The Lakshadweep islands are a group of islands lying in the Arabian Sea, off the south-west coast of India. The word dweep means island and laksha means lakh or hundred-thousand. From the name, it would seem that there are a hundred-thousand islands in the archipelago, as a group of islands is called. But in reality, it has only 36 islands, scattered in the Arabian Sea. They form the smallest Union Territory in India.
This archipelago is part of a chain that extends up to Maldives, an island nation lying to the south-west of India. Perhaps they got the name ‘Lakshadweep’ because there were more islands in the group long, long ago. Even now, every once in a while, when the water level goes down in a particular part of the ocean, a new island surfaces. But as the water level in the ocean rises, small islands disappear from the Lakshadweep archipelago too.
The Lakshadweep Islands were formed by a build-up of corals, and are the only coral islands in India.
This archipelago was once known as the Laccadives, Minicoy and Amindivi group of islands. Together, they have a land area of 32 sq. kilometers. Only 10 of the islands are inhabited. The Government of India protects the culture of the native people of these islands, and tourists are allowed to visit only five of the islands. Foreign tourists can go only to Bangaram.
Minicoy is one of the largest islands in the group, and lies closest to Maldives. Its food and other traditions are different from those followed by people in the other islands.
Kerala State is the closest to the Lakshadweep Islands in mainland India, and the islanders speak a language that is very close to Malayalam, the native language of that.