The name Andaman
is presumed to be derived from Hanuman, who was known to the
Malays as Handuman. The early history of these islands is not
well known although these were familiar to Arab traders in ancient
times, the islands being situated close to the trade route to
the Far East. The existence of these islands was first reported
in the 9th century.
The first western visitor was Marco Polo who called it the land
of the headhunters. The islands were annexed by the Marathas
in the late 17th century. In the early, 18th century, the islands
were the base of Maratha admiral Kanhoji Angre. The British
were the first Europeans to settle in the islands when they
established a colony at Chatham Island, near Port Cornwallis
(Now Port Blair) in 1789.
It was discontinued
after seven years, but in 1858 it was reestablished to imprison
Indian freedom fighters. Initially the convicts were kept in
a jail at Viper Island, which is about 15 minutes boat ride
from Port Blair. The foundation of the infamous 'Cellular Jail'
at Port Blair was laid in 1896. The building was completed in
The British joined the Andaman and Nicobar islands in a single
administrative unit in 1872. The islands were occupied by Japanese
forces from March 21,1942 until the end of World War II in 1945,
when the British regained control of the territory. The islands
became a union territory of India when India gained independence
from British rule in 1947.
The population is made up of indigenous Negritos and settlers
from the Indian mainland, Burma and refugees from East Pakistan
& Sri Lanka. The aboriginal tribes, the Negritos, whose
culture dates back to the Paleolithic era are the real treasure
of the islands.