When we hear about the majestic Andaman and Nicobar islands, a picturesque land with breathtaking seas and spectacular beaches is depicted in our minds. Well, this is obviously true. Over the years, it has become a huge crowd puller when it comes to having a nice holiday in the lap of nature. While tourism has become a mainstay of its income, it is also true that most of us are ignorant and unaware of original descendants and their lifestyle.
The Lifestyle of Ancient Tribes of the Island
The first tribal people who occupied the tropical paradise are Andamanese, Jarawas, Sentinelese and Onges in the Andaman group, and the Nicobarese and Shompens in the Nicobar group. About an estimated 60,000 years ago, these tribes filled the tropical islands located in the Indian Ocean and were popularly known as an Adivasi group in India. They possessed 572 islands, which were spread to a colossal area that covered 8,249 km. It has been deciphered that they have been living in the dense forests and jungles of the islands for hundreds of years, did hunting for food and kept themselves isolated for years. Since the British occupied the island, the tribal people have been living away from their normal abodes. Let’s throw a flood of light at their lifestyle including their occupation, clothing, food habits, culture, and festivals.
The natives were engaged in Agriculture, forestry, and fishing. Agriculture is the occupation of most of the residents of the Andaman Islands. Main crops consist of rice, coconuts, betel (areca nuts), fruits, and spices. Rubber, oil palms, and cashews also form a major part of the diet crops.
Clothes of the Adivasis for men were made of bark, shell, and coconut leaves, that concealed the genital area. They mainly wore clothes that would wrap their body beneath the waist. They also wore a necklace made of beads. The women adorned skirt and a cloth covering them from their shoulders. They also wore earrings, naigaak or necklaces, and armbands.
Most of the Adivasis took part in hunting along with fishing to gather food. They also recognize several beneficial plants. They don’t, however, knew about how to produce fire and cook food. Wild pigs, Mollusks, dugongs, turtles, and monitor lizards formed the main part of their sustenance which they killed by hunting. The ocean was a great source of food. Women would catch fish with baskets. They were basically nomads but remained secluded from people. Overall their food habits were simple.
All the local tribes were staunch in preserving the richness, ethnicity, and customs of the island. The natives were bifurcated into two groups having their distinct culture that was diverse from each other. One was the Negrito of the Paleolithic age such as Onge, Jarawa, Andamanese, Sentinelese, and Autothchones which were the Shompens, Nicobarese, and Monoloid.
The lifestyle of Modern Inhabitants of the Island
With the spread of civilization, inhabitants of the Emerald islands have embraced modernity and urban cosmopolitan culture. The present-day population includes Punjabis, Bengalis, South Indians etc. They have become educated and literate. Despite being isolated, modern people. Modern city life has improved with the advent of posh hotels and resorts and restaurants. Now, you will find bars and pubs as well in the island with night entertainment.
There are many extravagant festivals that add zing to the aura. Besides the usual Durga Puja and Laxshmi Puja, Janmashtami, Island Tourism Festival, and Subhash Mela are celebrated with pomp and grandeur.
Janmashtami marks the birth of Lord Krishna and is considered an extremely auspicious occasion. Houses are painted and decorated. The main charm of the night is the Raas Leelas where natives depict the life of Lord Krishna and enact his story through plays. Followers abstain from eating till midnight after which the special food that is offered to the deity and distributed among the followers. The food served is vegetarian.
Island Tourism Festival is an extravaganza that lasts for 10 days. There are dance and drama taking place in the event which makes it entertaining for the spectators. Exhibitions are also organized with fascinating art displays, aqua sports, and parasailing. You will be able to capture the vibe, spirit, and essence of the culture of the island more vividly through it. You will also get the opportunity to know the languages, religions, customs, and beliefs of the indigenous people during these 10 days. The festival organized mainly during the months of December and January.
Subhash Mela is another popular indigenous festival of the island which is all about celebrating handicrafts from native and foreign artists. There are interesting cultural programs in the event that last for 1 week during the month of January.