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The name Andaman most likely is derived from the name of the monkey god of Hindu mythology, Hanuman. The name Nicobar probably derives from the Tamil word nakkavaram ("land of the naked").

The Andaman & Nicobar Islands remained the abode of the Negritos and the Mongoloids respectively, who occupied the Islands for centuries. These islands remained secluded from the mainland till the end of the 18th Century when people from the outside world first arrived.

The Islands have been inhabited for several thousand years, at the very least. The British first surveyed the Andaman Islands in 1789 in search of a place to establish a penal colony for offenders from British India. Such a colony was established in 1790 but was abandoned just a few years later. In the mid-19th century, concern over native attacks on shipwrecked crews and the need for a penal settlement after the (1857–58) led the British to return to the Andamans. The second settlement was basically a penal settlement, taken up in 1858, after the First War of Independence, followed by the settlement of convicts, Moplas, some criminal tribes from Central and United Provinces, refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan, Burma and Sri Lanka as well as ex-servicemen. During World War II, the Islands were occupied by the Japanese, who were regarded with ambivalence by the islanders. Some initiated guerrilla activities against them, while others regarded them as liberators from British colonialism.

The early history of Nicobar is not well known although these islands were familiar to traders in ancient times, the islands being situated close to the trade route to the Far East. Though little is known about Portuguese activities in these islands, it is evident that the Portuguese Missionaries started preaching Christianity among the Islanders. The Nicobarese language also reflects a few Portuguese words.

Following Independence in 1947, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were incorporated into the Indian Union. Since then, massive migration from the mainland has inflated the island population from only a few thousand to more than 350, 000. During this influx, tribal land rights and environmental protection were disregarded to some extent, but now local lobby groups are becoming more vocal.

The capital of the union territory, Port Blair, is located 1,255 km (780 mi) from Kolkata, 1,200 km (750 mi) from Vishakapatnam and 1,190 km (740 mi) from Chennai.[12]:33 The northernmost point of the Andaman and Nicobars group is 901 km (560 mi) away from the mouth of the Hooghly River and 190 km (120 mi) from Burma. Indira Point at 6°45'10″N and 93°49'36″E at the southern tip of the southernmost island, Great Nicobar, is the southernmost point of India and lies only 150 km (93 mi) from Sumatra in Indonesia.

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