History of the Islands

There are many stories about how the Andamans got its name. A popular one suggests that the name Andaman is derived from Handuman, the Malay word for Hanuman of the Hindu epic Ramayana. It is believed that Lord Rama wanted to use the islands as a bridge to launch an attack on Lanka where his wife, Sita, was being held. The islands are also mentioned in travel writings of famous explorers and pilgrim travellers over the centuries.

They figure in the first known world maps prepared by Ptolemy, the famous Egyptian astronomer, mathematician and geographer of the 2nd century CE and later in the writings of two Arab travellers Abu Zaid Hasan and Sulaima, as well as those of the 7th Century Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, I-Tsing In the Chola period, the Tamil seafarers referred to the islands as Timaittivu and Nakkavaram (“Land of the naked”) as mentioned in temple inscriptions in Tanjore. Marco Polo, the famous traveller from Venice, records passing these islands in 1290 CE in his book, The Travels.

Over the years, adventurers, pirates, fortune seekers and missionaries are known to have visited the islands. Amongst them are Friar Odoric, Cesare Frederici and Nicolo Conti.

The Andaman and Nicobar islands is an archipelago of 572  islands in the South East Bay of Bengal, of which only fewer than 40 are inhabited. The English East India Company visited these Islands in 1789 since they lay along the then international trade route. In 1872 the two groups of islands were linked and became part of the British administration, later to be inaugurated as a Union Territory in the Republic of India in 1956. The ethnic tribes of the islands are both Negroid and Mongoloid, but the islands are home to a secular and multi-lingual society.