Maldives, officially Republic of Maldives Dhivehi Raa'jeyge Jumhooriyya), also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep Islands, between Minicoy Island and Chagos Archipelago.
A third of the Maldives' estimated 300,000 population live on the tiny capital island of Male', where some 100,000 people are packed into a rectangle of land just a couple of kilometers across. The rest of the population is spread out on the atolls - there are hardly any other towns in the whole country.
The year round temperature is consistently between 26C - 30C. Two distinct seasons divide the year. The northeast Monsoon (essentially a wind direction) runs from December through the April. This is the tourist high season when there is little rainfall, open blue skies and constant sunshine. The Southwest Monsoon runs from May through to November. During this period it is still generally dry and sunny but with sporadic rain and cloud cover. It is only at the turn of the two seasons that the weather can persistently inclement. This is November into December and May.
The Maldivian economy is based on tourism and fishing. Economic growth has been powered mainly by tourism, the backbone of the economy, and its spinoffs in the transportation, communication, and construction sector. More than 900,000 tourists visit annually. Fishing remains an important part of the economy as well. The Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 devastated many islands. The Maldivian economy made a remarkable recovery, with a rebound in tourism and post-tsunami reconstruction.
On the morning of 26 December 2004 the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated countries throughout the region. While it could have been much, much worse for the Maldives, whose vast, deep inter-atoll channels absorbed much of the strength of the wave, the result was still devastating. Eighty-three people were confirmed dead, with a further 25 feared dead, their bodies never having been discovered. Twenty-one islands were devastated, with over 11, 000 people made homeless, many of whom continue today to exist as IDPs (internally displaced persons). Large numbers of resorts were closed and although one was totally abandoned, the rest were rebuilt with incredible speed, nearly all being open again a year later.
The British colonial ambitions in the Indian Ocean had their effects on Maldives. They recognised the strategic location of Maldives and the prospect of Maldives being under any other colonial power was unacceptable to them. It was in a period of uncertainty, political rivalry and turmoil in the Maldives that the British offered Maldives a treaty, which was to become a watershed in Maldivian history. Some Maldivian politicians also needed British co-operation to suit their ambitions. It was in this atmosphere of instability that the Maldives went into the agreement with British in 1887. The British pledged to protect the Maldives from any foreign aggression while the Maldives in turn agreed not to collaborate with any other foreign power without British consent. The British were also not to interfere with the internal affairs of the Maldives.
Although governed as an independent Islamic sultanate for most of its history from 1153 to 1968, Maldives was a British protectorate from 1887 until July 26, 1965, which is now annually marked as Independence Day. In 1953, there was a brief, abortive attempt at a republican form of government, after which the sultanate was re-imposed. Following independence from Britain in 1965, the sultanate continued to operate for another 3 years. On November 11, 1968, it was abolished and replaced by a republic, and the country assumed its present name.
The historians date early settlers back to 5th century BC with the Aryan immigrants coming from the neighbouring countries India and Sri Lanka. The Maldivian language is said to be Indo-Aryan with influences from Sinhalese, Tamil, Sanskrit, Persian, Urdhu and Arabic. It is believed that Hinduism existed before Buddhism. The Maldivians were practising Buddhism until AD 1153, when a learned scholar converted the king to Islam.
The history of the Maldives is that of a small, isolated and peaceful nation constantly trying to contain the desires of its powerful neighbours and would-be colonisers. It’s also an incredibly hazy history for the most part – of which little before the conversion to Islam in 1153 is known. Indeed, the pre-Muslim period is full of heroic myths, mixed with conjecture based on inconclusive archaeological discoveries.
The Maldives (formerly called the Maldive Islands) were first settled in the 5th century B.C. by Buddhist seafarers from India and Sri Lanka. According to tradition, Islam was adopted in 1153. Originally, the islands were under the suzerainty of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). They came under British protection in 1887 and were a dependency of then-colony Ceylon until 1948. An independence agreement with Britain was signed July 26, 1965.
The Republic of Maldives is a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean about 417 mi (671 km) southwest of Sri Lanka. Its 1,190 coral islets stretch over an area of 35,200 sq mi (90,000 sq km). With global warming and the shrinking of the polar ice caps, the Maldives is directly threatened, as none of its islands rises more than six feet above sea level.