History of Maldives


Despite it’s small size and its geographic isolation in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives has a rich history dating back several thousand years. Below is a brief chronology of human setlement in the country.

Circa 500 BC – AD

The arrival of the first inhabitants from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and southern India. In a recent publication, a former professor of anthropology and a specialist in Asian history wrote as follows :

“What was not known previous to my research in the early 1970s, is that there is a strong underlying layer of Tamil population and culture. So far, most Divehis have not shown themselves interested in accepting this finding, as it does not suit their sense of their prestigious origins. Be that as it may, the evidence is overwhelming. There is a clear Tamil substratum in the language, which also appears in place names, kin terms, poetry, dance, and religious beliefs. This is actually Tamil-Malayalam, as up to about the 10th century when the Malayalam language acquired a separate identity, what is now Kerala was considered to be part of the Tamil area.

There are numerous references in the Tamil Sangam (1-3 century) and medieval literature to kings of Kerala having ships, conducting invasions by sea, and ruling the northern part of Sri Lanka. People of Kerala settled the Lakshadvip Islands, and evidently viewed the Maldives as an extension of them. There is a Maldivian epic about Koimala, who is said to have come from India, bringing with him his royal lineage, landed on a northern atol, and then made Male his capital. The name koi is from Malayalam koya, son of the prince, which is also the name of a high caste group in the Lakshadvip Islands. Koimala has now become a generalized eponymous ancestor of the pre-Muslim Divehis.”

Source Link

Folk legend also has it that the Maldives was inhabited by sun-worshippers. The Maldives has a Buddhist heritage dating as far back as the 7th century. On 7 February 2012, during a time of serious political instability, several pre-Islamic artefacts were badly damaged or destroyed when a group of men attacked the National Museum’s collection of ancient Maldivian archaeological treasures of Buddhist origin.

The country had a culture of oral history and the earliest written historical record is attributed to the Loamaafaanu, or inscribed copper plates, dating back to the 12th Century. (Source Link)

Probable arrival of the first inhabitants from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and southern India. According to another theory , the first inhabitants of the archipelago, sun worshippers , designated under the name Redin , were expelled or absorbed by the Buddhists of Ceylon and Hindus in the Indian subcontinent .


The people of Maldives converted from Buddism to Islam, a change influenced by Arab traders, specifically attributed to the Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta. Local folklore says that Ibn Batuta convinced the King of the powers of his faith, after defeating Rannamari, an oceanic monster which was plaguing the people. The Rannamari had to be appeased by offering a virgin girl every night, and this terror was brought to an end by Ibn Batuta who recited the Qur’an after taking the place of the virgin girl one night. This finally drove the monster away forever. The King was given the title of Sultan, who ordered the conversion of the people to Islam, in late 12th century.

Conversion to Islam brought by Arab traders, a milestone in the history of the archipelago, now governed by sultanates . Reminiscent of the first inhabitants of the island, some mosques in the archipelago are facing the rising sun and not towards Mecca.

1558 – 1573

The Maldives had largely remained a sovereign state throughout its long history. In 1588, Portuguese seafarers invaded the country, killing the Sultan and assuming power. The Portuguese rule lasted 15 years until their defeat, led by two brothers from the historical island of Utheemu in Haa Alif atoll in the north. The Utheemu brothers, in particular, Mohamed Thakurufaan is still remembered for his bravery in saving the Maldives from Portuguese rule.

The French traveller François Pyrard de Laval, was shipwrecked while travelling through the Maldives, and was kept captive in the islands from 1602-1607. Monsieur Pyrard wrote of his experiences in the Maldives in “The Voyage of François Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas, and Brazil”, published first in 1888. An English translation of this book is available here. Information about Monsieur Pyrard’s publication in French is available here.

Strong presence in the Indian Ocean , the Portuguese – who already had a strong in Male – Maldives invade and kill all the Sultan Ali VI . Fifteen years later, the island chief Mohammed Thakurufaan resumed their power.


The Maldives became successively a Dutch and British protectorate , without either of these two nations are established colonial administration.


The Maldives became a British protectorate in 1887, and remained so until it’s full independence in 1967, which was negotiated by the then Prime Minister of Maldives, Mr Ibrahim Nasir.

An agreement with the British guarantees the independence of Maldives, which remain under British protectorate.


The Maldives produced its first written Constitution in December 1932 during the reign of Sultan Mohammed Shamsudeen.

The Constitution has been changed and/or revised many times during its short history. The current Constitution came into effect on 07 August 2008 and is considered a model Constitution for a liberal democratic state as it separates the powers of the State for the first time in Maldivian history. It is particularly important due to its comprehensive chapter on basic rights of citizens.

Adoption of a democratic constitution. If the Maldives remains a sultanate , this charge is now subject to elections and not hereditary as in the past .


The Maldives first declared itself a republic in 1953, when the country abolished the monarchy and elected a president for the first time in its history. However, this historic change was short-lived as Mr Mohamed Amin Didi, the first president of the Maldives was removed from the post in a political power struggle, in which he was attacked by a mob and later died from his injuries. The monarchy was re-instated the same year and the first republic came to an end.

Proclamation of the republic and the abolition of the sultanate . Amin Didi , first president of the Maldives, briefly retains power . A Sultan is elected to replace the same year.


The Maldivian government made an agreement with the British Empire to allow the Royal Air Force to establish an air-force base in the southernmost atoll of the country, Addu. The British maintained this base until their departure in 1976.

The army of the British air gets Maldivian authorities for permission to settle on Addu Atoll , the southernmost of the islands.


Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir request a review of the agreement and an increase in financial compensation paid by the British Army . The population of the atoll, mostly used by the military base , revolts against this demand and claim their independence.


Ibrahim Nasir ends the insurgency.


Maldives to become fully independent .


Abolition of the sultanate by referendum. New republic led by Ibrahim Nasir, who established an autocratic power.


Ibrahim Nasir, increasingly unpopular , fled to Singapore. The progressive Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is elected president.


A failed coup attempt . Tourism and fisheries benefit the Maldivian economy.


Another failure of a second attempt to overthrow Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who is regularly re-elected since 1978.


The alga Caulerpa taxifolia , which destroys the coral reefs of the oceans and whose spread is linked to global warming , attacks the Maldives.


On December 26, the Maldives is affected by the tsunami, causing many casualties and homeless. He hit key sectors of the economy.


In June , Parliament passed the historic introduction of multiparty politics.


Controversy about international donations for the reconstruction and tsunami in December 2004, giving only half have been redistributed.


International pressure increasingly high on President Gayoom has led to timid democratic progress . And the referendum of August 17, 2007 marks the beginnings of a relative democratization of the regime , even if the result confirms the presidential power.


On 8 January 2008, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was unhurt an assassination attempt in Hoarafushi . November 11, 2008, Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party candidate , becomes president of Maldives, Maumoon Gayoom succeeding .


October 17 , Nasheed holds a cabinet under the sea, wishing and alert world public opinion on the risk of eventual disappearance of his country, threatened by the rising waters caused by climate change. He also expressed his desire to acquire somewhere a piece of land to accommodate the Maldivian people when the time comes .


American documentary film The Island President is dedicated to Nasheed efforts to fight against climate change and global awareness .


After a military revolt against the government and demonstrations in Malé, Nasheed renounce the presidency at the end of hastily trained coup events worldwide . Mohammed Waheed Hassan, previously Vice President, became President of the Maldives.