History And Geographic Location
Earlier known as "Tihnyu", Katchal has been home of both indigenous and non-indigenous people. Katchal Island with an area of 174.4-sq-km is situated about 1,600-km away from the mainland of India. It is 300-km south of Port Blair, capital of Andamans and Nicobar Group of Islands.
Katchal is the largest island of the Central Group of Islands. It is accessible by sea and has a safe berthing place for vessels of considerable size. Katchal has fresh water resources and it has a police station, a small post office, a Telephone Exchange, a PWD Guest House, eleven school buildings comprising of modern and old structures and 805 houses with electrical connections.
It also has community health centres, veterinary facilities, cooperative societies, fair price shops, a bus service for 24-kms. The highest peak of Katchal is 835 ft. People in Katchal speak Nicobari, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Santhali (a tribal language from South Bihar) and English.
Katchal has 35 villages of which 6 villages are main villages. Each village has its own story of origin. Like the tribe of West Bay Katchal says: "There was a great flood in the ancient period. The island was submerged. Only a tall tree, 'Kam Pong' (a kind of soft wood), withstood the flood. Some worms were fortunate enough to reach the treetop and remain there until the waters had abated." According to the West Bay Katchal Tribe, the present population of Katchal evolved from the worms - a resemblance to the many of the stories of various civilizations!
Katchal And Sun
Like people of any other civilizations, indigenous people of Katchal known as 'Som Eta' were also aware of the importance of the sun. They called the Sun "Heng", an object of light ("Yango") and now also one will find sun image in their ancient worshipping places. Due to influence of Nicobari language from Car Nicobar, now they call Sun "Tavevoi". They also have a calendar and they also celebrate their traditional Calendar festivals.
Importance Of Pigs In Nicobari Society
For Nicobari tribe pig is the most important aspect of their life. In their religion, custom, festivals and Social status, the pig occupies a prominent place. In fact, tribal people of Katchal and Nicobar Islands have many mythological and folklore stories on pigs. The Katchali tribe believes that the Universe is sitting on the back of a pig.
Religion & Secular Traditions
As early history of Andaman and Nicobar Island is related with Ramayan's Hanuman, perhaps that is why tribes of Katchal do not like to kill monkeys. In ancient Katchal, a tribal priest known as 'Miluana' used to be the most powerful man who saved people from devil and evil spirits. However, tribal queen Changi of Katchal worshipped Lord Sri Krishna in a small ancient temple at West Bay Katchal and on 16th September 1966 that temple was renovated and the temple is still being maintained and looked after by her Christian children as a cultural, historical or spiritual monument made by their tribal queen mother.
Muslim influence has also been found on the islands of Andaman And Nicobar when "Minicoyans" from Laccadive Island in the Arabian Sea settled down over here but Katchal has very few Muslims. The small Muslim population has also maintained a Mosque on the island.
Economy And Future Plans
The Hills of Katchal are composed of Calcareous Sandstone and marble slates, and in the beautiful tropical forest of Katchal one will find lots of Pythons, Black Monkeys and Pigs. Katchal also has the most suitable soil for paddy cultivation, which has been found quite satisfactory, and valuable timber for commercial use is also found in the forest.
The main stay of their economy is Coconut and Arecanut trade. In 1968, rubber plantation and subsequently red oil palm plantation were established here. Citizens of Katchal want industrial development and modern infrastructure and the Millennium Sunrise movement has given them a new hope for progress. One will find TV in their homes and Disc Antennas outside their Nicobari huts. They play various sports including football and cricket as well.
Sea: Regular passenger ship services are available
to Port Blair from
Chennai , Calcutta and
Vishakhapatnam. There are several sailings every month from
Chennai and Calcutta to
Port Blair and vice-versa, and from Vishakhapatnam too there are a number
of sailings to reach this group of islands. The voyage takes about three
days and ships normally berth at Port Blair for about two days.
Air: Port Blair is connected to Chennai and Calcutta by air and flights are operated almost regularly from these cities. The journey time is approximately two hours for both the sectors.
There are PWD guesthouses available at Katchal Island, but visitors has to make reservations well in advance.
Chennai - 1190 Km
Calcutta - 1255 Km
Vishakapatnam - 1200 Km