A clear history of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands can be had only from the time of a British Survey of these islands conducted in 1777. The Andaman & Nicobar Islands remained the abode of indigenous people of Negrito and the Mongoloid stock respectively, who occupied the Islands for centuries. These 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 four broad periods.
a) the period of seclusion and piratical disturbances
b) the British regime - a period of foreign intrusion and settlement
c) the Japanese regime
b) and the Post-Independence period.
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, which possibly is the earliest reference to these islands. The early history of Nicobar is not well known although 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.
The British Regime
The history of the British in the Andaman and Nicobar islands began in 1788 when Lord Cornwallis, the then Governor General of India, thought of colonizing the islands and instructed Lt. Archibald Blair and Lt. R.H.Colebrook of the Royal Navy to Survey the 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). After the First War of Independence in 1857, the British Government thought of establishing a penal settlement here. In March 1858, the first penal settlement was established, with 200 prisoners, mostly rebels from the Indian Army. Initially the convicts were kept in a jail at Viper island, which is about 15 minutes boat ride from Port Blair. The island had a jail, gallows, Kutcheri, Doctor"s residence, etc. Subsequently, this Jail was abandoned and the Cellular Jail at Port Blair was constructed. During the time of successive Superintendents, E.H.Man, General Steward, and Col. Cadell, the number of convicts increased and they were subjected to inhuman tortures at the hands of the British jailors. The foundation of the famous Cellular Jail was laid in 1896. The building was completed in 1906. Many changes, both in policy and practice, took place during Colonel Ferrar"s time, which, inter alia, included concession to the convicts, mainland visit, etc.
The Japanese Regime
World War II brought another series of changes in the life of the Andamans. During the War, the Japanese occupied Andamans on March 21, 1942 and kept the region under their effective control till October 8,1945. Initially the Japanese behaved cordially towards the locals, but became harsh and suspicious after instances came to their notice of some locals maintaining contacts with the British. As a result a large number of innocent people were killed. One such place where the massacre occured is Humfreygunj. But one good result of the Japanese occupation was making the Andamans self-sufficient, at least in food production. The naval blockade created an acute food crisis and the Japanese compelled the local people to bring more land under cultivation. They also constructed roads. 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 Dec. 1943 for the first time during the British regime in India. 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
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands together with the rest of India, became Independent on August 15th, 1947. 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. All these groups migrated to the Andamans from different districts of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The Bengalis are primarily distributed in the different villages of North, Middle and South Andamans. The rehabilitated settlers of Great Nicobar are the Ex-servicemen. Ex-servicemen were rehabilated according to the rules of the District Soldier, Sailor, Airmen Board, formerly known as the Ex-servicemen Association and the Indian Ex-servicemen League. The first batch of Ex-servicemen came to the island in 1969. Others, from different parts of the mainland followed in 1970,1974,1977,1979 and 1980. These settlers include among others, Punjabis, Marathis, Malyalis and Tamilians. New rules and legislations were enacted and a Chief Commissioner directly nominated by the President of India heads the islands. On November 12, 1982, the post of Chief Commissioner was elevated to the rank of Lt. Governor. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands now sends one elected representative to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian parliament.
Andaman - General Information
Location Bay of Bengal
Longitude 920 to 940 East
Latitude 60 to 140 North
Distance by Sea (In Kms.)
Between Port Blair & Chennai 1190
Between Port Blair & Calcutta 1255
Between Port Blair & Vishakapatnam 1200
Distance by Air Kms.
Between Calcutta & Port Blair 1303
Between Chennai & Port Blair 1330
Normal Rainfall at Port Blair 3180 mm
Mean Minimum Temperature at Port Blair 22.80 Celcius
Mean Maximum Temperature at Port Blair 29.80 Celcius
Mean Relative Humidity at Port Blair 81%
This three-storied prison, constructed by Britishers in 1906, is almost a pilgrimage destination for freedom fighters. This colossal edifice has mutely witnessed the most treacherous of inhumane atrocities borne by the convicts, who were mostly freedom fighters. Now dedicated to the nation as a National Memorial.
This museum at Phoenix Bay (Bus stand - Delanipur road) depicts the life of the Paleolithic Islanders. It also houses the models of the aborigines and their tools. Closed on Mondays and holidays.
Situated near Andaman Water Sports Complex, it exhibits species of marine life peculiar to the islands and found in the Indo-Pacific and the Bay of Bengal. Closed on Mondays and holidays.
Samudrika (Naval Marine Museum)
Situated opposite to Andaman Teal House, Delanipur this museum is meant to create awareness on various aspects of oceanic environment. A good collection of shells, corals and a few species of colourful fishes found in these islands are on display.
Time: 8.30 AM - 12.00 Noon, 2.00 PM - 5.00 PM, Monday & holiday closed
Zoological Survey of India Museum
Situated near to Andaman Teal House, this museum and research library exhibit a good variety of sponges, corals, butterflies, centipedes etc., Open on all working days.
Situated at Haddo (near to the Zoo), this museum offers an insight into forest activities through scale models and displays decorative pieces made of famous woods like Padauk, Marble, Peauma, Gurjan, Satin Wood, etc., Open on all working days
Corbyn"s Cove Tourism Complex
One of the most picturesque sea-beaches, it is ideal for sea bathing and sun-basking. The Waves Restaurant, The Peerless Resort nearby and the Hornbill Nest Guest House at a stone"s throw, provide a kaleidoscopic view of the blue waterfront.
Chidiya Tapu (25 kms. from Port Blair)
Chidiya Tapu is the southern most tip of South Andaman. The lush green mangroves, forest cover with numerous chirping birds and the Sylvan Sands and Munda pahar beaches make it an ideal picnic site. The forest guesthouse situated on top of a hillock provides a fabulous view of isolated islands, submerged corals and the breath-taking sunset. Conducted tours are available from Andaman Teal House, Port Blair.
Mount Harriet (55 km, by road/15 km by ferry and road from Port Blair)
The summer headquarters of the Chief Commissioner during British Raj, this place is an ideal for a nice and fascinating over view of the outer islands and the sea. It is the highest peak in the South Andamans (365 metres high). One can trek upto Madhuban through a nature trail and can find rare endemic birds, animals and butterflies. Conducted tours to Mt. Harriet are available from Andaman Teal House.