A Community Of Plants Animals And Their Surroundings Is Called Learning From the Jarawas

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Learning From the Jarawas

“Your blood pressure is too high and your nerves are frayed. Take a trip to a tropical island and relax!” If you are caught up in the stresses and pressures of modern civilization, this may be just the advice you need. Even if not for medical reasons, who can resist such a tempting suggestion? So why not get away from it all by visiting the Andaman Islands, home of the Jarawas?

Andaman Islands? Jarawas? Don’t be ashamed if you’ve never heard of them, because they’re well off the beaten track of world tourism. If you look at a map, you will find the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, between India and Myanmar (formerly Burma). This archipelago, consisting of about 300 islands, is now the landmass of the Republic of India.

An uncivilized people?

The islands are home to four Negrito tribes, the Great Andamanese, the Jarawas, the Sentinelese and the Onges. Negritos, meaning “little blacks,” are thought to be remnants of an ancient, dark-skinned, pygmy race that once inhabited much of Southeast Asia and Oceania. Because of their isolation, they have been called the purest remains of “Stone Age man,” or, as Lieutenant Colebrook of the British Army, who once controlled the islands, said, “the least civilized in the world.”

In 1858, when the British established a penal colony there, the Great Andamanese numbered in the thousands. Soon, foreign diseases, measles, syphilis, and others, along with opium addiction and alcoholism, decimated the tribesmen. Now only a few of them, all of mixed blood, remain on the small Strait Island. The Onges suffered a similar fate.

For years, the Jarawas and Sentinelese resisted contact and exploitation by outsiders. Their enmity succeeded in keeping them in isolation, but it also gave them the reputation of being uncivilized and bloodthirsty cannibals. Only a few years ago, when officers of the anthropological department in Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman Islands, attempted to contact one of the tribal groups on North Sentinel Island, their release was met with a shower of arrows, one piercing the leg of a photography.

What made them so hostile? MV Portman, a British officer who administered the islands at the end of the last century, said: “When we arrived, the Jarawas were quiet and inoffensive towards us, nor did they ever disturb us, until we began to harass them constantly by driving up the coast . Andamanese against them. After a few years of this disturbance, the life of the Jarawas became very difficult and in revenge they began to attack us. It was our fault if the Jarawas became hostile.”

The Jarawa Way of Life

The Jarawas are seminomadic. They live in groups of about 30 and a number of neighboring groups form a tribe. Each group moves within a well-defined boundary and does not encroach on the territory of other groups. Living in a lush, tropical environment, they do not farm or keep domestic animals. Their livelihood depends on hunting and fishing with their bows, arrows and spears.

It is part of their way of life that food is shared. So if someone in the group catches a turtle, everyone has a turtle. If someone catches a pig, everyone has a pig. In their social order, there are no class differences with the haves and have-nots. “The Jarawas could never be considered poor,” said one of the anthropological officers. “They have all their needs in abundance.”

An unusual thing about the Jarawas is that they are among the few peoples in the world who do not know how to start a fire. They get their fire from burning forests ignited by lightning during frequent storms. And they guard their fires carefully, keeping them lit and even carrying them with them when they move.

A scourge of modern civilization is the decay of moral values. “Among the Jarawas, there is no premarital sex,” said the officer quoted above. “Adultery is very rare. A guilty person would face strong social disapproval. He would feel so bad that he would leave the community for a long time before he felt the desire to return.” Do the people living in your “civilized” community have such a keen sense of morality?

Modern civilization is synonymous with high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and the like. Jarawas are not affected by such diseases. Although small in stature, the men were no more than five feet [1.5 m] tall and women even shorter they have been called “the most perfectly formed little beings in existence.” In their environment, they rarely get sick.

Although religion is not prominent in their lives, the Jarawas have several rituals regarding the dead. When someone dies, the body is buried and the hut previously occupied by the deceased is abandoned. After several months, the body is exhumed. The skull, or more commonly the lower jaw, is then worn by relatives. After some time, other relatives wear it in turn. This practice is considered a sign of respect for the dead and is clearly related to their ideas about the dead. The Jarawas believe that there is a spirit, a carrier of life, that lives in another world. They also believe that the spirit continues to care about them, so they will not do anything that might disturb it.

A house of plenty

The Jarawas enjoy a well-equipped house. Among the many beautiful plants that clothe the islands are the glorious orchids, some of which are found only on these islands. In 1880, according to the regional botanist Dr. NP Balakrishnan, some varieties of these orchids “like rare diamonds” were fetching “fabulous prices in England”.

Recently found on Sentinel Island by a German scientist, at the cost of a finger, is the predatory crab. The Government Fisheries Department exhibit in Port Blair, Andaman Islands, had a display board description of the predatory crab that claimed: ‘Dangerous to coconut plantations. It climbs coconut trees. Bring out ripe fruit. It breaks the shell with its fearsome claws. Drink the sweet water and eat the coconut meat.’ Others, however, have questioned whether this crab actually does all of this. While they admit that the crab climbs trees, critics say it opens up and eats only damaged coconuts already on the ground.

What the future holds

Under the influence of modern civilization, will the Jarawas go down the path of gradual decline and perhaps eventual extinction of the Great Andamanese and Onges? Only time will tell. But for centuries before the foreigners came, they had cared for their God-given home and used the provisions in an altruistic way. Theirs was indeed a simple and peaceful way of life. Can we learn something from the Jarawas?

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