The original people who lived in this island are the great
Andamanese, Jarawas, Sentinelese and Onges in the Andaman group and the Nicobarese and
Shompens in the Nicobar group. They were mostly nomadic, living on fish,
wild pigs, wild tubers and berries without causing any damage to the forests
around them. The tribal people of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands belong to
distinctive racial groups and have different forms of cultural and social
behaviour. The tribal groups in the two respective regions have very little in
common in the ethnic, linguistic or cultural sense. Their life styles are also
The tribal element in the Andaman group of Islands is relatively very small.
The Andaman Tribes belong to the Negrito stock and they are relatively short-statured highly dark complexioned and have woolly hair. Their facial
structure is easily distinguished from that of the Negroid people of Africa.
They are some of the surviving representatives of a once flourishing Negrito
race that once dominated the entire south-east Asian region including the
Islands. They speak distinctive dialects not mutually understood. The few
surviving Great Andamanese were scattered in various parts of south and Middle
Andamans but the Andaman and Nicobar Administration has settled them all on the
strait Island, a small island off the eastern coast of Middle Andaman. The
Jarawas is on the western coast of south and Middle Andaman. The Sentinelese are
the sole inhabitants in the North Sentinel Island situated south-west of Port
Blair. The Onge live in Little Andaman which is the southern-most island in the
Andamans. The Andamanese never discovered any technique of fire making. They
have only kept it alive over thousands of years. They do not eat salt. They
cannot count beyond three. But these handicaps did not affect their survival.
Their contact with modern society of threatening their ethnicity.
Majority of the inhabitants of the Nicobar region are the original tribes.
The Nicobarese live in twelve island communities in the Islands of Car Nicobar,
Chowra, Teressa, Bompoka, Katchal, Camorta, Trinkat, Nancoury, Pulo Milo, Little
Nicobar, Kondul and Great Nicobar. There is also an interior tribe called the
Shompen. They live in the river valleys of Great Nicobar on both the eastern and
the western coasts along with the coastal Nicobarese community. A majority of
the Nicobarese have been converted to Christianity. As a result some of their
traditional beliefs and customs have lost their force.
Physical Features of the Andamanese
The Andamanese skin is smooth, greasy, satiny and black. The hair is sooty
black to yellowish brown. It grows in small rings and distributed evenly
over the head, appears to take the form of tuffs. The mouth is large, the palate
hard and slightly arched and the lips well formed. The hands and feet are small
and well made. The ears are small and well shaped. The eyes are dark to very
dark brown, bright, liquid and clear but prominent. The teeth are white, good
and free from disease.
The muscular strength is great but the vitality is low and
individuals apparently robust die quickly. Recovery from sickness is usually
rapid. Idiocy, insanity and natural deformities are rare but epilepsy and
homicidal mania occur. No parts of the body are intentionally pierced, injured
or deformed. The flattening of the skull in parts is accidental and due to the
use of straps in carrying weights.
The figures of the men are muscular and well formed and
generally pleasing. A young man is often distinctly good-looking. The women are
liable to early stoutness and ungainliness of figure. Variation from type is
much common among the men than the women.