Dr Rajkumar Singh, Bihar
GEOGRAPHICALLY, the South Asian country Maldives is roughly estimated 90,000 thousand square kilometres which covers the zones of sea, land and of all islands, having the features of world’s dispersed sovereign states along with small Asian country and one of the smallest Muslim majority population by land and area.
According to the historical records and evidence, the early settlers of Maldives were Gujarati who came from Sri Lanka about 2500 years ago.
Most probably they belonged to the southern shores of the neighbouring Indian subcontinent and as a result a strong layer of Dravidian cultures survives in today’s Maldivian society and they all appear same in place names, kinship terms, poetry, dance as well as in religious beliefs.
In the context all these systems of North India were brought by the original Sinhalese of Sri Lakka, Malabar and Pandya.
The islands of Maldives have also found a mention in the Ancient Sangam Tamil Literature. The entire history of today’s Maldives has developed through various historical phases and events which have shaped its different features from time to time and moved forward by Buddhist period, Islamic period and colonial period when it got the independence by signing of an agreement on 26 July 1965.
While the Buddhist period which is considered to be in the third century BC during the time of Emperor Asoka, in India, was mainly known for early Maldivian language, scripture, architecture, ruling institutions, which cast, a long shadow over the coming centuries succeeded as Islamic and colonial phases of Maldives history.
Islamic period of history: In comparison to the other parts of South Asia, birth as well as emergence of Islam happened about five hundred years later in Maldives when Arab traders came to the land and the last king of Buddhist regime Dhovemi converted to Islam at the close of 12th century with whom Muslim titles for king, called Sultan, was initiated and other Muslim customs, traditions and features became popular in masses.
On king’s adoption of Islam, there are several views and the only source of information is a mosque with an inscription: The Sultan Ahmad Shanurazah accepted Islam at the hand of Abu al-Barakat Yusuf al-Barbari, although it was done after much efforts and perseverance, but ultimately, he became convinced and accepted the religion with family and also sent missions to convert the local people and various islands of the country for coming to the fold.
The event of adopting Islam was celebrated for years possibly between 1374 to 1387 and in the year 2001, the day was declared as a national holiday.
The event was so important for all accounts that a long chain of rule of Muslim dynasties began with this which lasted till 1968 when a presidential republic was established and an elected People’s Majlis formed leading a new phase of political instability to make essential changes in the political system.
It was also to note here that by the time a Buddhist king converted to Islam with family and kept committed to spreading Islam, the nation became unified in an extended form.
About six hundred years of rule: The earlier king was an active member of the Soma or Homa (Lunar) dynasty, later, in 1153 converting Islam became Sultan Muhammad al-Adil.
At the point of time he founded the Theemuge dynasty which lasted till 1388, and ruled the country for long 271 years.
The second dynasty which began to reign Maldives after Theemuge dynasty was Hilaalee dynasty whose rule began in 1388 with its first king Sultan Hasan who reigned for 10 years (1388-1398) and succeeded by Sultan Ibrahim.
Although, the tenure of Sultan was of one year but their dynasty successfully ruled the country for 244 years (13881632).
The last king of the dynasty was King Dom Philippe who ruled the nation under regent system from 1609 to 1632.
Sultan Muhammad Imaduddin, the last regent of the dynasty from 1620 to 1632, ultimately de-cognised the regent system with the help of Portuguese assistance in order to abolish the prevailing regent system and restore the old Sultan nomenclature.
He was the first king of Utheemu dynasty who lasted between 1632-1664, about 60 years. In comparison to earlier dynasties, the coming rulers lasted very few years like Hamawi dynasty, less than one year, Dhevvadhoo dynasty (1692-1701), 9 years, Isdhoo dynasty (1701-1704) 3 years and Dhiyamigili dynasty (1704-1759), lasted 55 years.
However, the Hurra dynasty who took over in 1774 lasted long 194 years (1774-1968), when the form of government was changed.
The last king of Maldives was King Sir Muhammad Fareed Didi, the grandson of Sultan Muhammad Mueenuddeen and the eldest son of Sultan Abdul Majeed Didi who took the title of King Muhammad Fareed Didi in 1965 with the end of British protectorate of Maldives and deposed in 1968 as a result of a referendum which decided to adopt a republic in place of the Sultanate system continuing from 1388.
— The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, B N Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India.
(Courtesy Pakistan Observer)