Nicobarese Tribe ,Indigenous tribe of Andaman and Nicobar Islands


Table of Contents

1. Nicobarese Tribe Body Features

2. Nicobarese Hut

3. Nicobarese History and Community

4. Nicobarese village chiefs or captains

5. Nicobarese economy

6. Nicobarese language or dialects

7. Nicobarese marriage system

8. Nicobarese Birth Ritual

9. Nicobarese Death Ritual

10. Nicobarese Festivals Celebration


Nicobarese Tribe Body Features

The Nicobarese are physically taller than the andamanese.,the men being on an average,about 5 feet 4 inches in height and the women in 5 feet. They are fairer, of a yellow -brown complexion that admits of many different shades; with hair that is generally straight and black, but sometimes curly, though never as much as andamanese, with faces broad, with somewhat prominent cheekbones, prognathism of the jaw, exaggerated due to constant betel chewing, and the typical epicanthic fold of the mongoloid. Though they are now fully clothed, tastes are being influenced by Burma and among the young generation by trade with passing ships, their original taste was bare bodied, with the women wearing a Ngong,a thick tassel or girdle of split coconut with one end hanging loose a foot or so at the back- to all appearances like a tail, the reason for the earlier accounts if ' dog faced men with tails'.

Nicobarese Hut

nicobarese hut
Nicobarese live in permanent huts, which at one time, were also circular in shape, built not in the ground,but raised on slits about 7 feet above the ground and with split cane walls between the thatched, pie dish lalang grass roof and the split bamboo floor on cocoplam battens. Increasingly ,outside influences have led to a diversification in styles, and now rectangular, longitudinally ridged roof are far more common than the circular design; huts are being constructed with windows for ventilation ,balconies being incorporated now and then; and even concrete houses are now not uncommon in the larger villages. The entrance to the raised hut is through a trapdoor in this floor, approachable with the help of a bamboo ladder.
A feature that the villages have retained is the cleanliness around the huts, which persists despite the free run given to pigs and ever increasing number of Pariah dogs. At one time ,the larger families used to stay close r to their coconut plantation, but over the years, the villages attained more compact appearance, growing around tuhets and filling up the spaces in between.
There are four type of huts which comprise village, each for different use. The circular hut, called the ma pati tuhet is the principal house of a family ,in which they sleeps,resides and meets visitors. The taliko is the kitchen,where entire family's meal is cooked,which has ridged roof with long floor. The pati yong nyio nad pati kupah are respectively the communal birth and death houses situated in the area along the seashore, a little outside the village, called elpanam.

Nicobarese History and Community

According to the history, in the beginning there were only a few people who inhabited the island of Car Nicobar,and all of them lived in the first village,They divided the island among themselves,from the forest in the interior portion of the sea close to the shore where the principal fishing to be had,and the island continued in the possession of their families ever since.Right to the land passes on patrillineally.with the eldest son becoming the landholder when the father dies,but with the access to its
Resources open to every member. With the land generally goes the responsibility to look after and take care of the rest of the family, which therefore defines not just the nuclear family of the eldest son,nor either the nuclear family of the father, but the families of his father's brothers and his grandfathers brother's, along with all the members that each has acquired down the line.The entire family comprises a tuhet. Land is not divided amongst the various sons and members,but tradition permits a Nicobarese ,of the tuhet or even outside ,to approach a landlord nad request permission to usufructory rights to a portion of land,which if landlord us not using or planning to to use to himself,tradition persuades him to give;and such land then continues in the procession of the user till the crop is harvested.
The period may be one year, in case of vegetables, or thirty -forty years ,in the case of coconuts.The land is thus cultivated by various member of the family,and each is enttled to the fruits of his labour,with the obligation of the Head to contribute to the feast,but otherwise free to keep his own pigs,grow his own vegetables and rasie his own coconut trees.

Nicobarese Village

It is easy to imagine how a Nicobarese village must have grown. As the family grew in size ,from living together under the main pati tuhet,boys and girls who got married would have built themselves smaller huts in the vicinity of the tuhet to raise their own families,even a sthey continued to be part of the family taliko and cook together, contributing the produce from their own usufruct to the kitchen,or being to that extent to a deduction from the produce from landlord's garden. It is easy,also,to appreciate how a such system built up a community spirit, security for the pld,orphaned and widowed, protection against destitution, and an acceptance of the benign authority of the tuhet head that have prevailed even to this day.

Nicobarese village chiefs or captains

In fact,the system of the village chiefs,or captains, reminiscent of the captins of the ship that called on their shores, grew out of the tuhets.The tuhet heads are the village captains,and ,in Car Nicobar,since Seti has always been recognized as the first village, the chief captains has been Captains of Sethi ,and
They together constitute the am kuo tuhet,or Island Council. Even after democratic institution were set in place in the Island, the authority of the village captains, in keeping with the tribal policy of the country, continued, with the government deciding too late well enough alone and keep the Nicobar islands out of the purview of the panchayati raj act. Matters pertaining to islands or village, from accusation of lands for government purposes to development activities to be introduced for the people, have no hope of success unless the island council or the village captain gives the nod adapting to the changing order of the things, they are now, since 1978 constituted by election.

Nicobarese law and order


The village caption sort out disputes and decide the punishment for offences, in the dispensation of justice, they were, at one time somewhat rough and ready. For the offense such as theft habitual adultery, murder, the offender was put to death by being longitudinally skewered on a sharp post, or stoned to death, buried without due rights. The disputes were settled, especially in the islands of central group, by stick fight, fought like duals between the protagonists.

Nicobarese economy

Feasts, pigs and coconuts are the central to the Nicobarese ways of life. The sales of the estimated 25 million nuts form the main stay of the economy. So central has the coconut been to Nicobar trade, that till very recently there currency was coconut - the coconut was the usual item of the barter and, when it was not, the value of item given or taken was equated to its value in coconut. Every part of the coconut tree is utilized - the leaves provide thatch, the trunk, the walls and flooring, the sap toddy, and the coconut shell, a variety of useful holders and containers. The Nicobarese seldom drink water; toddy and tender coconut water takes of their thrust.

Nicobarese language or dialects

The Nicobarese spoke six dialects.On the basis of language, The Nicobarese may be divided in to following groups; car Nicobar; Chowra; Teresa with bompok; the central group, with nancawry, kachall, trinket and kamorta; the southern group with great and little nicobars, Kondul and pilo milo; and the shompens.

Nicobarese marriage system

The system of marriage in the central of groups has shades of a matriarchal society, with gifts such as cloths, pig and coconuts and fowl being taken in what might pass for a bride price at the time of girls wedding in chowra and teressa. There is no rule of exogamy and marries have been known to take place within the tuhet.
Upon marriage, for which the boy pays court to the girl and as to win her consent before the family decide to take up the mater formally. The decision as to where the couple will live is taken according to the circumstance of the families concerned and in consultation with the boy and girl.
It is only with the very well to do that it is a forgone conclusion that the girl will move to boys house- as often as not they decide to live with the girls family, especially when the house hold is short of male hands to help with the work. Re marriage is not frowned upon nor is the divorce and it is not uncommon to male married more than once and though only in frequently, bigamously. Children are eagerly awaited, and are only the cementing factor for the relationship.

Nicobarese Birth Ritual

The process of birth is considered unclean and requires segregation of the expectant mother in the birth house in the ilpanam or in the jungle when there is no birth house as in the case of chowra, where she Is attended to buy her husband, smeared with blood of pig to keep her healthy, denied food of certain kind, and subject to other various restrictions. Women of the house hold help in the birth and bury the after birth in a special place in the grave yard, so that the spirit do not take hold of it and make the child ill. The mother and child are confined to birth house for 2 or 3 months after the birth and cannot enter the main house in the usual way for almost 6 months.

Nicobarese Death Ritual

Death is more community affair than birth or marriage with village breaking of its normal activities till the burial, which is done during the day, unless the death has taken place due to ill health.
In car nicobar, the corps is removed to the death house as soon as death as occurred, where the relative was it before it is interred. The earlier custom to burying the belonging of deceased is no longer present.
Among the great Nicobarese the body is put in a canoe, but this is buried, after the grave has first accommodated a fowl cut up and left there in considerable pain. The principle festivals of the nicbaraies are associated with their basic belief in the power of evil spirits. The most important of these are connected with the pig, the canoe and the sea and involve the propitiation of the spirits by sacrifices, the sprinkling or smearing of blood and the offering of food, chiefly the coconut, which is considered as auspicious food.

Nicobarese Festivals Celebration

A number of them are thanks giving festivals, taking place at the change of seasons and when food is good and plentiful.
The kanaha-un or ossuary feast is of the latter class; there is no fixed day for the festival and is organized by the village tuhet.
When they think there is prosperity enough to justify it, or perhaps when they feel the need for a unifying event. The kanah-un is marked by pig fights, toddy drinking and the orgy of fisting on pork. There is practically no month in which there is no festival.


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