Situated off the coast of Kerala, Lakshadweep is spread over 36 islands surrounded by 4,200 sq km of lagoon rich in marine wealth and is one of the most spectacular tropical island systems. The ecology and culture is supported by an extremely fragile ecosystem. While tourism is being promoted, a lot of importance is being given to the carrying capacity of the island to avoid pressure on ecological environment.
Lakshadweep literally means ‘a hundred thousand islands’ in Malayalam, the local language. The tiniest Union Territory has 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks. The ten inhabited islands are Agatti, Amini, Andrott, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Kiltan and Minicoy.
Though all the islands are endowed with the beauty of coral reefs, sandy beaches, unpolluted and clear water and hospitable settings, most of these differ in terms of facilities and services offered. While some islands have been promoted for diving and water sports others are meant for relaxation.
According to Sir Charles Darwin in 1842, 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.
Legend has it that small settlements started in the islands of Amini, Kavaratti Andrott and Kalpeni first and later people from these islands moved to other islands like Agatti, Kiltan, Chetlat and Kadmat. The earliest references to the islands is made in Puranuru as part of the ancient (Dravidian) country. They talk about the control of the islands by the Cheras in the Sangam literature Pathitruppaththu. A Pallava inscription of 7th century AD refers to the islands as Dveepa Laksham and lists them as part of the Pallava domain.
Local traditions and legends attribute the first settlement on these islands to the period of Cheraman Perumal, the last Chera king of Kerala. The oldest inhabited islands in the group are Amini, Kalpeni Andrott, Kavaratti and Agatti. Lakshadweep islanders were originally Hindus who later converted to Islam in the 14th century. However, recent archaeological evidence has established that Buddhist settlements also had existed in the islands as early as the 6th or 7th century. According to popular tradition, Islam was brought to Lakshadweep by an Arab named Ubaidulla in 661 AD. His grave is located in the island of Andrott. Muslim grave stones dated to 756 AD have also been discovered here.
In the 17th century, the islands came under the rule of Ali Rajahs/Arakkal Bheevi of Kannur, who received them as a gift from the Kolathiris. The Portuguese took control to exploit coir production until the islanders expelled them. The islands are also mentioned in great detail in the stories of the Arab traveller Ibn Batuta. The Amindivi group of islands (Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat and Bitra) came under the rule of Tipu Sultan in 1787. They passed to British control after the Third Anglo-Mysore War and were attached to South Canara.
The rest of the islands came under the suzerainty of the Arakkal family of Cannanore in return for a payment of annual tribute. The British took over the administration of those islands for non-payment of arrears. These islands were attached to the Malabar district of the Madras Presidency during the British Raj.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN LAKSHADWEEP
If you are on a day tour package cruise, you will get back to the ship at the end of the day. However there is accommodation for tourists who are staying at Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Minicoy Agatti and Kadmat. Tourist huts in each island occupy ideal locations on the beach itself. Each hut has one or two twin-bed bedrooms with attached baths. Bangaram also has a holiday resort.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN LAKSHADWEEP
The food in Lakshadweep is quite similar to the food of Kerala. Use of coconut is consistent in the cuisine. You can get spicy coconut rich vegetarian & non-vegetarian food and delicious curried, fried and barbecued fish.
The average minimum and maximum temperature of Lakshadweep is as given below. The best time to visit Lakshadweep is also specified.