Etymology of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The name Andaman is believed to have come from "Handuman", which in Malay language means Lord Hanuman. The name "Nicobar" in Malay language means land of the naked people. In the prehistoric times, the aboriginal tribes are believed to have inhabited the islands. During the 17th century, the islands provided a temporary maritime base for the ships of the Marathas. In the year 1789, the British inhabited the place. In 1950 Andaman and Nicobar Islands became a part of the Indian Union Territories.
Formation of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The origin of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands can be attributed to the complex geological processes involving the convergence of tectonic plates. These islands owe their existence to the collision between the Burma minor plate and the Indian plate. This phenomenon also ties them geologically to the extended terrain of the Arakan Yoma range.
While the accepted explanation underscores tectonic plate interactions, some geologists propose an alternative perspective, attributing the islands' formation to volcanic activities. Notably, studies conducted on the rock formations underlying the islands reveal their volcanic origin, suggesting that these formations are the outcome of past volcanic eruptions more than 150 million years ago rather than entirely natural processes.
A significant geological feature of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is the rich marine life that thrives within their waters, often at considerable oceanic depths rather than exclusively along the coastlines. This marine biodiversity contributes to the islands' ecological complexity, underscoring the interplay between geological formations and the intricate ecosystems sustained within and around these landmasses.
History of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The history of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is woven with the threads of time, revealing the interactions of ancient civilizations, colonial powers, and modern nations. This archipelago, situated in the Bay of Bengal, carries a historical legacy dating back over two millennia.
Archaeological records unearthed from the Andaman Islands trace human presence back to around 2,200 years ago. However, deeper insights from genetic and cultural studies propose that the indigenous Andamanese people might have remained isolated from other populations during the Middle Paleolithic era, which concluded around 30,000 years ago. Over this vast timespan, the Andamanese populace diversified into distinct territorial groups marked by linguistic and cultural uniqueness.
The Nicobar Islands, on the other hand, display a more diverse population history. By the time of European contact, the indigenous inhabitants had coalesced into the Nicobarese people, speaking an Austroasiatic language, and the Shompen, whose language's affiliation remains uncertain. Notably, neither of these languages is related to the Andamanese languages.
In the annals of the medieval period, Rajendra Chola II (1051–1063 CE) utilized the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as a strategic naval base to launch an expedition against the Srivijaya Empire in Indonesia. The Cholas referred to these islands as "Ma-Nakkavaram" ("great open/naked land"), a name found in the Thanjavur inscription of 1050 CE. Even the famed traveler Marco Polo, from the 12th to 13th century, mentioned the islands as 'Necuverann,' and an ancient form of the Tamil name Nakkavaram possibly evolved into the modern name Nicobar during the British colonial era.
The saga of organized European colonization began when Danish East India Company settlers arrived on the Nicobar Islands on December 12, 1755. A year later, on January 1, 1756, the Nicobar Islands became a Danish colony, initially known as New Denmark and later (in December 1756) as Frederick's Islands. Administered from Tranquebar in continental Danish India between 1754 and 1756, the islands faced recurrent abandonment due to malaria outbreaks in subsequent years.
Remarkably, from June 1, 1778, to 1784, Austria mistakenly presumed Denmark's relinquishment of claims over the Nicobar Islands and attempted to establish a colony, renaming them as Theresa Islands. In 1789, the British established a naval base and penal colony on Chatham Island, leading to the birth of Port Blair on Great Andaman. However, disease forced the abandonment of this colony in 1796.
In 1858, the British once again established a settlement at Port Blair, which proved more enduring. Its primary purpose was to serve as a penal colony for convicts from the Indian subcontinent. The notorious Cellular Jail, a facility used to incarcerate political prisoners, stands as a somber relic of this era.
Intriguingly, Italy explored the possibility of purchasing the Nicobar Islands from Denmark between 1864 and 1865, but negotiations fell through due to changing political circumstances.
Denmark formally ceded its rights to the Nicobar Islands to Britain on October 16, 1868, marking the end of Denmark's presence. Subsequently, in 1869, the islands were incorporated into British India. By 1872, the Andaman and Nicobar islands were united under a single chief commissioner based in Port Blair.
Andamans during World War II
The tumultuous period of World War II saw the Andaman Islands nominally under Japanese control, although they were also associated with the Arzi Hukumate Azad Hind led by Subhash Chandra Bose. Bose renamed the islands as "Shaheed-Dweep" (Martyr Island) and "Swaraj-dweep" (Self-rule Island). General Loganathan of the Indian National Army governed the islands during this time, with the support of INA officers.
Japanese Vice Admiral Hara Teizo and Major-General Tamenori Sato surrendered the islands to Brigadier J A Salomons and Chief Administrator Noel K Patterson of the 116th Indian Infantry Brigade on October 7, 1945, ending Japanese control.
Andamans after Independence
Post-independence, during India's partition in 1947 and Burma's partition in 1948, the departing British contemplated retaining the islands for resettling Anglo-Indians and Anglo-Burmese. However, this plan never materialized. The islands played a role in resettling people displaced by the partitions, particularly East Bengali families who were offered land in exchange for clearing forests and establishing agricultural colonies.
The administration of the islands shifted from Viceroy Mountbatten to President Rajendra Prasad in 1950. In 1956, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were declared a union territory of India. Since the 1980s, India has developed defense facilities on the islands, positioning them as a key element in the nation's strategic interests in the Bay of Bengal and the Malacca Strait.
Geography of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a region composed of 572 islands, exhibit a distinctive geographical arrangement that encompasses diverse landforms and natural features. Andaman and Nicobar Islands is located in the Bay of Bengal, 1255 km from Kolkata and 1190 km from Chennai. This archipelago is divided into the Andaman group and the Nicobar group, separated by the Ten Degree Channel. The islands reach maximum altitude at Saddle Peak, which is formed of limestone, sandstone and clay. Around 50,000 hectares of land here are under cultivation. The island experiences a tropical climate. In terms of distribution, the Andaman group comprises 325 islands, while the Nicobar group encompasses a comparatively smaller number of 247 islands.
Within this geographical context, a unique phenomenon is found—the presence of the sole active volcano in India, Barren Island, located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This volcanic entity attracted attention for its eruption in 2017, and its history of sporadic activity. Remarkably, another intriguing feature is the mud volcano situated on Baratang Island. These mud volcanoes have experienced intermittent eruptions, with notable instances like the 2005 eruption believed to be connected to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. The region had witnessed a significant eruption on February 18, 2003. Known locally as "Jalki," the mud volcano on Baratang Island contributes to the island's unique geographical makeup.
Additionally, the broader area hosts multiple volcanoes, enhancing the geological complexity of this territory. Complementing these volcanic elements are captivating natural facets, including inviting beaches, intricate mangrove creeks, enigmatic limestone caves, and the remarkable mud volcanoes. These physical features collectively define the captivating geography of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Flora of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands encompass a lush tapestry of tropical rainforest canopy, showcasing a diverse assemblage of flora with contributions from Indian, Myanmar, Malaysian, and indigenous botanical strains. The plant kingdom here stands out with a remarkable richness, comprising approximately 2,200 distinct plant varieties. Within this array, 200 species are unique to these islands, while 1,300 species remain absent from the mainland of India.
The South Andaman region is characterized by dense epiphytic growth, dominated by ferns and orchids. In contrast, the Middle Andamans host moist deciduous forests, fostering a variety of flora. Moving to the North Andamans, the landscape is adorned with wet evergreen forests punctuated by numerous woody climbers.
The North Nicobar Islands, including Car Nicobar and Battimalv, exhibit a notable absence of evergreen forests. However, in the central and southern islands of the Nicobar group, such forests thrive as the predominant vegetation. The unique natural diversity is further evidenced by the presence of grasslands in the Nicobars, while deciduous forests thrive predominantly in the Andamans, with a notable scarcity in the Nicobar group. Impressively, the existing forest coverage encompasses a substantial 86.2% of the total land area.
This expansive realm of vegetation can be categorized into twelve distinct types, each contributing to the distinctive botanical makeup:
• Giant evergreen forest
• Andamans tropical evergreen forest
• Southern hilltop tropical evergreen forest
• Wet bamboo brakes
• Andamans semi-evergreen forest
• Andamans moist deciduous forest
• Andamans secondary moist deciduous forest
• Littoral forest
• Mangrove forest
• Brackish water mixed forest
• Submontane forest
Fauna of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Nestled within the confines of the tropical rainforests, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands offer a surprising profusion of animal life despite their geographical isolation from neighboring landmasses. A remarkable assemblage of approximately 50 forest mammal species thrives in these islands. Among them, some are exclusive to this region, including the Andaman wild boar. Dominating this group are 26 rodent species, followed by 14 species of bats. Among the larger mammals, the islands are home to two endemic varieties of wild boar: Sus scrofa andamanensis in Andaman, and Sus scrofa nicobaricus in Nicobar, both safeguarded under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Schedule I). The prolific Saltwater crocodile also finds a robust presence in these lands. Adding to the distinct wildlife, the State Animal of Andaman is the dugong, commonly referred to as the sea cow, residing primarily in Little Andaman. An attempt to introduce leopards in 1962 was met with failure due to unsuitable habitat, underscoring the potential disruption that exotic introductions can bring to the island's delicate ecosystem. Elephants can also be spotted in the islands' forested or mountainous terrain. Originally brought from the mainland in 1883 to assist with timber extraction, they remain a notable presence in select areas.
The avian inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands encompass around 270 species of birds, including 14 that are endemic. Many of the islands' caves serve as nesting sites for the edible-nest swiftlet, coveted in China for the production of bird's nest soup. The islands also serve as stopover locations for migratory birds, welcoming species such as Horsfield's bronze cuckoo, Zappey's flycatcher, and Javan pond heron.
The islands' biodiversity extends to approximately 225 species of butterflies and moths, with ten being exclusive to these lands. Mount Harriet National Park emerges as a haven for butterfly and moth diversity within the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Renowned for their prized shellfish, particularly from the genera Turbo, Trochus, Murex, and Nautilus, the islands have a longstanding history of shell-related industries dating back to 1929. Numerous cottage enterprises create an array of decorative shell items. Edible shellfisheries are also supported by giant clams, green mussels, and oysters. The shells of scallops, clams, and cockles are employed in kilns to produce edible lime.
The preservation of the islands' unique fauna is upheld through a network of 96 wildlife sanctuaries, nine national parks, and a biosphere reserve. These protected areas are crucial for conserving the diverse and distinct wildlife that characterizes the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Demography of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The tribal people of Andaman and Nicobar Islands dwell in a scattered fashion, inhabiting several islands of this group. The total population of Anadaman and Nicobar Islands as per census of 2011 is 379944. The literacy rate among the male population is 86.27 percent and the female is 81.84 percent as per 2011 census.
Culture of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The culture of Andaman and Nicobar Islands has a harmonious blend of different religions, languages and ethnic groups. The capital, Port Blair has a cosmopolitan character. All important festivals are celebrated with equal enthusiasm by all religious groups. The major languages spoken are Nicobarese, English, Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Punjabi.
Education in Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Andaman and Nicobar Islands has a very strong network of schools and educational centers of higher education. The education department of Andaman and Nicobar is devoted towards enhancing the education profile of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. There are more than 200 primary schools comprising the Andaman and Nicobar Islands state education. There are a number of schools and colleges featured the state education of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The colleges thereafter became affiliated to the University of Calcutta. The higher education belonged to Andaman and Nicobar State Education includes two training institutes, two polytechnic colleges, a government B.Ed. College and a Government College.
Administration in Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The administration in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is carved out by the British Government of India and now it is treated as Union Territory of India. In 1874, the British Government in India had placed the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in one administrative territory. At that time, it was headed by a Chief Commissioner. The Chief Commissioner had to rule the whole territory. He also plays the role as a Judicial Administrator. After the Independence of India in 1947, Andaman and Nicobar Island is treated as Union territory of India.
Economy of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Farming and fishing are the main sources of income here. Tourism is also another source of income for Andaman and Nicobar Islands. There are also a number of small scale, village and handicrafts industry. There are shell and wood-based handicraft units. Medium sized industrial units are engaged in the production of polythene bags, PVC conduit pipes and fittings, paints, fiber glass and mini flour mills, soft drinks and beverages, etc. are also found here. Small scale industries and handicraft cottage industries are also engaged in bakery products, rice milling, furniture making etc. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation have also developed in the field of tourism, fisheries, industries and industrial financing.
Tourism in Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Andaman and Nicobar Islands is mainly centred in Port Blair with several museums, emporiums and other places of interest. Even accessibility to other islands in the archipelago is available from Port Blair, making it a focal point of contact for tourism. The beaches, however, remain the dominant factor in attracting tourists. Among the many places that may be visited here are Cellular Jail, Zonal Anthropological Museum, a Burmese temple at Phoenix Bay, the Ghol Ghar spice stores, and the Cottage Industries Emporium. Beaches here include Corbyn's Cove Beach, Wandoor, Diglipur, Maya bunder and Chidiya Tapu at the southern tip of the island. Scuba Diving and snorkelling are some of the popular adventure sports here.
The adjacent islands stand as a captivating tourist destination, encompassing a diverse range of islands that beckon travelers with their unique offerings. Among these, the Havelock Island boasts pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, making it a haven for water sports enthusiasts and beach lovers alike.
Neil Island, characterized by its laid-back atmosphere, offers tranquil shores and vibrant coral reefs for snorkeling enthusiasts. Bharatpur beach is a the hub of water sports and adventure activities in this island where as a closer look at marine life can be experienced at Laxmanpur II beach. The Sitapur beach located at the eastern most part is known as sunrise beach and Laxmanpur Beach at the western end is famous for mesmerizing sunsets.
For those seeking a serene escape, Little Andaman offers unspoiled natural beauty and serene beaches. Exploring the limestone caves of Baratang Island and the limestone formations of Diglipur provides a glimpse into the islands' geological wonders. Each island in the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago holds a unique charm, contributing to the overall allure of this enchanting destination for tourists.