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- Context (IE): Recently, the Prime Minister visited Lakshadweep and hailed it as a potential tourist jewel.
Location and Geography
- In Malayalam and Sanskrit, the name Lakshadweep translates to “a hundred thousand islands”.
- It is an island of coral origin (atoll) surrounded by fringing reefs in the Arabian Sea.
- The Amindivi Islands, Laccadive Islands and Minicoy Islands are called Lakshadweep.
- Capital: Kavaratti; High court: Kerala high court
- Amindivi Islands are the northernmost, while the Minicoy Islands are the southernmost.
- The largest and the most advanced islands are the Minicoy Islands.
- Most islands have low elevations (< 5 meters) and are highly vulnerable to sea level change.
- Their topography is flat, and relief features such as hills, streams, valleys, etc., are absent.
History of Lakshadweep
- The last Chera ruler in Kerala, Cheraman Perumal, is associated with the discovery of Lakshadweep.
- As per the myths, after conversion to Islam, he went to Hajj but never returned.
- Then, the Raja of Kolattunad (north Malabar) is known to have sent a search party to look for him.
- Having been caught in a severe storm, this search party was stuck in one of the Lakshadweep islands.
- Though the story of Cheraman Perumal is harrowing to validate, the first settlers on the Lakshadweep islands were Malabari sailors, possibly castaways.
- Later waves of immigrants included Malabari Hindus, including Nambudiri Brahmins, Nairs, Tiyyars and probably Mukkuvans.
- The existing caste structure and prevailing Marumakkathayam matrilineal inheritance system resulted from these later immigrations.
- From the 16th century, the islands came under the control of the Arakkal kingdom of Kannur, the only Muslim dynasty to have ruled in Kerala and a matrilineal one.
- Even after the Arrakal kingdom was surrendered to Britishers in Malabar, Lakshadweep was under the Arakkal princely family till 1908.
- Before becoming India’s smallest Union Territory in the reorganisation of 1956, Lakshadweep was part of the Malabar district (Kerala).
- Though inhabited by most Muslim residents, Islam practised in the Lakshadweep is unique.
- Lakshadweep has an Islamic matrilineal society influenced by Hindu traditions and caste structure.
- Apart from the caste system, a pre-Islamic Hindu society in the islands can be deduced from using the ancient Malayalam script, Vattelutu, in the islands.
- Discovery of several buried idols, probably Hindu origins, and several traditional island songs praising Ram and alluding to snake worship are also available.
- Jazari and Mahl are two other main languages, with Malayalam being the official language.