Located strategically on the most traveled ocean of the world, the exotic island nation of Maldives is a treasure trove, with much of its natural history cocooned in the mounds and shipwrecks found on and around these islands. The history of Maldives is as mysterious and exotic as the country itself. The moving hand of time has made it difficult to separate facts from legend, but has historical evidence leaves little doubt of the richness of life in Maldives during the past.
The history of this island nation is liberally sprinkled with stories of people who fought demons from the sea, brave Sultans and kings who fought valiantly for the nation's independence and huge dynasties, which ruled the country for decades. Maldives has a history, which captures the minds of both the serious historian and the imaginative day dreamer.
There is a theory that the Egyptians came to Maldives on their way across the Highway of the Sun. The first inhabitants probably arrived in the archipelago from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and southern India before 500 BC. One theory is that the islands were ate the trading crossroads of several maritime nations as early as 2000 BC.
Maldivians believe that an ancient race of sun-worshipping people, called the Redin were the first settlers around 2000BC and have left behind them an amazing legacy of beliefs and customs involving evil spirits and other mythological figures. The Redin left around 500 BC or were absorbed by Buddhists from Ceylon and by Hindus from India. Over the centuries people from different races have made Maldives their home and have defined the country's unique history and culture.
Various races like the Buddhists from Ceylon and Hindus from India settled in Maldives. Because building materials were limited, each group built its important structures on top of those left by previous inhabitants. This is the reason why many Maldivian mosques are oriented towards the sun and not Mecca. Arab trader's en route to the Far East recorded visits to the Maldives from the 2nd century AD. Known as the 'Money Isles' they provided enormous quantities of cowries shells, an international currency of the early ages.
Around 1153 AD, the country was converted to Islam. There is an interesting story to go with the conversion. According to legend, a sea jinni called Rannamaari demanded regular sacrifices of young virgin girls in Male. Abu Al Barakat, a visiting North African Arab took the place of the sacrificial virgin and drove the demon away by reading from the Koran. Following this the country was converted to Islam. Later the Portuguese made their presence felt in the country. Subsequently, in the 17th century, the Maldives came under the protection of the Dutch and later the British but neither established a colonial administration.
The first constitution was drawn up in 1932 and the country was proclaimed a republic by 1953. Recent years have been characterized by modernization, rapid economic growth and improvement in most social indicators. The country has made significant progress in the fields of fishing and tourism. The government has done a good job of striking a balance between preserving the environmental quality of the islands and further developing tourism and fishing.