Geography and History of Lakshadweep

A concise knowledge on the Geography and History of Lakshadweep would considerably help all those travel lovers planning a trip to the 'Tropical Paradise'. It is the smallest Union Territory of India with an area of only thirty-two square kilometers. Its global location is at 71 degree and 74 degree East Longitude and 80 degree and 12 degree 30 minute North Latitude. The whole area of Lakshadweep consists of three reefs, five underwater banks and twelve atolls.

Kavaratti is the capital of the ten inhabited Lakshadweep islands out of the total number of thirty-six islands. The Lakshadweep islands are located in the Arabian Sea, at a distance of 220 to 440 Kilometers away from Kochi- one of the coastal cities in the state of Kerala.

Previously known as Laccadives, Lakshadweep means 'a hundred thousand islands'. Historians believe that the last King of Kerala - Cheraman Perumal built his kingdom in Lakshadweep after he reached there following a shipwreck. Another version states that a Muslim saint of the seventh century managed to reach the islands after the ship he was traveling was caught in severe storm. He befriended the local people and converted them to Islam. However the area was ruled by a Hindu King, the Raja of Chirakkal. Later, the Muslim ruler - Ali Raja of Kannur ruled the area before Tipu Sultan annexed it. Still later, the British East India Company defeated Tipu to capture the Lakshadweep Islands.

History of Lakshadweep



The chronicles of the foreign travelers like Al Biruni, Abu Zayad and Marco Polo contain ample mention of the virgin green. Lakshwadeep islands that lie along the coast of Kerala. The earliest testament to the history of Lakshwadeepis the Vaylur inscription that refer to Narasimha Varman II's conquest of these islands.

Rajarajendra Chola, one of the greatest Chola monarchs too took over the islands and added them to his burgeoning territory. Apart from the powerful ancient Indian monarchs, foreigners too arrived in the picturesque and isolated islands and tried to add the islands and thereby augment their territory. The islands were apparently thoroughly explored by the British. However the first foreigner to set foot on the shores of Lakshwadeep was none other than the legendary Vasco da Gama.

The Portuguese invasion gave way to two significant episodes in the history of Lakshwadeep. Firstly, the islands became a noted hub of maritime trade. Secondly, the years of plunder, pillage, oppression and tyranny that would be a hallmark of the island's history ensued.

The Amindivi archipelago of islands comprising of Kadmat, Kiltan, Amini, Chetlat and Bitra islets were a part of Tipu Sultan's kingdom until they passed on to the British hands after the third Anglo Mysore War. Decades later, in 1956, in accordance with the States Reorganization Act, the islands were estranged from the central administrative unit of Madras Presidency's Malabar District and coalesced to form an independent union territory.

British Era

The emerald green Lakshadweep islands dot the sparkling blue waters of the Arabian Sea. The archipelago of 36 islands, although isolated records a spellbinding history. The milestone in the union territory's history however is undoubtedly the British Era in Lskshadweep. The first European to set foot on the beautiful island was the Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama who was on a mission to establish a trade liaison with India. The British, too did not fail to travel around the islands and make a quick survey. Once the Portuguese settled in the Lakshadweep islands, the atolls grew into a center of flourishing maritime trade.

Subsequently, the administration of Lakshadweep kept changing hands from the Bibi empresses an their husbands until the islands became a part of Tipu Sultan's Mysore province in the year 1783. After the grave tactical error on Tipu Sultan's part that led to the Third Anglo Mysore War of the Battle of Srirangapatnam in 1799, the Amindivi islets comprising of Kadmat, Kiltan, Amini, Chetlat and Bitra were added to South Canara District. The remaining islands were taken over by the British after their seizure from the Chirakkal Empire owing to non-payment of arrears. These islands were incorporated with the Madras Presidency's Malabar district.

The British Era in Lakshadweep saw the introduction of the Lakshadweep Regulationin the year1912 that reduced the judicial authority of the Amins or the local Chieftains of the islands. The islands were returned to the Indian subcontinent in 1947, following India's independence. The States Reorganization Act, 1956 led to the eventual formation of Lakshadweep into a Union Territory.

Vasco da Gama

India is a country where unity abounds in diversity. The chronicles of the foreign travelers testify the country's age-old history. Hugging the Kerala coastline lies a picturesque archipelago o f islands whose historical highlight was the arrival of Vasco da Gama in Lakshadweep.

Vasco da Gama's claim to fame in the Indian subcontinent rested in his being the first European sailor to set foot in India. He was born around the year 1460 to Estevao da Gama, a high-flying military personnel of those days. A part of the powerful Portuguese navy that had already assumed control over the African subcontinent, Vasco da Gama finally accepted the seeming impossible challenge of finding a trade route to India by circumnavigating around the African coast. The Middle East countries, in the meantime had already established their iron grip on trade through land with India.

Vasco da Gama thus set sail on his flotilla of four ships, at King of Portugal, John II's command. His journey was made easier by the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope by Bartholomew Diaz, merely couple of years ago. After spending a year, struggling against the cruel whims of the turbulent sea, the fleet managed to touch the Calicut coast. All this of course would not have been possible without the aid of a highly proficient Arab navigator Ahmed Ibn Majid.

The arrival of Vasco da Gama in Lakshadweep islands was a turning point in the history of Lakshadweep. The first ever-foreign encroachment in the virgin islands led to its subsequent establishment as a center of flourishing maritime trade. The chronicles of Ibn Batuta, a famous Arab traveler contain stories of da Gama's arrival in the islands, the Portuguese fort that they soon set up followed by the years of their plunder, pillage and tyranny.

Madras Presidency

The oppressive British Rule marks the history of India. Even the isolated emerald atolls that makeup the isolated Lakshadweep islands have not been spared. The ravages of the third Anglo Mysore War led to the estrangement of the Amindivi Islands and they were incorporate to the Madras Presidency.

Madras Presidency or the Madras Province was formally recognized as Presidency of Fort St. George. A part of British India's burgeoning empire, Madras Presidency comprised of almost the entire south India. Its territory included the states of Tamil Nadu , Lakshadweep Islands, the Malabar region of North Kerala, Andhra Pradesh's elongated coastline and its Rayalaseema region as well as the Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Bellary, districts of Karnataka. The total area encompassed by the princely states and other provinces of the Madras Presidency was 151,695 sq. miles. The Laccadive Islands, now known as the Lakshadweep islands that is situated along the Malabar Coast was also a part of the Madras Presidency.

After the grave tactical error on Tipu Sultan's part that led to the Third Anglo Mysore War of the Battle of Srirangapatnam in 1799, the Amindivi islets comprising of Kadmat, Kiltan, Amini, Chetlat and Bitra were added to South Canara District. The remaining islands were taken over by the British after their seizure from the Chirakkal Empire owing to non-payment of arrears. These islands were incorporated with the Madras Presidency's Malabar district.The year 1911 witnessed the division of the Madras Presidency into the following 24 districts that was a turning point in the history of Lakshadweep:
  • The Nilgiris
  • Guntur.
  • Kurnool
  • Nellore
  • Ganjam
  • Vizagapatam
  • Madurai
  • Tirunelveli
  • North Arcot
  • South Arcot,
  • Godavari
  • Coimbatore
  • Tiruchirappalli
  • Tanjore
  • Krishna
  • Cuddapah
  • South Canara
  • Malabar
  • Anantapur
  • Bellary
  • Chingleput
  • Madras
  • Salem

Third Anglo-Mysore War

The Third Anglo-Mysore War marked a milestone in the history of Lakshadweep. The war commenced between the years 1789-1792 in South India. The bone of contention between the two parties namely the Tipu Sultan's kingdom of Mysore and the British was the princely state of Travancore.

Tipu Sultan, an ally of the French Government had invaded Travancore, a part of the British empire in India in the year 1789. This lead to a tumultous battle that lasted for three grueling years and led to a horrifying defeat for Mysore. Tipu Sultan, who had depended heavily on the French aid was disappointed when the French could not provide sufficient assistance owing to the ongoing French Revolution.

The resounding defeat of Tipu Sultan's Mysore in the Third Anglo Mysore War in Lakshwadeep had a great impact on the history and polity of India. Several princely states that were under the domicile of Mysore province were estranged from it and attached to other neighboring territories.

The Marathas, the Madras Presidency and the Nizam of Hyderabad considerably profited from Mysore's substantial loss. Salem, Bellary, Malabar, and Anantapur were handed over to the Madras Presidency. The Aminidivi archipelago of islands, on of Lakshadweep's core inhabited islets comprising of Amini, Chetlat, Kadmatm Kiltan and Bitra islets were under Tipu Sultan's control came under the immediate British Rule following the Third Anglo Mysore War. They were thereby attached to the South Canara District to augment their territorial expanse.

State Reorganization Act

The present status of Lakshwadeep islands as a Union Territory belonging to the Government of India was achieved following the State Reorganization Act of 1956. The erstwhile Laccadive Islands that had an illustrious history of being ruled by former ancient Indian monarchs and the formidable Bibi empresses were also a part of the Portuguese and British colony in India.

The British regime in India proved to be the turning point in the history of Lakshadweep that changed the fate of the archipelago of 36 islands. After the disastrous consequences of the third Anglo Mysore War, the control and jurisdiction of the Laccadive Islands of Minicoy and Amindivi passed onto the hands of the British. The Amindivi Islands were added to the South Canara District of Madras Presidency while the others became a part of the erstwhile Malabar District.

After India earned its much-desired independence in 1947, the Lakshadweep islands were returned back to her territory. Then in the year 1956, in accordance with the promulgation of the States Reorganization Act the islets and atolls were all combined to collectively form a Union Territory.

The States Reorganization Act of 1956 was a landmark occasion in the administration of India's states and union territories. The act was responsible for the new formation of the India's provinces based on linguistic and semantic barriers. The amendment also modified the Indian Constitution in order to reinstate the Parts A, B, and C states with a single counterpart.

In December 1953, the then Prime Minister of independent India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru designated the responsibility of forming the Indian states and union territories solely on a linguistic basis to the States Reorganization Commission. The fruit of this commission resulted in the States Reorganization Act, 1956 that came into being as on 1st November 1956.

Geography of Lakshadweep



Topography

Lakshadweep Topography is a perfect combination of beautiful islands, coral reefs and atolls, lagoons, crystal clear seawater and the silvery sand beaches. The Lakshadweep islands are a group of thirty-six different islands out of which only ten are inhabited by people. The rest of the twenty-six ones are left isolated till now.

The total area of the Lakshadweep islands is thirty-two square kilometers. The capital of these is-lands is Kavaratti. Located in the Arabian Sea, Lakshadweep is only at a distance of two hundred and twenty kilometers to four hundred and forty kilometers from the city of Kochi, situated along the coast of the southern state of Kerala.

Apart from the thirty-six beautiful islands, the union territory of Lakshadweep also contains three reefs, twelve atolls and five banks that are submerged into the Arabian Sea. It has a tropical kind of a climate but as it is situated amidst the sea, there is always a lingering pleasantness in the atmos-phere.

It is most probably, the one and the only chain of coral island in the Indian Sub-continent. These have been formed because of the coral gathering on the volcanic crests in the Indian Ocean that have been submerged long time back.

The topography of Lakshadweep depends much on the geography and history of Lakshad-weep. The beautiful islands of Lakshadweep are also known as Emerald islands and these are quite rich in greenery and vegetation. The most commonly seen are the Green coconut palms, Kanni, Punna and Chavok.

Atolls

The beautiful islands of Lakshadweep are all coral islands and it is most probably the only example of lovely chain of coral islands in the sub-continent of India. Lakshadweep Atolls are very famous and it is for these atolls that a large number of tourists flock to the place. Atolls is a kind of coral reef, which forms the beautiful islands of Lakshadweep. Lakshadweep reefs have the distinction of being the only atolls in seas of India. The Atolls of Lakshadweep fall at a distance of around two hundred Kilometers from the western coast of the country. The Bitra is the smallest atoll of the region and lies in the northernmost direction. The southernmost atoll of the region is the Minicoy Atoll.

The significant aspect of the Lakshadweep Atolls is its high biodiversity. The areas have rich flora and fauna. Almost six hundred types of fish are found in the shallow waters of the regions. The atolls of Lakshadweep are home to thirty-six islands with a total area of thirty-two Square Kilometers. Among these islands, some are inhabited while the rest are uninhabited. Some of the inhabited islands of the area are-
  • Minicoy
  • Kalpeni
  • Andrott
  • Kiltan
  • Chetlat
  • Bitra
  • Agatti
  • Kavaratti
  • Amini
  • Kadmat
Some of the uninhabited islands, formed by the Lakshadweep Atolls are-
  • Viringili
  • Cheriyam
  • Kodithala
  • Tilakkam
  • Pitti
  • Thinnakara
  • Parali
  • Kalpitti
  • Suheli Valiya Kara
  • SuheliCheriya Kara
  • Pitti or the Birds Island
  • Bangaram
These atolls form wonderful tourist destinations subsequently making the islands of Lakshadweep, a world famous tourist destination. It attracts visitors from all corners of the world.

Climate

Fondly called the 'Tropical Paradise', the beautiful islands of Lakshadweep, experiences a tropi-cal climate.The Lakshadweep Climate has a kind of sultry weather with its summer temperature varying from twenty-two degree centigrade to thirty-five degree centigrade. During winters, the temperature ranges between twenty degree centigrade and thirty-two degree centigrade. The cli-mate of group of beautiful islands depends much on the geography of Lakshadweep.

Although the climate of Lakshadweepis a tropical one and the temperature is on the higher side, the overall atmosphere of the Lakshadweep is quite pleasing attracting many tourists. The sea breeze is very pleasant and the greeneries provide more than sufficient cool shades to make the place pleasurable. The beautiful place of Lakshadweep islands is open all the year round and wel-comes the tourists. However, the best time of the year to visit the Paradise called Lakshadweep is from the month of May to the month of September. It is the ideal time to visit the Lakshadweep, as at this time of the year, the climate is of the perfect kind and it is the right kind of weather to enjoy the clear blue sea with colorful fishes as you walk through the silver sands of the unending stretch of Lakshadweep beaches.

The travel on ship is a very popular mode of tourism in Lakshadweep. During the monsoons if you travel to Lakshadweep, you will miss it. To savor the fun of the ship-based trip on the seas around the heavenly islands of Lakshadweep, you should visit the place avoiding the rainy seasons. How-ever, the helicopter services are on all the year round for the visitors.The Lakshadweep climate in the months of October and November may experience light tempo-rary showers. Clothes that are suitable in the tropical areas would be the perfect choice for the visi-tors to carry in their travel bags.

Area

Lakshadweep is the smallest union territory in the Indian sub-continent. The whole of Lakshad-weep area is comprised of three coral reefs, five banks that are immersed under water and twelve atolls. The wonderful land of Lakshadweep has immense possibility of being a world famous tour-ist spot. Lakshadweep covers an area of thirty-two square kilometers. The Tropical Paradise, as the beauti-ful islands of Lakshadweep is lovingly called, is a group of thirty-six scattered islands. Out of these only ten islands are inhabited and the rest of the islands remain uninhabited and are yet to be explored. Kavaratti is the capital of the beautiful Lakshadweep islands.

Geographical location of the area of Lakshadweep is at 71 degree and 74-degree East Longitude and at 80 degree & 12 degree 30 minutes North Latitude.According to the census of 2001, the total population of all the islands is about 60,650. Out of this, 31,131 are males and 29,519 are females. The Population Density in Lakshadweep is around 500 to 2500 people per square kilometers. Muslims occupy majority of the area of the inhabited islands though Hindus and Christians are also part of the human community of the islands of Lakshadweep. The Lakshadweep Area has 0486 as its STD code. As registered in the census of 2001, the liter-acy rate of the area is 87.52 percent. The official language of the islands of Lakshadweep is Mala-yalam. Like the other places in the world, the geography and history of Lakshadweep influences many of the people of Lakshadweep and their culture.

Coral Islands

Lakshadweep is a group of beautiful islands that is probably the one and the only chain of coral islands in the Indian sub-continent. These coral islands have made Lakshadweep, a world famous tourist destination. The islands of 'Tropical Paradise' are all made up of corals. The Lakshadweep Coral Islands are a result of accumulation of corals on a volcanic island on the surface of the great Indian Ocean. The volcanic island was submerged into the ocean millions of years ago.

Corals are actually marine animals belonging to the class of Anthozoa. These are polyp like for-mations of sea anemone, which stay in colonies. Corals secrete calcium carbonate and form skele-ton like structures. Millions of dead corals form a coral colony, which is called reef. These reefs need some particular necessary factors required for their growth like:
  • Water
  • Plankton
  • Sunlight
  • 20° Celsius
  • Air

Coral reefs are of three types:
  • Atolls
  • Fringing reefs
  • Barrier reefs
The islands of Lakshadweep are all atoll and these enclose some stunningly beautiful shallow la-goons. The coral islands in Lakshadweep are world famous tourist destinations and attract tour-ists from all over the world. Almost all the islands of Lakshadweep are made up of atolls. These are:
  • Minicoy
  • Bitra
  • Agatti
  • Kavaratti
  • Amini
  • Kadmat
  • Kalpeni
  • Andrott
  • Kiltan
  • Chetlat
While people inhabit all the upper mentioned islands, there are other islands, which are uninhabited.
  • Viringili Cheriyam
  • Parali
  • Kalpitti
  • Suheli Valiya Kara
  • SuheliCheriya Kara
  • Pitti or the Birds Island
  • Bangaram
  • Kodithala
  • Tilakkam
  • Pitti
  • Thinnakara


Soil and Vegetation

The soil and vegetation of Lakshadweep islands are the combined result of the climate and the ge-ography of Lakshadweep. The Lakshadweep islands are located in the Arabian Sea. It is known as 'tropical Paradise' and the name suggests the climate of the Lakshadweep islands are that of a tropical one. The Lakshadweep Soil & Vegetation is very varied and a brief study about it will provide you with an overall idea about the details of the place.

The Lakshadweep Islands are all made up of coral reefs. Corals are polyp like formations of many small marine animals. Millions of dead corals form coral reefs. These are generally found in tropi-cal seas and these secrete a chemical known as calcium carbonate. The whole of Lakshadweep soil is thus, made up of limestone.

The soil of Lakshadweep is formed due to the disintegration of limestones from the corals and sedimentary rocks. The fine soil that is made up of the coral dust is silvery white in color and shimmers in a kind of supreme sensational sublimity in the beautiful Lakshadweep beaches. As you move towards the interior of the islands, the white colored soil becomes ash in color.

As the soil is rich in calcium, it is relatively fertile and a large variety of crops and other vegetation grow on the soil of Lakshadweep. The Lakshadweep vegetation constitute of the following plants:
  • Banana
  • Colocassia
  • Vazha
  • Chambu
  • Bread Fruit
  • Chakka
  • Drumstic moringakkai
  • Wild almond
  • Coconut
  • Thenga
  • Chavok
  • Punna
  • Kanni

Volcanic Islands

The numerous islands of Lakshadweep, one of the Union Territories of India is said to be formed on the volcanic formations, which dates back to the ancient times. According to the opinion of the famous English Evolutionist, Sir Charles Darwin, the present day coral islands of Lakshadweep is actually based on age old volcanic formations. With time, corals settled over those formations to form fringing reefs. Later, owing to the geological submerging of those volcanic bases, the corals settling over the volcanic formations transformed to barrier reefs. Thus, this Union Territory of the country of India can be called as a volcanic area because of its volcanic base. Due to the same reason, the different coral islands existing there now are actually volcanic islands of the territory.

Sprawling over a total area of 32 sq. kms, 36 islands of Lakshadweep are surrounded by 4200 sq. kms an area rich in different kinds of marine wealth. Each of these islands is covered by white colored coral sands. Apart from the varied flora and fauna, the transparent water bodies bordering these islands contribute to the mystical beauty of Lakshadweep. The vast blue sea gives the islands the look of an emerald. This is what makes the place famous as an eco-tourism destination.Though all of these 36 islands of Lakshadweep are blessed with the panoramic beauty of sandy beaches, coral reefs, crystal clear blue water, still they differ from each other in terms of hospitality. Some of those coral islands have been developed for adventure sports and tourism.

To name a few of the famous coral cum volcanic islands of Lakshadweep are:
  1. Agatti Island:
    Geographically located at 10° 51' N and 72° 11' E, this coral island of Lakshadweep is situated at a distance of 459 kms from Cochin. Among the other islands, this island has got a relatively hot climatic condition. The place is known for multi-colored coral fishes. Besides fishing industry, Agatti specializes in coir and copra industries. Agatti Island Beach Resort, which is open to tourists for 12 months, attracts people for the varied water sports offered by them. Those sport facilities include snorkeling, scuba diving, lagoon fishing, sail boating, speed boating and kayaking. Another major attraction is excursion done on boats with glass bottom. The island can be easily reached by water or airways.

  2. Bangaram Island:
    With its geographical location at 10° 56' N and 72° 17' E, this island is one of the un-inhabited islands of Lakshadweep. This breathtakingly beautiful island of the Indian Union Territory has got a warm weather with limited rainfall. Ranked amongst some of the world's best getaways, Bangaram Island is enclosed by a shallow lagoon and coral reefs. The beauty of the island is mainly created by the harmony of the sand and sun. Sparkling reefs with blue lagoon creates a magic. It is a place of graceful fishes, puffer fishes, porcupines, hermit crabs, seabirds and parrots. Lush greenery of the coconut groves spread over 120 acres of land. Different adventure sports like scuba diving, swimming, beach games and snorkeling are done here. Accessed solely by airways, this island houses beach cottages with a well-stocked bar and a multi-cuisine dining center.

  3. Kadmat Island:
    This large lagoon with abundant growth of corals is just a 407 kms away from Cochin. Kadmat Island attracts people for its varied water sport options on its sandy beaches. Though residents of this island are mainly involved in coir twisting, but the place is even known for its limestone. This is one of the ideal holiday destinations in India. Apart from awareness programs on under-water wealth, one can enjoy scuba diving or water sports on hired kayaks, sailing yachts, pedal boats, skiing boats, glass bottomed water vehicles while on his or her stay there.

  4. Kalpeni Island:
    This island is located at a distance of 287 kms from Cochin. Geographically located at 10o 5' N and 73o 39' E, Kalpeni Island is famous for Pitti, Tilakkam and Cheriyam, the small islets. Among them, Cheriyam is the uninhabited island situated towards its north. All of these islets are enclosed by a big shallow lagoon. Woman education in this area started from this island. One of the special features of the island includes the vast storm bank of coral debris towards its east and south eastern coast. This island even houses a Light House and a Baniyan factory. Besides the normal water sports, one can even enjoy swimming and reef-walk there.

  5. Kavaratti Island:
    With its geographical location at 10o 33' N and 72o 38' E, Kavaratti is the capital of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep. The island has got sandy sea beaches. You can explore Kavaratti Island through the water sports as well as the marina life exhibitions in the Marine Aquarium located there. This aquarium houses an extensive collection of marina life specimens. The boats with glass flooring will make you experience the under-water lives even if you are not a swimmer. Another major attraction of the island is the Dolphin Dive Center. One can hire rented sailing yachts or kayaks to enjoy water life.

  6. Minicoy Island:
    Located at 8o 17' N and 73o 4' E, Minicoy Island is the 2nd biggest island. This crescent shaped island with one of the biggest lagoons is Lakshadweep's southern most atoll. With a difference of culture from the northern islands of Lakshadweep, the inhabitants of this island earn their livelihood as seamen. Minicoy has got different villages known as "Avah". Each of these Avahs or village systems comprises of well maintained and beautifully decorated houses. Bodukaka, an elderly man from each village is elected as the head of each village and is vested with all powers for the village affairs management. People mainly speak the language of Mahi over there. This island is a hub of tuna fishing. The winding roads in between the deep coconut groves add on to the beauty of the place. Apart from visiting factory of tuna canning and old Light House dating back to 1885, one can explore the sea beaches, swim or do beach walking, kayaking, pedal boating, sailing and many more.
Some of the other volcanic islands in Lakshadweep are as follows:
  • Amini
  • Andrott
  • Bitra
  • Chetlat
  • Kiltan


Last Updated on 02 April 2013