Places to Visit in Lakshadweep Islands Tourist Places List India
Lakshadweep is also known as Lactative Islands. It is a group of islands in the Laccadive sea. It is about 220 to 440 km off the coast of the South West Indian state of Kerala. Of the 36 islands covering an area of 32 sq km only 11 islands are inhabited. The total number of districts in Lakshadweep is 1. It is located in the Arabian Sea.
None of the islands is more than 2km width. Chettlatt is the northernmost island while Minicoy close to the Maldives in the Indian Ocean is the southernmost iland. Lakshadwep and Cochin are linked by ship, which takes about 18 to 20 hours and by flight, which take 90 minutes.
Lakshadwep and Andaman are the similar islands. This group of Lakshatweep ilands are endowed with the beauty of coral reef, sandy beaches, unpolluted and clear water and hospitable settings, most of these differ in terms of facilities and services offered.
About Lakshadweep City in India
About Lakshadweep means a hundred thousand islands in Malayalam, the local language. It is a union territory of India the tiniest and has the country’s one of the coral ilands. It also known as the Lccadives, Amindivi and Minicoy Islands till 1st November , 1974. However there are only 36 island having a total area of 32 sq kilometres. Lakshadwep are the northern most among the Lakshadwep-Maldives-Chagos group of iland, which are actually the tops of a vast undersea (submerged) mountain range, in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.
One islet, three reefs and six vast submerged lied between 8˚ and 12˚31˚ north latitude and 70˚ and 74˚ east longitude. Within 500 kilometer square box of deep blue water of the Arabian Sea, this group of coral islands, reefs and submerged sandbanks is the crown of a chain running more than 15,000 kilometers to the south of the equator to Chagos and even beyond through Seychelles to as far as Madagascar, deep in the Indian Ocean 25˚ south latitude of this island is situated.
Administrator : Shri. Praful Patel
Lakshadweep Tourism Information in India
Perhaps the charm of ilands lies in their remoteness. Far off the beaten track, they attract no hordes of merry markers to their shores. Or perhaps it is the beauty of the ilands densely covered with coconut palms, and threaded by an unbroken line of creamy sand; each island serenely set in a sea whose waters range from palest aquamarine and turquoise to deepest sapphire and lapis lazuli. Yet again, may be the unique charm of this island lies in the fact that each island, a tiny principality in itself, has existed from time immemorial, with little influence from the outside world. Though all the ilands are endowed with the beauty of coral reef, sandy beaches, unpolluted and clear water and hospitable settings, most of these differ in terms of facilities and services offered. Some islands have been promoted for diving and water sports still others have been developed so that people enjoy the charm of relaxation and natural enjoyment. Since the land is precious and scare it is avowed policy of the administration to relieve pressure of land and promote water based tourism. The motto being admires and not exploits that natural beauty.
The flora of the Lekahadwep includes banana, colocasia, drumstick, bread-fruit, and wild almond. Coconut is the only crop of economic importance in Lekshadeep. Cattle and poultry are commonly seen. Oceanic birds are also generally found in one of the uninhabited islands known as ‘Pitti’. Pitti has been declared as a bird sanctuary.
Lakshadwep administration has taken a holistic view of tourism development. It promotes tourism as a composite package, comprising accommodation, transportation from and to main land by ship air, catering facilities, recreational facilities, water sports, scuba diving, boating, wind surfing etc. These are the well features about Lakshatweep Union territory.
Scuba Diving in Lakshadwep India
Scuba Diving facilities of these two iland, Bangaram iland and Agatti are being managed by private agencies. Private divers also run the scuba diving school at Kadmat. Scuba diving is one of the famous water sports in Lakshadwep. It offers an ideal and mesmerizing view to watch the colorful corals and fish in crystal clear water.
The thrust is on promoting ship based tourism for Indian nationals at fordable rates and the local Administration’s efforts in the regard has met with great success. As the ship cannot enter the lagoon, the passengers are transferred on small boats and brought to the ilands jetty.
It comprises twelve atolls, three reefs and five submerged banks, with a total of about thirty-six ilands and islets. The reefs are in fact also atolls, although mostly submerged, with only small unvegetated sand cays above the high water mark. The submerged banks are sunken atolls. Almost all the atolls have a northeast-southwest orientation with the ilands lying on the eastern rim, and a mostly submerged reef on the western rim, enclosing a lagoon. The main ilands are Kavaratti (where the capital city, Kavaratti, is located), Agatti, Minicoy, and Amini. The total population of the territory was 60,595 according to the 2001 census. Agatti has an airport where there are direct flights from Kochi, Kerala or Ernakulam (Cochin).
Permit And Other Information
Tourists need a permit to visit the Lakshadwep; foreign nationals are not permitted to visit certain ilands. Consumption of alcohol is not permitted in the islands except on Bangaram.
Coconut cultivation and fishing are the chief occupations of the people. Boat building was once an important skill. Sadly, after the advent of motorized boats, this has reduced considerably.
However, majestic wooden boats anchored along the shore stand silent testimony to a fragment of the past. Boats were built for fishing, for navigation from one end of the island to another for inter island communication, for transporting coconuts and dried fish to the mainland and returning with food supplies, as well as for friendly competitive race. Each boat was built differently, according to its function and every island has its own slight variation in design. The people are often commended for their honesty. Absence of crime in the island is laudable.
The people of Lekshadweep are descendants of persons who left the Kerala coast many centuries ago and settled on these lovely ilands. On the Minicoy island, however, the people are more similar in appearance to the people of Maldivies and through them to the sinhales of Sri Lanka.
Lekshadwep were colonized by the Hindus from Kerala in the 6th century. The islanders were converted by Islam by the Arab saint Hazrat Ubvaidulla in the 8th century. For a long time, Lakshadwep remained in the hands of King Chirakkal and subsequently Ali Raja, the head of the Muslim House of Arakkal of Kannur in Kerala.
On November 1, 1956, the ilands were formed into a Union Territory, renamed as Lekshadweep in November 1973. An Administrator was appointed with headquarters located at Kavaratti island. Lakshadwep has a population of about 52000. Malayalam is the spoken language. Arabic is used for writing. English is well understood. Coconut is the only major crop of these ilands. Fishinging is another major activity of the people. Corals and shells are also a source of income. Cowrie and shells of exotic colours are available in plenty.
Lakshadweep Trip in English
Lakshadwep Trip relaxes the rules to enter into these ilands, It is becoming a more popular tourist attraction both for foreign and domestic persons because of its numerous lagoons and palm fringed beaches. Only a few islands are open to tourism. Lekahadwep with shallow lagoons are ideal for a quiet holiday by the sea. The ilands lies one beyond the other, threaded by an almost continuous line of silver sand beaches fringed by dense rows of coconut palms.
Most of the Places have lagoons on their western coast. The lagoons are enclosed by coral reefs. These calm and clear stretches of water are ideal for swimming, sun bathing and other water sports. They are rich in marine life, especially ornamental fish.
The lagoon are excellent for wind surfing also. No equipment is available here. Tourist can take the boards easily on MV Tippu Sultan or MV Bharat Seema, which ply from Kochi to Lekshadwep. One can do surfing from one island to another. It is best to go out during high tide in a lagoon as the coral formations can be comfortably close to the surface during low tide. scuba diving is another attraction on these ilands to discover fascinating corals and coloured fishes. These are the well important places in Lakshadwep.
Food in Lakshadwep
Spiced coconut-rich Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian food. Curried, fried and barbecued fish.
Lakshadwep Tourism Season
Lakshadwep tourist season is October to May for the ship based tour packages. Agatti and Bangaram may be visited throughout the year.
About Lakshadweep Important Places List
Kavaratti is the administrative capital of the Lakshadwep group and is a well developed island. Out of the 52 mosques built here, the Ujra Mosque is considered most beautiful. The ornately carved ceiling mosque of this mosque is supposed to have been made from drift wood. An aquarium with a variety of fish and beautiful coral formations are the added attractions. A sacred well located in the Ujra Masque is believed to have water possessing medicinal and therapeutic value. Kavaratti is one of the important places to visit in Lakshadwep.
Kalpeni is surrounded by three uninhabited ilands known as Koomel, Pitti and Tilakam. Facilities for tourists are available at Koomel which is a curved bay overlooking Pitti and Tilakam. A trip by the glass bottomed boat will reveal the fascinating world of colourful fish and beautiful coral formations in the lagoon.
Kadmath has an abundance of coconut palms and a fine lagoon ideal for swimming and exploring under water. Sun bathing is a popular pastime besides discovery of fascinating colour and fish. A school has been opened here to train enthusiasts in Scuba diving. Kadmath is best place to visit.
Minicoy is one of the important place in Lakshadwep, India. The chief attraction of the Minicoy is the hundred year old light house built by the Britishers. Visitors are permitted to climb to the top and have good view of the surroundings. One of the largest lagoon is in this group of islands. This is a unique place with inhabitants of different type and culture. Their language is called Mahi. This island has an endearing dance known as Lava which is performed only by men. Making handicrafts of wood and boat building are the chief occupations of the inhabitants of the iland.
Lakshadwep which is also uninhabited, is open to international tourists. A resort has been developed with small huts to provide accommodation. There are lagoons here also. Visitors can watch the changing colours and shades of water in the lagoon and moods of the sky at different times of the day.
Things not to do
Consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited in all islands except Bangaram. Picking up Corals is a punishable crime.
How to reach Lakshadweep India
How to reach by flight
Regular flights are available in Cochin. It connects Lakshadwep with Agati island. It is the closest Airport to this group of iland.
How to reach by ship?
Regular trips by ships are also operated from Cochin to this iland. Visitors can travel by boats to other places.
Frequently Asked Question
If you want ask question Contact this Mail Id: firstname.lastname@example.org
Which is the capital of Lekshadweep?
Kavaratti is the capital of this Union territory.
How is the weather conditions in Lekshadweep?
Lekshadweep has pleasant climate. Its temperature is about 22°C to 33°C in summer, 32°C to 20°C in winter. In March and April, the temperature rises gradually.
What is the distance from Kerala to Lekshadweep?
The distance from Kerala to Lekshadweep is about 262 miles (422km).
There are three basic features of an atoll: an encircling reef, lagoon and land. The reef is nearly circular or oval shaped with one or more openings which provided navigation channels and also enable intermingling of the enclosed water of the lagoon with the rich nutrient water of the open sea. The dimensions of this reef can be widely varying: the average length of Lakshadwep atolls is 8km, with Chetlat being the smallest, only about 2km long. The atoll width also varies considerably, from a few hundred metres at Amini to more than 6km at Suheli.
A striking feature of each atoll is its isolation. At Lakshadwep they rise sharply from sea depths of 2,000 m or 5 to 6 km. A sounding taken by INS Nirdeshhak in 1983 showed a depth of one kilometer about 4 km from the eastern shore of Kavarati. The outer slope of the reef commences with a sudden drop to 5 to 6 metres; thereafter there is a gradual slope for again becoming gentler.
In a section, a reef has three clear parts-reef flat, rough or boulder zone, and the inner slope. A reef flat is about 50 metres in width, the greater part of its surface almost always covered by water. This has no loose coral boulder and is generally free of any mud or sand. This is followed by a boulder zone, consisting of a 30 metre width of rough blocks of rock, separating the reef flat from the lagoon. Though sometimes it may rise a metre or so above the reef flat, it generally lies a half metre below it. This is followed by an inner slope which merges into the lagoon.
South-westerly to westerly winds prevail the Lakshadweep area in June and July, becoming westerly to north-westerly in August and September. In October and November, the winds veer round to north-west or North Thereafter winds are light to moderate till March / April.
The heaviest winds are during the monsoon months, June through August and these are south-westerly to westerly. By the time the winds veer round to the north-west they have weakened considerably. Thereafter, except for an occasional cyclone or hurricane light to moderate winds prevail.
It is apparent that east is the leeward side; no wonder all the islands of the Lakshadweep atolls are the eastern end of the reef.
Since predominant winds are south-westerly and north-westerly, it is surprising that the boat-shaped islands run from north-east to south-east?
Large elongated dunes are in evidence in many island, both on the shore and in the middle. Unless these were excavated by man, either as stupas or for growing paddy, these must represent shoreline accumulations of the past.
The limestone layer also runs a metre or so below the surface in almost all islands, undoubtedly representing intertidal cementation of grains of sand. These stony layers have not merely given stability to islands; they are also instrumental in helping to retain the fresh water film just above the saline water layer. Almost on all beaches, pieces of stag horn coral are piled up with other debris as banks of shingle to give stability and protection.
The Lakshadwep lagoons are comparatively shallow, the maximum depth of 16m being in the central portion of Suheli. The shallowest lagoons are at Amin (Maximum 2m), Kadmat (maximum 2,5m), Kiltan (1m to 1.7m) and Chetlat (2m in the central part). The lagoons at Kavaratti (1m to 3m) Agatti (1m to 4m) and Kalapeni (1m to 5m) are in between, with deepest being Bangaram (upto 12m deep) and Minicoy (5 to 11m towards the centre) apart from Suheli. As contrasted with this, lagoon depths in the Maldives and Chagos are many times more.
In the lagoons the bottom slope near the reef margin is comparatively steeper than at the island margin. Moreover, bottom sediments consists mainly of coral sands and gravel, the grain becoming finer near the island, comes mainly from the reef, from where it is planed off and transported by wind and wave action. It is apparent that finer grains would be found only near the island slop and the larger the lagoon the finer the grain found there. The sand in Bangaram and Susheli, the largest atolls is, as expected, fine as sugar.
The lagoon bed is generally smooth, except in the vicinity of the coral knolls and reefs where it is rugged. The three distinct zones in lagoons are: (1) zone of even topography bordering the island covered with sands; (2) the rugged part towards the centre where protruding corals and coral knolls are indicated by sharp reflection; and (3) sand banks in the inner reef margin marked by steep slopes towards the central part formed by the breaking of the reef.
Except Andrott, which is oriented east to west, all other islands lie north to south, are boat shaped and have the seaward side to the east and the lagoon washing their western shore. Islands are long and narrow, a typical one being 5 or 6km in length and less than a kilometer in width at the widest point. At its narrowest point, the island may not even be a hundred meters side.
The island configuration dies not stay constant; they generally live upto their reputation of ‘growing’ islands. Due to the combined effect of wind, wave and oceanic currants, there is a continual movement of sand particles in lagoons. The possible source of sand for the growth of islands is not merely from the reef and lagoon floor, from sediments and new coral growth, but also from island shores on the northern side. There is, therefore, a tendency for the island to ‘grow’ not only at the expense the northern side of the island itself. In Minicoy, side has almost been totally denuded of sand and consists mainly of piled up coral shingle banks, with the width reduced to less than 100 metres at most points.
As one would expect, the ‘growth’ is greater in the bigger atolls.
The seaward northern, eastern and southern shore is mainly bouldary, pebbly or rocky, with piles of coral ‘singles’ elevated a few metres high and running many metres inland. While the boulders mainly consist of white corals towards the sea, the island side of this pile, especially on the eastern side, consists of old or black corals. These boulders, coral rocks and shingles, resulting from storms, hurricanes and cyclones, endemic during the north-east monsoons, give stability and strength to the island on the seaward side. This is generally known as a storm beach.
But for the thick cover of coconut trees, packed 100 to the acre, the interior of these islands is generally featureless; there is hardly anything to distinguish one part from another, except probably the yield of coconut trees which is generally poorer in the southern end. The only other distinguishing feature in most islands is a low lying area towards the middle, with large 10-15m mounds around it. Some of these depressions, called tottams or gardens, were created by early settlers to grow paddy, ragi and other crops but better communications with mainland made them irrelevant. Some others are believed to be stupas created by early Buddhists. Another plausible explanation about the formation of some of these depressions is that they represent the shore-line at some date in the past; they are now found inland due to the ‘growth’ of the island. These were piled up due to the effect of wind and wave. This theory is supported by the fact that sand can be seen piled up on the lagoon shores, as a result of the cumulative action of waves and wind.
Whatever their origin, the ridge-like mounds created by the piling of excavated sand not only break the monotony of these low islands, but also serve the islanders for shelter in the event of storms or hurricanes.
From the 5 to 15m elevation at the storm beaches on the eastern sea shore, there elevation at the storm beaches on the eastern sea shore, there is a gradual sloping towards the lagoonal shore, which is generally sandy except in some islands where outcrops of coral limestone are found. Such outcrops, though, are common on the seaward side of all islands. A metre or two below the surface, towards the centre, there is a limestone layer. For a long time islanders have been digging it out a using it for construction purposes.
The limestone layer on the lagoon side reflects the effect of alternate moistening and exposure to the hot sun in the intertidal region of the calcareous coral sands. The presence of such limestone in the interior, a metre or so below the surface, must be the imprint left by the changing lagoonal shore of these ‘growing’ islands.
One man-made feature in these islands is the depressions one can find everywhere. These pits were originally excavated as soaking pits for coir; but with increased standards of living and setting up of mechnised coir defibering plants, they have fallen into disuse. Except for serving as malarial breeding spots, they now serve no useful purpose.
The Three reefs, Beliapani, Cheriapani and Perumalpar, enclose a total lagoon area of about 275 square kilometers. They are located between 11˚ and 12˚30’ north latitude, 71 ˚31’ and 72’ east longitude.
Beliapani (or Cherbaniani) is the northern-most reef of Lakshadweep. It is north-west of Bitra. An official visiting party in 1963 found five small banks or islets forming an atoll around a lagoon. They saw one black rock on the eastern side and two clear boat passages in the north-east and south. Though this party found no eggs (in October) they saw a large number of Sooties and Terns and also saw plenty of fledglings under protection of their mothers. The party reported strong currents, especially during nights, near the reef.
In February 1885, when A.O. Hume visited the reef, he found the Noddy and Sooty terns breeding there, as the officials found about eight decades later. But in October 1891, Alcock could not even find an egg shell. But none who has visited the reef can disagree with Alcock’s description of it as “an emerald disc girdled by a ring of snow-white foam.” Alocock’s description was not all that rosy.” Almost all the coral I saw was dead”, he goes on. “Not a sign of a plant or even of a cast up seed or nut was visible, and the only animals to be seen, besides a flock of sandpipers and a occasional bosun bird, were hermit crabs of the genus cocnobita and grapsois and crabs of the genera Grapsus and Oeypoda. Even the lagoon supported but little life, but there were plenty of seaweeds in it.”
This and other reefs were recently surveyed by scientist from the Geological Survey of India. They found a small island in the northern extremity where guano deposits were being formed. “A number of sandy cays exists on the eastern side of the lagoon. Compared to lagoons of other submerged reef, the lagoon is shallow with maximum depths of the order of 6 metres and without any significant variations in topography. The lagoon floor is covered with medium to coarse and very coarse sand. Extensive sand covered terrace at a depth of 6.10 metres occur in the eastern offshore area.”
Cheriapani and Perumalpar are not much different from the reef Alcock described except that they are almost totally awash at high tide and present an even greater danger for shipping. Various wrecks reported there till 1865 when, with the opening of the Suez Canal, the international shipping lanes shifted further south. The importance of these reefs now, as indeed of the other banks, is commercial: they are important fishing grounds for islanders from nearby atolls.
About Cheriapani, the Geological Survey of India report states: “The reef is largely submerged except at the southern margin, where it is seen even at high-water. The southern part of the lagoon is largely shallow and a number of sand banks occur at the western and eastern reef margins. The central part of the lagoon is deeper with depths extending to 16metres. The sediment in the central part of the lagoon is fine to very fine sand and silt. Echo sounding is the offshore area indicates a terrace at a depth of about 10 metres.”
The north-western and south-western portions of the lagoon are shallow marked by well-developed sand banks. The central area is marked by numerous coral knolls but the density of occurrence of coral knolls is not very high and many of the knolls do not rise to the surface. The central coral region has a depths of about 14metres and some of the regions with depths of 10metres and 8metres may be correlated with the terraces on the seaward side of the reef. Echo-sounding traverses indicated a number of terraces between 8 and 32 metres.
Submerged Banks and Reefs
The five banks, as also the one near Andrott, are spread over an area of about 4,000 square kilometers. Everywhere the splash of emerald waters on the otherwise deep blue waters of the Arabian Sea presents a spectacular view.
The only scientific study of these banks was carried out by the G.S.I. Their report:
Bassas de Pedro, Caradivi and Sesotris:
“Echo-sounding was carried out whenever the bottom was within the range of echo sounder i.e. 54metres. The depths on Bassas de Pedro range from 46 to 50 metres, the bank largely appears to the smooth with minor undulations in topography. The Sesotris and Coradivi banks with depths of the order of 25 to 50 metres largely appear to be flat topped without any significant variations in topography. Bottom samples from Bassas de Pedro consisted of living corals and sands while those from Sesostris and Coradivi consisted of sand only.”
Andrott Island and submerged reef
“The shores of the island consist of mostly sandy beach with intermittent exposures of beach rock. On the eastern edge a well-developed storm beach consisting of coral boulders and pebbles is prominent. The offshore back to the north of the island indicates that down to a depth of 18.20 metres the bottom is largely covered with coral growth or strewn with coral boulders and pebbles. Beyond this depth medium to coarse sand occupies the central depression on the submerged bank. In this depression the sediment is fine sand and silt. Sediment appears to be fairly extensively distributed on the south-western side of the bank. The southern offshore area shows terraces at about 18 and 28metres”.
“The depths of this bank range from 15 to 38 metres and echograms indicated an irregular topography typical of coral banks. The 100 bottom samples collected from this bank mainly consist of coral pieces towards the north and sand and coral pieces to the south.”
Elikalpeni submerged bank
“The submerged bank is situated at a distance of 62 kilometres north-east of Andrott. The bank has a depth of about 14 metres and most of this is a flat topped bank with coral growth. Sand occurs in patches and thin layers on this bank.”
If the oral evidence of islanders is to be relied upon, these banks are fast growing.
Certain studies have estimated the growth of coral reefs to be in the range of 2 to 5 centimeters per year. Therefore it is possible for these submerged banks to become reefs in the course of the next 500-1000 years, a comparatively small period, geologically speaking.
Lakshadweep Islands are situated 300 to 500 kilometres from the Kerala coastal city of Cochin. This places them in the direct path of the south-westerly winds that blow towards the Indian mainland from June through October. But after this, when the sub-continent has cooled down sufficiently and these winds reverse, these coral islands are in the lee, getting complete protection. It is therefore only to be expected that 70% of the total rain falls from June to September and that this percentage decreases as one goes south, being only 56%.
Of four rain gauges at Minicoy, Amini, Andrott and Agatti only the first two have been in existence for a sufficiently long time to be able to yield representative data. The average annual rainfall in Minicoy is 164 centimeters whereas in Amini it is 150 centimetres.
This variation is seen because the northern islands get less rainfall beyond October. June is the wettest month in the territory, a full fourth of the annual rain falling in this month alone. The variation in rainfall over the years is more in the southern islands, the highest in the last fifty years being 69% over the average in Minicoy and only 27% above it in Amini. The number of rainy days, with more than a quarter centimeter of rain, ranged from 80 to 94 days on the average, which shows that three days of four are dry. But since 65% of these wet days fall in the four monsoon months, June to September, in the fair season the number of wet days is hardly one in ten.
Except during the monsoon months, when skies are mostly overcast, the islands generally live up to their ‘sunny’ reputation for the rest of the year. While figures speak of only about 2 in 5 days with skies lightly clouded, the figures in fact are better as even on days when it is heavily clouded the strong winds ensure that clouds play constant hide and seek with the sun. And of course, because of the total lack of pollution, even a half hour’s sunbath is enough for one to acquire a healthy summer tan.
The climate is healthy tropical, with the mercury hovering around 31˚C -33˚C in April and May. Sometimes the temperatures may shoot upto 36 ˚C or 37 ˚C, but the ever blowing sea breezes ensure that it remains bearable, especially on the beaches. The top temperatures in the other months hover around 29 ˚C - 31 ˚C. During the cooler part of the day or night, the temperature variation may not exceed 4 ˚C or 5 ˚C. The northern group of island are a couple of degrees warmer than those in the southern group.
Relative humidity hardly ever falls below 75%. But again, because sultry. The mean wind speeds hover around 6 or 7 kilometers per hour expect from May through October when it touches a high of 17 and hardly ever comes below 10. In the northern group the wind speeds are somewhat more than the figures above which apply to Minicoy.
Expect from April through June and in October and November, when sudden storms and cyclones are likely to hit the islands, especially towards the north, the weather is calm and stable. Most of these depressions are in October through December, though a few do occur in April and May. Out of the average of 35% depressions affecting the territory every year in these months, only 5 were in these two months.
Many cyclones have caused severe damage in the past, the earliest recorded one was in April, 1847 which caused severe devastation to Kalpeni and Andrott. Kavaratti suffered severe damage in 1891 and then again in 1941. The 1891 cyclone caused damage to Agatti and other northern islands also. Kalpeni was hit by another cyclone on 1st December, 1922, when waves completely washed away the narrow northern end. It was again struck in 1965, when damage was also caused to Andrott, which had already suffered in 1963. But cyclones and storms, though they cause damage and hardship, are a part of the ‘growing’ process of these ‘living’ island: but for them the piles of shingle and coral banks on the eastern seaward side, which are now so crucial for their survival, would never have formed!
Deep channels break the continuity of the ridge at ‘eight degrees’ and ‘nine degrees’, on either side of the atoll of Minicoy. Since navigation through a group of coral reefs and banks has always been hazardous and tricky, these breaks, both more than 2,000 metres deep, have served as international shipping lanes ever since the discovery of the trade winds. These could date back to 45 AD when, as some claim, they were discovered by Hippalus, or even earlier, following their discovery by Indian sailors. With increasing traffic from the Persian Gulf and the emergence of supertankers, these channels have become busy international trade routes.
The Lakshadweep archipelago consists of 12 atolls, three reefs and six submerged banks. Three of these banks have land at their edges. Andrott is at the south of an 18km long and 10km wide bank; Amini / Kadmat and Pitti are at opposite ends of a 42 kilometres long bank NNE-SSW; so are Agatti and Bangaram. The remaining atolls are on separate banks, with Andrott, Kalpeni, Suheli and Chetlat being outliers, all separated by over 2,000 metres depth from each other.
The total area enclosed by these 12 atolls is about 300 square kilometres, approximately ten times the area of the islands they harbor. Since a typical atoll consists of a reef enclosing an island and lagoon, this would mean that on an average the lagoon is nine times bigger than the island. The largest island of Andrott has practically no lagoon, while in Suheli it is about 100 times the size of all the islands in the atoll.
Unlike the Pacific atoll reefs, which rise from subsided volcanic cones, the Lakshadweep – Maldives atoll reefs are believed to have risen from foundered continental crustal segments.
The atolls lie stop the north – south aligned submerged range which is understood to be a continuation of the Aravali strike of Rajasthan. The Indian Oil and Natural Gas commission carried out seismic profiles from the Indian coast to Lakshadweep. On the basis of data collected it was estimated that the sediments were 2 kilometers thick. This seems to indicate that the Indian continental crust extends to Lakshedweep. This was further indicated by the findings of the Indian Ocean Expedition which discovered that 1.5 to 2 kilometers thick volcanic rocks lay below the floor of the Lakshadwep ridge.
In 1972 some samples similar to those found near Pondicherry on the eastern coast of India were drilled from the Lakshadwep Ridge which indicated a connection with Indian mainland. There is evidence that the ridge was faulted down in the Lower Eocene, a period when the Lakshedweep Sea was formed and the ridge was separated from the Indian peninsula.
The Lakshadweep waters provide reefs and banks in almost all stages of development, embracing several centuries of growth. The submerged sand banks of Pitti-Amini, Andrott-Elikalpeni are yet several metres below the surface of the sea and there are indications, if oral tradition is accepted, that they are slowly growing upwards. The reefs of Cheriyapani and Perumalpar have small sands pits and cays but basically are pure atolls. Pitti, at one end of the massive pitti-Amini sand bank could be an island in itself or the harbinger of a massive atoll. Then there are the large lagoons of Suheli and Bangaram, with a few small islands. These islands themselves represent various stages of development, with a few of them having emerged above high tide only in the last couple of years and have started attracting sea birds. In a more advanced stage of development ae Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Agatti and Kadmat where these islands are fully developed although growth continues. Chetlat and Kiltan are so fully developed and the lagoon so much filled up that even small boats find it difficult to navigate at low tide. Andrott has no lagoon, or practically none; is it because it is fully developed or is it just the harbinger of a new and massive atoll to be formed with the reef rising from the Elikalpeni-Andrott submerged sand bank?
Lakshadweep is a naturalist’s delight; it enables one to span several centuries of geological and zoological history in a matter of a few days.
Geochemistry of Reefs
Minute quantities of metals are dissolved in sea water as also in marine invertebrate skeletons. Magnesium and strontium are the most frequent, usually measured in parts per thousand, while barium, manganese and iron are measured in parts per million. In certain Pacific corals 2.17 parts per million of uranium have been found. Strontium is concentrated in aragonite skeletons and magnesium in calcite skeletons as also in the calcite of coralline algae.
Ultra traces of certain other metals have been identified by atomic-absorption spectrophotometry in the aragonite skeleton and the hydrozoa coral Millepora. Measured in part per 1000 million these are lead (100), copper (71), cadmium (23), cobalt (17), nickel (1,480), iron (507) and zinc (507).
Information about Lakshadweep Islands
The electric thrill at the first sight of the palm-fronded low coral islet washed by the emerald waters of a lagoon soon gives way to a slight apprehension: the ship has anchored in the deep blue waters of the sea and the reassuring jetty is no-where in sight. The large doors of the ship swing open, revealing a motorized fishing boat swaying with the swells; is one supposed to get into that? All around is he hardly reassuring sight of large swells breaking into diamond-like foam. Soon one sees that in the madness of the two rhythms, of the rolling ship and the boat, there is a method: a moment comes, may be for a fraction of a second, when the two decks re absolutely level and stationary; one merely has to step across. Next time when the configuration occurs again you do exactly that. As you go down with the boat, you pat yourself on the back but only for an instant; you soon realize that you are still in the open sea.
As the seemingly fragile motor boat, constructed fully with wood, races towards the lagoon you keep your fingers crossed. Is it safe? Your roving eye cannot even see any life jackets! “Not one of these boats has ever sunk!” You hear a voice behind you. But as the boat is tossed helplessly by every wave and swell, this is hardly reassuring!
Suddenly the boat rocks even more violently. “The entrance! Somebody cries.
Before you have had time to react to this, latest rock’s roll, the boat suddenly becomes calm, as if in a lake.
“The lagoon!” cries a voice, and you open your eyes and start breathing again.
Learning out of the boat you look at the water: crystal clear, like a well-cleaned glass pane. The bottom rolls by before your admiring eyes. A few people are swimming not too far away and putting something under a basket like contraption floating in the lagoon.
“They are collecting like bait”, explains a voice, above the din of the inboard engine. “These are tiny fish they use for tuna fishing. They store it in the basket.”
A few boats pass by, obviously fishing boats. A few such boats are anchored near the beach; some are hauled up on the sand, may be awaiting repairs. At one end, you can see a group of women wading through the water with a small net. Catching fish for breakfast!
As you climb up the jetty, your eye falls on the kids sitting there with rods, legs, dangling in front. A few small silver-white fish are proof that their efforts have not been entirely fruitless. “Very tasty fish, delicious!” explains someone, his mouth obviously watering.
On both sides of the jetty a large number of people are standing. On no island will the ship come more than once a week; this obviously is a great day. Hardly anybody in trousers and shirt; even kids, are drapped in a coloured or white cloth wrapped around the waist either flowing down to the feet or tucked up to the knees, called a lungi, with the chest bare. Seeing the sharpness with which the sunlight passing through the dust-free air bites the skin and that a cool, gentle breeze is always blowing, one quickly realizes how sensible a lungi with a bare chest is!
Seeing a little girl curiously, innocently gazing, you advance towards her. Covering her head even more securely with the silver and gold-threaded-silky cloth she has in common with all other females, whatever their age, she shyly retreats, leaving you just a little bit embarrassed.
Considering that you are in the most densely populated unit of the county, there are surprisingly few people to be seen once you leave the jetty area. The narrow sandy roads, now being concreted at place, winding their way through avenues of coconut trees, are surprisingly uncrowded. The hustle-hustle of a market place is missing. You soon realize why. There is no market! There is no village area! The houses are dispersed throughout the island and so are the few shops.
The whole island is over vast coconut garden, with about 100 trees crowded to an acre. There are no boundaries dividing individual plots and hardly any ground vegetation. In between are the haphazardly laid out homes, some with limestone and coral stone walls and almost all with thatched roofs made with palm leaves. The houses, like the trees, are also spread out throughout the island well, almost. In the south generally there are no homes.
“There are jins in the south”, someone whispers in your ear. Such is the sincerity of his manner that you almost accept his matter of fact statement till you realize that most of the government buildings are on that side.
Before you landed you were told that the island is very small, only a couple of square kilometers in area. Now, as you find yourselves waling to the rest house at the southern end, you suddenly find yourself tried and thirsty.
It is not only because of the heat. In fact on most roads the coconut palm provides a very dense, cool shade. These boat-shaped islands, in fact, are very long, a couple of them being more than 10 kilometers. The average one is 6 kilometres or so in length.
Every homes has a small well. You find the water only a metre or two below the ground level.
“There are no rivers or streams here”, someone explains. “No springs or underground sources either. The only source of fresh water is the rainfall, which is about 160 centimetres. Rainwater immediately sieves down the sandy soil, but being lighter than saline water keeps floating on it. This is our only source of water.”
Why not pumps?
“Indiscriminate use of pumps will destroy the fresh water lens and draw the saline water to the surface. As has happened in male. A regulated water supply scheme is under implementation.”
One is still soaking in the colours of this idyllic scene when a beautiful voice comes wafting over the muted roar of the sea breaking its heart against the coral reef the muezzin’s call to the faithful.
A deeply religious and god-fearing people, the entire indigenous population of Lakshadweep is Muslim. And every extended family or taravad has its own mosque and every mosque its own tank and graveyard.
On an average for every 100 people there is a mosque, looking almost like the innumerable homes. The tank is used by the people for bathing and washing purposes. Though the tidal variations that take place twice a day provide automatic filtering of water in these tanks, still some pollution is noticeable. So is the pollution in the ground water lens due to the large number of graveyards. The advent of the protected water supply schemes is eagerly awaited.
In all the bejeweled beauty of Lakshadweep, the most glittering is Minicoy, the southern-most island of the archipelago. You can tell the difference even before you land at the jetty. Dressed in jeans and T-shirts, the wiry, muscular young men seem truly children of the sea. Pulling the ropes, steering or piloting, there is no doubt they were born on the sea and are meant for the sea. It is not hard to believe that a full half of the male population are sailors; and more than half of them are always at sea. It is also not hard to see why this is generally described as the ‘Female Island.’ Women are everywhere; at the jetty hauling up bags of rice, on road carrying implements and other things in their rounded baskets adroitly balanced over their head, in offices, farms and factories. In fact everywhere, except in the fishing boats and ships.
The one thing immediately apparent in Minicoy is the almost fanatical regard for cleanliness. Not here the discarded tin can or the coconut husk untidying the place; or garbage littered here and there. The people are clean, tidy and smart; so is the island.
The living quarters, unlike in other islands, are crowded in one area, around the middle of the islands. The houses are, without exception, all pucca and crammed with the latest electronic gadgets and crockery and linen brought in from all parts of the world. So are their clothes and draperies. Like their island, the houses are neatly kept.
Unlike his rather conservative neighbors, the Minicoyan loves to sing and dance. Very often boys and girls, men and woman, will assemble near the Rang Manch to watch a movie on the video or to participate in a cultural programme. In these programmes sometimes boys dress as girls. It is difficult to tell the difference!
The 10 inhabited islands of Lakshadweep are estimated to have a population of 42,000 in 1983. Out of this about 6,000 to 7000 people each live in the four larger islands of Andrott, Minicoy, Kavaratti and Amini and the remaining in the six smaller islands of Kalpeni, Agatti, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat and Bitra. It also appears that while Bitra has been inhabited only in the thirties of the present century, Kadmat could not have been inhabited much before the beginning of the last. It is indeed so because Lt. Bently found both islands uninhabited when he visited in 1795 and only a 100 people each on Kiltan and Chetlat, clearly indicating a habitation not too much before his visit.
Tradition supports this view, starting that these were inhabited by the migration of poorer families from Amini and from the mainland. Considering the highest density of population in Amini (900 persons per square kilometer in 1876 as compared to 600 in Kavaratti) it was but natural for the poorer people to the squeezed out or to be sent as servants or agents. Indeed even now, though things are changing, a sort of underlying master-servant relationship exists between some Amini people and the inhabitants of these islands.
One wonders why, when the population was fairly constant upto 1921 and that too despite continuous mainland migration, there was sudden increase of 1.5% upto 1961 and then suddenly of 3% upto 1981? “Obviously because of improved medical facilities”, one hears a whisper. While a hospital assistant had been posted in Amini as far back as in 1874 to supplement the efforts of the vaccinator, in other islands, there were hardly any medical facilities till doctors were appointed in Minicoy in 1925 and Andrott in 1926 with jurisdiction over other islands as well. In 1936 a dispensary was opened in Kavaratti also. So by 1947 there were dispensaries in Kavaratti, Andrott, Kalpeni, Mincoy and Amini. The next major expansion took place after 1960. A rapid Health Survey identified major deficiencies. Now there are two hospitals, two primary centres, five dispensaries and one sub centre (for Bitra).
This increase in population in 1961 – 1981 converted Lakshadweep into one of the most densely populated Union Territory, next only to the heavily urbanized territories of Delhi and Chandigarh, marginally more than even the almost totally urban Pondicherry. The density in 1981 was 1,258 persons per square kilometer for Lakshadweep as a whole. Amongst the Islands, the highest density is no Amini, where 2,072 persons were crowded in 1981 to a square kilometer. The lowest density is in Kadmat, only 1,005.
The total number of households is 6,637. In every house, an average of 6.37 persons live, and an average household consists of about 6 persons. The largest household is, naturally, in the Taravad islands, and Minicoy, varying from 569 persons per 100 households in Kavaratti to 671 in Andrott. The figure is comparatively low in the hadquarter island of Kavaratti because many mainland officials have not brought their families along. The late habitation in the non-taravad islands is also reflected in the family size; probably because the number of nuclear families is larger. In Bitra and Chetlat, undoubtedly the latest islands to be inhabited, the family size is as low as 3.69 and 4.12 respectively. In Kiltan and Kadmat is slightly higher at 5.42 and 5.54.
The comparatively higher standard of living of the people is reflected in the fact that only 3 households are recorded in 1981 as being homeless. This is also an indication of the still strong Marumak kathayam system, where the extended family takes care of problems of social welfare and security.
Another revealing factor is that almost every house holder resides in an independent house. There are 1000 residential houses for 1050 householders from which “it can be inferred that the people prefer to live separately in different houses and the system of sharing a house by several householders is not very popular in Lakshadweep.”
A full 92.22% of the population of the territory in 1981 were scheduled tribes, the term meaning, as per Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes List (Modification Order, 1956), “inhabitants who and both of whose parents were born in the Union Territory.”
The improved educational system in Lakshadweep is reflected in the 26% increase in the literate rate in the decade 1971-81 about 55% people were literate compared to only 44% ten year back. Women continue to lag behind men in this regard, with only 45% literacy rate as compared to 65% amongst men. The highest literacy rate was in Minicoy, with 65% of the people being able to read and write with understanding in at least one language.
A full one-fourth of the total number of people in Lakshadweep are workers; out of these more than 70% were employed on a regular basis (at least halt the year). These figures disclose a fairly high rate of under-employment and disguised unemployment, mainly amongst women who constitute only 20% of the total working force.
The glorious colours of Lakshadweep sunsets and sunrises can only be matched by the colourful dresses of women. In islands other than Minicoy, women wear a kachi around the waist, trucked in a thread wound with a solid gold or silver waist-belt. A silk kachi is usually red with a black border; others are black or white with a dark border. While a tight-fitted embroidered or jari jacket covers the body above the waist, a colourful scarf with silver and gold threads is slung loosely over the head. Even small girls, hardly able to walk, also wear this scarf called thattam.
Minicoy women wear a long robe, called libas, made of brick-red cloth with long stripes. This robe is intricately embroidered around the neck and often has attractive floral designs. The head is covered with a plain white or black piece of cloth.
The men are simply dressed in a lungi except in Minicoy where young men especially the sailors, are very fond of jeans. They wear their traditional dress, resembling a coloured loose-fitting churidaar pyjama, only on ceremonial occasions.
The food habits of the people are remarkably devoid of variety. It is said that if lunch is rice and fish, dinner will be fish and rice! Exotic dishes are there too, especially in Andrott and Minicoy, but they seem to be reserved for special occasions.
In Minicoy the people speak Mahl, same as their neighbors in Maldivies, and many of them, especially the sailors, can also speak Hindi with facility. In other islands their mother tongue is Malayalam; most of them can speak none other.
The first settlers
Coral islands may be beautiful but living conditions are harsh. The soil is infertile and the land area miniscule. Exposed to the vegaries of the weather, they are liable to be lashed by squalls, cyclones and sudden storms. Communications are difficult and movements severely restricted. Yet hundreds of thousands of islands round the world are teeming with hundreds of people per square kilometer, with people who have known no better and, given the choice, would probably not choose any other as well.
What sort of people are they? What has attracted them to the tiny oasis in the midst of the inhospitable and harsh oceans? “Profound impulses attract men to islands. For the human spirit an island is a refuge as well as challenge. Islanders the world over are recognised breed to be an islander is to belong to a proud fraternity.”
Anthropologists are unable to say when man was first able to reach islands except that Java man, Homo erectus, who lived more than a million years ago, was limited in both intelligence and skill and could not have crossed the open waters that an island journey would necessarily entail. We do know, though, that mush later modern man, Homo sapiens, built rafts and canoes to successfully travel across sea waters and reach offshore islands. “He may have been seeking food, avoiding enemies, or simply responding to that irresistible urge of all, curiosity.”
Discovery of islands in the West is usually associated with the Greeks, Phoenicians and the Vikings and, more recently, the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and British mariners. Such a view ignores the fact that most islands visited by Europeans were already inhabited, this must have been the result of great adventures on the part of modern man in the last 40,000 years, much before the Europeans, not having any offshore islands as in the Indian and Pacific oceans, even thought of stepping in to the sea.
It will be a futile exercise to attempt to determine when Lakshadweep islands were first settled. This could be any time after the great sea adventure of modern man started more than 40,000 year back. But that this could not be as late as the 13th or 14th century of this era, as is believed by many, is apparent from whatever historical sources are available and from archaeological remains.
In the islands first inhabited, there exist a large number of mounds and hillocks, on many of which there is thick vegetation and large trees, mainly coconut palms. That these mounds are very old is justified not merely by tradition and local belief but was also accepted by early writers like Ellis. Since they exist only in the taravad islands and not in islands inhabited later, not only must they be old but many of them also man-made.
Why were these constructed? Ellis has an explanation: “The surface is naturally level. In former times a large ‘tottam’ has been excavated in the center of the island and he sandy soil dug out forms mounds and hillocks all round it.’ Another explanation given by the people is that these were made to provide shelter during cyclones and storms.
Both these explanations fail to tell us why these excavations were not made in the islands inhabited later. Moreover, not all these mounds are near ‘tottams’ (or gardens) and not all of them are big. Why then were they made? The question begs an answer since the work involved was considerable and must have strained fully the resources available to islanders.
Maloney speaking about Maldives, where similar mounds are found, has this to say: “In the Maldives, there are no hills, and barring and dunes on a few islands there are not even any natural mounds. But in several islands there are hemispherical mounds covered with soil, 4.57 to 5.48 metres (fifteen to eighteen feet) high and may be having coconut trees on top. People recognize these as being monuments of Buddhism. They are stupas.”
People who have seen the mounds of Lakshadweep will recognise the description. Are these too stupas?
One hears of an idol having been found in one of these only a few year back. Though hundred over to a government official it has mysteriously vanished. One hears everywhere of such finds in many places the idols have vanished. It is even said that they have been buried back. All of them except a few: The latest find was in May 1983; it lies in the Kavaratti Secretariat and was recently examined by a team from the Archaeological survey of India.
“He (Bell) visited all the islands where heard of Buddhist remains and made careful drawing and description of them – a valuable record, because, some have been destroyed since.” This is about Maldives but could easily be about Lakshadweep.
Findings of some old coins in Lakshadweep islands have been reported. There is such talk everywhere but only a few are still available. Again about Maldives: “Some round coins of several types were also found in the stupas no one seems to know where these coins are such has been the fate of pre-Muslim historical evidence in the Maldives.” Maloney could well have been writing of Lakshadweep!
A proper study of some of the archaeological finding still available would be instructive. Of these the most important ones are now at Andrott, stored in one of the storerooms of the High School. There are three idols one of a Yaksha and two of Buddha. On all these idols there is evidence to show that attempts were made after discovery to destroy them; but somehow, despite the ravages of man and nature, they survive.
The smaller of the two idols (70 kilogram weight, 68 centimetres height. Circumference of head 116 centimetres) was discovered twenty years ago in the agricultural garden between Chenmacherry and Edacherry, in the area where the large excavated mounds are piled. The bigger idol was discovered by Shri K. T. Velayudhan, a school teacher. He found it (only the head was found; apparently the rest of the idol had been destroyed in 1976 from a stone pit at Chemmacherry near the Perumpally house. He was informed that it had been lying there for sixteen year. The third, a 12.5 centimetres high idol of the Yaksha, was discovered in 1962 during excavation for a sub jail.
The bigger idol is the most significant, if only because of its size. It is 100 centimetres high and weighs 700 kilograms. The circumference of the head is 116 centimetres and of the neck 101 centimetres. While the finding of experts is not yet available, this idol, made of coral stone, is placed towards the 8th century AD. This is probably the most significant archaeological find in Lakshadweep and can help to a large extent to solve the mystery of the early history of these islands. But it awaits examination by experts. However, from its expression (Half-shut eyes, long ears and meditational expression along with curly hair one can conjecture that it belongs to the Gupta period.
Another finding of some significance is the discovery of terracotta remains in excavations made to depth of a couple of metres at Kalpeni. It is felt that these date back to 1500BC. But no expert findings have yet been published.
Though evidence is anything but conclusive, there are strong grounds to suspect that the first settlers in Lakshadweep date back to the Buddhist era; may be even before that. As in the Maldives, in Lakshadweep too the early settlers must have been from the Tamil-Malayalam and Gujarati area, consisting most probably of princely exiles and shipwrecks.
The earliest reference to Lakshadweep (and the Maldives) is probably in the Jatakas dating back to the period 500-250BC. An ancient commentary on the Bharu Jataka states that those accusing King Bharu were exiled and “found standing space upon a thousand islands which are yet to be seen today about the islands of Nalikera. “This must referee to either Maldives or Lakshadweep or both for where else off modern Bharuch in Gujarat (that is where King Bharu ruled) could there be an island so tiny that there was no more than standing room on it! Nalikera means coconut, the same as Kerala, and could refer to any large island in the area.
This first reference to these tiny islands, be they the Maldives or Lakshadweep, seems to imply that they were inhabited by political exiles, a role similar to that assigned in more recent days to islands like Australia and the Andamans.
Another possibility about how these islands were first inhabited is suggested by another Jataka,” this one about Sussondi, queen consort of King Tamba of Varanashi, who was abducted to an island called Seruma. Sagga, sent to trace her, was shipwrecked and, lying on a plank, drifted to the island where the local queen seduced him. According to Maloney while “this tale cannot be constructed as representing any historical event, but the details taken together suggest that Sagga was shipwrecked on the Maldives. A ship going from Bharukaccha in Gujarat to south-east Asia would encounter only the following islands: Lakshadweep, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nicobar islands.” “The Lakshadweep islands and the Maldives have been known throughout history as causing many shipwrecks, for there are hundreds of miles of subsurface reefs. The Motif of Sagga being enticed by a queen there fits in with matrilineal traditions.” He concludes that the tale “suggests both settlement several centuries before Christ and cultural contact from Gujarat.”