History of Andaman & Nicobar Islands
The emerald green Andaman and Nicobar Islands cluster comprise 373 islands which are actually mountain peaks. The cluster or arch of islands extends over 725 km in the Bay of Bengal, starting from New Guinea, going beyond Borneo, Bali, Sumatra, bending in the north and continuing as the Great Nicobar Islands, Car Nicobar, Little Andaman, Middle and North Andaman islands. The average altitude is around 4,000 ft and there are volcanos in between.
The 5 largest islands in the cluster are the North, Central, South Andamans, Baratang and Rutland. These 5 are known as the Great Andaman group.
On the south of Great Andaman is Little Andaman. The cluster is under the control \ of the Lt-Governor. Except Car Nicobar, the other islands are hilly and overrun with forests and canopies of grape vine.
All Indians can visit the Andaman group of islands. But to visit Little Andaman and the tribal areas of Nicobar, you require a special permission from the Deputy Commissioner, A & N Islands, Port Blair/ Nicobar. However, foreigners are not allowed to go to Nicobar.
The place became the naval base of the great Maratha admiral, Kanhoji Angre in the early 18th century. He frequently crossed swords with the Europeans – the British, the Dutch and the Portugese. In 1713, he captured the yacht of the British governor of Bombay, releasing it only after obtaining a hefty ransom.
Though attacked later by a combined British/Portugese naval task force, Angre remained undefeated until his death in 1729.
The first westerners to set foot on these isles were the Danes in the mid-18th century.
In the Second Century, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were located in the maps prepared by the great Greek astronomer, mathematician and geographer, Claudius Ptolemaeus, which possibly is the earliest reference to these islands.
The early history of Nicobar is not well known although these islands were familiar to traders in ancient times, the islands being situated close to the trade route to the Far East.
Though little is known about Portuguese activities in these islands, it is evident that the Portuguese missionaries started preaching Christianity among the islanders. The Nicobarese language also reflects a few Portuguese words.
Andaman is an ancient island mentioned in the Ramayana and in the accounts of Jeri-ni and Ptolemy. Roman geol&gists in the 2nd century drew a map of the world where the cluster was mentioned as the Island of Good Fortune.
Accounts by 7th century Chinese Buddhist bhikshus mention the islands as the land of nude men. The 1050 Tanjore stone inscription of the Chola kings too calls Andaman and Nicobar by the same name. The word Andaman is derived from Angamanian mentioned by Marco Polo. However, others say, the name came from Lord Handuman or Hanuman. According to mythology, Hanu-man used the island as a stepping stone while crossing the sea to go to Sri Lanka.