The only coral reef island in India, Lakshadweep is the tiniest Union Territory of India consisting of 36 islands and covering an area of 32.5 sq. km, out of which 28.5 sq km is considered to be land of use as per revenue records.
Out of 36 islands only 10 islands are inhabited. They are Andrott, Amini, Agatti, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Kiltan and Minicoy.
The island was officially named Lakshadweep in 1973, prior to that it was called Laccadives.
Kavaratti is the capital of Lakshadweep with a population of around 10,000. Total population of Lakshadweep is around 61,000 as per 2001 census. Literacy rate is more than 85 per cent. The island lies about 220 to 440 km from the coastal city in Kochi in Kerala. Builders of the island are corals, and thus its origin is biological. Since the island lies directly in the hub of the African-Arabian countries and Asian trade route, it is a landmark for the navigators.
There is a story which runs behind the naming of the island as ?Lakshadweep?. It is said that a huge amount of loan running in several lakhs of rupees was given to the Raja of Cannanore by the East India Company to look after these islands. From then onwards people started calling it ?Lakshadweep?.
Early history of Lakshadweep is unwritten. What now passes for history is based on various legends. Local traditions attribute the first settlement on these islands to the period of Cheraman Perumal, the last king of Kerala. The administration of the islands was passed on to the Muslims around the middle of the 16th century. In 1854, the English took over the islands. This present Union Territory was part of Malabar and South Canara district prior to the state reorganisation in 1956.
The entire group of islands is considered to be one district and divided into four tehsils. The headquarters of the administration was shifted from Calicut (Kerala) to Kavaratti Island in 1964.
Agriculture is the mainstay of Lakshadweep's economy. Coconut is the only major crop of the island with a production of 27.7 million nuts a year. Fruits like banana, papaya, guava, sapota, and citrus varieties and drumstick plants are cultivated in the coconut gardens as inter crops. The island produces copra, coir, jaggery, vinegar and fish.
The island'sculture and its ecology are inseparable in their structure and function. The study reveals that some of their archaic pre-Islamic traditions, folklore, folksongs, and belief in spirit, myth and mysterious dreams are shaped and determined by ocean ecology. In spite of conversion to Islam, Lakshadweep people follow the spirit of the natural world.
Immediately after independence, keeping in view the strategic importance of the island, Government of India took stringent measures to protect the island. Due to backwardness and isolation from the mainland, this island was declared a Vanvasi area. Though the definition of the Vanvasis of the mainland does not tally with the islanders rather they are not Vanvasi, still they are given the status of Vanvasis under People'sRepresentation Act of 1951.
The entire infrastructure of the administration is identical with the other state governments and Union Territories. The co-operative movement is very strong in the island and middlemen are no more in picture. Public distribution of every article is provided through the societies. More than half of the population is member of one or the other co-operative societies. Almost every household is covered by these societies.
There is an immense potential for tourism in Lakshadweep. Society for Promotion of Recreational Tourism and Sports (SPORTS) is a registered body under the Societies Registration Act 1860 with its office at Cochin. The organisation is arranging different disciplines of water sports like wind-surfing, kayaking, water skiing, scubadiving etc. In short Lakshadweep is a unique place for tourism.
People are very hospitable. They are dependent for everything on the mainland. Lakshadweep is making all efforts in the field of surface transport, since its major portion of the budget is spent on it. Till 1958-59, Odem (sailing vessel) was the only mode of communication with the mainland. The major breakthrough came in 1970 by the launching of all-weather ships and thus dreadful isolation during monsoon was broken. There is still lot to be done.