About Maldives

History of Maldives

Our islands (the islands of Maldives) were born in the tumult of great geological change. Millions of years ago a great range of volcanoes rose from the floor of the Indian Ocean and burst through its surface. Gradually, when the years pass-by, the tumult lessened and the volcanoes sank back into the depths leaving only small coral reefs in the vast expanse of sea. Thus, forming a glittering necklace of gems stretching across the equator, covering the coral reefs with whitish sand and lush green of coconut palms and hardy shrubs, which were completely deserted. Yet as sailors, ever adventurous, sailed further and further in search of conquest and wealth, they drifted upon them. In some far-off times now remembered only in distant folklore, a strange race of seagoing giants were among the first people to make their homes on these remote and distant islands.

Thousands of years ago, the \\\"Phoenicians\\\" sailed through the islands and in the centuries that followed came Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Roman and Sri Lankan manners. One legend from those misty, long-ago times before the arrival of Islam was that a single dynasty ruled this nation of scattered islands. 

The story goes...

\\\"Once upon a time, a Prince of Royal birth named Koimala Kaloa, who had married the Ceylon King\\\'s daughter, made a voyage with her in two vessels from Serendib Island. As soon as they reach Maldives they rested a while at \\\"Rasgetheemu Island\\\" in North Maalosmadulu Atoll. \\\"The Maldive Islanders learning that the two chief visitors were of Ceylon Royal descent, invited them to remain; and ultimately proclaimed Koimala their King at Rasgetheemu, the original \\\"King\\\'s Island\\\". Subsequently Koimala and his spouse migrated to Male\\\' and settled there with the consent of the aborigines of Giraavaru Island, then the most important community of Male Atoll\\\".

A mixture of fact and fable, such tales as these lend to the mystery of Maldives before the arrival of Islam in the twelfth century. \\\"The story continues with the king\\\'s order for two of his ships to return home and bring back other people of the \\\"Lion Race\\\", where upon his son reigned as a Buddhist for twelve years, and was then converted to Islam, ruling for thirteen years more before he finally departed for Mecca. As the legend goes, the king was succeeded by his daughter, who reigned as nominal sultana until her son married a lady of the country. From then the subsequent Rulers of the Maldives were descended\\\".

Although official Maldivian history only begins in the twelfth century, literary it works and archaeological remains provide clues to earlier pre-Islamic eras. Maldives was a stopping-off point for many great seafaring civilizations which roamed the high seas long before European maritime history began . Since it was the Egyptians who taught the Romans how to cross the Indian Ocean, it may not be too fanciful to imagine the proud Egyptian papyrus ships with their colorful square sails navigating through the Equatorial Channel along the highway of the sun. Perhaps the Maldivian men modeled the elegant curved bows of their boats from the Egyptians, and the women the beautifully embroidered collar pieces of their dresses.

Geography

Maldives is a country of South Asia, situated in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of India. It consists of approximately 1,196 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 27 atolls, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers, making this one of the most disparate countries in the world. Composed of live coral reefs and sand bars, the atolls are situated a top of submarine ridge 960 kilometers long that rises abruptly from the depths of the Indian Ocean and runs from north to south. Only near the southern end of this natural coral barricade do two open passages permit safe ship navigation from one side of the Indian Ocean to the other through the territorial waters of Maldives. For administrative purposes the Maldives government organized these atolls into nineteen administrative divisions.

Geographic coordinates: 3°15?N 73°00 E

Formation of the islands of the Maldives

The unwritten history of the Maldives commences more than 225 million years ago. The hydrosphere and the lithosphere had already been formed. More than half the Earth comprised a great landmass which scientists today call Pangea. This great landmass was surrounded by a great ocean called Panthalassa. 

About 136 million years ago the Pangea split into two supercontinents. The northern chunk was called Laurasia. The southern part was called Gondwanaland. Between the two land masses was an ocean called Tethys. In turn the Gondwanaland fragmented, leading to the formation of the Atlantic Ocean, which divided the African and the American continents.

As the supercontinents disintegrated due to plate tectonics and the geological plates shifted, molten lava from the core of the Earth erupted through the fissures leading to the shaping of the underwater terrain. The breaking down of Laurasia leading to the emergence of the northern continents was completed around 66 million years ago.

The Indian Ocean began to be formed around 150 million years ago. At that time India was part of the southern supercontinent, Gondwanaland. Asia was part of the northern landmass, Laurasia.

In the period mentioned above, plate tectonics forced the geological plate containing India to be separated from Madagascar and Africa and gradually began to shift the Indian plate northwards. As this plate moved north through the Indian Ocean it passed over a heated substratum. This hot spot was located approximately where what is now Reunion Island. From what is known this hot spot had played a significant role in the formation of Maldives.

Scientific research today confirms that the Maldive Ridge, which extends from Chagos Archipelago up north through the islands of the Maldives to those of Lakshadweep, had passed over the hotspot. As a result a ridge of volcanic mountains was formed and followed the Indian plate on its north- eastern journey.

The journey ended with the northern reaches of the Indian plate colliding and clashing with the southern rim of the Asian plate, and forcing the gigantic folds of the Himalayan Range. Subsequently, the shape of the Indian Ocean rim was delineated.

The volcanoes to which the oldest origin of the Maldives can be traced, over a very long period of time, gradually began to be submerged into the Indian Ocean. The terrain of the Maldives at that time comprised islands formed of volcanic mountains and highlands. As the mountains gradually and slowly sank into the Indian Ocean coralline deposits accumulated on the peaks and craters of the mountains. Over millions of years, these deposits grew into coral islands resting on submerged mountain-tops.