Minicoy, locally known as Maliku is the southernmost atoll of the archipelago of Lakshadweep, India. Administratively, it is a census town in the Indian union territory of Lakshadweep.
There are ancient remains in an area of the island known as "Salliballu" dating back from Minicoy's Buddhist past, about 800 years ago. The most conspicuous archaeological sites are two mounds or large heaps of ruins belonging to a stupa and another related structure. These sites were investigated by the Archaeological Survey of India in the 1980s. The excavations yielded few discoveries, for the sites had been much damaged and vandalized previously. Still, a much-damaged large Buddha head was found buried in the area. The name "Salliballu" originated in the local name for the "Christian cross", because the locals say that an inscription with a "cross" was found there. But it is likely that, coming from a Buddhist site, it was a cross-shaped Mandala or Visvavajra, like those often found on inscriptions in archaeological remains in the Maldives.
Local oral tradition has it that Kamborani and Kohoratukamana, two princesses from the Maldives, came to Maliku. When they arrived, the tivaru, who had been living there before, left the island for Sri Lanka. The Kamborani's descendants are the bodun (land- and shipowners) and the descendents of Kohoratukamana are the niamin (captains). The other status-groups are made up of the descendants of their crew.
Minicoy is the second largest and the southernmost among the islands of the Lakshadweep archipelago. It is located 201 km to the SSW of Kalpeni, at the southern end of the Nine Degree Channel and 125 km to the north of Thuraakunu, Maldives, at the northern end of the Eight Degree Channel. The atoll is 10 km in length, having a maximum breadth of about 6 km. The closest geographic feature is the Investigator Bank, a submerged shoal located 31 km to the northeast.
The atoll contains two islands. The main island is located on the eastern and southeastern side of the lagoon, along the reef fringe. It measures about 10 km from its northern end to its southernmost point and it is about 1 km wide in its southern half, while the northern half is a narrow sandspit, often less than 100 m wide. Minicoy is almost completely covered with coconut trees. One of the few landmarks of the island is a tall lighthouse. On the southern side of the main island lies the uninhabited islet of Viringili (Dhivehi: ވިރިންގިލި, also called the Small Pox Island), measuring barely 200 m in length. Formerly the lepers of Minicoy were banished to this island where they lived in abject conditions.
Maliku Atoll has a lagoon with two entrances in its northern side, Saalu Magu on the northeast and Kandimma Magu on the northwest. Its western side is fringed by a narrow reef and coral rocks awash. The interior of the lagoon is sandy and of moderate depth, rarely reaching 4m. It has some coral patches.
The cultural traits of Minicoy differ from those of any other island in Lakshadweep. Manners, customs, lifestyle and food are similar to those of the Maldives to the south of Minicoy and Malikubas (Officially referred as Mahl by the Lakshadweep administration), a dialect of Dhivehi language is spoken on the island. Like in other Dhivehi speaking communities it is the Tāna script, written from right to left which is used in writings.
The social structure is anthropologically interesting, being a matrilineal Muslim society with natolocal residence. A man will live in either his mother's or his wife's house. Remarriage for both men and women is accepted. Property is inalienable and owned by "houses" (matrilineal descent groups). As Muslims, they have conservative customs and traditions and yet they are liberal in approach. Here a man after marriage stays a member of his own mother's house throughout his life. Quite frequently Minicoy is referred to as the 'female island' mentioned in the travelogue of Marco Polo.