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Map of Nicobar Islands
The Nicobar Islands (Hindi: निकोबार द्वीप समूह, Tamil: நக்காவரம்) are an archipelagic island chain in the eastern Indian Oceanmarker, and are part of the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islandsmarker, Indiamarker. They are located southeast of the Indian subcontinent, separated by the Bay of Bengalmarker by about 1,300 km.

General description

The Nicobar islands are situated south of the neighboring Andaman Islandsmarker archipelago, and are located about 189 km northwest of the Indonesianmarker island of Sumatramarker. Indira Pointmarker, the southernmost point of India, is located on these islands (Great Nicobar). The Nicobars include 22 islands of various sizes, the largest being Great Nicobarmarker. The total land area of the chain is 1841 km². The highest point on the Nicobars is Mount Thuillier on Great Nicobar Island at 642 m.


The population of the islands was 42,026 in 2001. Roughly 65% of these are adivasi indigenous peoples (the Nicobarese and Shompen peoples, listed among the Scheduled Tribes of India), and 35% have ethnic origins from the Indian mainland and the island of Sri Lankamarker.

Island distribution

The islands cluster into three groups.The northern group includes
  • Car Nicobarmarker (127 km²)
  • Batti Malv (2 km²) - which is uninhabited, and a nationally-designated wildlife sanctuary

The central group includes

The southern group includes
  • Great Nicobarmarker (1045 km²)
  • Little Nicobarmarker (157 km²)
  • Kondul (4 km²)
  • Pulomilo (1 km²)
  • Meroe, Trak, Treis, Menchal, Kabra, Pigeon and Megapod - all of which are uninhabited islets, with Megapod being a designated wildlife sanctuary


The Islands are part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islandsmarker, a Union Territory of Indiamarker. The capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands territory is Port Blairmarker on South Andaman Islandmarker. The Union Territory is divided into three districts, North and Middle Andaman district, South Andaman district and Nicobar district. The Government presently requires access to the Nicobars via a special permit (Tribal Pass) and, in general, non-Indian citizens are forbidden from visiting the Nicobar Islands except Campbell Bay.



The Nicobar Islands are part of a great island arc created by the collision of the Indo-Australian Plate with Eurasia. The collision lifted the Himalayasmarker and most of the Indonesian islands, and created a long arc of highlands and islands, which includes the Arakan Yoma range of Myanmarmarker, the Andaman and Nicobar islands, and the islands off the west coast of Sumatramarker, including the Banyak Islandsmarker and Mentawai Islandsmarker.


The climate is warm and tropical, with temperatures ranging from 22 to 30°C. Rainfall is heavy due to annual monsoons and measures around 3000 to 3800 mm each year. The vegetation of the Nicobars is typically divided into the coastal mangrove forests and the interior evergreen and deciduous Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. Additionally, several islands contain extensive interior grasslands, though these are thought to result from human intervention.

The Nicobar islands are recognized as a distinct terrestrial ecoregion, the Nicobar Islands rain forests, with many endemic species.

As a result of lower sea levels during the ice ages, the Andaman Islands were linked to the Southeast Asian mainland, but it is not believed that the Nicobar islands ever had a land bridge to the continent. Lower sea levels did link the islands to one another: Great Nicobar and Little Nicobar were linked to each other, and Nancowry, Chaura, Katchall, Trinka, Camorta, and the nearby smaller islands were linked to one another as well.


The Nicobar islands are believed to have been inhabited for thousands of years. Six indigenous Nicobarese languages are spoken on the islands, which are part of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austroasiatic language family, which includes Mon, Khmer and Vietnamese languages of Southeast Asia, and the Munda languages of India. An indigenous tribe living at the southern tip of Great Nicobar, called the Shompen, may be of Mesolithic Southeast Asian origin.[60927]

The name 'Nicobar' is likely derived from the Chola dynasty name for the islands, Nakkavaram (literally, naked man in Tamil) which is inscribed on the Tanjore inscription of 1050AD.

The history of organized European colonization on the islands began with the Danish East India Company in 1754/56 when they were administrated under the name of Frederiksøerne from Tranquebarmarker (in continental Danish India); missionaries from the Moravian Church Brethren's settlement in Tranquebarmarker attempted a settlement on Nancowry and died in great numbers from disease; the islands were repeatedly abandoned due to outbreaks of malaria: 1784 - 1807/09, 1830 - 1834 and finally from 1848 gradually for good. Between 1778 and 1783, Austriamarker attempted to establish a colony on the islands on the mistaken assumption that Denmark had abandoned its claims to the islands.

Danishmarker involvement ended formally on 16 October 1868 when the Danish rights to the Nicobar Islands were sold to Britain, which made them part of British India by 1869 when the British took possession ([60928]).

The islands were occupied by Japan between 1942 and 1945. Together with the Andaman Islands, they became a union territory of India in 1950.

On 26 December 2004 the coast of the Nicobar Islands was devastated by a 10-15 m high tsunami following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquakemarker. At least 6000 people (possibly a conservative estimate) were believed to have been killed on the Andaman and Nicobar Islandsmarker during the disaster. Reports put the death toll on Katchal Island alone at 4,600. Several islands were heavily damaged with initial reports of islands broken in two or three pieces and coral reefs moved above water. Teressa Island was said to have been split into two pieces and Trinkat Island into three pieces. Some estimates said that the islands were moved as much as 100 feet (30 m) by the earthquake. Indira Pointmarker was reported beneath sea level and its lightstation and crew missing. Surveyors were dispatched as initial reports were considered unreliable.

More than two months after the disaster, no contact had been made with seven bands totalling about 150 of the 389 total Shompen.

On July 24th, 2005, a strong earthquake, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, struck the Nicobar Islands but there was no immediate report of death or destruction.

On November 10th, 2009 a strong earthquake, measuring 6.0 on the Richter Scale, struck the Nicobar Islands.

See also


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