It is not known when the first inhabitants came to Andaman, but research shows that it has been inhabited for at least several thousand years. Ptolemy, in the 2nd century first began to document their presence which was further carried on by Xuang Zang in the 7th century.
The Chinese knew of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands over a 1000 years ago and called it the ‘Yeng-t-omag’. The Andaman & Nicobar Islands also find a place in the first map of the world drawn by Ptolemy, the Roman geographer during the 2nd Century. He called it ‘Angdaman islands (Islands of good fortune). During the 6th Century I’T Sing, a Buddhistmonk, named it ‘Lo-jen – kuo’ (Land of the Naked). Two Arab travelers during the 8th Century referred to these islands as ‘Lakhabalus or Najabulus ‘(Land of the Naked). The great traveller Marco Polo called it‘Angamanian’.
This island group has seen several rulers before independence. It was annexed by the Marathas in late 17th century, who consumed vast areas of India. Later, the British used it as a penal colony mainly to detain regular criminals or freedom fighters, hence the name kalapani or “black waters” and during World War – II, the island was occupied by the Japanese. However through this vast majority of time, the various Andamanese people have been successful in maintaining their separated existence by diversifying into distinct linguistic, territorial and cultural groups.
Following independence in 1947, there are two main groups that exist in the islands:
- The Nicobari, who live throughout the many islands
- The Shompen, who are restricted to the interior of Great Nicobar
With the advent of Indian Independence on 15th August 1947, these islands were merged with the Indian main stream.