Andaman & Nicobar Islands -History at a glance || Blog

Andaman & Nicobar Islands -History at a glance

Andaman Vacations, 28 Jan 2020


The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a group of islands at the junction of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, is a Union Territory of India. The Islands comprise two groups, the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands, separated by the 10° N parallel, with the Andamans to the North of this latitude and Nicobar to the South. Of the 572 islands, only 37 are inhabited.


The Andaman and Nicobar island groups have been known from earliest times as they are located on the trade routes from India to East Asia, The 7th-century Chinese Buddhist monk I-ching, the Arab travelers of the 9th century, and Marco Polo (c. 1254–1324) are among those who have mentioned the islands. The name Andaman most likely is derived from the name of the god of Hindu mythology, Hanuman. The name Nicobar probably derives from the Tamil word nakkavaram (“land of the naked”).

Pre-Colonial Era

Rajendra Chola I (1014 to 1042), one of the Tamil Chola dynasty kings, used these Islands as a strategic naval base to launch a naval expedition against the Sriwijaya Empire, a Hindu-Malay empire based in Sumatra, Indonesia.

The Islands also provided a temporary maritime base for Maratha ships in the 17th century. The legendary chief of the Maratha Navy in 18th century India, Admiral Kanhoji Angre, who established naval supremacy with a base there, is credited with making the Islands a part of India.

Colonial Period

Organized European colonization on the islands began when settlers from the Danish East India Company arrived in the Nicobar Islands on 12 December 1755. On 1 January 1756, the Nicobar Islands were made a Danish colony, first named New Denmark,  and later Frederick's Islands. The Islands were administrated from Tranquebar (in continental Danish India). The islands were repeatedly abandoned due to outbreaks of malaria and from 1848 gradually for good.

From 1 June 1778 to 1784, Austria mistakenly assumed that Denmark had abandoned its claims to the Nicobar Islands and attempted to establish a colony on them, renaming them Theresia Islands.

The British first surveyed the Andaman Islands in 1789 as they wished to establish a penal colony for offenders from British India. Such a colony was established in 1790 but was abandoned just a few years later. In 1858 the British again established a colony at Port Blair, which proved to be more permanent. The primary purpose was to set up a penal colony for criminal convicts from the Indian subcontinent. The colony came to include the infamous Cellular Jail.

Meanwhile, the Danish, who had been the claimants of the Nicobar Islands—the ownership of which had since the 17th century shifted variously between France, Denmark, Austria, and Great Britain—relinquished their rights to the territory to the British in 1868. Which thus made them part of British India in 1869.

In 1872 the Andaman and Nicobar islands were united under a single chief commissioner at Port Blair.

World War II

During World War II, Japanese forces occupied both the Andaman and Nicobar island groups from 1942 to 1945. The islands were practically under Japanese control, only nominally under the authority of the Indian National Army (INA) Azad Hind Fauj of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. The Islands were re-occupied by British and Indian troops in October 1945 to whom the remaining Japanese garrison surrendered. Evidence of British and Japanese occupation exists even today.

After the British recaptured the islands, the penal colony in the Andamans was abolished. Administration of the Andamans and Nicobars was passed to India when it gained independence in 1947. At the independence of both India (1947) and Burma (1948) (now Myanmar), 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. (during World War II); The Islands became a part of the Indian Union in 1950 and were declared a Union Territory in 1956.

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