Lakshadweep appears as a few insignificant dots on the map of India, it is, in fact, a sparkling diamond adorning India’s southwestern frontier. It is one of the few marvels left untouched by the encroaching hands of industrialization and progress. The white beaches, the lagoons that wash its shores with the coral reefs, which enclose it, and finally the deep blue sea-all, these are symbiotically linked with each other. And, when all these are added up, Lakshadweep is no longer the tiniest of India’s territories but the largest!
Geography of Lakshadweep
Lakshadweep is the tiniest Union Territory of India, an archipelago consisting of 12 atolls, three reefs and five submerged banks. It is a uni-district Union Territory with an area of 32 Sq. Kms and is comprised of ten inhabited islands, 17 uninhabited islands attached islets, four newly formed islets and 5 submerged reefs. The inhabited islands are Kavaratti, Agatti, Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat, Bitra, Andrott, Kalpeni and Minicoy. It is located between 8º- 12º 13" North latitude and 71º -74º East longitude, 220 to 440 Kms. away from the coastal city of Kochi in Kerala, in the emerald Arabian Sea. Considering its lagoon area of about 4,200 Sq. kms, 20,000 Sq. kms of territorial waters and about 4 lakhs Sq. kms. of economic zone, Lakshadweep is a large territory.
Brief History of Lakshadweep
The first westerner on the islands was Vasco da Gama, but the English were the first to explore the islands. They are also mentioned in great detail in the stories of the Arab traveler, Ibn Batuta. The Portuguese established a fort on the islands in May 1498, but the inhabitants rose up against them and chased them away. The Amindivi group of islands (Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat and Bitra) came under the rule of Tipu Sultan in 1787. They passed on to British control after the third Anglo-Mysore War and were attached to the South Canara district. The rest of the islands became a suzerainty of the Chirakkal family of Cannanore in return for a payment of annual tribute. After a while, 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. In 1956, the States Reorganisation Act separated these islands from the mainland administrative units, forming a new union territory by combining all the islands.
Government of Lakshadweep
An administrator appointed by India’s central government administers the union territory. Lakshadweep is under the jurisdiction of the Kerala High Court at Ernakulam. It also elects one member to the Lok Sabha.
Lakshadweep's gross state domestic product for 2004 is estimated at $60 million at current prices. Because of its isolation and scenic beauty, Lakshadweep is emerging as a great tourist attraction for Indians. This brings in a good amount of 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 Travel Information
The development of domestic as well as international tourism has immense potential. However, much could not be achieved till recently owing to inadequate transport arrangements. Now international as well as domestic tourism has received a remarkable boost. Numerous infrastructure facilities have been created including the opening of Vayudoot service between Mainland and Agatti in April,1988. However, limits have been placed on the number of tourists to be admitted in order to prevent overcrowding and consequent environmental damage. Since the literacy rate in the Union Territory is one of the highest in the country, the level of educated unemployed can be kept under control by developing this sector. Tourist huts and cottage are provided at Kavaratti, Kadmat, Bangaram, Kalpeni and Minicoy. Tourist huts ( 3 in Minicoy and four in Kalpeni) have been set up under Govt. assistance. Government of India has agreed in principle to open three inhabited islands, Suheli Cheriyakara, Cheriyam and Tinnakara for foreign tourists. A full fledged water sport Institute established at Kadmat during 1992-93 provides facilities for different disciplines of water Sports like wind surfing, Kayaking, Canoeing, water skiing, Yatchting para sailing and Scubadiving etc. Tourist Cafeteria, Floating restaurant etc. are other attractions for tourists .
Education in Lakshadweep
Though various steps were taken immediately after the independence to improve the standard of education, not much progress could be achieved till 1956. Students studying at Calicut were provided free hostel accommodation at the Harijan Hostel. After the reorganization of states in 1956, this was made an exclusive hostel for island students and functioned at Elathur near Calicut till 1963. Today there are three hostels attached to senior secondary schools one each in Andrott, Kadmat and Kavaratti. All these measures led to the rapid increase in the number of graduates and technical personnel in the islands. The islands have been by leaps and bounds since independence. In 1951 the literacy percentage was 15.23 and now it is 87.52 % occupying the third position in the country. Up to 1956 there was only one graduate. Now there are about 5200 matriculates, more than 350 graduates, 70 postgraduates, 120 Engineers, 95 doctors and scores of students studying in other disciplines. Now all children of school going age have access to schools and out of the total student population, 47% are girls.
Rice, coconut, fish and jaggery made from toddy tapped from coconut - that about sums up the raw materials. However, despite this apparent lack of variety, the list of dishes runs into hundreds.
Arts & Culture of Lakshadweep
The people of the islands speak a dialect of Malayalam. It is a folk belief that they are descendants of traders who where washed up on the islands during a particularly heavy storm. The people of the islands are ethnically similar to the people of the Kerala coast of India and are of mixed Indian and Arab descent, except on the southernmost and largest island, Minicoy, where people closely resemble Maldivians, speak Mahl, a language closely related to Dhivehi, which could even, be a dialect. Around 93% of the indigenous population is Muslim and were converted by the Arab traders. The locals call themselves the Divi or the Amadivi (from the mother island).
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