Utilization of Aquatic Resources by the Nicobarese of Katchal Island

Journal of the Anthropological Survey of India, 65(2) : (169-183), 2016

Utilization of Aquatic Resources by the Nicobarese of Katchal Island

D. V. Prasad
Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University (IGNTU), Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh

Abstract
The Nicobar Island is rich in both terrestrial and aquatic resources and its inhabitants i.e., the Nicobarese and Shompen are depended on both for their survival. The natural harbour of Nancowry facilitated the outsiders’ contact early times in history when compared to the contact with other autochthones of Andaman Islands. The Portuguese, French, Dutch and British annexed these islands in pre-Independent India for trade as well as spreading their missionary efforts. In post-Independent India, non-Nicobarese migrated to Nicobar, residing in different parts of the Nicobar group. After Independence, majority of the Nicobarese especially Car Nicobarese embraced Christianity. As a result of this, acculturation of Nicobarese customs and traditions has taken place and many of them started emulating the food habits, dress pattern, beliefs and practices, and so on. Despite this fact, still Nicobarese customs and traditions are being practiced in Katchal Island as it is geographically isolated from the rest of Islands.
Traditionally the Nicobarese of Katchal Island depended on both terrestrial i.e., horticultural plantation in their homestead as well as forest and aquatic resources since their landmass is surrounded by sea. As such, they have developed a symbiotic relationship with sea and it is worshipped whenever new canoe is made and voyage is carried out. However, this symbiotic relationship is affected with natural disaster i.e., Tsunami and Earthquake in 2004 in terms of rise sea level, loss of horticultural plantation, homestead, material culture, and livestock, etc. Afterwards, they developed fear psychosis of sea and could not venture for fishing as they witnessed the rolling of dead bodies in giant tidal waves at that time. But gradually this scenario was changed as their livelihood is substituted by the aquatic resources. With this backdrop, the present paper highlights the Nicobarese traditional methods of utilization of aquatic resources and its socio-cultural and ritual significance. It is interesting to note that despite their religious conversion to Christianity and Islam, Nicobarese still pursue fishing activities in creek waters as well as fishing shallow and deep sea waters.

Total Page Visits: 104 - Today Page Visits: 1