Located far off from the mainland of India, the residents of Andaman and Nicobar Islands barely had any source of public / social form of entertainment until the later years of the 19th century. Besides the beautiful natural surroundings and tourist spots in capital Port Blair, there was no other opportunity for the islanders to celebrate. It was in the 1980s that the Island Tourism Festival was organized for the first time by the government authorities of Andaman and Nicobar. This festival, initially named the ‘Islands on the March’ was introduced to showcase to the rest of the country the islanders’ talents through various performances with a larger aim to improve economy through tourism.
Legends behind the Island Tourism Festival, Andaman
According to records in history, it was under the leadership of Tirath Singh Oberoi, the lieutant governor of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during the 1980s that the first attempt of the ‘Islands on the March‘ was introduced. This festival started as an exhibition of the culture and heritage of the locals, held every year in the Gymkhana Ground of Port Blair, one of the most historically prominent places of India. Tirath Singh Oberoi took up this annual event as a platform to showcase not only talent but also the achievements of the island with respect to ongoing and future government projects.
The Island Tourism Festival of Andaman gives an opportunity to the tribal population of the island to come out of their shelter and perform in front of tourists from India and foreign countries. It gives an opportunity to the tourists to know about the history of these ancient tribes, their practices and the remarkable talents that they possess.
This festival of Andaman and Nicobar Island got its present name ‘Island Tourism Festival’ during the rule of Vakkom Purushottaman, the Lt. Governor of the island during the 1990s. There was also a shift of venue of the annual event from the Gymkhana Ground to the Veer Savarkar Airport. It was during this time that performances of not only local artists but also nationally celebrated performers and international troupes were showcased on the Island Tourism Festival stage.
Customs, Tradition and Cultural Importance of the Island Tourism Festival
The Island Tourism Festival, Andaman is arranged every year by the Andaman and Nicobar Administration for a minimum period of ten days during the winter months of December or January. This festival invites the tourists to watch performances of dance, music, drama and art & craft exhibitions. The rich marine life and the flora & fauna collection of the island are also promoted during the festival.
The daytime is reserved for performances of the local tribes of the island. Various competitions such as canoe race and water sports like scuba diving are also arranged by the local government authorities. There are special screenings of puppet, magic and dog shows to attract children. The culinary skills of the locals are exhibited at the lovely floating restaurants of the island.
Funding from both the government and private agencies in Andaman and Nicobar has helped to promote the Island tourism Festival in India and abroad.
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