Jarawas or Jarawa or Jarwa are the natives of The Andaman and Nicobar Islands located in the Indian Territory. Currently, they are inhabiting the South and Middle parts of the Andaman Islands. According to the 2011 Census of India, there are around 200 to 500 Jarawas living here. Due to their isolation from the outside world, little is known about them. They are currently classified as the Adivasi group together with the Andamanese people.
Jarawas are claimed to be the child tribe of one of the already extinct tribes, the Jangil, where they are believed to have separated from many years ago.
Initially, Jarawas settled in the southern Andaman Islands but after the British Establishment, they depopulated due to disease infestation. On top of that, the British colony used alcohol and opium to facilitate fast depopulation of them. The opium and alcohol supply led to the depopulation of the Western Parts of Andaman Islands which were used by the Jarawas as their new settlements.
Today, a lot of tourists and Indians make contact with them on a daily basis, especially along the Andaman Truck Road.
Jarawas use bows and arrows which they make from iron edges and wooden handles. When they hunt their prey, for example a wild pig they cut its stomach using an arrow to remove the intestines and replace them with palm leaves.
At the age of about 8, the Jarawas are considered as adults and left to be independent until marriage. In the community, marriage mostly happens at an early or adolescence age. Jarawas typically practice monogamy but sometimes there are cases of polygamy. Widowers and widows have the freedom to remarry and have children.
Jarawa villages have a population of about 25 people on average with 5 to 10 huts. In their culture, huts are called “Chadda” and the residence of the hut are the “Tutime Chadda.” Those with married residents are called “Thorkalang Chadda” and those resided by maidens are “Thorkongo Chadda.” The huts can be either permanent or semi-permanent.
The Jarawa community is very traditional and lives a primitive life without the touch of modern technology. Their food is collected from the forest and the sea. They mostly gather fruits and tubers for foods and also hunt wild pigs and monitor lizards. They often do fishing at the sea for a change in their diet.
The food is cooked using their traditional pit ovens known to them as “aalaw.” But recently they have adopted the use of aluminum kitchen equipment known as “busu” which they get as gifts from other communities. They never consume any raw food and all their food items are cooked or roasted. They also collect honey and jackfruits as supplementary food.
Basically, both sexes of the Jarawa community stay naked. They tend to wear certain ornaments but not to cover their nakedness. They also make their own ornaments by hand to beautify themselves i.e. head bands, armlets, wristt bands, and necklaces. They often make temporary ornaments which they name after the materials these are made from. On the other hand, permanent ornaments are made from shells, threads and bark strips.
But due to the current contact with the outside world, Jarawas have begun wearing clothes given to them by the visitors and settlers of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The universal figures, like the sun, sky, moon, stars and clods form a good part of their myths and legends.
Rituals and ceremonies
The adolescence ceremony is done for boys whereas the Opemame ceremony is done for girls. During the boys’ adolescence ceremony, they go hunting for pigs and offer their catch to other community members. Jarawas observe a custom where children are renamed after the adolescence ceremony. During the first menarche, girls are isolated in a particular location where they are not allowed to speak or eat certain foods, like pig and honey. All they can eat are Onog and Eeng which mean edible mollusk and water. This is a 3-4 day ceremony after which they take a bath and then they no longer observe any restriction customs. Women and fellow girls dance and sing in their honor.
For pregnancies, the husband and wife aren’t allowed to decorate themselves and the pregnant woman is not allowed to accept gifts from non-community members. Child birth is conducted by elderly women of the community and it is celebrated through clapping, dancing, and singing, after which the fat from a monitor lizard is used to massage the baby. For birth control, they use natural contraceptives known as Vachachi and Hatho, which are mostly plant leaves.
Jarawas use bows and arrows which they make from iron edges and wooden handles. When they hunt their prey, for example a wild pig, they cut its stomach using an arrow to remove the intestines and replace them with palm leaves. These leaves are then removed before the prey is cooked.
Even with laws put in place to prevent the visitors or tourists from viewing, photographing and making contact with the Jarawa community..
The Great Andaman Trunk Road
The development of the Great Andaman Trunk Road through the Jarawas settlement has not only lead to the spread of epidemics, like measles outbreak in their population but also the encroachment, poaching and over exploitation of their reserves. Even with the Supreme Court ruling that the development of the great Andaman Trunk Road must be stopped and the Jarawa lands must be prevented from encroachment and exploitation, nothing positive is happening.
Tourism on the Andamans
Even with laws put in place to prevent the visitors or tourists from viewing, photographing and making contact with the Jarawa community, there are still many private companies and organizations that conduct tours to the Jarawa reserves to see and interact with them.
There are also claims that the tourists go as far as visiting the homes of the Jarawa and offer the modern clothing and other things. In the beginning of the year 2013, an interim order was passed to ban the tourists from using the Great Andaman Trunk Road that connected to the Jarawa villages. But later on that year, the Supreme Court of India revised the order to reopen the trunk road but only for tour convoys.
Finally, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are amazing places to visit which have become more especial with the presence of the Jarawas.
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