We all know that Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a union territory of India.
Did you know that these are a breath-taking and stunning collection of not just one but 571 gorgeous and lovely islands. Of which only 37 islands are inhabited and are open to tourists. Each island has its own distinctive nature to offer to those who choose to visit.
With its loads of stunning beaches, ever-green jungle greenery and abundant colourful coral life no wonder it’s been called as a tropical paradise (Andaman and Nicobar Island is also known as Emerald Island)
With Port Blair being the territory's capital. This Union Territory (with the total land area of approximately 8,249 km2) is divided into three districts.
The Nicobar District with Car Nicobar as its capital, the South Andaman district with Port Blair as its capital, and the North and Middle Andaman district with Mayabunder as its capital.
These islands host the Andaman and Nicobar Command, the only tri-service geographical command of the Indian Armed Forces
The Andaman Islands are also home to the Sentinelese people, an uncontacted indigenous tribe.
The Natives of Andaman Island consist of the following four Negrito tribes: Great Andamanese. Onges. Jarwas and Sentinelese (*if you are lucky you might spot Jarawa tribal people while enroute to Baratang – not allowed to stop or photograph during the passage).
And the Nicobar Islands are home to two 'Mongoloid' tribes – the Shompen and Nicobarese.
The genetic studies suggest that the indigenous Andamanese tribes arrived from Africa up to 65,000 years ago, making them the very first inhabitants of India. Suffice to say that the arrival of these tribals still has anthropologists baffled.
Among all the Sentinelese are the most isolated tribe in the world. They still live on their own small, forested island called North Sentinel.
They continue to resist all contact with outsiders, attacking anyone who comes near. Ended not just with attacking, there were cases where they have killed 2 fishermen who had moored their boat to sleep and also John Allen Chau, an American man.
Similarly during 2004 tsunami a Sentinelese tribe was photographed firing arrows at a helicopter. Later Indian Govt. authorities declared to stop all and any kind of friendly contacts.
India’s Supreme Court on Monday, July 2, 2012 banned all commercial and tourism activity near an ancient tribes habitat in the remote Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Regular checks are made from a safe distance only to ensure that the Sentinelese are well and have NOT chosen to seek outside world contact.
(*you can see the history and artifacts used by indigenous tribals in the Anthropological Museum)
Interestingly the island had many names like Ma-Nakkavaram, New Denmark, Frederick's Islands and Theresa Islands over the years.
Did you know during the Chola period – King Rajendra Chola II used the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as a strategic naval base. The Cholas called these islands as Ma-Nakkavaram – meaning great open/naked land as indicated in the great Tanjore inscription of AD 1050.
European traveller Marco Polo referred to this island as ‘Necuverann’ this would have led to the modern name Nicobar during the British colonial period.
The name Andaman is presumed to be derived from Hanuman, who was known to the Malays as Handuman.
The island was named as New Denmark and later Frederick's Islands by the first European company - Danish East India company around 1755-56.
Between 1778-84 Austria renamed as Theresa Islands thinking that Denmark had abandoned the Nicobar Islands since these islands were repeatedly abandoned due to outbreaks of Malaria.
During the late 1700’s the British set up a naval base and penal colony on Chatham Island where now lies the town of Port Blair. Two years later the colony was abandoned due to disease.
Again in mid1800’s, the British established a colony at Port Blair. The Cellular Jail was then built and used to house political prisoners.
During World War II, Japan had control over these islands which was nominally under the authority of Subhash Chandra Bose (Arzi Hukumate Azad Hind).
After independence the Islands were used to resettle people who were displaced by the partitions of the British Indian Empire.
In exchange for clearing forests and establishing agricultural colonies a substantial number of East Bengali displaced families were offered land on the islands.
Andaman and Nicobar Island was declared as a union territory of the India in 1956.
*Later it was discovered that the Dong valley (Arunachal Pradesh) is the first place in the country to receive the rays of the morning sun (and not Katchal Island as was believed)