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Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands () are a group of islands in the Bay of Bengal and a Union Territory of India.

The territory is north of Aceh in Indonesia and separated from Thailand and Burma by the Andaman Sea. It comprises two island groups, the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands, separated by the 10 N parallel, with the Andamans to the north of this latitude, and the Nicobars to the south. The Andaman Sea lies to the east and the Bay of Bengal to the west.

The territory's capital is the Andamanese town of Port Blair. The territory's population as per the 2011 Census of India was 379,944 [1] . The total land area of the territory is approximately . The capital of Nicobar Islands is Car Nicobar.


First inhabitants

The Andaman and Nicobar 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 the Middle Paleolithic.[2]

In the Andaman Islands, the various Andamanese people maintained their separated existence through the vast majority of this time, diversifying into distinct linguistic, cultural and territorial groups. By the 1850s when they first came into sustained contact by outside groups, the indigenous people of the Andamans were:

  • the Great Andamanese, who collectively represented at least 10 distinct sub-groups and languages;
  • the Jarawa;
  • the Jangil (or Rutland Jarawa);
  • the Onge; and
  • the Sentinelese (most isolated of all the groups).

In total, these people numbered somewhere around 7,000 at the time of these first encounters. 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 the effects of various epidemic diseases. The Jangil and most of the Great Andamanese groups soon became extinct; presently there remain only approximately 400 450 indigenous Andamanese, the Jarawa and Sentinelese in particular maintaining a steadfast independence and refusing most attempts at contact.

The indigenous people of the Nicobars (unrelated to the Andamanese) have a similarly isolated and lengthy association with the islands. There are two main groups:

  • the Nicobarese, or Nicobari, living throughout many of the islands; and
  • the Shompen, restricted to the hinterland of Great Nicobar.

Pre-colonial era

Rajendra Chola I (1014 to 1042 CE), one of the Tamil Chola dynasty kings, occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands to use it as a strategic naval base to launch a naval expedition against Sriwijaya Empire (a 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 'Necuverann'.

The name of the island has always been 'Andaman' and might represent Handuman, the Malay form of Hanuman.[3]

The islands provided a temporary maritime base for ships of the Marathas in the 17th century. The legendary admiral Kanhoji Angre established naval supremacy with a base in the islands and is credited with attaching those islands to India.[4][5]

Danish occupation of the Nicobar Islands

The history of organized European colonization on the islands began when the Danish settlers of the Danish East India Company arrived on Nicobar Islands on 12 December 1755. On January 1, 1756, the Nicobar Islands was made a Danish colony and renamed 'New Denmark'.[6] In December 1756, the Nicobar Islands was renamed 'Frederiks erne' (Frederiks Islands). During 1754 1756 they were administrated under the name of Frederiks erne from Tranquebar (in continental Danish India); missionaries from the Moravian Church Brethren's settlement in Tranquebar attempted a settlement on Nancowry and died in great numbers from disease; the islands were repeatedly abandoned due to outbreaks of malaria between 14 April 1759 - 19 August 1768, from 1787-1807/05, 1814 1831, 1830 1834 and finally from 1848 gradually for good.[6]

From 1 June 1778 to 1784, they were occupied by Austria, and renamed 'Theresia Islands',[6] attempting to establish a colony on the islands on the mistaken assumption that Denmark had abandoned its claims to the islands.[7] Danish involvement ended formally on 16 October 1868 when the Danish rights to the Nicobar Islands were sold to Britain,[7] which made them part of British India by 1869 when the British took possession

British colonial period

After an initial attempt to set up a colony in the islands by the British was abandoned after only a few years (1789 1796), a second attempt from 1858 proved to be more permanent. The primary purpose was to set up a penal colony for dissenters and independence fighters from the Indian subcontinent.

The British used the islands as an isolated prison for members of the Indian independence movement.

Indian control

The islands were only nominally put under the authority of the Arzi Hukumate Azad Hind of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, and the Islands were practically under Japanese control, who committed tremendous atrocities. Netaji visited the islands during the war, 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 Major Mansoor Ali Alvi, Sub. Lt. Md. Iqbal, Lt. Suba Singh and stenographer Srinivasan arrived at 8o0olLambaline Airport in Port Blair. On 21 March 1944 the Headquarters of the Civil Administration was established near the Gurudwara at Aberdeen Bazaar. On 2 October 1944, Col. Loganathan handed over the charge to Maj. Alvi and left Port Blair, never to return.[8] The islands were reoccupied by British and Indian troops of the 116th Indian Infantry Brigade on 7 October 1945, to whom the remaining Japanese garrison surrendered.

At the independence of both India (1947) and Burma (1948), the departing British announced their intention to resettle all Anglo-Indians and Anglo-Burmese on the islands to form their own nation, although this never materialized. It became part of the Indian union in 1956. It was declared a union territory on 1956.[9]

Recent history

On 26 December 2004 the coasts of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were devastated by a 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.

While newer settlers of the islands suffered the greatest casualties from the tsunami, most of the aboriginal people survived because oral traditions passed down from generations ago warned them to evacuate from large waves that follow large earthquakes.[10]


Aerial view of the Andaman Islands
Aerial view of the Andaman Islands
There are 572 islands in the territory having an area of . Of these, only 38 are permanently inhabited. The islands extends from 6 to 14 North latitudes and from 92 to 94 East longitudes. The Andamans are separated from the Nicobar group by a channel (the Ten Degree Channel) some wide. The highest point is located in North Andaman Island (Saddle Peak at ). The Andaman group has 325 islands which cover an area of while the Nicobar group has only 24 islands with an area of .[9]

The northernmost point of the Andaman and Nicobars group is away from the mouth of the Hooghly River and from Burma. The southernmost island, Great Nicobar's southernmost point, called Indira Point, lies only from Sumatra in Indonesia. The capital of the union territory, Port Blair, is located from Kolkata, from Visakhapatnam and from Chennai.[9]


Map of Andaman and Nicobar Islands with an extra detailed area around Port Blair
Map of Andaman and Nicobar Islands with an extra detailed area around Port Blair
Andaman & Nicobar Islands are blessed with a unique tropical rainforest canopy, made of a mixed flora with elements from Indian, Myanmarese, Malaysian and endemic floral strains. So far, about 2,200 varieties of plants have been recorded, out of which 200 are endemic and 1,300 do not occur in mainland India.

The South Andaman forests have a profuse growth of epiphytic vegetation, mostly ferns and orchids. The Middle Andamans harbours mostly moist deciduous forests. North Andamans is characterized by the wet evergreen type, with plenty of woody climbers. The North Nicobar Islands (including Car Nicobar and Battimalv) are marked by the complete absence of evergreen forests, while such forests form the dominant vegetation in the central and southern islands of the Nicobar group. Grasslands occur only in the Nicobars, and while deciduous forests are common in the Andamans, they are almost absent in the Nicobars. The present forest coverage is claimed to be 86.2% of the total land area.

This atypical forest coverage is made up of twelve types, namely:

  1. Giant evergreen forest
  2. Andamans tropical evergreen forest
  3. Southern hilltop tropical evergreen forest
  4. Cane brakes
  5. Wet bamboo brakes
  6. Andamans semi-evergreen forest
  7. Andamans moist deciduous forest
  8. Andamans secondary moist deciduous forest
  9. Littoral forest
  10. Mangrove forest
  11. Brackish water mixed forest
  12. Submontane hill valley swamp forest


Andaman Forest abounds in a plethora of timber species numbering 200 or more, 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:

  1. Marble Wood (Diospyros marmorata)
  2. Padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides)
  3. Silver Grey (a special formation of wood in white chuglam)
  4. Chooi (Sageraea elliptical)
  5. Kokko (Albizzia lebbeck)

Padauk being sturdier than teak is widely used for furniture making.

There are burr wood and buttress formations in Andaman Padauk. The largest piece of buttress known from Andaman was a dining table of . The largest piece of burr was again a dining table to seat eight persons at a time.

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


This tropical rain forest despite its isolation from adjacent land masses is surprisingly rich with a diversity of animal life.


About 50 varieties of forest mammals are found to occur in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Some are endemic, including the Andaman Wild Boar. Rodents are the largest group with 26 species, followed by 14 species of bat. Among the larger mammals there are two endemic varieties of wild boar, Sus scrofa andamanensis from Andaman and S. s. nicobaricus from Nicobar, which are protected by the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Sch I). The Spotted Deer Axis axis, Barking Deer and Sambar were all introduced to the Andaman District, though the Sambar did not survive. Around 1962 there was an attempt to introduce the Leopard, which was unsuccessful because of unsuitable habitat. These were ill-considered moves as exotic introductions can cause havoc to island flora and fauna. Interview island (the largest wildlife sanctuary in the ANI) in Middle Andaman holds a population of feral elephants. These elephants were brought in for forest work by a timber company, which subsequently released them when it went bankrupt. This population has been subject to research studies.


ANI has also 270 species of birds (including endemics); the Nicobar island group has a higher endemicity than the Andamans and there are a total of 14 species endemic to ANI. The State Bird of the Andamans is the Andaman Wood pigeon. Some endemic birds of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are:

  • Andaman Hawk Owl
  • Andaman Scops Owl
  • Andaman Crake (a data deficient species [IUCN 2000] endemic species
  • Andaman Coucal, subspecies of Brown Coucal endemic subspecies

Butterflies and Moths

With about 225 species, the A&N Islands house some of the larger and most spectacular butterflies of the world. Ten species are endemic to these Islands. Mount Harriet National Park is one of the richest areas of butterfly and moth diversity on these Islands.


These islands are traditionally known for their shell wealth, especially in the genera Turbo, Trochus, Murex and Nautilus. Earliest recorded commercial exploitation began during 1929. Shells are important to these islands because some like turbo, trochus & nautilus etc. are used as novelties supporting many cottage industries producing a wide range of decorative items & ornaments. Shells such as giant clam, green mussel and oyster support edible shellfishery, a few like scallop, clam, and cockle are burnt in kilns to produce edible lime.


The major languages spoken in the Andamans in numerical order are Bengali (32.6%), Hindi (25.95%), Tamil including Sri Lankan Tamils (17.84%), Nicobarese and Telugu (18.93%). Other languages include Malayalam and English.[11] More than 2,000 people belonging to the Karen tribe live in the Mayabunder tehsil of North Andaman district, almost all of whom are Christians. Despite their tribal origins, the Karen of Andamans have OBC status in the Andamans.

The majority of Andamans are Hindus, with significant Christian, Muslim and Sikh minorities.

Foreigners wishing to visit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands require a Restricted Area Permit; permits are now available on arrival at Port Blair's Veer Savarkar Airport.


In 1874, the British had placed the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in one administrative territory headed by a Chief Commissioner as its judicial administrator. On 1 August 1974, the Nicobar islands were hived off into another revenue district with district headquarters at Car Nicobar under a Deputy Commissioner. In 1982, the post of Lieutenant Governor was created who replaced the Chief Commissioner as the head of administration. Subsequently a "Pradesh council" with representatives of the people was constituted to advise the Lieutenant Governor.[9]

Administrative divisions

Andaman & Nicobar Islands are divided into 3 districts. Each districts are again sub-divided into Sub-Divisions and taluks.

North and Middle Andaman district Headquarters: Mayabunder

  • Diglipur Sub-Division
    • Diglipur taluk
  • Mayabunder Sub-Division
    • Mayabunder taluk
    • Rangat taluk

South Andaman district Headquarters: Port Blair

  • Port Blair Sub-Division
    • Port Blair taluk
    • Ferrargunj taluk
  • Little Andaman Sub-Division
    • Little Andaman taluka (Hut Bay)

Nicobar District Headquarters: Car Nicobar

  • Car Nicobar Sub-Division
    • Car Nicobar taluk
  • Nancowrie Sub-Division
    • Nancowrie taluk
    • Kamorta taluk
    • Teressa taluk
    • Katchal taluk
  • Great Nicobar Sub-Division
    • Great Nicobar taluk (Campbell Bay)
    • Little Nicobar taluk


Little Andaman Island seen by Spot satellite
Little Andaman Island seen by Spot satellite
Ross Island a couple of days before the tsunami of December 2004.


A total of of land is used for agriculture purposes. Paddy, the main food crop, is mostly cultivated in Andaman group of islands, whereas coconut and arecanut are the cash crops of Nicobar group of islands. Field crops, namely pulses, oilseeds and vegetables are grown, followed by paddy during Rabi season. Different kinds of fruits such as mango, sapota, orange, banana, papaya, pineapple and root crops are grown on hilly land owned by farmers. Spices such as pepper, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon are grown under a multi-tier cropping system. Rubber, red oil, palm and cashew are grown on a limited scale in these islands.


There are 1,374 registered small-scale, village and handicrafts units. Two units are export-oriented in the line of fish processing activity. Apart from this, there are shell and wood based handicraft units. There are also four medium sized industrial units. SSI units are engaged in the production of polythene bags, PVC conduit pipes and fittings, paints and varnished, fibre glass and mini flour mills, soft drinks and beverages, etc. Small scale and handicraft units are also engaged in shell crafts, bakery products, rice milling, furniture making, etc. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation has spread its wings in the field of tourism, fisheries, industries and industrial financing and functions as authorised agents for Alliance Air/Jet Airways.

Macro-economic trend

This is a chart of trend of gross state domestic product of Andaman and Nicobar Islands at market prices, estimated by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, with figures in millions of Indian Rupees.[12]

Year Gross State Domestic Product
1980 530
1985 1,060
1990 1,900
1995 6,750
2000 9,560
2005 13,130

Andaman and Nicobar Islands' gross state domestic product for 2004 was estimated at $354 million in current prices.

Tourist places

See also

  • Effect of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake on India
  • Andamanese languages
  • Nicobarese languages
  • Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve
  • Great Nicobar
  • Endemic birds of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands


External links

ar: bn: zh-min-nan:Andaman kap Nicobar K n-t be: be-x-old: ca:Illes Andaman i Nicobar cs:Andamany a Nikobary da:Andamanerne og Nicobarerne de:Andamanen und Nikobaren dv: et:Andamanid ja Nicobarid es:Islas Andam n y Nicobar eo:Andamanoj kaj Nikobaroj eu:Andaman eta Nicobar uharteak fa: hif:Andaman and Nicobar Islands fr: les Andaman-et-Nicobar gl:Andaman e Nicobar gu: ko: hi: hr:Andamanski i Nikobarski otoci bpy: id:Kepulauan Andaman dan Nikobar it:Andamane e Nicobare he: jv:Kapuloan Andaman lan Nikobar kn: ka: ks: la:Insulae Andamanenses et Nicobarenses lv:Andamanu un Nikobaru Salas lt:Andaman ir Nikobar salos hu:Andam n- s Nikob r-szigetek mk: ml: mr: ms:Kepulauan Andaman dan Nicobar nl:Andamanen en Nicobaren ne: ja: no:Andamanene og Nikobarene nn:Andaman yane og Nikobarane or: pnb: pl:Andamany i Nikobary pt:Andam o e Nicobar ro:Insulele Andaman i Nicobar ru: sa: - - simple:Andaman and Nicobar Islands sk:Andamany a Nikobary sl:Andamanski in Nikobarski otoki sr: sh:Andamanski i Nikobarski Otoci fi:Andamaanit ja Nikobaarit sv:Andamanerna och Nikobarerna ta: te: th: tr:Andaman ve Nikobar adalar uk: vi:Qu n o Andaman v Nicobar war:Kapuropod-an han Andaman ngan Nicobar yo:Andaman and Nicobar Islands zh: -

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