The scattered islands of the Maldives, washed warm by the crystal clear Indian Ocean, are as rich in history and legend as in natural beauty. The earliest history has it that an Aryan prince found his way through the magnificent, yet perilous sharp coral heads, finding an aboriginal race who marveled at this superb navigator and welcomed him to their islands. Finding he was of royal blood, they crowned him King of the Maldives. Whether Prince Koimala is legendary or not, it seems certain that the islands were first settled by Aryan immigrants who are believed to have colonized Sri Lanka at the same time, (around 500 B.C.). Further migration from South India, as well as Sri Lanka, occurred. The latest archeological findings suggest the islands were inhabited as early as 1500 B.C. Historians have recorded the presence, however, of people of Dravidri stock, the Dhivis" (Maldivians).
Around 947 A.D., 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 cowne shells. The cowne shells were the accepted currency from Africa to China until the sixteenth century. Together with the description of the exotic paradise islands and expansive natural resources, the news the travelers must have taken home probably resulted in the arrival of more ships bearing other traders and travellers.
The outside world influenced Maldivian life significantly as legends and history reveal. Early traders found Buddhist customs and practices. (Today remnants of the previous Buddhist statues and Dagabas can still be found in the Laamu Atoll). But the greatest contribution made by the Persian and Arab Travelers was the conversion of the Maldivians to Islam in 1153 AD.
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.
Ruling dynasties gave shape to what has become the Republic of Maldives just as volcanic movement shaped the 1,190 islands and coral reefs which nose above the ocean's surface 100,000 years ago.
After the conversion of the first known king of the Maley Dynasty, rulers in 1153 came to be called sultans. King Koimala was renamed Sultan Mohammed-bin-Abdullah for the last thirteen years of his twenty-five year reign. Recorded in Maldivian history are the names of eighty-four Sultans and Sultanas who belonged to six dynasties. The Maley or Theemuge Dynasty lasted 235 years under the rule of twenty-six different sultans. The Hilali Dynasty ruled next for over a period of 170 years with twenty-nine rulers. During the Hilali period, Sultan Kalhu Mohammed invited the first foreign power to Maldives thus opening diplomatic relations with the world.
Balmy trade winds brought prosperity to this independent country until the sixteenth century when the Portuguese took more than a passing interest.
History creates legendary heroes. It is during this time of Portuguese threat that one of the greatest Maldivian heroes, Mohammed Thakurufaan, was born on the island of Utheem in the northern atoll of Thiladhummathi. As young Mohammed grew to manhood, the Portuguese manned a powerful expedition against the Maldives Captain Andres Andre, known as Andhiri Andhinin defeated the Sultan Ali VI, last ruler of the Hilali Dynasty. For fifteen years the invaders tried to maintain control oven the islands. But the Maldives were scattered over seas that were often as dangerous as attacks by brave Maldivians waging daring warfare against the colonialist's.
Today one can still hear songs and stories which tell of Mohammed Thakurufaan wiping out the entire Portuguese garrison. The great Mohammed's twelve years of peaceful reign was one of prosperity and reform. He died in 1585 A.D,, but his Utheem Dynasty ruled for 127 years, producing twelve rulers.
The winds of war are never calm, not even in idyllic islands. The Maldives faced a new threat from the Malabar Coast of South India. The Raja of Cannanore dispatched a raiding party to attack Male'. The royal palace was destroyed and the Sultan sent into exile; he never returned. Maldivian forces soon repelled the Malabar forces, drove them back, and under the leadership of Ghazi Hassan Izzaddeen, the Huraage Dynasty was founded. The Huraage Dynasty prevailed until 1968 when the Maldives became a Republic.
After the Malabar episode, the Maldives established diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka. The two countries formed an alliance that continued throughout Sri Lanka's Dutch and then British colonial periods. A sharp sense for trade and a remarkable ability to keep their own world in tact has allowed the Maldivians to maintain relations with many countries, especially Sri Lanka.
Protection against foreign influences, however, comes from a desire to exist as their fathers had, in a close-knit society; a national 'family' (that is close to Allah). Like the coral reefs that protect the islands, Maldivians maintain a commitment to keep their own world to themselves, to maintain the Maldivian culture and to protect it from the sometimes negative effects of outsiders.
Consitutional history of the Maldives