a group of tribes constituting the basic population of the Nicobar Islands (India). Population, 18,000 (1971 census).
Dialects of the Nicobarese language, which belongs to the Mon-Khmer family, are spoken by the Nicobarese. They believe in many spirits. The Nicobarese are living at different stages in the decline of the primitive communal system. This decline has reached a particularly advanced stage among the inhabitants of the island of Chowra. Anthropologically, the Nicobarese are a mixture of different racial elements, predominantly Mongoloid. The Shompe tribe, which lives in the interior regions of Car Nicobar, is distinguished from the other Nicobarese tribes by various racial and cultural characteristics.
The Nicobarese engage mainly in slash farming. However, in some places irrigation is practiced, usually in the cultivation of rice, millet, and sugarcane. The Nicobarese cultivate coconut palms, raise pigs, and engage in fishing. They make boats with outriggers for fishing and for communication among the islands. Economic exchange among the islands is well developed, as is specialization in trades (for example, the manufacture of pottery on the island of Chowra).