Geography and History Andaman and Nicobar Islands



The geography and history of Andaman and Nicobar Islands states that Andaman and Nicobar is one of the seven union territories of India, which was infamous as the 'Kalapani' during the British rule in India. The geography and history of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is a rich source of information on the the location, demography and the rich past of the Island.

The geography, constituting the first element of geography and history in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, maintains that Andaman and Nicobar is a conglomeration of about 570 islands, with Port Blair as their capital.

A brief estimate of the geography of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is as follows:
  • Area - 8249 square kilometers.
  • Area of Andaman district - 6498 square kilometers.
  • Area of Nicobar district - 1841 square kilometers.
  • Latitude - 6° to 14° North.
  • Longitude - 92° to 94° East.
  • Height - Sea level to 732 meters.
  • Highest point - Saddle peak (732 meters) and Mount Thullier (642 meters).
  • Districts - 2.
  • Climate - Tropical.
  • Temperature - 31° C (maximum) and 23° C (minimum).
  • Forest area - 92%
  • Demography - 280,661 (1991 census).
  • Ethnic races - Onge, Sentinelese, Jarawa and Andamanes of the Negroid origin, and Shompen and Nicobarese of Mongoloid descent.
  • Languages - Nicobarese, Malayalam, Telegu, Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, etc.

The history of Andaman and Nicobar Islands suggests that the island was a covered with a tribal population until 1789. In 1789, the East India Company established a settlement in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, but was soon vacated in 1796.

It was in 1857, during the first war of Indian Independence that the island was used as a penal colony, which was known as 'Kalapani'. The convicts charged against some criminal offense against the East India Company was sent to Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Moreover, during the Second World War, the island was recaptured by the Britishers who continued their administration in the islands till 1947, the year when India got its independence.

In fact, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands' geography and history is a rich store house that enfolds the topography and rich past of the Island.

Topography

Andaman and Nicobar Island topography shows a typical character, with the presence of a number of islands in a long and broken chain. The topography of Andaman and Nicobar Islands appears to be a north-south arc, situated between the 16° and 14° latitude, and 92° and 94° East longitude.

The topography of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is, geologically, a part of land mass of South-east Asia, including Malaysia, North-east India, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands contains a group of 3000 islands, which includes both islands and islets in the archipelago. Ritchie Archipelago and Labyrinth Islands are the two important islets in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The topography in Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprises of a long range of hills with evergreen forests. The islands holds a series of ridges and mountains, with moderate elevation and slopes: flat lands are sparse in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

A snap-shot at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands topography is as follows:
  • Altitude:
    • Saddle Peak (Andaman Islands)-732 meters.
    • Mount Thullier (Nicobar Islands)-642 meters.
  • Length and Breadth of the Andaman Islands:
    • Length-467 kilometers.
    • Width-52 kilometers.
  • Length and Breath of the Nicobar Islands:
    • Length-259 kilometers.
    • Width-58 kilometers.
  • Biggest Island:
    • Middle Andaman Islands (Andaman group)-1536 square kilometers.
    • Great Nicobar Islands (Nicobar group)-1045 square kilometers.
  • Smallest Island:
    • Ross Island (Andaman)-0.8 square kilometers.
    • Pilomillow Island (Nicobar)-1.3 square kilometers.
The topography at Andaman and Nicobar Islands maintains that the Islands comprises of North Andaman, Middle Andaman, South Andaman and Little Andaman in the Andaman group of islands, and Great Nicobar, Car Nicobar, Nancowry, Katchal and Chowra in the Nicobar group of islands.

Area

Andaman and Nicobar Islands area is 8249 square kilometers. The area of Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprises of the islands such as North Andaman, Middle Andaman, South Andaman, Baratang, Little Andaman and Car Nicobar.

The area at Andaman and Nicobar Islands houses two distinct groups of islands, viz. Andaman and Nicobar. The area in Andaman and Nicobar contains about 3000 islands, including islets and rocks in the archipelago. The area of Andaman and Nicobar Islands includes Landfall islands in the north; whereas in the south, the area extends up to Great Nicobar.

A short estimate on the area of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is as follows:
  • Total area - 8249 square kilometers
  • Area of Nicobar district - 1841 square kilometers
  • Area of Andaman district - 6408 square kilometers
  • Area of the rural regions - 8232.36
  • Area of the urban regions - 16.64

Moreover, the area of Andaman and Nicobar Islands comprises of a variety of beaches, picnic spots, monument, islands, museums, etc :
  • Beaches:
    • Harminder Bay Beach,
    • Ramnagar Beach,
    • Radhanagar Beach,
    • Corbyn's Cove abd Chirya Tapu,
    • Karmatang Beach, etc.
  • Islands:
    • Red Skin Island,
    • Cinque Island,
    • Havelock Island,
    • Ross Island,
    • Jolly Buoy,
    • Barren Island, etc.
  • Picnic Spots:
    • Corbyn's Cove Tourism Complex,
    • Mount Harriet,
    • Chidiya Tapu, etc.
  • Monument:
    • Cellular Jail.
  • Museums:
    • Anthropological Museum,
    • National Memorial,
    • Fisheries Museum, etc.
Thus, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands areacomprises the entire domain that falls under the jurisdiction of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Soil and Vegetation

Andaman and Nicobar Islands soil and vegetation is favorable for tropical evergreen forest and semi-evergreen forests; in some regions, the soil and vegetation of Andaman and Nicobar Islands also supports tropical monsoon

Andaman and Nicobar Islands experiences a tropical climate, without any extremes except for the rains and thunder storms. Rainfall is common in the Islands, and is generally divided into two phases: May to mid September and November to mid December. Thus, the climate of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is highly favorable for the evergreen forest.

Moreover, it can be said that the soil and vegetation of any place is connect to each other. Therefore, the soil and vegetation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is complementary to each other. The soil and vegetation at Andaman and Nicobar Islands supports the growth of epiphytic vegetation (plants that grow on other plants). In fact, the vegetation of Andaman and Nicobar Islands mostly comprise of ferns and orchids. The soil and vegetation of South Andaman is favorable for growing epiphytic plants.

The vegetation of Middle Andaman mostly includes moist deciduous forests. The monsoon rains of Andaman and Nicobar Islands largely supports the deciduous type of vegetation in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Further, the vegetation of North Andaman is characterized by wood climbers: the type of vegetation found here is moist evergreen type. In Nicobar islands, the vegetation is devoid of evergreen forests. In fact, the Nicobar islands are characterized by grasslands. The vegetation of Nicobar islands is, further, marked the absence of deciduous forests.

Another aspect of vegetation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is that throughout the length and breadth of the islands, the coastline is dotted with coconut trees. The entire fringe of the island is outlined with coconut trees.

Therefore, Andaman and Nicobar Islands soil and vegetation shows a distinct pattern with the prevalence of evergreen and deciduous forests in some areas, and grassland in some others.

British Regime

The British regime in Andaman and Nicobar Islands had a great impact during the 19th century. It was in the 19th century that the East India Company established a Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Island.

The British regime of Andaman and Nicobar Islands falls under the modern history of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which began in 1788. In 1788, Lord Cornwallis, the governor-general of India, sent Lieutenant Archibald Blair and Lieutenant R. H. Colebrook to find the suitability of the island for housing the British Colony. On the recommendation of these two officers of the British regime in Andaman and Nicobar Islands that the first settlements were established on Chattam Islands, a small island near Port Cornwallis.

But after 1857, the British regime at Andaman and Nicobar Islands founded a penal settlement in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The prison, which came to be known as Cellular Jail or 'Kalapani', was established with an intension to house the criminals, especially the rebels, charges against disloyalty towards the British Regime. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the British regime founded the first prison at Viper island, housing nearly 200 prisoners.

During this time, thousands of people were brought to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, who led to live of exile. The prisoner brought in the Cellular Jail were kept under successive Superintendents, who tortured them gruesomely. The prisoners were made to suffer dire consequences for their revolt against the British Government.

Japanese Regime

The Second World War introduced the Japanese regime in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. On March 21, 1942, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands went under the Japanese regime.

In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Japanese regime remained in power from March, 1942 till October, 1945. The Japanese regime in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands maintained an amicable relationship with the aborigines at the initial level. In the years, succeeding their supremacy over the Islands, the Japanese regime at Andaman and Nicobar Islands had sympathy for the natives of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; but, the scenario changed shortly.

With the passage of time, the Japanese regime of Andaman and Nicobar Islands became harsh and lost sympathy for them. This gave rise to series of revolt in the island territory. Situation was rendered worse when the Japanese regime became suspicious of the natives: the aborigines took this as a form of insult towards them, and so started rebellion against the erstwhile government.

The Japanese suspected the natives to have relation with the British, and so they tried to nip the problem in the bud. As a result, a fierce combat took place between the Japanese regime in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Many innocent people of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were killed in the combat: the Humfreygunj massacre is one such combat, which saw the death of many people.

But, the Japanese regime has also played a great role in making the natives of Andaman and Nicobar Islands self-sufficient. It was the Japanese regime that taught the aborigines of the Islands to grow crops and to use more and more land for cultivation. Moreover, the Japanese regime also constructed roads in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Thus, it can be said that the Japanese regime in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, played a great role in paving the way for a bright future.

The post independence period in Andaman and Nicobar Islands

The post independence period in Andaman and Nicobar Islands started with the end of the British Rule in India. It was on the 15th August, 1947 that India got its Independence and it is after this period that the post Independence period started in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the post independence period marks the settlement of the Bengali community in the Islands. After the Independence, the Bengalis came to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on the rehabilitation scheme of the Government of India. The rehabilitation program initiated by the Indian Government in 1949 continued till 1970s. During the post independence period of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a number of Bengalis settled in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

However, it is noteworthy that most of the Bengalis who came to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands hailed from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The post Independence period was a period of social turmoil in East Pakistan; therefore, many Bengalis belonging to East Pakistan headed towards Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The post independence period at Andaman and Nicobar Islands saw the rehabilitation of the Bengali community being distributed in the different parts of the Andaman Islands, viz. Middle, north and south. In the Nicobar Islands, settlers include ex-service who rehabilitated in the Islands according to the rules and regulations of the District Soldier, Sailor, Airmen Board.

These ex-servicemen settled in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in 1969. Besides the Bengalis, many other communities of India also settled in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands: these communities include Tamilians, Marathis, Malayalis and Punjabis.

The post independence period in Andaman and Nicobar islands witnessed the enactment of a new legislation under a Chief Commissioner, who is nominated by the President of India. Further, on 12th November, 1982, the post of the Chief Commissioner was raised to the rank of Lieutenant Governor.



Last Updated on: 2nd April 2013