Ancient and Medieval
Contrary to the above descriptions, accounts of the ferocity of the Andamanese seem to be propagated by Malay pirates who held sway over the surrounding seas and needed to keep looters well away from trade ships that passed between India, China and the Far East.
The Nicobar Islands are located 50 km south of Little Andaman. 13 of the 19 Nicobar Islands are inhabited by about 12,000 aboriginal tribesmen most of whom live on Car Nicobar, the northern most of the archipelago. Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is 780 miles from Calcutta, 749 miles from Chennai and120 miles from Cape Negrais in Myanmar.
More on Andamans
In the seventeenth century the islands witnessed Maratha Rule. Several futile attempts to convert the Nicobarese to Christianity were made by the French, Dutch and Danish, in the 17th and 18th centuries, when plans were abandoned in the face of repugnant diseases and a severe lack of food and water. Trading companies met with a more treacherous fate at the hands of the Nicobarese with their ships captured and their crew murdered.
Port Blair became a penal colony at the end of the nineteenth century. The Cellular Jail built over a period of 18 years from 1890 to 1908 housed thieves and smugglers but later, on the lines of Sumatra, Singapore and Penang, freedom fighters and political activists were sentenced to two decades of imprisonment on these islands, which came to be known as Kala Pani or Black Water. Made up of hundreds of tiny solitary cells it was used to confine political prisoners until 1945. During World War II the islands were occupied by the Japanese, who tortured and murdered hundreds, suspected of collaborating with the British. British forces moved back in 1945 and abolished the penal settlement.
Compiled by Puneet Sachdeva
Editor: Romola Butalia   (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.