Introduction / History
It is festival time in the Andamans. One can see colourful decorations on the poles, on the palm trees and practically everywhere. The islanders gather outside on the sands under the bright full moon that shines through the palm branches. The dancers, dressed in their traditional costumes made of coconut leaves, get ready to dance to the music of the leader, with the accompaniment of a guitar. They move gracefully to the rhythm of the traditional songs, which the leader sings in a monotonous, intense tone. The dancers step left and right according to the leader's direction. They jump in unison and come down on both heels.
This goes on throughout the night, followed by a grand feast, which is the popular Ossuary Feast of the Nicobarese, more commonly known as the Pig Festival. This dance is an expression of one's dedication to the departed head of the family. Nicobarese are the natives of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, a union territory of India. The smaller Nicobars comprise some 22 main islands (12 inhabited). Most of the Indian languages are spoken in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, because of their cosmopolitan nature. In addition to these, Karen, a language with Burmese script, and tribal scripts and dialects like Onge, Jarawa, Sentinelese and Andamanese, are used by the people.
Around 70% of Nicobare are members of a tribal community. Nicobari and Shompen are the major ones, with Onge, Jarawa and Sentinelese being very few in number. Most of the Nicobarese are Christians, but they do not have any Scripture in their language. There are no gospel tools or radio broadcasts, except for a few gospel recordings. Apart from the major tribes, the others still maintain their own distinct religious and cultural identity. Since the Tsunami, many mission agencies have had the chance to work in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. However, most of them are focused on the welfare of the community, with just a few sharing the Good News with the natives of the islands.