1,894/km² (4,905/sq mi)
formerly known as the Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands
is a group of islands in the Laccadive Sea, 200 to 440 kilometres (120 to 270 mi) off the south western coast of India. The archipelago is a Union Territory and is governed by the Union Government of India. They were also known as Laccadive Islands, although geographically this is only the name of the central subgroup of the group. Lakshadweep comes from "Lakshadweepa", which means "one hundred thousand islands" in Sanskrit as well as many Indian languages like Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Telugu and others.
Lakshadweep is the smallest union territory of India. The group is located 200 to 300 km off of the coast of Kerala in the Arabian Sea. The total land area of the territory is 32 km². Eleven of the islands are inhabited. Lakshadweep is the northern part of the erstwhile Lakshadweepa.
According to the 2011 census Lakshadweep has a population of 64,429, roughly equal to the nation of Marshall Islands This gives it a ranking of 627th among the 640 districts in India. The district has a population density of 2,013 inhabitants per square kilometre (5,210 /sq mi). Its population growth rate over the decade 2001-2011 was 6.23%. Lakshadweep has a sex ratio of 946 females for every 1000 males, and a literacy rate of 92.28%.
Most people of Lakshadweep are descendants of migrants from the Malabar Coast of southwest India and the islanders are ethnically similar to coastal Kerala's Malyali people. More than 93% of the population who are indigenous, are Muslims and the majority of them belong to the Shafi School of the Sunni Sect. The southernmost and second largest island of Minicoy has an ethnically Mahls population that are native to the Maldives.
The people of all the northern islands speak a dialect of Malayalam. According to local folk beliefs, they descended from traders who were washed up on the islands during a particularly heavy storm. However, the people of Minicoy, the southernmost atoll, speak Mahl, a variant of Divehi, the language of the Maldives.
The islanders are ethnically similar to coastal Kerala's Malayali people, and were influenced by Arab traders. Inhabitants of Minicoy, the southernmost and largest island, closely resemble Maldivians. Most — 99% — of the indigenous population is Muslim; they were converted by Arab traders. The locals call themselves the Div-i or the Aminidivi ("from the mother island").
Several views have been postulated about the history of the habitation of the islands as they do not have any aboriginal groups. A mention of the region in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, by an anonymous author, is one of the earliest references.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, Agatti and Kavaratti. Archaeological evidence suggests that Budhhism prevailed in the region during the 5th-6th century CE. According to popular tradition, Islam was brought to Lakshadweep by an Arab named Ubaidulla in 661 CE. His grave is located in the island of Andrott. During the 11th century, the islands came under the rule of the Late Cholas. The region then came under the Kingdom of Cannanore.
In the 16th century the Portuguese ruled the seas between Ormuz and the Malabar Coast -and down to Ceylon. As early as 1498 they took control of the archipelago (called Laquedivas by them), later on to exploit coir production, until the islanders expelled them in 1545. 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 Kolthiris. 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.
The first foreigner in the recent historical past on the islands was Vasco da Gama, but the British were the first to explore the islands. They are also mentioned in great detail in the stories of the Arab traveller Ibn Batuta. The Portuguese established a fort on the islands in May 1498, but the inhabitants soon rose up and expelled them. In 1956, the States Reorganisation Act separated these islands from the mainland administrative units, forming a new union territory by combining all the islands.
The union territory is administered by an Administrator appointed by India's central government. Lakshadweep is under the jurisdiction of the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam. It also elects one member to the Lok Sabha. The main languages spoken in Lakshadheep are Jasari (similar to Malayalam) and Mahl.
Lakshadweep's gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $60 million at current prices. Due to its isolation and scenic appeal, Lakshadweep is emerging as a major tourist attraction for Indians. This brings in significant revenue, which is likely to increase. Since such a small region cannot support industries, the government is actively promoting tourism as a means of income.
Lakshadweep officially consists of 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks, with a total of about 36 islands 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 islands lying on the eastern rim, and a mostly submerged reef on the western rim, enclosing a lagoon.
1) A mini Island and Pitti Island are both on Pitti Bank,
a largely sunken atoll with a lagoon area of 155.09 km²
2) Bingaram and Agatti Islands are connected by a shallow submarine ridge
3) new international tourist resort,
otherwise uninhabited, but with a population 61 at the 1990 census
The main islands 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). Tourists need a permit to visit the islands; foreign nationals are not permitted to visit certain islands. Consumption of liquor or alcoholic drink is not permitted in the islands except at Bangaram Island.
Until 1973, the island group was known by the anglicised name Laccadives (compare to Maldives and Suvadives) although the term Laccadives strictly only applies to central Lakshdweep with the northern Amindivi Islands and Minicoy to the south considered separate. This is reflected in the pre-1973 name of the union territory, Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands . The Laccadive Islands plus Minicoy Island are known as the Cannanore Islands.