Boat building was once an important skill. Sadly, after the advent of motorized boats, this has reduced considerably. However, majestic wooden boats anchored along the shore stand silent testimony to a fragment of the past. Boats were built for fishing, for navigation from one end of the island to another, for inter- island communication, for transporting coconuts and dried fish to the mainland and returning with food supplies, as well as for friendly competitive races Each boat was built differently, according to its function and every island has its own slight variation in design. This meant that just sighting a boat approaching the shore was indication, enough of which island it, came from. The people of Lakshadweep are often commended for their honesty. The absence of crime in the islands is laudable. The most obvious testimony to this is the profusion of gold ornaments worn by the women, young children are allowed to wander around alone wearing chunky jewelry is a pointer to a way of life that one hopes will continue into the future.
People and Culture: Ethnically, the people of the islands are very similar to the people of Kerala; even their language is the same except in Minicoy where Mahl is spoken. As Muslims, they have conservative customs and traditions and yet they are liberal in approach.
Each island has several mosques. Ladies are not permitted to enter.
Non-availability of drinking water accounts for a number of islands being uninhabited.
Not much is known of the early history of Lakshadweep. From the 7th century onwards, however, enough evidence exists to piece together a history of the islands. The people converted to Islam under the influence of Hazrat Ubaidullah who set off from Mecca after Prophet Mohammed appeared to him in a dream, commanding him to leave for distant shores to propagate Islam. The ship on which Hazrat Ubaidullah was sailing was wrecked and after drifting on a plank of wood he reached the island of Amini where his mission met with fierce opposition.
After many difficulties he was able to carry out his mission, and to this day, the people of Lakshadweep follow Islam. Traces of the old culture still linger however; despite the influence of Islam, a caste system still prevails based on occupation- landowners, sailors and cultivators. Although Madrassas in all the islands impart religious instruction to school-going children, many individuals bear two names.
History comes alive in folk ballads that women chant during their house - hold chores. Events of the past - the arrival of Hazrat Ubaidullah in Lakshadweep, the plunder of the islands by the Portuguese, have been perpetuated by the balladeer.
Economy: Coconut cultivation and fishing are the chief occupations of the people, whose folklore and customs are, not surprisingly, largely derived from the sea.