Andaman Islands

Andaman Islands

Location of the Andaman Islands.
Location Bay of Bengal
Coordinates 12°30′N 92°45′E / 12.500°N 92.750°E / 12.500; 92.750Coordinates: 12°30′N 92°45′E / 12.500°N 92.750°E / 12.500; 92.750
Archipelago Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Total islands 572
Major islands North Andaman Island, Little Andaman, Middle Andaman Island, South Andaman Island
Area 6,408 km2 (2,474 sq mi)
Highest elevation 732 m (2,402 ft)
Highest point Saddle Peak
Union territory Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Capital city Port Blair
Population 343,125 (2011)
Pop. density 48 /km2 (124 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Shompen
Mainland Indians
Great Andamanese
Additional information
Time zone
  Summer (DST)
Official website
Detailed map of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The Andaman Islands form an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal between India, to the west, and Myanmar, to the north and east. Most are part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Union Territory of India, while a small number in the north of the archipelago, including the Coco Islands, belong to Myanmar.

The Andaman Islands are home to the Sentinelese people, who have had no contact with any other people.[1]


Comparative distributions of Andamanese indigenous peoples, pre-18C vs present-day


The name of the Andaman Islands is ancient. A theory that became prevalent in the late 19th century is that it derives from Andoman, a form of Hanuman, the Sanskrit name of the Indian God.[2][3] Another Italian traveller, Niccolò de' Conti (c. 1440), mentioned the islands and said that the name means "Island of Gold".

Early inhabitants

The Andaman islands have been inhabited for several thousand years, at the very least. The earliest archaeological evidence yet documented goes back some 2,200 years; however, the indications from genetic, cultural and isolation studies suggests that the islands may have been inhabited as early as the Middle Paleolithic.[4] The indigenous Andamanese people appear to have lived on the islands in substantial isolation from that time until the 18th century CE.

The Andamans are theorised to be a key stepping stone in a great coastal migration of humans from Africa via the Arabian peninsula, along the coastal regions of the Indian mainland and towards Southeast Asia, Japan and Oceania.[5]

The Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal were said to be inhabited by wolf-headed people, who were depicted in a "book of wonders" produced in Paris in the early 15th century.

Chola empire

From 800 to 1200 CE, the Tamil Chola dynasty created an empire that eventually extended from southeastern peninsular India to parts of Malaysia.[6] Rajendra Chola I (1014 to 1042 CE) took over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and maintained them as a strategic naval base to launch a naval expedition against the Srivijaya empire (a Hindu-Malay empire based on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia).

British colonisation and penal colony

In 1789, Bengal Presidency established a naval base and penal colony on Chatham Island in the southeast bay of Great Andaman. The settlement is now known as Port Blair (after the Bombay Marine lieutenant Archibald Blair who founded it). After two years, the colony was moved to the northeast part of Great Andaman and was named Port Cornwallis after Admiral William Cornwallis. However, there was much disease and death in the penal colony and the government ceased operating it in May 1796.[7]

In 1824, Port Cornwallis was the rendezvous of the fleet carrying the army to the First Burmese War. In the 1830s and 1840s, shipwrecked crews who landed on the Andamans were often attacked and killed by the natives and the islands had a reputation for cannibalism. The loss of the Runnymede and the Briton in 1844 during the same storm, while transporting goods and passengers between India and Australia, and the continuous attacks launched by the natives, which the survivors fought off, alarmed the British government.[8] In 1855, the government proposed another settlement on the islands, including a convict establishment, but the Indian Rebellion of 1857 forced a delay in its construction. However, because the rebellion gave the British so many prisoners, it made the new Andaman settlement and prison urgently necessary. Construction began in November 1857 at Port Blair using inmates' labour, avoiding the vicinity of a salt swamp that seemed to have been the source of many of the earlier problems at Port Cornwallis.

17 May 1859 was another major day for Andaman. The "Battle of Aberdeen" was fought between the Great Andamanese Tribe and the British. Today, a memorial stands in Andaman Water sports complex as a tribute to the people who lost their life. Fearing foreign invasion and with help from an escaped convict from Cellular Jail, the great Andamanese tribe stormed the British post, but they were outnumbered and soon suffered heavy loss of life. Later, it was identified that an escaped convict named Doodnath had changed sides and informed the British about the tribe's plans. Today, the tribe has been reduced to some 50 people, with less than 50% of them adults. The government of Andaman Islands is making efforts to increase the headcount of this tribe.[9] [10][11]

In 1867, the ship Nineveh wrecked on the reef of North Sentinel Island. The 86 survivors reached the beach in the ship's boats. On the third day, they were attacked with iron-tipped spears by naked islanders. One person from the ship escaped in a boat and the others were later rescued by a British Royal Navy ship.[12]

For some time, sickness and mortality were high, but swamp reclamation and extensive forest clearance continued. The Andaman colony became notorious with the murder of the Viceroy Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo, on a visit to the settlement (8 February 1872), by a Muslim convict, a Pathan from Afghanistan, Sher Ali. In the same year, the two island groups Andaman and Nicobar, were united under a chief commissioner residing at Port Blair.

The Ross Island prison headquarters, 1872

From the time of its development in 1858 under the direction of James Pattison Walker, and in response to the mutiny and rebellion of the previous year, the settlement was first and foremost a repository for political prisoners. The Cellular Jail at Port Blair when completed in 1910 included 698 cells designed for solitary confinement; each cell measured 4.5 by 2.7 m (15 by 9 ft) with a single ventilation window 3 metres (10 ft) above the floor. A notable prisoner there was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

The Indians imprisoned here referred to the Island and its prison as Kala Pani ("black water");[13] a 1996 film set on the island took that term as its title Kaalapani.[14] The number of prisoners who died in this camp is estimated to be in the thousands.[15] Many more died of harsh treatment and the harsh living and working conditions in this camp.[16]

The Viper Chain Gang Jail on Viper Island was reserved for troublemakers, and was also the site of hangings. In the 20th century, it became a convenient place to house prominent members of India's independence movement.

Japanese occupation

Ross Island in 2004
Andaman Islands

The Andaman and Nicobar islands were occupied by Japan during World War II.[17] The islands were nominally put under the authority of the Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind (Provisional Government of Free India) headed by Subhas Chandra Bose, who visited the islands during the war, and renamed them as Shaheed (Martyr) & Swaraj (Self-rule). On 30 December 1943, during the Japanese occupation, Bose, who was allied with the Japanese, first raised the flag of Indian independence. General Loganathan, of the Indian National Army, was Governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which had been annexed to the Provisional Government. According to Werner Gruhl: "Before leaving the islands, the Japanese rounded up and executed 750 innocents."[18] After the end of the war the islands returned to British control before becoming part of the newly independent state of India.

At the close of World War II, the British government announced its intention to abolish the penal settlement. The government proposed to employ former inmates in an initiative to develop the island's fisheries, timber, and agricultural resources. In exchange, inmates would be granted return passage to the Indian mainland, or the right to settle on the islands. The penal colony was eventually closed on 15 August 1947 when India gained independence. It has since served as a museum to the independence movement.

Recent history

In April 1998, American photographer John S Callahan organised the first surfing project in the Andamans, starting from Phuket in Thailand with the assistance of Southeast Asia Liveaboards (SEAL), a UK owned dive charter company. With a crew of international professional surfers, they crossed the Andaman Sea on the yacht Crescent and cleared formalities in Port Blair. The group proceeded to Little Andaman Island, where they spent ten days surfing several spots for the first time, including Jarawa Point near Hut Bay and the long right reef point at the southwest tip of the island, named Kumari Point. The resulting article in Surfer Magazine, "Quest for Fire" by journalist Sam George, put the Andaman Islands on the surfing map for the first time.[19] Footage of the waves of the Andaman Islands also appeared in the film Thicker than Water, shot by documentary filmmaker Jack Johnson, who later achieved worldwide fame as a popular musician. Callahan went on to make several more surfing projects in the Andamans, including a trip to the Nicobar Islands in 1999.

On 26 December 2004, the coast of the Andaman Islands was devastated by a 10-metre (33 ft) high tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which is the longest recorded earthquake, lasting for between 500 and 600 seconds.[20] Strong oral traditions in the area warned of the importance of moving inland after a quake and is credited with saving many lives. In the aftermath, more than 2,000 people were confirmed dead and more than 4,000 children were orphaned or had lost one parent. At least 40,000 residents were rendered homeless and were moved to relief camps.[21] On 11 August 2009, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck near the Andaman Islands, causing a tsunami warning to go into effect. On 30 March 2010, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck near the Andaman Islands.


Sunset Point, Andaman
This photo was taken at the beach no.3 at Haveleck in the Andaman Islands.
Chidiya Tapu, Andaman

The Andaman Archipelago is an oceanic continuation of the Burmese Arakan Yoma range in the North and of the Indonesian Archipelago in the South. It has 325 islands which cover an area of 6,408 km2 (2,474 sq mi),[22] with the Andaman Sea to the east between the islands and the coast of Burma.[7] North Andaman Island is 285 kilometres (177 mi) south of Burma, although a few smaller Burmese islands are closer, including the three Coco Islands.

The Ten Degree Channel separates the Andamans from the Nicobar Islands to the south. The highest point is located in North Andaman Island (Saddle Peak at 732 m (2,402 ft)).[22]:33

The subsoil of the Andaman islands consists essentially of Late Jurassic to Early Eocene ophiolites and sedimentary rocks (argillaceous and algal limestones), deformed by numerous deep faults and thrusts with ultramafic igneous intrusions.[23] There are at least 11 mud volcanoes on the islands.[23]

The climate is typical of tropical islands of similar latitude. It is always warm, but with sea-breezes. Rainfall is irregular, usually dry during the north-east, and very wet during the south-west, monsoons.


The Middle Andamans harbour mostly moist deciduous forests. North Andamans is characterised by the wet evergreen type, with plenty of woody climbers.

The natural vegetation of the Andamans is tropical forest, with mangroves on the coast. The rainforests are similar in composition to those of the west coast of Burma. Most of the forests are evergreen, but there are areas of deciduous forest on North Andaman, Middle Andaman, Baratang and parts of South Andaman Island. The South Andaman forests have a profuse growth of epiphytic vegetation, mostly ferns and orchids.

The Andaman forests are largely unspoiled, despite logging and the demands of the fast-growing population driven by immigration from the Indian mainland. There are protected areas on Little Andaman, Narcondam, North Andaman and South Andaman, but these are mainly aimed at preserving the coast and the marine wildlife rather than the rainforests.[24] Threats to wildlife come from introduced species including rats, dogs, cats and the elephants of Interview Island and North Andaman.


Andaman forests contain 200 or more timber producing species of trees, out of which about 30 varieties are considered to be commercial. Major commercial timber species are Gurjan (Dipterocarpus spp.) and Padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides). The following ornamental woods are noted for their pronounced grain formation:

Padauk wood is sturdier than teak and is widely used for furniture making.

There are burr wood and buttress root formations in Andaman Padauk. The largest piece of buttress known from Andaman was a dining table of 13 ft × 7 ft (4.0 m × 2.1 m). The largest piece of burr wood was again a dining table for eight.

The holy Rudraksha (Elaeocarps sphaericus) and aromatic Dhoop resin trees also are found here.


The coral reef at Havelock in Andaman

The Andaman Islands are home to a number of animals, many of them endemic.


The island's endemic mammals include

The banded pig (Sus scrofa vittatus), also known as the Andaman wild boar and once thought to be an endemic subspecies,[25] is protected by the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Sch I). The spotted deer (Axis axis), the Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak) and the sambar (Rusa unicolor) were all introduced to the Andaman islands, though the sambar did not survive.

Interview Island (the largest wildlife sanctuary in the territory) in Middle Andaman holds a population of feral elephants, which were brought in for forest work by a timber company and released when the company went bankrupt. This population has been subject to research studies.


Endemic or near endemic birds include

The islands' many caves, such as those at Chalis Ek are nesting grounds for the edible-nest swiftlet, whose nests are prized in China for bird's nest soup.[26]

Reptiles and amphibians

The islands also have a number of endemic reptiles, toads and frogs, such as the South Andaman krait (Bungarus andamanensis) and Andaman water monitor (Varanus salvator andamanensis).

There is a sanctuary 45 miles (72 km) from Havelock Island for saltwater crocodiles. Over the past 25 years there have been 24 crocodile attacks with four fatalities, including the death of American tourist Lauren Failla. The government has been criticised for failing to inform tourists of the crocodile sanctuary and danger, while simultaneously promoting tourism.[27] Crocodiles are not only found within the sanctuary, but throughout the island chain in varying densities. They are habitat restricted, so the population is stable but not large. Populations occur throughout available mangrove habitat on all major islands, including a few creeks on Havelock. The species uses the ocean as a means of travel between different rivers and estuaries, thus they are not as commonly observed in open ocean. It is best to avoid swimming near mangrove areas or the mouths of creeks; swimming in the open ocean should be safe, but it is best to have a spotter around.


Most of the tribal people in Andaman and Nicobar Islands believe in a religion that can be described as a form of monotheistic Animism. The tribal people of these islands believe that Paluga is the only deity and is responsible for everything happening on Earth.[28][29] The faith of the Andamanese teaches that Paluga resides on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands' Saddle Peak (Andaman Islands). People try to avoid any action that might displease Paluga. People belonging to this religion believe in the presence of souls, ghosts, and spirits. Interestingly, people of this religion put a lot of emphasis on dreams. They let dreams decide different courses of action in their lives.[30]

Other religions practiced in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are, in terms of size, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism.[31]


A young Onge mother with her child

As of 2011, the population of the Andaman was 343,125,[32] having grown from 50,000 in 1960. The bulk of the population originates from immigrants who came to the island since the colonial times, mainly of Bengali, Hindustani and Tamil backgrounds.[33]

Indigenous Andamanese

Main article: Andamanese people

Of the people who live in the Andaman Islands, a small minority of about 1,000 are the so-called Andamanese, the aboriginal inhabitants (adivasi) of the islands. By the 1850s when they first came into sustained contact by outside groups, there were estimated 7,000 Adamanese, divided into the following major groups:

As the numbers of settlers from the mainland increased (at first mostly prisoners and involuntary indentured labourers, later purposely recruited farmers), these indigenous people lost territory and numbers in the face of punitive expeditions by British troops, land encroachment and various epidemic diseases. Presently, there remain only approximately 400–450 indigenous Andamanese. The Jangil were soon extinct. The Great Andamanese were originally 10 distinct tribes with 5,000 people in total; most of the tribes are extinct, and the survivors, now just 52, speak mostly Hindi.[34] The Onge are reduced to less than 100 people. Only the Jarawa and Sentinelese still maintain a steadfast independence and refuse most attempts at contact; their numbers are uncertain but estimated to be in the low hundreds.

Tribes of Andaman


Port Blair is the chief community on the islands, and the administrative centre of the Union Territory. The Andaman Islands form a single administrative district within the Union Territory, the Andaman district (the Nicobar Islands were separated and established as the new Nicobar district in 1974).

Cultural references

The islands are prominently featured in Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mystery, The Sign of the Four, as well as in M. M. Kaye's Death in the Andamans. The magistrate in Lady Gregory's play Spreading the News had formerly served in the islands. Marianne Wiggins' novel, John Dollar (1989), is set on one of the islands; the characters begin an expedition from Burma to celebrate King George's birthday and after an earthquake and tsunami it becomes a grim survival story. A principal character in the book Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup is from the Andaman Islands. Kaalapani (Malayalam) and Sirai Chaalai (Tamil), a 1996 Indian film by Priyadarshan, depicts the Indian freedom struggle and the lives of prisoners in the Cellular Jail in Port Blair. Island's End is a 2011 novel by Padma Venkatraman about the training of an indigenous shaman.


The only commercial airport in the islands is Veer Savarkar International Airport in Port Blair, which has scheduled services to Kolkata, Chennai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Visakhapatnam and Bhubaneswar. The airport is under control of the Indian Navy. Only daylight operations were allowed earlier but since 2016 beginning, night flight[35] also started at Port Blair airport. A small airstrip of approximately 1000 metres is located near the Eastern shore of North Andaman near Diglipur.

Due to the length of the routes and the small number of airlines flying to the islands, fares have traditionally been relatively expensive, although cheaper for locals than visitors. Fares are high during peak seasons of spring and winter, but fares have been decreased over the time due to expansion of the civil aviation industry in India.

See also


  1. "Andaman & Nicobar Administration".
  2. Temple, R. C. Imperial Gazetteer of India Provincial Series: Andaman and Nicobar Islands (1996 ed.). New Delhi: Asian Educational Services. p. 6. ISBN 9788120608764.
  3. William Wilson Hunter; James Sutherland Cotton; Richard Burn; William Stevenson Meyer (1908). "Imperial Gazetteer of India". Great Britain India Office, Clarendon Press. ... The name has always been in historical times some form of Andaman, which more than probably represents Handuman, the Malay from Hanuman.
  4. Palanichamy, Malliya G. Suraksha Agrawal, Yong-Gang Yao, Qing-Peng Kong, Chang Sun, Faisal Khan, Tapas Kumar Chaudhuri, and Ya-Ping Zhang. 2006. Comment on "Reconstructing the Origin of Andaman Islanders. Science 311:470 (27 January 2006). Andamanese, Tamil and Malayalam are the major languages spoken here.
  5. Spencer Wells (2002). The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11532-X. ... the population of south-east Asia prior to 6000 years ago was composed largely of groups of hunter-gatherers very similar to modern Negritos ... So, both the Y-chromosome and the mtDNA paint a clear picture of a coastal leap from Africa to south-east Asia, and onward to Australia ... DNA has given us a glimpse of the voyage, which almost certainly followed a coastal route va India ...
  6. Woodbridge Bingham; Hilary Conroy; Frank William Iklé (1964). "A History of Asia". Allyn and Bacon. ... Maldives, Nicobar, and Andaman islands all were brought under the sway of its navy. In the Tamil peninsula itself Chola subdued the kingdoms of Pandya ...
  7. 1 2 Olivier Blaise. "Andaman Islands, India". PictureTank. ... Kanhoji Angre, a Maratha admiral had his base on the island in the early 18th century. From there, he attacked passing Portuguese, Dutch and English merchant vessels. Kanhoji Angre was never defeated. He died in 1729. The British established their first colony in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1789, which was abandoned in 1796 ...
  8. 'Shipwrecks and Disasters at Sea' W.H.G. Kingston. George Routledge and Sons, London. 1873.
  9. "The Rise and Fall of the Great Andamanese". Confessions of a Linguist!.
  10. "Who are heroes of Battle of Aberdeen?".
  11. sanjib. "Tribute at the Memorial of "Battle of Aberdeen" Today".
  12. "The Last Island of the Savages". American Scholar. 22 September 2000.
  13. "History of Andaman Cellular Jail". Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  14. "Kala Pani (1996)". Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  15. "Andaman Islands Political Prisoners". Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  16. "Opinion / News Analysis: Hundred years of the Andamans Cellular Jail". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 21 December 2005. Archived from the original on 11 May 2010. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  17. L, Klemen (1999–2000). "The capture of the Andaman Islands, March 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942.
  18. Werner Gruhl, Imperial Japan's World War Two, 1931–1945, Transaction Publishers, 2007 ISBN 978-0-7658-0352-8
  19. surfermag (22 July 2010). "SURFER Explores The Andaman Islands | SURFER Magazine". Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  20. Glenday, Craig (2013). Guinness Book of World Records 2014. The Jim Pattison Group. p. 015. ISBN 978-1-908843-15-9.
  21. Carl Strand; John Masek, eds. (2007). Sumatra-Andaman Islands Earthquake and Tsunami of December 26, 2004. Reston, VA: ASCE, Technical Council on Lifeline Earthquake Engineering. ISBN 9780784409510.
  22. 1 2 Planning Commission of India (2008). Andaman and Nicobar Islands Development Report. State Development Report series (illustrated ed.). Academic Foundation. ISBN 81-7188-652-3. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  23. 1 2 P.Chakrabarti, A. Nag, S. B. Dutta, S Dasgupta, N. Gupta (2006) S & T Input: Earthquake and Tsunami Effects..., page 43. Chapter 5 in S. M. Ramasamy et al. (eds.), Geomatics in Tsunami, New India Publishing. ISBN 81-89422-31-6
  24. "Andaman Islands rain forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  25. Srinivasulu, C.; Srinivasulu, B. (2012). South Asian Mammals: Their Diversity, Distribution, and Status. Springer. p. 353. ISBN 9781461434498.
  26. R. Sankaran (1998), The impact of nest collection on the Edible-nest Swiftlet in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History,Coimbatore, India.
  27. David Knowles Writer. "Crocodile Kills NJ Woman Lauren Failla Snorkeling in Indian Ocean". AOL News. Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  28. The Andaman Islanders - A. R. Radcliffe-Brown - Google Books. 14 November 2013. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  29. Encyclopaedia of Scheduled Tribes in India: In Five Volume - P. K. Mohanty - Google Boeken. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  30. "PEOPLE of Andaman and Nicobar Islands". Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  31. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  33. "Andaman & Nicobar Islands at a glance". Retrieved 14 May 2010.
  34. Anosh Malekar, "The case for a linguisitic survey," Infochange Media, 1 August 2011.
  35. Sanjib Kumar Roy, Editor, Andaman Sheekha (21 January 2016). "Maiden night flight arrives in Isles". Andaman Sheekha. Retrieved 21 January 2016.


External links

Look up andaman islands in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Andaman Islands.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/17/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.