Marine Investigations in the Lakshadweep Islands, India

By Tripati, Sila | Antiquity, December 1999 | Go to article overview

Marine Investigations in the Lakshadweep Islands, India

Tripati, Sila, Antiquity


India, one of the oldest maritime nations of the world, has been maintaining commercial and cultural contacts with African, Arabian and Southeast Asian countries for the last 5000 years. The findings of excavations at various coastal sites of India have provided convincing evidence of such relations.

The group of 36 islands scattered off the southwest coast of India between latitudes 8 [degrees] and 12 [degrees] 37'N and longitudes 71 [degrees] and 74 [degrees] E (FIGURE 1) are known as the Lakshadweep (Laccadives). The word laksha is derived from the root lag, meaning a mark or sign. In addition to these islands, there are a number of submerged banks, open reefs and sand banks in this region. Only 11 of these islands are inhabited; while the rest are small and serve as satellites of the inhabited islands. Minicoy is the southernmost island of this group, separated from the rest by the Nine Degree Channel. Kavaratti, Kalpeni, Androth and Agatti form the southern group while Amini, Kadmat, Kiltan, Chetlat and Bitra make up the northern group of islands of Lakshadweep. All the islands are generally oriented north-south except Androth which lies east-west. These islands are famous for their beautiful lagoons, colourful coral reefs and clean coralline beaches. Most of them are enclosed by lagoons with coral reefs on the western sides, protecting them from the fury of the monsoon. The lagoons are 0.5-1.5 km long with a maximum water depth of 10 m. Earlier these islands were known as Divis or Dibajat which means islands. The islanders identify themselves as Divis even today.


The Lakshadweep Islands lie on the sea route between west Asia and north Africa on one side, and south Asia and the Far East on the other. These islands have been known to navigators of various countries and served as good landmarks for sailors, places for refuge in case of mishap and for replenishment of fresh water etc. Therefore, ancient seafarers of India as well as other countries might have taken shelter on the Lakshadweep, particularly in case of emergency. The early settlers were people from Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. These people were engaged in maritime trade between the mainland of India and the Arab and African countries, as well as with the western world. Country craft called Odams and Bandodies provided the only means of communication between the islands and mainland (Bhatt 1997). Such seafarers might also have crossed to other islands, namely the Maldives and the Andaman and Nicobar group of islands on their way to the far eastern countries.

Geology & geomorphology of the Lakshadweep Islands

Geologically these islands are a part of the Indian subcontinent and were separated due to faulting of the ridge 53-54 million years ago. The rock stratum is a continuation of the Aravalli hills of Rajasthan (Mannadiar 1977).

The Lakshadweep Islands do not show any major topographic features and are mostly low and flat-topped with a height of less than 6 m above sea-level. Most of the islands are long and irregularly shaped. They are believed to have been formed as the result of coral growth. The soil is porous, and lakes, rivers or streams are completely absent. Drinking-water is drawn from wells and tanks on the inhabited islands. The water is hard and a little brackish in some places. The eastern seaward shores of all the islands except Kadmat, Agatti, Bangaram and Cheriyakara are marked by rough waters. The eastern shelf of the islands rises precipitously from the sea enabling ships to get very close to the islands (Athawale 1991).


This paper aims to synthesize the information available from earlier explorations and excavations in the Lakshadweep including the work carried out by the National Institute of Oceanography (Vora 1994; Gaur et al. 1998). The objectives of these explorations have been to locate archaeological sites on land and collect data for reconstructing cultural contacts, to trace the trade links of these islands with the mainland, and to locate shipwrecks in Lakshadweep waters. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Marine Investigations in the Lakshadweep Islands, India


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.