Lakshadweep is a charming and beautiful collection of small islands. Lakshadweep often heralded as the ‘Emerald Islands’. Lakshadweep is the tiniest union territory of India. This is the only coral island in India. Ethnically, the people of Lakshadweep are similar to that of Kerala- even their language is similar except in Minicoy where Mahl is spoken. As Muslims, they have conservative customs and traditions and yet they are liberal in approach.
Perhaps the charm in the Lakshadweep islands lies in its remoteness. Or perhaps it is the beauty of the islands- 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 Lakshadweep lies in the fact that each island, a tiny principality in itself, has existed from time immemorial, with little influence from the outside world.
The flora of the island includes banana, drum-stick, colocasia, bread-fruit and wild almond. Coconut is the only crop of economic importance in Lakshadweep. Cattle and poultry are also commonly seen here. Oceanic birds are also seen occasionally in one of the uninhabited island named ‘Pitti’. This island has been declared as bird sanctuary.
Although the major group of people follow the Muslim customs, still there are traces of old culture can be seen. The cast system still prevails according to the occupation, land owners, sailors and cultivators. The madrassas impart religious instructions to the school going children. Many individuals bear two names.
Kolkali, Parichamuttukali, Fuli, Bandiya and lava dance are the famous art forms seen in Lakshadweep. History of Lakshadweep comes alive in folk ballads that the women chant during their household chores. Events of the past-the arrival of Hazarat Ubaidullah in Lakshadweep, the plunder of islands by the Portuguese have been perpetuated by balladeer. The handicrafts of Lakshadweep include the crafts made of shells, oyster shells, tortoise shells etc. There are beautiful crafts made from the coconut shells also. These are mainly for the purpose of decoration of households. We can also find many chunky colourful chains here which the women of island use to wear around their neck.
Coconut cultivation and fishing are the chief occupation of the people. Boat building was once an important skill. Sadly, after the advent of motorised boats, this has reduced considerably. However, majestic wooden boats anchored along the shore stand silent testimony to the fragment of the past. Boats were built for fishing, for navigation from one end of the island to another, for interisland communication, for transportation of goods and food supplies etc. The people of Lakshadweep are often commended for their honesty. Ile absence of crime in the island is laudable.
Kavaratti is the administrative capital Lakshadweep. Fifty two mosques are spread over the island, the most beautiful being the ‘Ujra mosque’. A well, within its precincts, is believed to contain water of active powers. The Ujra mosque has an ornately carved ceiling, said to have been carved from a piece of driftwood. Kavaratti also has a aquarium with several colourful species of fish. There is a glass bottom boat for viewing marine life and an array of remarkable coral formations that provide a background to the islands within them. Some water sports like kayaking, canoeing and snorkelling are available for the tourists.
Kalpeni has three uninhabited satellite islands, all surrounded by an immense lagoon of spectacular beauty. Koomel, the gently curving bay where the tourist facilities are located, directly over-looks Pitty and Thilakkam, two of the islands. Here, you can swim, reef walk, snorkel or use water sports equipments like kayaks, and salf boats. Tourists can stay on the island in privately managed huts. This lagoon is especially rich in coral life.
Kadamath is a particularly fine lagoon, of even depth and an endless shoreline, perfect for swimming, makes it a haven of solitude. A water sports Institute providing water sports facilities has been set up in Kadamath. As a testimony to its water sports potential, a scuba diving centre has been set up there. The island is becoming increasingly popular for honeymooners.
Furthest from Kavarathi Island, 200km away to the south and nearest to Maldives, Minicoy has a lighthouse built by the British in 1885. Visitors are allowed upright to the top. Words cannot do justice to the incredible size of lagoon, one of the largest in Lakshadweep- the green of coconut trees and the mirror-like surface of an island lake as it nestles in one corner of the island. Minicoy is renowned for its dance tradition- the lava dance performed on celebrations. There is a tuna-canning factory signifying the importance of tuna fishing and boat building.
There is something indescribably romantic about the very notion of an uninhabited wand and Banagaram justifies that feeling. Tear- drop shaped, it is encircled by a continuous halo of creamy sand. There are three uninhibited islands in the same atoll consisting of Thinakara, Parali I and Parali II perfect for a day outing. The lagoon is born out of a large coral reef and rings around the three other islands as well., each easily accessible out boarding, sailing, rowing and for the athletic, by kayaking or wind-surfing from Banagaram.
The warm, clear, deep water of Indian Ocean with its myriad marine flora offers scuba diving fraternity of the world. The exquisite coral formations, the large variety and number of coral fish, the angel, the clown, the butterfly, the surgeon, the groupers, not to mention the abundance of the awe-some, but harmless sharks, manta rays, sting ray, moray eels and turtles makes diving here an addictive experience.