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Places to Visit - Lakshadweep

Lakshadweep, also known as the Laccadive Islands, is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 km off the coast of the South West Indian state of Kerala. The islands form the smallest Union Territory of India. The total land area is 11 sq mi or 32 km². Ten of the islands are inhabited. Lakshadweep is the northern part of the erstwhile Lakshadweepa. The islands are the northernmost among the Lakshadweep-Maldives-Chagos group of islands, which are actually the tops of a vast undersea mountain range, in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

Although the land area is extremely small, if the lagoon area of about 4200 km2. is taken into account, then with a 20,000 km2. of territorial waters and about 4 lakhs km2 (400,000 km2). of economic zone, Lakhshadweep is truly a large territory indeed.

History

The earliest references to the islands is made in Puranuru as part of the ancient Tamil (Dravidian) country, Tamilakam. Little else is known about the early history of the Lakshadweep islands. There are references to 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 41 (661 AD). His grave is located in the island of Andrott. Muslim grave stones dated to 139 (756 AD) have also been discovered here. During the 11th century, the islands came under the rule of the Late Cholas.

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 the Portuguese. 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.

Independent India

Sardar Patel is the man behind the integration of Lakshadweep Islands with the Republic of India. The inhabitants of these islands were cut off from the mainstream of the country and learnt about Indian Independence days after 15 August 1947. It was Patel who realised that Pakistan could lay claim to these islands on the grounds of Muslim majority, though the islands were nowhere near the new state of Pakistan. An Indian Navy ship was sent to Lakshadweep to hoist the national flag by Patel to thwart any attempt by Pakistan to grab the islands. Hours later, vessels belonging to the Pakistan Navy were spotted near the islands.These vessels however retreated to Karachi after seeing the Indian flag flying over the Lakshadweep.

In 1956, despite the fact that most of the Islanders were Malayalis, the States Reorganisation Act separated these islands from the mainland administrative units, forming a new union territory by combining all the islands.





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