The islands of Maldives appear in-between the trading route of the Indian Ocean. Thus settlers, and visitors from neighbouring regions and around the world have come in contact with the islands for as long as history has been recorded. Such is the to-and-fro flow of people and their cultures, that a marked effect has been left in the Maldivian people, the language, beliefs, arts, and attitudes.
The looks of the Maldivian people may differ from one atoll to the other, attributing to the genes passed on by South and Southeast Asians, Africans, and Arabians. The language, Dhivehi, differs in dialect in some regions in the south of Maldives, possibly due to the secluded nature and subsistent ways of island life. Maldivian beliefs have been very much based around religion and superstition, often used together in matters of significance but given separate positions in society. In matters of faith, Islam dominates, but influence of the supernatural still continues to play a major role in most island communities, possibly giving credit to the folklores and Buddhist traditions of the islands’ first settlers before conversion to Islam in 1153 AD.
The mixing of cultures is very much seen in Maldivian arts. The music played with the local bodu-beru (big-drum) resemble that of African drumming. The dhoni (a unique Maldivian sailboat) is an art form itself built with skilled craftsmanship, with significant similarities to the Arabian dows. The fine artistry of Maldivians, seen in the intricate details on wooden beams in antique mosques, represents what we have gained from Southeast Asian architecture. Then there is the undefined: the distinct geometric designs used in mats woven from local materials, the embroidered neckline of women’s traditional dresses and their ornaments too, expose another story brought in from an unknown culture that has seeped in to Maldivian society.
Maldivians are quite open to adaptation and are generally welcoming to outside inspiration. The culture has always continued to evolve with the times. Locals still eat fish and fishermen still spend days out at sea, but tourism now takes a standing prominence. Most Maldivians still want to believe in upholding unity and oneness in faith, but recent waves of reform in the country have created a whole new culture of new ideas and attitudes. The effects of the modern world are now embraced, while still striving to uphold the people’s identity, traditions and beliefs
For Maldivians, who love a good story, it is somehow fitting that the early history of the country is enshrined in myth and legend. There is the story of the Rannamaari, a tale about a sea monster than demands a virgin sacrifice every full moon, until a brave man from Morocco, Mr Abdul Barakaath-Ul Barbary decides to confront the monster and prohibit him from coming into the Maldives.
There is the story of Bodu Thakurufaanu, renowned for its length, who saved the Maldives from Portuguese Invaders. These stories, while very
much anecdotal, are based on the real facts that form the history of the country. Written accounts portray a Maldives whose people have traveled far and wide, adventurers whose geographical isolation had not limited the boundaries of their world. Maldives today remains very much like it had then – small, but not lacking;
isolated, but not invisible.
1st Century AD - The Roman manual of Navigation, the Periplus Maris Erythraei mentions islands that are assumed to be theMaldives
2nd Century AD - Ptolemy refers to the Maldives in his geography 362 AD Roman historian records a visit of a Maldivian delegation to Rome, bearing gifts to emperor Julian 662 AD A historical Chinese document records that the King of the Maldives sent gifts to the Chinese Emperor Kao-Tsung of Tang Dynasty
1153 - Maldives converts to Islam
1558 - The Portuguese invade the Maldives
1573 - Mohamed Thakurufaanu liberates the Maldives from the Portuguese
1752 - The Malabars invade the Maldives for three months
1887 - Protectorate signed with Great Britain
1932 - The first Constitution of the Republic of Maldives enacted
1953 - The first Republic with Mohamed Ameen as President
1954 - End of the first Republic as Ameen is ousted; the Maldives reverts to Sultanate with Mohamed Fareed as ruler
1965 - Independence from the British
1968 - End of the Sultanate; second Republic begins with Ibrahim
Nasir as President
1972 - The first island resort is developed; tourists begin arriving to