Minicoy is locally known as “Maliku” , which is the name of the Island in local language. So how did this transform in to Minicoy? Many Minicoy Islanders have long settled in the Nicobar Islands across in the Bay of Bengal. They had always regularly traveled back to Minicoy. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands had a reputation in the Maldives and Minicoy of being inhabited by cannibals, and so collectively the Andaman and Nicobar groups were called “Minikaa-raajje” by Maldive and Minicoy islanders. This meant “cannibal kingdom”. The indigenous Andaman and Nicobar islanders probably practiced cannibalism until recent times.
A British official once asked a Minicoy islander ‘what the name of his island was?’. The islander told the official that ‘he was from Maliku but usually lived in “Minikaa-raajje” (Nicobar)’. The good official thought Maliku and Minikaa were the same place and recorded the name of the island as “Minikaa”. This later became Anglicized as ‘Minicoy’.
Maliku had always attracted the tourists, many historians and academics. The irony is that Maliku, its people, culture and social structure had always remained a mystery to them, due to the diversity from other islands of Lakshadweep. Written history is only available in the form of thaavaru (raivaru), which would be difficult to fetch out for those outsiders, and even difficult to understand the exact meaning. The popular one is the oral tradition of Kohorathukamanaa and Kamboranin, the two Maldivian princesses and their companions who came to Maliku and replaced the Teevaru, the earlier inhabitants, and became ancestors of the present population.
There was a pre Indian era for Maliku (Minicoy), like the pre Islamic era that existed in Lakshadweep. It would also be fair to note that India never existed as such prior to the arrival of the British. They were only small kingdoms, and the Mughal emperors expanded it. The British East India Company was able to annex the vast empire of the Mughals under their rule through their business policies, which later came to be known as British India.
It is not very much clear about the exact period when Maliku (Minicoy) was under the rule of Maldivian kings. However one definitely finds references made until recently in Maldive official literature – “Malikaddu mi demedhu”, (in between Maliku and Addu) which was used to determine the boundary of the Maldivian kingdom. As Maliku was the northernmost atoll in the Maldives it was difficult to protect the island from the invasion of Ali Rajas of Malabar, and other foreign forces. Ali Rajas had a monopoly of trade on nearby Laccadive Islands, and it was natural that they wanted to extend it to Maldives, and in this effort Maliku was very often invaded by the Ali Rajas.
The culture of Minicoy Island is somehow different from the cultural traits of other islands of Lakshadweep. The mannerisms and customs of the residents of Minicoy are more similar to the people of Maldives. The main language of the island is Dhivehi and its social structure matches those of matrilineal Muslims, in which a man has to live in his wife or mother’s house. This is the reason that the island is also referred to as the ‘female island.’
The customs and traditions of the villages of Minicoy are the main attraction. Every village of this island has a male and female mayor called the Bodukaaka and Bodudhata, who are responsible for the complete conduct of the village. These villages hold a big feast and celebrations when a new baby boy is born in any house, which usually lasts for a week.
The best time to visit Minicoy Island is between the months of October and April, when several colourful activities and programmes are held here, by the local folks. The traditional Laval Dance is the main attraction of these festivities.
Although, the island is a part of the Laccadive Islands, direct travelling between the two islands is forbidden by the government. The nearest airport to the destination is at Agatti and Bangaram. Moreover, it is also well connected with Lakshadweep through seaways.