Lakshadweep means ‘a hundred thousand islands’ in Malayalam, the local language. However there are only 36 islands having a total area of 32 sq. kilometers. It is the tiniest Union Territory of India with 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks. Ten Islands are inhabited. They are Agatti, Amini, Andrott, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Kiltan and Minicoy.
Theories about coral atoll formation is inconclusive. However the most prominent and perhaps most accepted one is given by the Sir Charles Darwin in 1842. According to him the base of the islands below the reef is a volcanic formation over which corals settled and built fringing reefs, which transformed to barrier reefs and finally to atolls due to geological submergence of volcanic base.
According to legends, small settlements started in the islands of Amini, Kavaratti Andrott and Kalpeni first and later people from these islands moved to other islands of Agatti, Kiltan, Chetlat and Kadmat.
The advent of Islam dates back to the 7th century. St. Ubaidulla of Mecca dreamt that prophet Mohammed wanted him to go to Jeddah, take a ship from there and go to distant places. While he was sailing near these small islands, a storm wrecked his ship. Floating on a plank he was swept ashore on the island of Amini. Ubaidulla started propagating Islam in the islands.
Still 93% of the inhabitants of Lakshadweep are Muslims.
People are mostly engaged in fishing and coconut cultivation. The islands are virtually crime-free
History of Lakshadweep
Early history of Lakshadweep is unwritten. What now passes for history is based on various legends. Local traditions attribute the first settlement on these islands to the period of Cheraman Perumal, the last king of Kerala. It is believed that after his conversion to Islam, at the behest of some Arab merchants, he slipped out of his capital Cranganore, the present day Kodungallor - an old harbour town Kochi, for Mecca. When his disappearance was discovered, search parties went after him in sailing boats and left for the shores of Mecca, in search of the king from different places. It is believed that one of these sailing boats of Raja of Cannanore was struck by a fierce storm and they were shipwrecked on the island now known as Bangaram. From there they went to the nearby island of Agatti. Finally the weather improved and they returned to the mainland sighting other islands on their way. It is said that after their return another party of sailors and soldiers discovered the island of Amini and started living there. It is believed that the people sent there were Hindus. Even now unmistakable Hindu Social stratification exists in these islands despite Islam. Legends say that small settlements started in the Islands of Amini, Kavaratti, Andrott and Kalpeni first and later people from these islands moved to the other islands of Agatti, Kiltan, Chetlat and Kadmat. This legend of Cheraman Perumal is not, however, substantiated.
The advent of Islam dates back to the 7th century around the year 41 Hijra. It is universally believed that one St.Ubaidullah(r) while praying at Mecca fell asleep. He dreamt that Prophet Mohammed(s) wanted him to go to Jeddah and take a ship from there to go to distant places. Thus, he left Jeddah but after sailing for months, a storm wrecked his ship near these small Islands. Floating on a plank he was swept ashore on the island of Amini. He fell asleep there but again dreamt of the Prophet asking him to propagate Islam in that Island. Ubaidullah started doing so. But this enraged the headman of the island and he ordered his exit at once. St. Ubaidullah(r) stood firm. Meanwhile,a young woman fell in love with him. He gave her the name Hameedat Beebi and married her. This further offended the headman and he decided to kill him. It is said that the headman and his henchmen surrounded Ubaidullah(r) and his wife to kill them. At once St.Ubaidullah(r) called up on the Almighty and the people were struck blind. At this time St.Ubaidullah(r) and his wife disappeared and as soon as they left the island people regained their eye sight.From Amini St.Ubaidullah(r) arrived at Andrott where he met with similar opposition but he succeeded finally in converting the people to Islam. He next went to other islands and successfully propagated Islam and returned to Andrott where he died, and was buried. The grave of St.Ubaidullah(r) is today a sacred place. Preachers from Androttare respected deeply in far off lands like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Burma etc. It is a marabout or Mukbara.
The Arrival of the Portuguese in India again made Laccadives an important place for seafarers. It was also the beginning of years of plunder for the islands. The finely spun coir was much sought after for ships. So the Portuguese started looting island vessels. They forcibly landed at Amini to procure coir sometime in the early 16th century, but it is said that the people killed all the invaders by poisoning, ending the Portuguese invasion.
Even after the conversion of the entire islands to Islam, sovereignty remained in the hands of the Hindu Rajah of Chirakkal for some years. From the hands of the Chirakkal Raja, the Administration of the island passed on to the Muslim house of Arakkal of Cannanore around the middle of the 16th century. The Arakkal rule was oppressive and unbearable. So sometime in the year 1783 some islanders from Amini took courage and went to Tipu Sultan at Mangalore and requested him to take over the Administration of Amini group of islands. Tipu Sultan at that time was on friendly terms with Beebi of Arakkel and after deliberations, the islands of Amini group were handed over to him. Thus the islands suzerainty came to be divided as five came under the rule of Tipu Sultan and the rest continued under Arakkal house. After the battle of Seringapattom in 1799 the islands were annexed to the British East India Company and were administered from Mangalore. In 1847, a severe cyclone hit the island of Andrott and Raja of Chirakkal decided to visit the island in order to assess the damages and for distributing relief. An officer of the East India Company Sir William Robinson volunteered to accompany him. On reaching Andrott, the Rajah found it difficult to meet all the demands of the people. Sir William then offered the Rajah help in the form ofa loan. This was accepted. This arrangement continued for about four years but when the interest started mounting, the English asked the Rajah to repay them which he could not. In 1854 all the remaining islands were handed over to the East India Company for Administration. so, came the British rule.
The sequestration of the islands is a clear example of the political manipulations and methods adopted by the British for establishing their supremacy in India. Its traditional system of administration was treated by the English as something of misgovernment. But they were more interested in their own political and economic interests than the good government of the islands. Their policy was to exploit the profits from the islands through the Beebi without taking responsibility of its administration. the British later brought the Lakshadweep Regulation 1912,which confers limited power of judicial and magisterial status to Amins/Karanis of the islands. A reasonable restriction of outsiders were also brought into force by the above regulation. Nine Primary Schools and few dispensaries were started during the colonial rule in the islands.
The Union Territory was formed in 1956 and it was named Lakshadweep in 1973.
Islands of Lakshadweep
The administrative headquarter; Kavaratti is the most developed island. 52 mosques are spread out over the island including the most beautiful Ujra mosque. It has an ornately carved ceiling believed to be carved from a piece of driftwood.
The Lagoon is ideal for water sports, swimming and there are sandy beaches for sun basking. Enjoy marine life exhibits at the Marine Aquarium, and a vast collection of specimens at the Museum. View the exotic underwater world without getting yourself wet, from the glass-bottomed boats. Hire water sports crafts like Kayaks and Sailing Yachts.
Tourist Huts, white sandy beaches, colourful lagoon await you.
"Taratashi" package is ideal for a visit to Kavaratti. One can visit the island in Coral Reef Package also
Kalpeni has the largest lagoon among Lakshadweep islands. The lagoon is relatively shallow and ideal for all kinds of water sports. A peculiar feature of Kalpeni atoll is the huge storm bank of coral debris along the eastern and southeastern shoreline. The islanders are torchbearers in the field of education. It is here that girls started going to school when any formal type of education was taboo to other islanders. Kalpeni with the small islets Tilakkam, Pitti and the uninhabited Cheriyam with sparkling lagoon in between them are known for its scenic beauty. Koomel, the gently curving bay offers tourists facilities like bath huts, change rooms etc. You can swim, or engage yourself in water sports. Kayaks, SailBoats, Pedal Boats are available on hire.
Apart from regular day tourists, the island can accommodate staying tourists in four tourist cottages managed privately by the islanders. The island is part of Coral Reef package.
Southern most island of the group, Minicoy, is geographically isolated from other islands. Perhaps due to this, the culture here is a mix of Maldivian and South Indian. The language spoken is Mahl a form of Divehi, the language spoken in Maldives. It is a cousin of Indo-Persian languages whose script is written from right to left.
Minicoy, often called Women’s Island for the dominating position enjoyed by ladies in the society has a culture distinct from other islands. Here the village life has been democratic perhaps even before the words Democracy and Panchayat were known to them. It has a cluster of 10 villages each presided by a “Bodukaka”. The island has a rich tradition of performing arts. Lava dance, the most attractive among them, is performed on festive occasions. A visit to the tuna canning factory, the light house built by the British in 1885, and a long drive through dense coconut groves and winding village roads are part of the tour apart from the pleasures of one of the largest lagoons.
Traditionally the people of Minicoy are seamen working in international shipping companies. The pole and line tuna fishing was practiced here even before it was officially introduced. The men folk of the island are known for their carpentry and maritime skills and women are well known for their culinary and housekeeping skills.
The island is a part of the Coral Reef package with facilities to accommodate staying tourists as well as day tourists. A new twenty-bedded tourist resort has started functioning. The island is included in the Swaying Palms package.
Kadmat is a haven of solitude with its fine lagoon of even depth, a long stretch of shoreline ideal for swimming and well secluded tourist huts. Apart from the shallow lagoon on the west that forms an ideal spot for water sports, there is also a narrow lagoon on the east. This is the only is island in the group which has lagoon on both the sides. Thick green coconut palm leaves form a natural canopy over the whole area protecting you from sunlight.
The island has the finest diving spots in India. Considering the potential for water sports, a full-fledged Water Sports Institute and a Dive School with well-trained instructors have been set up in the island. Dive Package tours and regular staying package tours are arranged to the island. It can accommodate only 48 tourists at a time. Due to its exclusivity the island is increasingly becoming a haven for honeymooners. Kadmat is the only island apart from Bangaram and Agatti where international tourists are allowed. Visit the island in Marine Awareness programme. Special Dive packages are also arranged to the island by M/s Laccadives, Mumbai, India.
Get into one of the most beautiful lagoons from here. A virtual gateway to the islands, Agatti has the only airport in the island. A twenty-bedded tourist resort has been set up here. Unlike other islands it is the only island where one can stay as long or as short as one wishes- an advantage given by the Indian Airlines flight operated from Kochi. Uninhabited islands of Bangaram, Thinnakara, Parali-I and Parali-II are just a hop away. Land in these tiny islands and enjoy an exclusive day excursion.
Living in an uninhabited Island! The very idea unfurls several romantic thoughts. Bangaram is an island that does justice to all that romantic imaginations. This teardrop shaped piece of land is encircled by creamy sand. Even in the hottest part of the day, you won’t feel the heat as luxuriant coconut trees shade you from Sun’s rays. For a perfect outing, there are three uninhabited islands in the same atoll, Tinnakara, Parali-I and Parali-II. The deep, warm, clear waters of Indian Ocean with its myriad flora and fauna are an irresistible invitation to the scuba diving fraternity of the world. The exquisite coral formation including the black coral formations, the variety and number of coral fishes - the angel, the clown, the butterfly, the surgeon not to mention awesome -looking but harmless sharks, mantarays, sting rays moray eels and turtles make diving here an addictive experience, enough to make impressive any divers' logbook with the stamp of the Diving School at Bangaram.
A hop away from Agatti airport by a speedboat, the Bangaram Island Resort caters to high-end international tourists. This 60-bed resort is well equipped with water sports equipment and has Lakshadweep’s first Dive School.
It is a real getaway from the cacophony of crowded cities and offers a memorable escape in to isolation.
How to Reach Lakshadweep:
By Air : The nearest domestic airport, which is 11 kms away.
By Rail : The nearest railway station is Chandigarh, which is 8 kms.
By Road : Chandigarh is well connected by Govt & Private bus services. It is connected to all major cities nearby.