Geography and climate
The Maldives is an archipelago of 1190 islands grouped into natural coral atolls.
One would expect the Indian Ocean, like any of the other oceans of the world to have its waves and other phenomena related to large bodies of water. The Indian Ocean does fulfill this explanation till one begins to approach any of the coral atolls right in the middle of it.
An atoll is best visualized as a series of concentric layers. The outermost layer of the atoll is a strong reef. Composed of coral debris and living coral, this reef is a formidable barrier against rough seas. Once you gain access into the calm waters within, one is within the lagoon of the atoll proper.
The islands of the atoll follow the outer reef. Sometimes an occasional island juts up from inside the lagoon.
Each island has its own fringing reef. This adds to the protection. The water within this reef is often quite shallow. That aquamarine halo around the island in your picture postcard is this
Even though the islands of the Maldives are well sheltered from oceanic waves, the ocean plays a major role in the climate of the country. It acts as a heat buffer, storing and giving up the heat at a much slower rate than solid ground. Temperatures usually fluctuate between 23 and maximum 32. There is always a cooling breeze blowing in from the sea.
The Maldives straddles the equator and lies outside the Indian Ocean cyclone belt. Some may find the Maldivian climate monotonous. The length of the day never varies. Normally in June and July the southwest monsoon brings rain.
History and religion
The Maldives has been inhabited for at least 2500 years. Visited and enriched over the centuries by contact with sailors from all over the world, the country has a rich and unique culture that has its roots in Arabia and Africa mostly.
Before the Maldivians converted to Islam in 1153 AD, Buddhism was the prevalent religion. Ruins of stupors and other temples still exist to prove this.
The Maldives has always been a very peaceful place except for a few documented skirmishes with foreign invaders. Most notably the Portuguese occupied the tiny island nation for about 17 years in the 17th century.
From 1887 to 1965 the Maldives was a British Protectorate since then the Maldives has been a sovereign state. Since conversion to Islam, the Maldives remained a sultanate till the proclamation of the first republic in 1953.It failed in no time. The Sultanate returned till the second republic was proclaimed in 1968.
Maldivian culture is a unique and a practical phenomenon born out id the fisher folk, the adventure on the high seas, and the always laid back and the welcoming mood of guests. Binding this whole is our unique Sanskrit- driven Dhivehi language and the Islamic faith.
The People and the Language
It is not recorded when and who the Maldives was first settled. However archeological evidence and the only language spoken in the country tell an interesting story.
The languages of the Maldives immediate neighbors are predominantly Dravidian (with the sole exception of Sinhala, which is spoken by Sinhalese community of Sri Lanka), Dhivehi language is Sanskrit based. Linguistic evidence clearly indicates this.
Before conversion to Islam in 1153 AD, the predominant religion in the Maldives was Buddhism (again something shared with the Sinhala speakers of Sri Lanka, Sinhala being a Sanskrit derived language as well). This along with folklore and legend points strongly to an Aryan migration from the ancient civilization of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, at a time circa 500 BC.
And of course things never remained that simple. The Maldives is placed right at the traders’ crossroads of the Indian Ocean. Daring seafarers from all over the world often found respite on the Maldives islands. Some never left for various reasons. All made their own contributions to their adopted society and the gene pool of the people.
As Maldivians themselves travelled far and wide they brought home exotic products and left behind records of their visits. The documented visits made to the court of Roman Emperor Julian in 362 AD and visits to the court of the Tang Dynasty Emperor of China in 658 AD are good examples.
Maldivians later traveled to Bengal, Malaysia and rest of Asia. This brought in a strong influx of these languages. Conversion to Islam brought in Arabic and Persian elements. The Portuguese who enslaved the people of the Maldives in the 16th century added theirs. Maldivians who sought their education in India during the 18th century brought Hindi and Urdu into the mix. And in the 19th century the British Empire contributed English!
Maldivians have always welcomed and accommodated visitors who came in peace to their shores. Isolationism was never the norm. Cultural and other beneficial influences were assimilated. Only threats to Independence and their faith were rejected.
The Maldives continues to remain a unified a country with a unique culture and a unique language with its own script (known as ‘Thaana” and is written from left to right), literature and history.