Sometimes better known as the Laccadive Islands (particularly by English speakers), Lakshadweep comprises over 200 smaller islands and covers a total land area of only 32 square kilometres, making this Union Territory India’s smallest. Its capital city is Kavaratti. Included in this territory are three visible reefs, five submerged reefs and 12 atolls (impressive islands of coral that partially or completely surround a lagoon). Lagoons make up 4200 square kilometres of the territory. Only ten of the hundreds of islands are occupied. The smallest island is Bitra and has fewer than 300 people living on it. The Arabian Sea is known for its rich green hue, giving the Lakshadweep Union Territory a mystical beauty all its own.
Although there are not many formal records of the ancient inhabitants of the Lakshadweep Islands, it is believed that some of them were occupied by Buddhists in the 500’s CE (Common Era). The grave of Ubaidulla, an Arab saint, is on Agatti Island, and he is believed to have introduced the Islam religion to this area. When the Europeans discovered the abundance of spices and other resources on these islands, they soon set up camps and stations all around India to take advantage of these treasures. Portugal took over what is now known as Lakshadweep, primarily for the production of coir. Because of the violent way in which the Portuguese seized these islands, there was always animosity between them and the locals. Eventually, the original residents ousted the Portuguese and Tipu Sultan gained control in 1787. The British soon took over the governmental control, which was returned to India when it gained political independence in 1947. In 1956, the islands were all amalgamated into one Union Territory, Lakshadweep.
The northern island inhabitants speak Malayalam and dialects thereof, while those in the southern areas speak Mahl, which originates in the Maldives. The northern residents are believed to have been washed ashore when a trading ship sank in a storm. However, there is no formal evidence of this tale, and it remains a legend to this day. Most of the locals subscribe to the Muslim faith.
Lakshadweep is an agricultural community and its main crop is coconuts. In fact, it is the largest producer of this tropical fruit in the whole of the subcontinent. Interestingly, the soil in this part of the world produces coconuts that are particularly abundant in oil. Not only are coconuts used for their cream, milk, oil and flesh, but also for their fibrous shells, which are used for the production of coir and coir products. Tourism and fishing are other major sources of income. However, tourists need a special permit to visit the islands and should be aware that drinking alcohol is prohibited on all islands except Bangaram.
Visitors that do make their way to these spectacular island retreats should visit:
• Minicoy (home of the area’s biggest lagoon)
• Agatti (where coral reefs and coconut palms set the scene for unrivalled relaxation)
• Kadmat (great for water sports enthusiasts)
Here is goverment web site: http://lakshadweep.nic.in/
Here is tourism web site: http://www.lakshadweeptourism.com/