Edited by Léo-Paul Dana, Mary Han, Vanessa Ratten and Isabell M. Welpe
Isabell M. Welpe and Teresa E. Dana Introduction The Republic of Maldives is the smallest Asian country with regard to population. The country is an island nation consisting of a grouping of 1192 coral islands, with a total land mass of 115 square miles (that is, 298 square kilometres) in the Indian Ocean. The Republic of Maldives is located south of India’s Lakshadweep islands, and south-west of Sri Lanka. Situated in the Indian Ocean and scattered on both sides of the Equator, this archipelago is divided into 26 ring-shaped clusters (Dana, 2007). Until the twelfth century, Buddhism was the dominant religion of the people of the Maldives. Visitors, sailors and traders have influenced culture, society and economy of the Maldive islands over the years. From 1153 until 1968 the Maldives were governed as an Islamic sultanate. The Maldives were under the influence of Portugal since 1558 and the Netherlands since 1654. In 1887 the Maldives became a British protectorate and gained independence from Britain in 1965. Since 1968 the Maldives have been a republic. Tourism began to be developed by the beginning of the 1970s. The first settlers on the Maldives probably came from the south-west coasts of the Indian subcontinent and the western shores of Sri Lanka. Dhivehi, which belongs to the Indo-Iranian group, with strong Arabic influence is the unique language of the Maldives. The 263 000 islanders call themselves Dhivehis. They share a mixed ethnic ancestry of Arab, Aryan, Dravidian, Negroid and Sinhalese origin. The Dhivehi society...
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