The other People” because Jarawa’s never had friendly relationship with the Great Andamanese.
Jarawa’s live in “protected areas” in Middle Andaman, South Andaman and Interview Island.

Courtesy- Only Tribal

The Jarawas are excellent craftsmen as evidenced by the skill of making various metal tools and arrows. They are fond of red clothes though majority of them are found nude. As for food they are non-vegetarians and they mostly eat pork. It is known that the Jarawas do not kill deers for food.
They were very hostile in past and were known to attack with poisonous arrows. Every year during 1980’s there were numerous reports of villagers and workers been killed by Jarawa arrows. Various human expeditions by contact teams consisting of officials of Tribal welfare and anthropological society were undertaken in past near the interview island, where the team left eatables, red cloth, coconuts and plastic goods as gifts for the Jarawas.

Image source – Telegraph A bus driver giving biscuits to the Jarawa lady while crossing the Andaman Trunk Road

The Jarawa is no longer hostile since 1996 after a injured Jarawa boy named Enmei was treated at G B Pant Hospital at Port Blair. After the incident they have developed the understanding that the other fair skinned humans are not their enemies. With friendly contacts it was learnt that lots of negative details painted about them in past were untrue – few of them being : they eat human flesh, their sweat and saliva is poisonous etc.
As per government policies the entry into their area is forbidden. This is done to avoid their exposure to the outside world to and save them from the diseases from which they don’t have natural immunity and other exploitation that may happen over time. Isolation will also help to retain their ancient culture.  
The Andaman Trunk road passing though the South Andaman, Baratang and Middle Andaman runs deep within the Jarawa protected area. Daily hundreds of vehicles pass through the road thereby providing opportunities for both Jarawas and outsiders to interact with each other.

You can check for more photos of the jarawas from the site – http://photos.suchit.in/keyword/great%20andaman%20trunk%20road/

Initially the travelers gave biscuits, fruits and other eatables to the Jarawa’s and in return Jarawas allowed them to be photographed. Since 2002 when the Baratang Island limestone caves and the Mud volcano were opened for tourists, many tour operators started a practice of selling ‘Jarawa Sighting’ tour packages. Photography inside the Jarawa reserve area or contact with Jarawa is forbidden by law. Andaman and Nicobar police has now set up strict rules and monitoring process while travelling through the Jarawa reserve forest.

Onges:
The Onge’s are a Negrito tribe residing in Little Andaman. According to 1971 census they were 117 in number which have shown little variation till then. They live at 2 different colonies : ‘ South Bay ‘ and ‘ DugongCreek ‘ in Little Andaman. South Bay is accessible via land route passing through Harminder Bay which is only a few kilometers away from Hutbay (Hutbay is the main market place of Little Andaman). Official permission is required to enter the Onge reserved area. The best vehicle to reach South Bay is a Tractor as there is no defined roadway and route passing through creek.

PC – Andaman tourism dept

Dugong creek is an isolated settlement accessible by sea route. Dugong Creek settlement suffered severe damages in the 2004 Tsunami, although no lives were lost.
While the Onge men go out to the forest for hunting , the women will stay back at home and search the local area for roots and tubers under the soil. They have little interest in cultivation as agriculture was unknown to them before contact with modern world. Few years ago they never boiled their food because the concept of cooking was unknown to them. They use bows and arrows to catch fish along the shallow sea coasts. The fishing line and fishing net is still not popular among them. The local delicacy is honey : The Onges rub some special herbs to avoid the bee stings while they collect the honey from the hives. Hair dressing is done with the help of sea shells as razors and they paint their face / body with white clay.
The Onge children now go to school and they speak Hindi. The Department of agriculture has helped them to raise local crops and huge coconuts plantations. 

Shompen :
Shompen reside in the interiors of Great Nicobar Island (Southern-most piece of land belonging to India). The total population of Shompens is estimated to be 214 whereas during 1901 Census the population recorded was 348. They are of medium height with Mongoloid features. They were believed to be hostile earlier but in recent decades they have not shown any hostility and now have established trade relations with Nicobarese. The main activities of Shompens are hunting, food-gathering (They collect wild yams, roots, fruit, honey and insect larvae) and fishing. They love to hunt pig with their spears and they take help of pet dogs while hunting. They are nomads and wander from place to place within the jungles. They live in self-made huts. They are shy in nature and avoid to interact with others.

PC – xaam.org

The Shompen are the original inhabitants of the Great Nicobar but later on they were pushed to the interior part of the islands while some theory is the Shompens are an isolated group of primitive Malayans’. The existence of this tribe was first reported by Pastor Rosen, a Danish missionary in 1831 but Admiral Steen Bille was the first person to pay a visit in this area.
The Shompen settlements are generally irregular in shape, and they prefer to build these either on the slopes of the hill or at the bottom of a valley The village is normally situated near some water source.
Shompen males often visit Campbell Bay to barter various products they collect, especially wild honey. Sometimes, they go there to collect ration (they are not dependent on ration) which they bring to their village. Administration provides them free food, utensils, drinking water and medical facilities. A school is present near their area to impart formal as well as non-formal education. Below is a short video by Charles Sagigi

Sentinelese 
The Sentinelese are ‘Negroid‘ tribe and they inhabit the small North Sentinel Island (North Sentinel – Area: ~60 sq. km.) The sentinel islanders i.e. the Sentinelese because of the geographical separation from other islands have maintained strict isolation from rest of the world. In fact they are currently the only known Primitive people known in the world to live in complete isolation.
They are very hostile to outsiders and do not allow anybody to enter the North Sentinel Island and therefore not much is known about them. The attack with their self made bows and spears, which they otherwise use for fishing and hunting the wild pigs. Their population is an estimated value of about 100 based on the photographs and assessment of the contact teams sent periodically by Andaman and Nicobar administration. The contact teams usually consists of Officials from Directorate of Tribal welfare and anthropological scientists.
In 2006, 2 fishermen who were fishing illegally near the island were were shot by Sentinelese archers. The helicopters which was sent to retrieve the bodies was also greeted by arrows. After the tsunami the government again tried to help them by sending a few employees to the island with gifts but again, the same response followed.
Presently the policy of the Indian government is to leave the Sentinelese alone. Any access to North Sentinel island is strictly forbidden.The Sentinelese people are said to be so hostile that their home has been named the ‘hardest place to visit’ in the world.
The Video below is a documentation of an attempt to contact the Sentinelese (courtesy  Dale Andrews)

Nicobarese :
The Nicobarese have Mongloid features and they are a large population of over 27,000 (2001 census). They are horticulturist and pig-herders inhabiting large permanent villages mostly close to sea shore. They are not divisible into tribes, but there are territorial distinctions. Thus they may be fairly divided into six groups : the people of Car Nicobar, Chowra, Teressa with Bompoka, the Central Group, the Southern Group and the single inland tribe of the Shompen on Great Nicobar (mentioned above)

Typical Nicobari Hut

The differences to be observed is language, customs, manners and physiognomy of the several groups may, with some confidence, be referred to habitat and the physical difficulties of communication. Nicobari Families are patriarchal and as a rule live jointly. This joint family is known as Tuhet. There is no individual ownership, but the Tuhet owns land, coconut and pigs. Love marriage is very common and the age of marriage is sufficiently high. The chief article of food is the coconut, next in importance been Pandanus pulp , fish and rice.

The traditional dance attire of the Nicobarese

They are civilized and live regular lives like us. They go to school and even work in various government jobs in the islands. They also have reserved seats for engineering and medicine courses if they wish to pursue. They are very friendly people and have personal experience knowing them. My mother was posted to the Car Nicobar island where she used to teach the Nicobari kids in school back in 1998-1999.

The Nicobari kids off to school in their uniforms

I am proud to share with you two stories of two individuals from the Nicobarese tribe who have made the islands and India proud – World No 4 cyclist Deorah Herold

Deborah Herold

and Vaseem Iqbal the first tribal person to complete a PhD.  

Vaseem Iqbal

PLEASE DO READ THEIR STORIES, it’s not another story that you would read regularly. Also do share their inspirational stories to the world who still think Andaman is a very backward place. 😛

Government’s Strategy to protect the tribes:   To prevent the primitive tribes from the exploitation by the outsiders the area inhabited by the primitive tribes has been declared as tribal reserve area. Entry into the reserve area without permission is liable for punishment with imprisonment and fine. Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti (AAJVS) , an autonomous body set up in 1976 looks after the welfare of these primitive tribes.
 A research institute ANTRI (Andaman and Nicobar Tribal Research and Training Institute) started functioning at Port Blair (Oct-2013) with an objective of formulation of policies for the tribal integration with the developed society and protection and welfare of PVTG (Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups) like Jarawas, Onges, Sentinalese and Shompens.

Growing up in the islands i have had the chance to only see the Nicobarese who are one among us now, the Onges and a Jarawa family who were brought to the main city hospital for some treatment and i happen to be there that time.
The Andaman and Nicobar islands strike the right balance between two extremes of civilization. On one hand the islands are one of the famous tourist destination in the world and on the other it is abode to the most primitive tribes of the world.
In India there are many other tribal settlements but am sure they are not as close to nature like the ones in the islands.Does your state or country have tribal settlement? Comment below and let me know.Happy Blogging!!!Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤

 

 

#ATOZCHALLENGE DAY 15: O for Out of the Ordinary|Limestone Caves

When one hears of Andaman and Nicobar Islands the only few things that comes in ones mind are Beaches, Cellular Jail and Water sports. But each and every time these islands prove everyone wrong and leaves one with surprise. One such out of the ordinary phenomenon one can witness are the famous LIMESTONE CAVES, yes the ones which form naturally.

From Know Andamans

Baratang is an island situated in the middle Andaman and probably the gateway to many other amazing places these islands hold. Covered with rain forests and surrounded by the mangroves situated almost in the middle of the island chain at about 100 km from Port Blair are these islands. The thick forests of these islands is the home to the famous JARAWA tribes and have been declared as a protected zone by the government.

With only few attractions open to public the journey to this place in itself will give your adrenaline a rush. From a trip in a police protected convoy through the Jarawa Reserve Forest, then your vehicle being transported on a vehicle ferry, a small boat usually called the dingue ride through the thick mangrove swamps and finally a trek in the jungle to reach the Limestone Caves is an adventure in itself.

Apart from the famous Limestone caves, you can also visit the Parrot islands, the blue beach at Baludera and the only mud volcano in south Asia which i had mentioned in my previous post also.
Visiting Baratang is a unique experience in itself, an enthralling journey that awakens deep-seated feelings of wonder wisdom and Knowledge .

Limestone Caves in Baratang Island
A Limestone in simple science is just calcium carbonate. Limestone cave is a natural cavity that is formed underneath the Earth’s surface that can range from a few meters to many kilometers in length and depth. This is generally formed when water containing dissolved carbon dioxide (carbonic acid) seeps into rock crevices and joints. The carbon dioxide comes from decaying organic matter in the soil, and also directly from the atmosphere. 

inside of the Limestone caves

To brief it up its sedimentary rocks formed under the sea due to compression over a million years which give birth to limestone caves. And such a wonder can be found, half an hour from Baratang. A little boat ride and few miles on a walk will bring you to the enthralling limestone caves. Not only are these historic they are also very beautiful. Visitors would need a good torch to make sure the soak in every detail of this place .The most amazing phenomenon is entering the cave and exploring it. It is also recommended that you wear a good quality shoe and brace yourself, for the caves are slippery and dark.

https://www.tripoto.com/trip/andaman-island-9300

These caves are said to be ever evolving, the patterns on them keep changing over the years. The ride back on the dinghy boat is very rewarding. For the sight of mangrove trees subdues every thrill and sweeps in a tranquil and serene aura. The tall magnificent trees, which weirdly enough have their roots above the water level is a must watch. These trees grow in saline water and are a rarity in any other place.

Mud Volcano and Jarawa
A mud volcano is formed by any geo-excreted gasses and liquids. This type of volcano is usually found in subduction zones. Most of the gasses that are released from a mud volcano are methane although they also release much smaller quantities of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Generally, the ejections from these volcanoes will be fine solids which are suspended in liquids that can include acidic water. Scientists think there may even be a few on Mars.

From Andaman Tourism website

Astonishingly, the only active mud volcano in the south Asia lies in Baratang. The road to Mud volcano is covered around an hour.

But you will have to pass by the Jarawa creek to get here. The Famous Jarawa creek is a lonely planet in itself.
It is the dwelling place of the oldest tribes found in these islands. The tribes known as Jarawas (more on them on a post i missed 😦 which i would publish soon), are aloof from the civilized world. They are the wonder of the modern world, for they feed on raw pigs, fruits, and vegetables. They don’t speak any language known to general public. Their pitch black skin and red eyes will leave you dazzled in case you happen to meet them. 

http://andamanstourism.com

It is recommended that you do not talk or interact with them, without a guide. These tribes are incapable of comprehending and adopting the modern lifestyle. It is said that they have suffered illness and even death due to the food offered by the tourists.

Parrot Island
The dream destination of any heart is the Parrot Island. The luxurious sight of millions of parrots and parakeets at the sun dawn is not exclusive to any other place in the world. But the only rule is, you must stay the night in Baratang to experience this wonder. 

From the Andaman Tourism Website

It’s at sunset, that, a group of parrots comes and hovers over the skies, then they invite their fellow beings to follow. The heart-stopping sight of thousands of parrots and parakeets together in the crimson sky is beyond real. The golden sky with red-blue birds will steal every beat. This island with its beautiful beach and wondrous wildlife is a must visit.

I never got a chance to visit the Limestone Caves and missed it even this time since we couldn’t extend our vacations. Though i have seen the Jarawas when one of them was brought to the main hospital in the capital and were admitted in a room next to my mother’s. It was back in 2004 when i was in my 10th standard, so got lucky to see them a family.

Content from my friend Vivek’s travel website – Tropical Andamans. Please feel free to reach out to him if you ever plan on a vacation to the islands 🙂 or Barefoot Resorts where my brother Sanjay, is the Operational Manager. #happytohelp ❤ 

Happy Blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh ❤ ❤ ❤