Records, both archaeological and historical, suggest these scattered islands have been inhabited for roughly 5,000 years. It is assumed the seafaring peoples from lands surrounding the Indian Ocean were the first settlers to make the Maldives their home. Quite possibly among the first, were those from Sri Lanka and southern India. Aryans from Lothal in the Indus Valley are said to have followed some 4,000 years ago. Religion surfaced in the form of Buddhism and Hinduism as early as the 5th century B.C. but was overshadowed by Islam in 1153 A.D. Portuguese traders visited the islands in the latter half of the 15th century. The ruler, a local sultan, met with the establishment of European influence, first by the Dutch in the 17th century and later by the British. Given the diversity of people to come in contact with the archipelago, it is no small wonder Maldivian smiles illuminate the legacy of African, Arab and South East Asian mariners.
Dhivehi is the common tongue of the Maldives. It is a language with its roots in Sanskrit and, according to some researchers, an ancient form of Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka). Other languages of the region have had significant impact as well, such as Arabic with the advent of Islam in 1153, and more recently, English, which has been in use throughout schools since the 1960s. Not surprisingly, isolated communities scattered throughout the islands fostered a vocabulary and pronunciation that varied from atoll to atoll. The most significant difference is found in the dialects of the southernmost atolls. It was not until the 16th century when the country was liberated from the Portuguese that the Maldivian script known as thaana was invented. Unlike previous versions, this form of thaana is written from right to left to accommodate Arabic words, which are in frequent use in Dhivehi. The alphabet uses 24 letters.
A simple life has endured in these islands where modern services and facilities have not always been close at hand. For this reason, the tight-knit communities form a safety net for the mutual benefit and aid of all families. Family is paramount, providing assistance to relatives experiencing distress or difficulty. Aside from parental nurturing, children receive care from other members of the family in a position to contribute to the welfare of the extended family unit. The traditional role of males in providing for the family would see them out fishing for the day while women busied themselves with affairs of the family and community. This practice is still alive and well in smaller island communities.
The Maldives embraced Islam in 1153 and has since become the central focus of Maldivian life. Festivals and major events are linked to the Muslim calendar. Children learn the Arabic alphabet from an early age and religious teachings are encountered in school as well as at home. The school curriculum incorporates Islamic instruction as part of the educational process.
Exquisitely carved tombstones can be found in some of the older cemeteries throughout the country pointing to the remarkable skill of stone carvers from the past. Maldivians are expert at crafting beautiful works from a variety of materials found locally. Ornate calligraphy has emerged from Islamic teaching in the form of versus extracted from the pages of the Holy Quran and displayed in old and new mosques alike. The Islamic Centre exhibits a very fine collection of samples from modern calligraphers of the Maldives. Some crafts have disappeared altogether, such as the production of trinkets for the tourist trade made from tortoise shell or black coral. A growing awareness of the need for environmental preservation has thankfully seen the demise of this invasive form of decoration.
Thulhaadhoo, on Baa Atoll, is the major producer of these distinctive handcrafted boxes. Liye Laajehun is the term used in Dhivehi to describe the process of shaping and hollowing out pieces of wood to form beautifully crafted boxes, containers and decorative objects. The wood known as funa comes from the Alexandrian laurel, which grows abundantly throughout the country. The array of interesting designs range in size and shape and are lacquered in strands of red, black and yellow resin. Elegant flowing patterns are delicately carved on the surfaces.
Gadhdhoo, on Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, is known for the beautiful red mats woven from reeds. The women of Gadhdhoo gather the haa (reeds) from a nearby island named Fioari. After being left to dry in the sun, the reeds are stained with natural dyes ranging in colour from tan to black. The skill and imagination of the weaver can be seen in the intricate and abstract designs emerging on the handloom. These works of art, whether they are place mat size or mattress size, are called Thundu Kunaa in Dhivehi.
The tools of the trade may have changed over time, but the method and basic design have survived. Building a dhoni is a process whereby the symmetry of the boat emerges simultaneously during construction because no plans are drawn up beforehand. Coconut wood was the material used in days gone by but now imported hardwoods are being used for the hull. Today, copper rivets are used to secure planks instead of coir (coconut fibre rope), which was still in use as little as fifty years ago. Woven coconut fronds were once fashioned to equip the boat with a square sail but have now been replaced by triangular lateen sails. Sailing is rarely employed these days; however, the sails are stowed aboard in the event the diesel engine fails. Dhonis provide the means to a livelihood for the majority of the population. Fishing depends on a sturdy and reliable craft while still others use the dhonis for transport and passenger services. A small dhoni would be about 3 metres (10 feet) in length, and would be used to travel short distances within the confines of a shallow lagoon. Most often, they are seen ferrying firewood from one island to another. A fishing dhoni used to be about 10 metres (33 feet), but nowadays a new generation of fishing boat plies the waters of the Maldives; they are twice the size if not larger. The basic hull design that has proven to be seaworthy and has withstood the test of time has found its way into luxury cruise vessels being built in the country. These big boats can be as long as 30 metres (100 feet) or more!
One of the most important months of the Muslim calendar is the ninth, in which 30 days of fasting is marked by Ramadan. Alteration of working hours come into effect even for the government sector: offices being open from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm. As for the general public: Three o'clock in the afternoon finds people leaving work and shops closing for the day. Only after sundown, will people seek nourishment in the plethora of tasty foods that are available during Ramadan.
Kuda Eid arrives with the first day of the month of Shawaal in the Islamic Calendar. Following the end of Ramadan, this is a period for feasting. Prayer is observed in the early morning hours at mosques and is attended by both men and women. Feasts are prepared in every home for family, friends and neighbours. Kuda Eid is celebrated for three days during which a public holiday period is observed.
Eid-ul Al'h'aa falls on the 10th day on Zul Hijja in the Islamic Calendar. The holy Ka'aba in Mecca draws those who can afford a pilgrimage, but for those who remain at home, it is a time for feasting and celebration. As it is the longest holiday of the year, people plan and prepare well in advance for visits to friends and relatives on other islands. Traditional sport, music and dance mingle with modern variations to produce a celebration of unequalled magnitude during this event lasting between five to seven days. It is a time for everyone - young and old - to join in the celebrations.
Maldivians celebrate the Prophet's Birthday in much the same fashion as all Muslims. The prophet's Birthday falls on the 12th day of Rabee-ul-Awwal in the Islamic Calendar. It is a time for families to invite one another to their homes to share in the special dishes prepared to commemorate the day.
The country's Independence day is celebrated on 26th July. Official celebrations held in the evening at the Republic Square, highlight the occasion. A parade normally kicks off the event, starting with a march past by the National Security Service and the National Cadet Corps. School children dressed in colourful costumes perform traditional dances while floats and processions based on traditional and modern themes also stream past.
On 11th November 1968, the Maldives became a Republic for the second time. The day is celebrated annually with parades and marches to commemorate the event.
The National Day celebrates the great victory of Mohamed Thakurufaanu over the Portuguese in 1573. The National Day is celebrated on the first of Rabee ul Awwal, the third month in the Islamic Calendar.
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Culture of the Maldives - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
5 Jan 2009 ... Maldivian culture is derived from a number of sources, the most important of which are its proximity to the shores of Sri Lanka and South ...
Maldives Culture -traditional dresses, Dances, Bodu Beru, Maldive ...
The Maldivian culture is rich with flavours from most of the seafarers who set foot on its soil. Traditional dances and music may not be an everyday event ...