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Port Blair Culture

Fittingly called the ‘Mini India’ the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in general and Port Blair in particular feature a genuinely cosmopolitan culture as numerous aboriginal tribes of Andaman and other ethnic groups from diverse religious, social and cultural backgrounds migrated from different parts of India and world coexist here in complete concord and harmony. Though this Union Territory of India is predominantly colonized by the Christians, all the major Indian festivals including Christmas, Good Friday, Holi, Diwali, Eid, Janmashtami, Onam, Pongal, Durga Pooja, and many others are celebrated here with incomparable zest and enthusiasm.

The islands of the Andaman group are mainly inhabited by the Negroids (Negrito) of the Paleolithic Age who are believed to have migrated to Andaman from Africa several thousand years ago. The indigenous clans of the Negroids are; Andamanese, Sentinalese, Onge & Jarawa of the Mongoloid origin. The islands of the Nicobar group are chiefly populated by the Nicobarese and the Shompens. These native tribes have nurtured and perpetuated their unique identity and their exclusive cultural disposition for centuries. The newly budding local culture of Port Blair is greatly influenced by the South Indian & Bengali civility and way of living due to their comparative geographical proximity.

As the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and their endemic residents have remained isolated from the contemporary torrents of modernization, scores of aboriginal tribes dwelling in the remote forests of these islets have not yet adapted to the use of clothes. The Jarawa Tribes principally adorn themselves with arm bands made out of shell and barks, necklaces and waist bands while the Shompens only cover the lower part of the body. The Sentinaleses don’t wear any clothes even today. The denizens of the Car Nicobar Island who traditionally covered themselves in the coconut leaf petticoat and the Onges who didn’t wear any clothes have started wearing modern western outfits. However, necklaces made from shells, pearls, beads, headbands, armbands, waistbands made from the bark fiber and so on are still popular in Andaman & Nicobar.

The inhabitants of Andaman & Nicobar are hunter-gatherers, herders and horticulturists by occupation. They have excelled in various arts and crafts and make various wood carving articles, sea shell, beads & pearl jewellery, pearl necklaces, bamboo & cane furniture, bamboo, cane & coir handicrafts and artifacts, wooden trays, walking sticks, coconut lampshades, palm leaf mats, shell ashtrays, souvenirs, home décor items, miniature Nicobari canoes, and many other knick knacks which are extremely popular amongst the tourists. Agriculture is another flourishing industry of this archipelago where paddy, coconut, areca nut, pulses, vegetables, oilseeds, variety of fruits like mango, banana, orange, papaya, sapota, pineapple & root crops, spices such as clove, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and limited quantity of rubber, palm, red oil, cashew etc. are cultivated.

About 1,374 small-scale industries and handicrafts units have been registered here who function in the fish processing, shell & wood based handicrafts, production of polythene bags, PVC pipes, fiber glass, paint, soft drinks, rice milling, mini flour mills, bakery products, furniture making, etc related domains. Apart from that, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands significantly earn from tourism industry and fisheries.

Some of the most exclusive festivals celebrated at Port Blair include Island Tourism Festival, Jute Fair and Subhash Mela.

The Island Tourism Festival celebrated in the month of December or January is a 15 days long festival that is annually organized by the Andaman & Nicobar Administration. Various entertainment activities, exhibitions and cultural performances of dance, drama & music are held at the time of this carnival and the entire Port Blair city basking in the spirit of festivity looks tremendously gorgeous and full of life. Some of the most intriguing amusement activities arranged at the time of this fortnight fiesta are; Andaman Dog Shows, Nicobari Hodi Race, Parasailing, other Aqua Sports, Arts & Crafts Exhibitions, Demonstrations related to the Flora, Fauna & Marine Life of Andaman & Nicobar, Magic Shows, Puppet Shows, Baby Shows, Floating Restaurant, and many others. Various ethnic troops and other national and international artists perform at Port Blair during the Island Tourism Festival.

Jute Fair of Port Blair is most treasured by the aficionados of Indian handicrafts and artifacts. The lovers of art and craft alight at Port Blair from far and wide to choose from a wide range of eco friendly decoratives made out of jute, cane, coir, wood, sea shells and so on. Fancy bags, footwear, home décor items, souvenirs, textiles, jewellery, mats, other trinkets and doodads are best bought at the Jute Fair of Port Blair.

Subhash Mela celebrated at the Havelock Island of Port Blair in the month of January commemorates the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who led the Azad Hind Government at Port Blair during the World War II.