Maldives History

The Maldives

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Maldives History

The Maldives has been an independent state throughout its known history, except for a brief period of 15 years of Portuguese occupation in the 16th century. The Maldives became a British Protectorate in 1887 and remained so until 26 July 1965. The independent Maldives reverted from a Sultanate to a Republic on 11th November 1968. The first written constitution was proclaimed in 1932.

It seems certain that the islands of Maldives were first settled by Aryan immigrants who are believed to have colonised Sri Lanka at the same time, (around 500 BC). Further migration from South India, as well as Sri Lanka, occurred. The latest archaeological findings suggest the islands were inhabited as early as 1500 BC. Around 947 AD, recorded contact with the outside world began with the first Arab traveller. One can imagine accounts taken home depicting the potential for trade in pearls, spices, coconuts, dried fish, and certainly the abundance of cowry shells. The cowry shells were the accepted currency from Africa to China until the sixteenth century. Together with the description of the exotic paradise islands and expensive natural resources, the news the travellers must have taken home probably resulted in the arrival of more ships bearing traders and other travellers.

The outside world influenced Maldivian life significantly as legends and history reveal. Early traders found Buddhist customs and practices. But the greatest contribution made by the Persian and Arab Travellers was the conversion of the Maldivians to Islam in 1153 AD. Dhivehi (Maldivian language) also underwent a certain conversion as a result of contact with the outside world. Perhaps blending rather than converting better describes the evolution of Dhives Akuru to Thaana, the present-day script. The writing of Thaana is from right to left, unlike Dhives Akuru, probably to accommodate the many Arabic words then in everyday use.

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