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 centers, veterinary facilities, cooperative societies, fair price shops, and 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.
Cultural Heritage: 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 softwood), 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.
Katchal Island was previously known as Tihanyu. Due to the remote location and lack of exposure with the rest of the world, outsiders economically exploited the innocent islanders for a long time. To stop their economic exploitation, the Government of India declared the Nicobar Islands an Aboriginal Tribal Reserve Area (ATRA) on 2 April 1957. This made the Nicobar Islands inaccessible to outsiders and currently even Indian nationals need a special tribal pass to visit the islands. Only Government Servants (outsiders) posted to Katchal Islands are allowed to stay in the Island.