Lakshadweep Islands - India

The Union Territory of Lakshadweep comprises an archipelago of 36 islands located in the Arabian Sea some 300 km (190 miles) off the west coast of Kerala State in southern India. These idyllic coral islands, spread over some 48,000 sq km (30,000 sq miles) of ocean, are generally low-lying coral atolls with a combined land area of just 32 sq km (12 sq miles). They comprise the Amindivis group in the north, the Laccadives group in the centre, and Minicoy Island in the south. Fishing and coconut groves are the main sources of livelihood. Coconuts are a staple food, and also the source of the coir (coconut husk fibre) and copra (coconut kernels) which are the main exports. Kadmat and Bangaram are the main islands for tourists but numbers are carefully controlled. Aggatti is also an access port by sea and air. The islanders were visited by Arab traders, and in the 7th century were converted to Islam. From the 11th century the islands formed part of various Kerala states and were governed by a succession of female rulers and their consorts under the matrilineal traditions of the region. In the 1780s Tipu Sahib gained control of the Amindivis. They passed to Great Britain on his death in 1799. Female monarchs continued to rule the other islands until 1908 when they also became part of the British Empire.