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A frequently asked questions we receive is: “Can we travel to Minicoy when visiting Maldives ? “ Unfortunately the answer is No ; Minicoy island is not part of Maldives and belongs to India, therefore you will need to visit India if you wish to explore Minicoy Island.   However, territorial, historical and cultural links between Maldives and this small Indian island are still very visible nowadays. Here is a short story of Minicoy Island.

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Minicoy or Maliku (as locally known)  is a “small” island located in the Lakshadweep archipelago at 400 kilometers from the coast of Trivandrum in India and 125 kilometres from the closest Maldivian Island called Thuraakunu . The island of Minicoy is approximately 10 kilometres long and 1 km at his widest point. 10 villages are scattered from north to south.

On the south side of the main island lies the tiny uninhabited island of Viringili where formerly the lepers of Minicoy and Lakshadweep archipelago were banished.

Viringili
Viringili islet where formerly the lepers of Minicoy were banished

There are not much written records of Minicoy history and most of the little known facts have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.

Oral tradition has it that the first Maldivian settlers of Minicoy were 2 princesses named Kamborani & Kohoratukamana from the northern Maldives.

Until the end of 15th Century, Minicoy was most likely under the authority of the Maldives royal kingdom.

According to the Tarikh ( Maldivian Royal Family Chronicle ), as early as AD 1500, Maliku was detached from the Maldivian Sultans rules and had fallen  under the authority of Ali Rajas of Cannanore ( king of Cannanore (Kannur ) & King of the laccadive Islands (Agatti, Kavaratti, Androth and Kalpeni )).

Minicoy remained under the Rajas rule until it became a territory of the British Empire in 1905.

In 1956, India decided to hold a plebiscite to determine whether or not the people of Minicoy wish to join the Indian Union.  A referendum was held and an absolute majority of the Malikun decided to join the Indian Union. On 1st November 1956, Maliku was integrated into the “Union Territory of Laccadive, Minicoy, & Aminidivi Islands”( known today as Lakshadweep).

Until 1956 Minicoy inhabitants and people from Maldives’ northern atolls maintained intensive trade and marriage contacts. The people from the 2 nations used to travel freely across the islands to visit their families. However, since 1956 the Indian government has made illegal these visits and Minicoy islanders or Maldivians are not allowed to visit their relatives in their respective islands. A permit from the Indian government is now needed to enter Minicoy.

Minicoy is very different from the other Indian Islands and bears many similarities both culturally and linguistically to the Maldives.

The language used in Minicoy is called Mahal bas, a dialect of Divehi Bas (Maldivian language). Mahal bas , just like Divehi bas employs the Taana script (Thana, Tana ), written from right to left.

Other than Maldivians, Minicoy inhabitants are the only people who have Maldivian language as their mother tongue and Taana as their writing system.

Minicoy Thaana

Thaana script in Minicoy (under the english writing) – Photo credit  thenewsminute.com

Like the nearby islands of the Maldives, Minicoy islanders follow Sunni Islam.

Like Maldivians, the people of Minicoy are known as good sailors, and also for boat building and other crafts.

Music and dances play a very important role for Minicoy islanders and Maldivians.  Some Maldivian dances such as “Dhandi Jehun” are even believed to have come from Minicoy islands (Known as “Malik Dhandi” in Minicoy).

Just like Maldives, the traditional dress of Minicoy woman consists in a long robe known as “libus” ( “libaas”in Dhivehi) and is made of red cloth with black stripes from shoulder to the ankle and embroidery work at the neck opening.

Minicoy Women

Minicoy women on the beach – Photo Credit newsminute.com

Indian is a fantastic destination for travelers from around the world and you will have so much to visit and discover in this amazing country. However if during your holidays in India you want to enjoy a picturesque beach destination while experiencing  a taste of Maldives then visit Minicoy because this as close to Maldives as you can get. Otherwise you can also Explore the forts, palaces, temples of India before kicking back on the picture-perfect turquoise lagoons of the Maldives, a perfect combination of culture and beach. ( South India is only one hour flight from Maldives with numerous daily budget flights)

 

 

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