Andaman's ancient history dates back to the epic era of Ramayana. The legendary Monkey God Hanuman in the epic is believed to have landed here on the way to Ravana's kingdom in Sri Lanka, while searching for Lord Rama's abducted wife, Sita. And that is perhaps the reason for the name "Andaman" which is derived from the Malay word "Handuman" or Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God.
Arab merchants, on their way to the straits of Sumatra, first reported the existence of these islands in the 9th century. The first western visitor was Marco Polo, who called it `the land of the head - hunters'. The Marathas annexed the islands in the late 17th century. In the early 18th century, the islands were the bases of Maratha admiral Kanhoji Angre, whose navy frequently captured British, Dutch and Portuguese merchant ships.
The Nicobar Islands were annexed by Britain in 1869 and were joined with the Andaman Islands to form a single administrative unit in 1872. The Andaman Islands acquired the sinister name Kala Pani (Black Water) in the 19th century when British established a panel colony (Cellular jail) here. Today this cellular jail is a major attraction for tourists visiting the territory.
During the 2nd World War, the Japanese occupied Andaman on March 21, 1942 and kept the region under their control till October 8, 1945. Initially the Japanese behaved cordially towards the locals, but became harsh and suspicious after instances came to their notice of some locals maintaining contacts with the British. As a result a large number of innocent people were killed. One such place where the massacre occurred is Humfreygunj.
The post independence history of the region is worth noting. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands together with the rest of India got freedom from the British rule on 15th August, 1947. The amendment in the Indian constitution gave Andaman and Nicobar Islands a separate status of a union territory under the Chief Commissioner who was subsequently elevated to the post of Lt. Governor. Today the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands is administered by a Lt. Governor who is nominated by the President of India.
The Bengalis were the major population group who came to the islands from East Pakistan under the rehabilitation scheme of the government of India. The permanent population now includes Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Karens from Myanmar. The islands were severely affected by the Tsunami waves in December 2004.