Scattered around 200 km - 400 km west off the Kerala coast, lie the islands of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep, an archipelago of 27 coral islands and open reefs. Out of these islands, only ten are inhabited and they are Andrott, Amini, Agatti, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmath, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Kiltan and Minicoy. These islands form the smallest of the Union Territories of India, and are the country's only coral islands. The main islands are Kavaratti, Minicoy, and Amini. Kavaratti is the headquarters of these islands, while Bitra is the smallest of all, with a nominal population. About 93 percent of the people in Lakshadweep are the Shafi school Muslims of the Sunni sect, and they speak Malayalam.
The Lakshadweep archipelago consists of 36 islands some 200 to 300 km off the Kerala coast. The islands are a northern extension of the Maldives chain. The islands form the smallest of the Union Territories of India and are the country's only coral islands. The population is 93% Muslim. Malayalam is spoken on all the islands except Minicoy, where the people speaks Mahl, the language spoken in the Maldives. The main occupations of the island people are fishing and the production of copra and coir. Tourism is an emerging industry. The first historical records date from the 7th century, when a marabout (Muslim saint) was shipwrecked on the island of Amini. Despite initial opposition to his efforts to convert the inhabitants to Islam, he eventually succeeded. When he died, he was buried in Andrott. His grave is revered to this day as a sacred site. These palm-fringed coral islands with their beautiful lagoons are every bit as inviting as those in the Maldives archipelago, but until recently they were effectively off limits to foreign visitors. Now there are regular boat cruises and tours to the island for Indian nationals, and the resort on the uninhabited island of Bangaram is open to foreign tourists. Bangaram is in a six km by 10 km lagoon with three smaller islands - Thinnakara, Parali-1 and Parali-2.
Generally it is believed that Cheraman Perumal, the last king of Kerala, as a result of shipwreck on the stormy Arabian seas, made the first settlement on these islands. But the historical record shows that, around the 7th century, a Muslim saint was shipwrecked on the island of Amini. He converted the inhabitants here to Islam, despite initial opposition.
Although the sovereignty remained in the hands of the Hindu Raja of Chirakkal, it eventually passed to the Ali Raja of Cannanore (Kannur) in the 16th century, the only Muslim royal family of Kerala, and later, in 1783 to Tipu Sultan. Following the defeat of Tipu Sultan by the British, at Srirangapattanam in 1799, the East India Company annexed the islands. It remained with the British until Independence, when it was made a Union territory of the Indian Union in 1956.