History of Lakshadweep

The chronicles of the foreign travellers like Al Biruni, Abu Zayad and Marco Polo contain ample mention of the virgin green. Lakshwadeep islands lie along the coast of Kerala. The earliest testament to the history of Lakshwadeep is the Vaylur inscription that refers 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 and 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 Regulation in 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 travellers testify the country's age-old history. Hugging the Kerala coastline lie a picturesque archipelago of 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 the islands. 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 Island 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 led to a tumultuous battle that lasted for three grueling years and 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 neighbouring 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.

States Reorganization Act

The present status of Lakshwadeep islands as a union territory belonging to the government of India was achieved following the States 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 1 November 1956.

Last Updated on : December 2, 2014