The Fascinating History of Maldives

Maldives 1


The Maldives is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of India and Sri Lanka. The origins of the Maldives are still a subject of some debate among scholars, but there is evidence to suggest that the islands were inhabited as early as 1500 BCE.

Early Inhabitants

The early inhabitants of the Maldives were likely Indo-Aryan peoples who migrated to the islands from the Indian subcontinent. These early settlers were seafarers and traders who established small communities on the islands and engaged in trade with neighboring regions.

Buddhism and Hinduism

From the 3rd century BCE to the 12th century CE, the Maldives was ruled by Buddhist and Hindu dynasties, with Buddhism being the dominant religion during this period. Many ancient Buddhist relics and ruins can be found throughout the Maldives, including the remains of ancient temples and stupas.

Conversion to Islam

In the 12th century CE, the Maldives was converted to Islam by Arab traders and scholars. The first Muslim ruler of the Maldives was King Islamuddin, who established Islam as the state religion in 1153 CE. The Maldives became a center of Islamic learning and scholarship, with many famous Muslim scholars and thinkers hailing from the islands.

Colonial Era

In the 16th century CE, the Portuguese established a presence in the Maldives, leading to a period of colonial rule that lasted until the mid-17th century. During this time, the Maldives became a major center of the global spice trade, with Portuguese traders dominating the market.

In 1796, the Maldives signed a treaty with the British Empire, becoming a British protectorate. The islands remained under British rule until 1965, when they gained independence and established their own republic.

Recent History

Since gaining independence in 1965, the Maldives has undergone significant economic and social development, with industries such as tourism, fishing, and agriculture driving much of the nation’s growth. However, the Maldives has also faced a number of challenges in recent years, including rising sea levels and political instability caused by sporadic protests and political upheavals.

In 2018, the Maldives held a presidential election that saw the opposition candidate Ibrahim Mohamed Solih defeat incumbent President Abdullah Yameen. The election was seen as a major milestone in the nation’s political history, with many Maldivians hopeful about the prospects for democratic reform and increased transparency in government.

Key Figures

The Maldives has had a rich history spanning over 2,500 years, with several key figures shaping the country’s destiny. Here are some of the most prominent figures in the Maldives history:

1. King Koimala

King Koimala is considered the founding father of the Maldives. He is believed to have united the warring islands and established the first centralized kingdom in 1153 AD. His reign saw the establishment of Buddhism in the Maldives, which flourished until the conversion to Islam in 1153 AD. King Koimala is revered as a hero in the Maldives, and many legends and tales of his exploits are still told today.

2. Islamization by Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta is a famous Muslim traveler and explorer who visited the Maldives in 1343 AD. He is credited with playing a significant role in the Islamization of the country. During his visit, he met with the ruling Nabhani dynasty and succeeded in converting them to Islam, leading to the spread of Islam throughout the Maldives. His influence is still present in the Maldives today, as Islam is the religion of the majority of the population.

3. Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu

Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu is considered a national hero in the Maldives for leading a successful rebellion against the Portuguese occupation of the country in 1573 AD. His victory is celebrated annually as Maldives Independence Day. Thakurufaanu’s leadership during the rebellion is remembered fondly in the Maldives, and he is considered a symbol of resistance and independence.

4. Husein Salahudeen

Husein Salahudeen was the Maldives’ first president, serving from 1953 to 1954. He played a crucial role in leading the country towards independence from British rule, which was achieved on July 26, 1965. Despite his short term in office, Salahudeen is considered a visionary leader who laid the foundation for the modernization of the Maldives’ political and economic institutions.

5. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was the longest-serving president of the Maldives, leading the country for 30 years from 1978 to 2008. During his tenure, he modernized the economy, improved infrastructure, and maintained political stability in the country. Despite his earlier successes, Gayoom’s long rule was also marked by allegations of corruption, authoritarianism, and suppression of political opposition.

6. Mohamed Nasheed

Mohamed Nasheed was the Maldives’ first democratically elected president, serving from 2008 to 2012. He is credited with leading the country towards a more democratic and liberal society, with reforms in education, healthcare, and human rights. Nasheed’s rule, however, was cut short by a controversial resignation in 2012, following allegations of ordering the arrest of a senior judge illegally. Nasheed is still active in Maldivian politics, advocating for democracy, human rights, and climate change awareness.


The Maldives is a small island nation located in the Indian Ocean. The archipelago is made up of 26 atolls consisting of over 1,000 coral islands. While the exact date of human settlement is unknown, it is believed that people have been living on the islands for over 2,000 years. The Maldives has a rich history that spans over 12 centuries, and it has gone through many changes over the years, including changes in religion, government, and economy.

Pre-Islamic Period

The pre-Islamic period in the Maldives is shrouded in mystery, as very little is known about this era. However, it is believed that the islands were initially settled by people from Sri Lanka and southern India. These people brought with them the Buddhist religion, and it became the dominant religion on the islands for several centuries.

During this period, the Maldives was ruled by local chieftains, who were known as Radun. They were responsible for maintaining law and order and resolving disputes among the people. The Raduns were initially elected by the local communities but eventually became hereditary rulers.

Conversion to Islam

Islam came to the Maldives in the 12th century when Arab traders introduced the religion to the people. The first Muslim ruler of the Maldives was King Dhovemi, who converted to Islam in 1153 CE. The conversion to Islam had a significant impact on the country’s culture and way of life. The Buddhist monuments and structures were destroyed or replaced, and the Islamic faith was added to the official symbols of the government.

The Sultanate Period

The Sultanate period began in the Maldives in the 12th century and lasted until the arrival of the Portuguese in the 16th century. During this time, the Maldives was governed by a series of sultans who held absolute power over the islands. The sultanate was a theocratic government, and the sultan was not only the political leader, but he was also the religious leader of the people. He was referred to as the “Defender of the Faith” and was responsible for enforcing sharia law.

The sultanate period saw a significant increase in trade, as the islands became an important trading post for Arab and Persian merchants. The Maldives also became a center for the production and export of cowrie shells, which were used as currency throughout the Indian Ocean.

Portuguese Occupation

In the 16th century, the Maldives was invaded and occupied by the Portuguese. During their occupation, the Portuguese destroyed many of the country’s cultural and religious sites and introduced Christianity to the people. The Portuguese occupation lasted for 15 years until the people of the Maldives rebelled against their oppressors and drove them out of the country.

The Rise of Regional Powers

After the Portuguese were expelled from the Maldives, the country became a vassal state of regional powers such as the Dutch, French, and British. During this time, the Maldives saw a decline in its economy as the islands were exploited for their resources. The Maldives became a British protectorate in 1887 and remained so until it gained independence in 1965.

Recent History

The Maldives gained independence from the British in 1965, and it became a republic in 1968. In 1978, the first democratic constitution was adopted, which allowed for the election of a president and parliament. However, the country’s democracy was short-lived, and in 1988, a coup d’etat removed the democratically elected president from power.

The Maldives continued to suffer from political instability and corruption throughout the 1990s and 2000s. However, in 2008, the country saw a peaceful democratic transition of power when President Mohamed Nasheed was elected in the country’s first democratic elections.

Today, the Maldives is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning natural beauty, white sand beaches, and crystal clear waters. However, the country faces many challenges, including climate change, rising sea levels, and political instability. Despite these challenges, the people of the Maldives remain proud of their long and rich history and are committed to preserving their unique culture for future generations.

Social, cultural, or political context

The Maldives is an archipelago nation located in the Indian Ocean southwest of India and Sri Lanka. Its unique culture and history have been shaped by various factors, including its location, religion, and political systems.

Early History

The Maldives has a long history that dates back to ancient times. The earliest settlers were likely from the Indus Valley civilization, with evidence of their presence being found on several islands. The Maldives was also a significant stop on ancient maritime trade routes, allowing for the exchange of commodities and ideas between the East and the West.

As a result of its location and trade ties, the Maldives was influenced by various religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. The shift towards Islam began in the 12th century when North African Muslim scholars arrived on the islands and introduced the religion.

Islamic Influence

Islam became the official religion of the Maldives in the 12th century, and the country has remained an Islamic nation ever since. Islamic values have played a pervasive role in the social and cultural life of the Maldives, with many customs and traditions being shaped by Islamic teachings.

For example, the Maldives has traditionally been a conservative society, with strict gender roles, dress codes, and social norms. However, in recent years, there has been a growing movement towards greater openness and liberalization.

Colonialism and Independence

The Maldives was under British influence from the 19th century, although it remained an independent country. The British played a significant role in modernizing the Maldives, with improvements made in infrastructure, education, and healthcare.

However, the Maldives faced several challenges during this period, including economic difficulties and political unrest. In 1965, the Maldives gained independence from Britain, becoming a republic two years later.

Democratic Transition

From 1978 to 2008, the Maldives was a presidential republic with power concentrated in the hands of the president. There were concerns about corruption and human rights abuses during this period, leading to a pro-democracy movement in the early 2000s.

In 2008, the Maldives held its first multi-party presidential election, which was won by Mohamed Nasheed, a human rights activist and democracy advocate. Nasheed’s election marked a significant change for the Maldives, with a greater commitment to human rights and democracy.

However, Nasheed’s presidency was short-lived, and he was ousted in a coup in 2012. Since then, the Maldives has undergone a tumultuous period of political turmoil, with accusations of corruption and human rights abuses.

Economic Growth

Despite the political challenges of recent years, the Maldives has experienced significant economic growth, largely driven by its tourism industry. The Maldives is known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and luxury resorts, making it a popular destination for tourists.

The Maldives is also the world’s lowest-lying country, making it vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, increasing ocean temperatures, and coral bleaching have all posed significant challenges to the country’s economy and ecosystems.


The history of the Maldives is complex and multifaceted, shaped by various social, cultural, and political factors. While the country has experienced significant economic growth, it has also faced many challenges, including political unrest, human rights abuses, and climate change. Nevertheless, the Maldives remains a unique and fascinating country that continues to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances.

Impact and Significance

The Maldives, an archipelago consisting of 26 atolls, have been inhabited for over 2,500 years. The history of Maldives is rich and diverse, but it is unique from other South Asian countries in many ways. For instance, the country embraced Islam in the 12th century and has maintained its status as a Muslim country ever since. The islands have also been ruled by monarchs for over 800 years, with the exception of a brief period of British colonization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this section, we will explore some of the notable impacts and significance of the Maldives throughout history.


The Maldives has a long history of being a hub for trade, due to its strategic location on the ancient maritime silk route connecting India and Southeast Asia. As a result, the Maldives was a melting pot of diverse cultures, and its people were skilled in shipbuilding, seafaring, and trading. The islands were renowned for producing cowry shells, which were once used as currency throughout Asia and Africa. In the 12th century, the Maldives became one of the first countries in the region to embrace Islam, which further enhanced its trade connections with Muslim merchants from the Arab world. Today, the Maldives’ economy remains heavily reliant on tourism and fisheries, which are the country’s main sources of revenue.

Islamic Traditions and Culture

Islam has played an essential role in shaping the Maldives’ culture and traditions. Some of the earliest records of Islamic influence in the Maldives can be traced back to the arrival of Arab traders in the 10th century. The locals embraced Islam in the 12th century under the guidance of Islamic scholars, and the Maldives became a fully-fledged Islamic nation. Today, the country remains a bastion of Islamic culture and traditions, with the majority of its population following the practice of Sunni Islam. The Maldives’ unique blend of Islamic and South Asian cultures is reflected in its customs, art, literature, and architecture. For instance, the country’s traditional dress is a blend of bright colors, intricate embroidery, and the long-sleeved tunic that is typical of Muslim attire.

Colonial Rule

The Maldives was briefly under colonial rule by the British Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During this period, the Maldives’ economy was restructured to focus on exporting coconut products and fish to British colonies in Asia and Africa. The British influence also led to modernization efforts, such as the introduction of telecommunication and transportation infrastructure. However, the Maldives’ sovereignty remained intact, and the country continues to maintain good relations with the United Kingdom to this day.

Economic Challenges and Political Instability

The Maldives’ geographical isolation, limited natural resources, and vulnerability to climate change have made it one of the poorest countries in the region. Furthermore, the country has experienced significant political instability in the past, with several coups and power struggles that eventually led to the establishment of a democratic government in 2008. Despite these challenges, the Maldives has made significant progress in economic development and social welfare in recent years. The country has a literacy rate of over 98%, and its healthcare and education systems are among the best in the region. Furthermore, the Maldives’ tourism industry continues to thrive, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world every year.

Climate Change and Environmental Conservation

The Maldives faces several environmental challenges, such as rising sea levels, coral bleaching, and coastal erosion. These issues have been exacerbated by climate change, and the country is one of the most vulnerable to its effects. The government has taken significant steps to address these challenges, such as investing in renewable energy, implementing sustainable tourism practices, and creating marine protected areas. The Maldives is also an active participant in international efforts to combat climate change, providing a unique perspective as a small island state that is disproportionately affected by its effects.

In conclusion, the Maldives has a rich and diverse history that has shaped its culture, traditions, economy, and politics. Despite its challenges, the country remains an important player in the region, both as a hub for trade and a voice for environmental conservation. As the Maldives continues to navigate the uncertainties of the 21st century, it must draw on its resilient spirit and unique cultural identity to forge a sustainable and prosperous future for its people.

Exploring Malaysia's Rich History
The Fascinating Beauty of Liechtenstein's Rich History