Port Blair ( pronunciation ) is the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a union territory of India situated in the Bay of Bengal. It is also the local administrative sub-division (tehsil) of the islands, the headquarters for the district of South Andaman, and is the territory's only notified town. It houses the headquarters of the Andaman and Nicobar Police and the Andaman and Nicobar Command, the first integrated tri-command of the armed forces of India.
It also serves as the entry point for visiting the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Port Blair is connected with mainland India by both air and sea. Though it is a 2-hour flight from mainland India to Port Blair, but it takes 3–4 days by sea to reach Chennai, Kolkata or Vishakhapatnam. Air connectivity to Port Blair is available from Chennai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Bhubaneshwar and Vishakhapatnam. All flights bound to Andaman and Nicobar Islands land at the Veer Savarkar International Airport. Sea connectivity is available from Chennai, Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam are embarked in Haddo Wharf. It is home to several museums and a major naval base INS Jarawa of the Indian Navy, along with sea and air bases of the Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Air Force. Port Blair is also famous for the historic Cellular Jail and other small islands like Ross, Viper etc. which were once home to British colonists.
All major departments of the Local and Central Government function from there.
Port Blair has been selected as one of the cities to be developed as a smart city under the Smart Cities Mission.
In 1789 the Government of Bengal established a penal colony on Chatham Island in the southeast bay of Great Andaman, named Port Blair in the honor of Archibald Blair of the East India Company. After two years, the colony moved to the northeast part of Great Andaman and was named Port Cornwallis after Admiral William Cornwallis. However, there was much disease and death in the penal colony, and the government ceased operating it in May 1796.
In 1824 Port Cornwallis was the rendezvous of the fleet carrying the army to the First Anglo-Burmese War. In the 1830s and 1840s, shipwrecked crews who landed on the Andamans were often attacked and killed by the natives, alarming the British government. In 1855, the government proposed another settlement on the islands, including a convict establishment, but the Indian Rebellion forced a delay in its construction.
However, since the rebellion provided the British with a lot of new prisoners, it made the new Andaman settlement and prison an urgent necessity. Construction began in November 1857 at the renovated Port Blair, avoiding the vicinity of a salt swamp which seemed to have been the source of many of the old colony's problems. The penal colony was originally on Viper Island. The convicts, mostly political prisoners, suffered life imprisonment at hard labor under cruel and degrading conditions. Many were hanged, while others died of disease and starvation. Between 1864 and 1867 a penal establishment was also built with convict labor on the northern side of Ross Island. These structures are now lay in ruins.
As the Indian freedom movement continued to grow in the late 19th Century, an enormous Cellular Jail was constructed between 1896 and 1906 to house Indian convicts, mostly political prisoners, in solitary confinement. The Cellular Jail is also known as Kala Pani (translated as "Black Waters"), a name given to it due to the torture and general ill-treatment towards its Indian convicts.
The airport at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar's capital, has been named Veer Savarkar International Airport. The commemorative blue plaque on India House fixed by the Historic Building and Monuments Commission for England reads "Vinayak Damodar Savarkar 1883–1966 Indian patriot and philosopher lived here."
In World War II the islands were occupied by the Japanese on 23 March 1942 without opposition from the garrison. British forces returned to the islands in October 1945.
From 1943–44 during World War II, Port Blair served as the headquarters of the Azad Hind government under Subhas Chandra Bose.
Although affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, Port Blair survived sufficiently to act as a base for relief efforts in the islands.
Port Blair has a tropical monsoon climate (Köppen climate classification Am), with little variation in average temperature and large amounts of precipitation throughout the year. All months except January, February and March receive substantial rainfall.
As of 2011 India census, Port Blair had a population of 100,608. Males constitute 52.92% (53,247) of the population and females 47.07% (47,361). Port Blair has an average literacy rate of 89.76%, higher than the national average that is 74.04%. In Port Blair, male literacy is 92.79%, and female literacy is 86.34%. 9.3% of the population is under the age of 6 years. The most common religion is Hinduism, followed by Christianity and Islam. Bengali is the most spoken language of the city, followed by Hindi and Tamil.