Another important tribe, only 96 in number is the Onge, also called [ö:ng] ‘we people’ by themselves, settled in the island called the Little Andaman south of the Great Andaman. See map of Little Andaman. There are two settlements of Onge in the island since 1976. One is known as the Dugong Creek settlement and the other is known as the South Bay settlement.  A majority of them live in the forest reserve area of Dugong Creek. It is in the jungles of Dugong Creek that we got an opportunity to stay with the Onges.

Out of the 96 tribes, only 5 families comprising of 15 members in all live in South Bay. These families have maintained communication with those living in the Dugong Creek reserve. The government has provided each family [family is defined as ‘parents and non-married children’] with huts erected on stilts. In addition, each family gets a monthly ration of daal (pulses), oil, salt, biscuits, match boxes and clothes to wear.  Interestingly, each family has recently been provided with a portable transistor radio. It is very amusing to see an Onge walking in the jungle with the transistor blaring Hindi film music. Young Onge boys have been seen to hum lines from Hindi songs without understanding a word of it.

At present, they have moved from the Dugong Creek reserve further into the Tandalu forest (Pandya 2005). Not only this, they have resumed their daily chores such as hunting, fishing and gathering from different parts of the forest. According to Pandya who visited Tandalu, Onges seemed happier than before the Tsunami (giyangejebey in their language) havoc, as they were no longer living in the prefabricated huts that were totally devastated in the Tsunami aftereffects.  Onges seemed contended, as now they were living in huts, entirely made by them, and which were similar to the traditional old huts they once lived in.

Onge is characterized by nineteen consonants and nine-vowel system.

Anvita Abbi with Onges

Onge sounds 

we are all sitting

my clothes 

your forehead 


Journey to Dugong Creek

Song on dongi

Recorded by Dr. Alok Das