Andaman And Nicobar | History of A & N

Andaman And Nicobar Islands positioned in the South-East of the Indian mainland is a group of excessively 572 Islands are blanketed with forests and countless various types of spectacular flora and fauna, underwater marine life, coral, crystal clear water provide a exceptional view of the irreplaceable bounties of nature in the Bay of Bengal, once a hill range stretching from Burma (now Myanmar) to Indonesia.

The Andaman And Nicobar Islands is nearer to Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand than to the Indian mainland

The northernmost point of the Andaman and Nicobars group is 901 km far away from the mouth of the Hooghly River and 190 km from Myanmar. The southernmost island, Great Nicobar’s southernmost point, called Indira Point, located just 150 km from Sumatra in Indonesia.

The northernmost point of the Andaman and Nicobars group is 901 km away from the mouth of the Hooghly River and 190 km from Myanmar. The southernmost island, Great Nicobar’s southernmost point, called Indira Point, lies only 150 km from Sumatra in Indonesia.

The highest point is located in North Andaman Island (Saddle Peak at 732 m). The Andaman group has about 550 islands, 28 of which are inhabited while the Nicobar group has only 22 islands, 10 are inhabited.
The territory’s population as per the most recent (2011) Census of India was 379,944.

The Andamans and Nicobars are separated by the Ten Degree Channel, which is 150 kms wide. The total land area of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands is approximately 8,249 Square kms.

The Nicobar group of Islands is out of bounds for Tourism activities. i.e., only the Andaman group of Islands are open for Tourism.

The major languages spoken in Andaman & Nicobar Island are Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam, English, Tamil, Nicobarese and Telugu.

Since pre-historic times aboriginal tribes have lived on these Islands. The Andaman group is inhabited by tribes of Negrito origin, while the Nicobar Islands are inhabited by tribes of Mongloid origin. There are 4 tribes in the Andaman District and they are Great Andamanese, Onges, Jarawas and Sentinelese, while 2 other tribes, Nicobarese & Shompens of Mongloid origin live in Nicobar district.

The topography of the Andaman islands is hilly and about 86% of the area is covered by dense forests and endless variety of flora and fauna. About 50% of the forests has been set aside as Tribal Reserves, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries However, the Timber of Andaman & Nicobar Islands cannot be commercially extracted due to the order & ruling of the Supreme Court of India.

Mythologically, the name Andaman is presumed to be derived from Hanuman, who was known to the Malays as Handuman. Since pre-historic times, these islands were the home of aboriginal tribes.

History of Andaman and Nicobar

Pre-Colonial Era of Andaman and Nicobar

Rajendra Cholan I (1014 to 1042 CE) one of the greatest kings of Tamil Chola dynasty occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands to use it as a strategic naval base to launch a naval expedition against Sriwijaya Empire (a classical Hindu-Malay empire based on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia). The cholas called the ‘Nicobar’ island as ‘Nakkavaram’ which is inscribed on the Tanjore inscription of 1050 CE. Nakkavaram in Tamil means “naked man” or “land of the naked” which should have been evolved to the modern name “Nicobar”. Marco Polo(12-13th Century CE) also referred this island as ‘Necuveran’.

Name of the island ‘Andaman’ might have been evolved from the Indian monkey god Hanuman.

Danish occupation of the Nicobar Islands

The history of organised European colonisation on the islands began with the Danish East India Company in 1754–1756 when they were administrated under the name of Frederiksoerne from Tranquebar (in continental Danish India); Austria attempted to establish a colony on the islands on the mistaken assumption that Denmark had abandoned its claims to the islands. Danish involvement ended formally on 16 October 1868 when the Danish rights to the Nicobar Islands were sold to Britain which made them part of British India by 1869 when the British took possession.

Andaman And Nicobar islands remained secluded from the mainland till the end of the 18th Century when people from the outside world first arrived. The history of these islands could be divided into three broad periods
a) The British Regime – a period of foreign intrusion and settlement
b) The Japanese Regime
c) and The Post Independence Regime

In the Second Century, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were located in the maps prepared by the great Greek astronomer, mathematician and geographer, Claudius Ptolemaeus. These islands were familiar to traders in ancient times, the islands being situated close to the trade route to the Far East. Though little is known about Portuguese activities in these islands, it is evident that the Portuguese missionaries started preaching Christianity among the islanders. The Nicobarese language also reflects a few Portuguese words.
British colonial period

In 1788 when Lord Cornwallis, the then Governor General of India, instructed Lt. Archibald Blair and Lt. R.H.Colebrook of the Royal Navy to Survey the Andaman and Nicobar islands and submit a report on their suitability for a British Colony. According to the recommendation of these two officers the first British settlement was founded in 1789 on Chatham Island, near Port Cornwallis (Now Port Blair). However, there was much disease and death in the penal colony, and the government ceased operating it in May 1796.
The penal colony was originally on Viper Island, named after Lieutenant Blair’s vessel, The Viper. The convicts, mostly political prisoners, suffered life imprisonment at hard labor under cruel and degrading conditions. Many were hanged, while others died of disease and starvation. Between 1864 and 1867 a penal establishment was also built with convict labor on the northern side of Ross Island. These structures are now in ruins.

As the Indian freedom movement continued to grow in the late 19th Century, an enormous Cellular Jail was constructed between 1896 and 1906 to house Indian convicts, mostly political prisoners, in solitary confinement. The Cellular Jail is also known as Kala Pani (translated as “Black Waters”), a name given to it due to the torture and general ill-treatment towards its Indian convicts. The Cellular Jail in Port Blair was regarded as the “Siberia” of British India.

The islands were administered as a Chief Commissioner’s Province.

The British continued their occupancy until the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Andaman Islands during World War II.

Indian Control (The Japanese Regime) in Andaman and Nicobar

During the War, the Japanese occupied Andamans on March 21, 1942 and kept the region under their effective control till October 8,1945.

Netaji Subash Chandra Bose arrived in Port Blair on December 29, 1943 and was given a ceremonial welcome. He hoisted the National Flag at Port Blair on 30th December, 1943 for the first time during the British regime in India and renamed them as “Shaheed-dweep” (Martyr Island) & “Swaraj-dweep” (Self-rule Island). General Loganathan, of the Indian National Army was made the Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. On 22 February 1944 he along with four INA officers arrived at Lambaline Airport in Port Blair. On 21 March 1944 the Headquarters of the Civil Administration was established near the Gurudwara at Aberdeen Bazaar. The islands were reoccupied by British and Indian troops of the 116th Indian Infantry Brigade on 7 October 1945. On October 8, 1945, the Japanese surrendered to the South East Asia Command at Port Blair. The Government quickly restored normalcy in the area and started rehabilitation work.

The Post Independence Regime in Andaman and Nicobar

Port Blair became part of the Indian union in 1956. It was declared a union territory on 1956.

The Bengalis are the major population group which came to the Andamans after Independence. They came as ‘settlers’ under the Government rehabilitaion scheme, which started as early as 1949 and continued till the 1970s. Other settlers include among others, Punjabis, Marathis, Malyalis and Tamilians.

Recent History Of Andaman And Nicobar 

On 26 December 2004 the coasts of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were devastated by a 10 m (33 ft) high tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. At least 5,930 people were believed to have been killed on the Nicobar and Andaman Islands during the disaster. The worst affected Nicobar islands were Katchal and Indira Point, the latter the southernmost point of India, which was submerged by the ocean.

Festivals & Culture Of Andaman And Nicobar

Andaman and Nicobar Islands have a unique culture, where all religions, languages, ethnic groups live in total peace and harmony and hence it is rightly called Mini India. All major festivals are celebrated with equal zeal and attended by all religious groups. Certain fairs and festivals, which are special to these islands, are:

Island Tourism Festival In Andaman And Nicobar

A fortnight long festival organized by the Andaman & Nicobar Administration every year (December – January) gives a festive look to the Islands. The exhibition organized during the festival highlights the developmental aspects of these islands. Apart from performances by the talents of the islands including tribals, cultural troupes and artistes of national and international fame are invited to perform during the festival. Other attractions are Magic show, Puppet show, Floating restaurant, Baby show, Dog show, Canoe Race, Scuba Diving etc. The festival projects the image of the islands as an eco-friendly tourist destination.

Subhash Mela – January every year in Andaman & Nicobar

A week long festival with cultural programmes is organised in Havelock every year on the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

Vivekanada Mela – January every year in Andaman and Nicobar

Organised at Neil Island to celebrate the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanada.

Block Mela – January/February every year in Andaman and Nicobar

Held at Diglipur, this highlights the developments that have taken place in the rural areas and displays the typical rural life of these islands.

Andaman And Nicobar | History of A & N