Saturday, September 23, 2023


  ❯ History    ❯   Advent of Islam

It is believed that people from Kerala were the settlers in the Laccadive and Amini groups of Islands. A legend said that Cheraman Perumal who was the ruler of Kerala in the 9th century for about 36 years was attracted towards Islam in his old age. He divided the country among his kinsmen and one night secretly sailed for Mecca in  a ship belonging to one Arab merchant. when his departure came to be known, one of his followers, the Raja of Kolathiri  (chirakkal) sent some brave soldiers to bring him back. The party started from Cannanore capital of the Raja of Chirakal but faced a fierce storm in the sea and could not catch the Arab ship in which the Perumal had left. The ship sent by the Raja of Chirakkal struck at an uninhabited island which is now known as Bangaram. At the end of the storm the party returned home. Way back they sighted some other small islands. After returning to Cannanore, they reported about the existence of these islands to the Raja who announced that all who settled in these islands would have the right of ownership of the lands cultivated by them. Many brave and hardy people were attracted by the terms offered by the Raja and settled in the islands. It is believed that Amini was the first island to be colonised. Later, people from Amini went to Chetlat and colonised it.

Another legend said that these islands are known to have been inhabited since unknown past. There existed in Amini a council of four principal families. This council had some authority over chetlat and other islands also but in many matters all islands enjoyed certain amount of autonomy. 

Historically the first reference is from the periplus of the Erythrarean Sea (A.D.90). Describing the trade of the Malabar coast, the author mentions "tortoise shell from the islands off Limurike", the latter being the name given to Malabar or part of it in ancient times. The other classical reference is found in Ptolemy's Geography (Circa A.D.150). He refers to a multitude of islands in the Indian Ocean lying around Taprobane (Sri Lanka) and numbering about 1378. He gives a long list of islands, out of which a few belonging to Lakshadweep.

The travelers like Al Biruni in A.D.1030, Abu Zayad in A.D.950 and Marco Polo in A.D.1254-1324 mentioned about the islands in the coast of Kerala. Marco Polo gives a fantastic account of their marriage custom, fish trade and collection of ambergris.

The earliest reference about these islands is in the Vaylur inscription which indirectly mentions the conquest of the islands by Rajasimha (Narasimha Varman  II-AD. 680-720). The other inscription referring to these islands is the inscription  in Rajarajeswara Temple Tanjore which mentions about the "many ancient islands" conquered by Rajarajendra Chola (A.D.1018-1019). From Arab accounts, it is gathered that people from the west coast went to these islands to collect cowries and tortoise shells which were items of commerce. They also probably planted coconuts which they sold to the Arab sailors. The  'mooshakavamsa' which is a Sanskrit work composed towards the end of the 11th century A.D. by Atula who is the court poet of the Mooshaka King Sreekantha of Kolathunad mentions while narrating the history of that kingdom, the annexation of several islands of the Arabian Sea by Valabha , the immediate predecessor of Sreekantha . These islands may be identified with the modern Lakshadweep.

During the16th century the island have to suffered greatly at the hands of the Portuguese. A major part of the inhabitants were put to death and many were taken prisoners. The Portuguese built a fort at Amini. Because of their cruelty and harshness the islanders were driven to seek assistance of Raja of Chirakkal. As a result of his intervention in this matter the Raja could eventually establish his authority over all the islands. He held them for many years and later transferred them in Jaghir, with the title of Raja upon the Ali Raja, the head of the Moplah community in Cannanore.

The Raja of Cannanore first managed the islands through the chiefs of the islanders themselves called 'Muthalals'. Later on the Rajas used to send their own agents known as 'Kariakars'. Chetlat was administered by the 'Kariakar' stationed at Amini. In A.D.1764-65, the Cannanore Raja levied an export duty on coir and later imposed duty on rice imported from mainland for home consumption. In 1783 as a result of the compulsory introduction of monopoly an export of coir, the people of Aminidivi group of islands including Chetlat rose in revolt and extended allegiance to Tipu Sultan wh attached the Aminidivi Islands in 1779 since then, the islands were under the British, till India's Independence in 1947. The Union Territory was formed in 1956 and it was named Lakshadweep in 1973.