Lakshadweep

Lakshadweep is a group of 36 islands situated in the Arabian sea. It is the smallest union territory of India with a total surface area of 32 km².

The Lakshadweep Islands are located at a distance of 280 km to 480 km off the Kerala coast. These islands are a part of Reunion Hotspot volcanism.

The word "Lakshadweep" means Hundred Thousand Islands in Malayalam and in Sanksrit.

Since it is a union territory, it is administered by the President through an Administrator/ Lt. Governor. The current Administrator of Lakshadweep is Praful Khoda Patel.

To visit Lakshadweep Island, everyone must have a permit. It is a famous hub of tourism but foreign visitors are only permitted on the islands of Agatti, Bangaram, and Kadmat.

Basic Facts

  • Capital Kavaratti.
  • Epithets – Coral Island of India, Tropical Paradise, Cannanore Islands.
  • Districts – 1.
  • High Court – Kerala.
  • Lok Sabha Seat – 1.
  • Rajya Sabha Seat – 0.
  • Official Bird – Sooty Tern.
  • Official Fruit – Bread Fruit.
  • Official Animal – Butterfly Fish.
  • Official Languages – Malayalam.
  • Smallest Union Territory of India.
  • First Administrator – U.R. Panicker.
  • Only Airport in Lakshadweep – Agatti.
  • Union Territory located in the Arabian Sea.
  • Became Union Territory in 1956 November 1.
  • Gateway for the Lakshadweep – Agatti Island.
  • The country that lies near Lakshadweep – Maldives.
  • Union Territory with the Highest Literacy Rate in India.
  • Least Populated Union Territory of India. (64473; 2011 census)
  • Union Territory with Largest % of Scheduled Tribes in India (94.5%).

History

The earliest mentions of the Lakshadweep Islands are found in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. According to Sangam texts and local folklore, the first settlement on these islands occurred during the reign of Cheraman Perumal, the last king of the Chera dynasty.

Lakshadweep was controlled by the Hindu Chiraykkal Dynasty in the early 16th century. During this time, the Portuguese attempted to take the Amini islands forcefully but were repelled by the islanders, thereby ending the Portuguese invasion of the Lakshadweep islands.

The rule eventually slipped into the hands of the Kannur Arakkal royal family, the only Muslim dynasty of Kerala.

Due to the oppressive rule of the Arakkal family, some inhabitants of Amini island travelled to Mangalore in 1783 to see Tipu Sultan. They requested him to take over Aminidivi's administration. Tipu Sultan was given the governance of Amini following discussions since he had close amicable relations (which soured in later years) with Arakkal Beevi while the rest were controlled by the Arakkal family.

Following Tipu Sultan's defeat by the British at the Battle of Seringapatam (the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War) in 1799, the British East India Company forcefully seized the control of Amindivi and the rest of the islands from the Arakkal family.

The British enacted the Lakshadweep Regulation 1912, which curtailed the legal and commanding power of the islands' Amins or Karanis and also barred outsiders from entering the Islands.

From the colonial period, Lakshadweep islands remained as a part of the Malabar district until the 1956 state reorganisation.

It became a union territory on November 1, 1956, and was later renamed as 'Lakshadweep' in 1973 (earlier name: Laccadive Island) and Kozhikode remained its capital until 1964.

Geographical Features

The Lakshadweep islands are mainly divided into 3. They are

  1. Laccadive Islands – Kavaratti, Androth, Kalpeni, Pitti & Suheli Par.
  2. Amindivi Islands – Amini, Bitra, Chetlat, Keltan, Kadmat & Perumul Par.
  3. Minicoy Island.
The Lakshadweep Archipelago together with the Maldives and the Chagos constitutes a terrestrial ecoregion.
  • Total Area – 32.69 km².
  • No. of islands – 36.
  • No. of inhabitable islands – 10.
  • Largest Island – Androth (4.8 km²).
  • Smallest Island – Bitra. (0.1 km², Population: 225)
  • Southernmost Island – Minicoy.
  • Northernmost Island – Amindivi (Cherbaniani Reef).
  • Most Populous Island – Kavaratti.
  • Length of Coastal Line – 132 km.
  • Island Without Crows – Kavaratti.
  • The union territory which does not contain any river.
  • The union territory has the largest forest area in terms of percentage (27.10 sq km in 2019).
  • Naval base of Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy situated on the Kavaratti island – INS Dweeprakshak (commissioned: April 30, 2012).
The entire archipelago is built of coral deposits and their alignment appears to be in continuation of the Rajasthan's Aravalli Strike. It is one of the four coral reef regions in India. Hence the name "Coral Island of India." It is made up of 12 atolls (circular or horse-shoe shaped reefs), 3 reefs (including the one platform reef of Androth), 5 submerged banks, and 10 inhabited islands.

In terms of biodiversity, there are around 600 marine fish species, 296 ornamental fish species, 12 cetaceans species, 78 coral species, 114 seaweed species, 6 seagrass species, 52 crustaceans species, 2 lobster species, 48 gastropod species, 12 bivalves species, 4 sea turtle species and 101 bird species.

🔎  Remember the fish 'Abudefduf Manikfani' and the Lakshadweep Islander M. Ali  Manikfan, who won Padmasree 2021?

Pitti Island is an important nesting site for endangered sea turtles like green and hawksbill turtles as well as a variety of pelagic birds including the brown noddy, lesser crested tern, and greater crested tern. It has been designated as a bird sanctuary.

The southernmost Minicoy island is the only island in Lakshadweep that supports mangroves and salt marsh ecosystems.

Nine Degree Channel, Eight Degree Channel, Ten Degree Channel & Eleventh Degree Channel

The Nine Degree Channel is a 200 km wide channel in the Indian Ocean that separates the Island of Minicoy from the rest of the Lakshadweep Island.

It has a depth of 2597 metres and is located on the 9-degree line of Latitude, north of the equator, hence the name. A submerged bank, Investigator Bank is located in the southern region of this channel.

It is strategically significant since it connects almost all commerce shipping between Europe, the Middle East, and Western Asia, as well as South-East Asia and the Far East.

The Eight Degree Channel is the channel that lies on the 8-degree line of Latitude, north of the equator that separates the islands of Minicoy and Maldives.

It is the maritime boundary between the Maldives and India. Maliku Kandu and Māmalē Kandu Divehi are the local names of the Eight Degree Channel.

The Ten Degree Channel is 150km broad from north to south and 10km long from east to west, with a minimum depth of 7.3 metres. It lies on the 10-degree line of latitude, north of the equator.

It separates the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands from each other in the Bay of Bengal.

The Eleventh Degree Channel lies on the 11-degree line of latitude, north of the equator and it separates the Amindivi and Cannanore Islands.
  • Eight Degree Channel – separates the islands of Minicoy & Maldives.
  • Nine Degree Channel – separates the island of Minicoy from the main Lakshadweep islands.
  • Ten Degree Channel – separates the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands from each other.
  • Eleven Degree Channel – separates the Amindivi & Cannanore Islands.

Religion, Language, & Culture

According to historical records, in the 4th Hijra year of the 7th century, a shipwrecked Muslim saint named St. Ubaid Allah, the grandson of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr arrived on the shores of Amini island and converted the locals to Islam.

Later, St. Ubaid Allah died and was buried inside the Jami mosque of Andrott Island, and his burial became a sacred shrine.

There are many speculations on how Islam reached the Lakshadweep Islands. This is the most commonly accepted version.

Lakshadweep's islands are rich in traditional heritage, with music and dance heavily inspired by Islamic culture.

Lava dance of Minicoy Island is a vibrant and dynamic dance in which the dancers wear multi-coloured costumes and headgear. Kolkali and Parichakali are the two most prominent dance forms on other islands of Lakshadweep.

It is a matrilineal community influenced by Hindu traditions and caste structure. Furthermore, while the islanders have ethnic, linguistic, and cultural ties with the Malayalam-speaking people of Kerala, Lakshadweep is also heavily influenced by Arabic, Tamil, and Kannada.

The official language of the Islands is Malayalam (and Jeseri, a dialect of Malayalam) except in Minicoy island where the official language is Mahal and it is written in Divehi script.

According to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes list (Modification Orders), 1956, residents of Lakshadweep who were born on these islands, as well as both of their parents, are considered Scheduled Tribes.

Major Industries & Occupations

Fishing is the primary source of income for Islanders. The soil of the Lakshadweep is coral sandy soil underlined by limestone. The presence of Calcium carbonate makes it unsuitable for any cultivation except for coconut plantation.

So Tuna, Copra, coir, rope mat, vinegar, jaggery making are the main industries of the region. The major exports include Coconut, Fish, Jowar and Sorghum.


📝 SideNotes:

  • World's first Low-Temperature Thermal Desalination Plant (LTTD) is situated in – Kavaratti (2005).
  • Where was the headquarters of Lakshadweep before Kavaratti? Kozhikode. (Previous Year PSC Question:Welfare Officer Gr.II-Jail, 2019)



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