Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dream Destination :- Maldives

The Maldives or Maldive Islands, officially the Republic of Maldives, is an island nation consisting of a group of atolls stretching south of India's Lakshadweep islands between Minicoy Island and the Chagos Archipelago, and about seven hundred kilometres (435 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka in the Laccadive Sea of Indian Ocean. The twenty-six atolls of Maldives encompass a territory featuring 1,192 islets, of which two hundred and fifty islands are inhabited.

The inhabitants were Buddhist, probably since Ashoka's period[citation needed], in the 3rd century BC and possibly Hindu before that. Islam was introduced in 1153. The Maldives then came under the influence of the Portuguese (1558) and the Dutch (1654) seaborne empires. In 1887 it became a British protectorate. In 1965, the Maldives obtained independence from Britain (originally under the name "Maldive Islands"), and in 1968 the Sultanate was replaced by a Republic.

The Maldives is the smallest Asian country in terms of both population and area; it is the smallest predominantly Muslim nation in the world. With two meters from sea level, it is also the country with the lowest highest point in the world.

The Maldives holds the record for being the lowest country in the world, with a maximum natural ground level of only 2.3 m (7½ ft) with the average being only 1.5 m above sea level, though in areas where construction exists this has been increased to several metres. Over the last century, sea levels have risen about 20 centimetres (8 in);[citation needed] further rises of the ocean could threaten the existence of Maldives. However, around 1970 the sea level there dropped 20-30 cm.[18] In November of 2008, President Mohamed Nasheed announced plans to look into purchasing new land in India, Sri Lanka, and Australia, due to his concerns about global warming and the possibility of much of the islands being inundated with water from rising sea levels. Current estimates place sea level rise at 59 cm by the year 2100. The purchase of land will be made from a fund generated by tourism.[19] The President has explained his intentions, saying "We do not want to leave the Maldives, but we also do not want to be climate refugees living in tents for decades".

Typical Maldives scenery.A tsunami in the Indian Ocean caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake caused serious damage to the socioeconomic infrastructure which left many people homeless, and irreversible damage to the environment. After the disaster, cartographers are planning to redraw the maps of the islands due to alterations caused by the tsunami.

On April 22, 2008, then Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom pleaded for a cut in global greenhouse gas emissions, warning that rising sea levels could submerge the island nation of Maldives.[21]

The reef is composed of coral debris and living coral. This acts as a natural barrier against the sea, forming lagoons. Other islands, set at a distance and parallel to the reef, have their own protective fringe of reef. An opening in the surrounding coral barrier allows access to the calmer lagoon waters.

A view of an island in the Maldives.The barrier reefs of the islands protect them from the storms and high waves of the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean has a great effect on the climate of the country by acting as a heat buffer, absorbing, storing, and slowly releasing the tropical heat. The heat is further mitigated by cool sea breezes.

A layer of humus 152-millimetre (6.0 in) -thick forms the top layer of soil on the islands. Below the humus layer are two feet of sandstone, followed by sand and then fresh water. Due to excessive salt in the soil near the beach, vegetation is limited there to a few plants such as shrubs, flowering plants, and small hedges. In the interior of the island, more vegetation such as mangrove and banyan grow. Coconut palms, the national tree, are able to grow almost everywhere on the islands and are integral to the lifestyle of the natives.

The limited vegetation is supplemented by the abundance of coral reefs and marine life.

The Maldivian ethnic identity is a blend of the cultures reflecting the peoples who settled on the islands, reinforced by religion and language. The earliest settlers were probably from southern India and Sri Lanka. They are linguistically and ethnically related to the people in the Indian subcontinent

Some social stratification exists on the islands. It is not rigid, since rank is based on varied factors, including occupation, wealth, Islamic virtue, and family ties. Traditionally, instead of a complex caste system, like the Vedic one, there was merely a distinction between noble (bēfulhu) and common people in the Maldives. Members of the social elite are concentrated in Malé. Outside of the service industry, this is the only location where the foreign and domestic populations are likely to interact. The tourist resorts are not on islands where the natives live, and casual contacts between the two groups are discouraged.

A census has been recorded since 1905, which shows that the population of the country remained around 100,000 for the first seventy years of the last century. Following independence in 1965, the health status of the population improved so much that the population doubled by 1978, and the population growth rate peaked at 3.4% in 1985. By 2007, the population had reached 300,000, although the census in 2000 showed that the population growth rate had declined to 1.9%. Life expectancy at birth stood at 46 years in 1978, while it has now risen to 72 years. Infant mortality has declined from 127 per thousand in 1977 to 12 today, and adult literacy stands at 99%. Combined school enrollment stands in the high 90s.

As of April 2008, more than 70,000 foreign employees live in the country and another 33,000 illegal immigrants sums up more than one third of Maldivian population. They consist mainly of people from the neighbouring South Asian countries of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Pre-Islamic Buddhist Stupa of Maldives, excavated in Thoddoo in the 1950sMaldivian culture is derived from a number of sources, the most important of which are its proximity to the shores of Sri Lanka and southern India.

The official and common language is Dhivehi, an Indo-European language having some similarities with Elu, the ancient Sinhalese language. The first known script use to write Dhivehi is Eveyla akuru script which is found in historical recording of kings (raadhavalhi). Later a script called Dhives akuru was introduced and used for a long period. The present-day written script is called Thaana and is written from right to left. Thaana is said to be introduced by the reign of Mohamed Thakurufaanu. English is used widely in commerce and increasingly as the medium of instruction in government schools.

The language is of Indic Sanskritic origin, which points at a later influence from the north of the subcontinent. According to the legends, the kingly dynasty that ruled the country in the past has its origin there.

Possibly these ancient kings brought Buddhism from the subcontinent, but the Maldivian legends don't make it clear. In Sri Lanka there are similar legends, however it is improbable that the ancient Maldive royals and Buddhism came both from that island because none of the Sri Lankan chronicles mentions the Maldives. It is unlikely that the ancient chronicles of Sri Lanka would have failed to mention the Maldives if a branch of its kingdom had extended itself to the Maldive Islands.[22]

The Islamic Centre, housing the mosque Masjid-al-Sultan Mohammed Thakurufaanu-al-A'z'amAfter the long Buddhist [23] period of Maldivian history, Muslim traders introduced Sunni Islam. Maldivians converted to it by the mid-12th century. However certain potions of Sufism can be seen in the history of the country such as the building of mausoleums. These mausolems were used until as recent as 1980s, for seeking the help from the dead Saints. They can been seen today, next to some old mosques of the Maldives and are considered today as, Cultural heritages. Other aspects of Sufism such as ritualized dhikr ceremonies called Maulūdu, the liturgy of which included recitations and certain supplications in a melodical tone existed until very recent times. These Maulūdu festivals were held in ornate tents specially built for the occasion. However at present Sunni Islam is the official religion of the entire population, as adherence to it is required for citizenship.

Since the 12th century AD there are also influences from Arabia in the language and culture of the Maldives because of the general conversion to Islam in the 12th century, and its location as a crossroads in the central Indian Ocean.

In the island culture there are a few elements of African origin as well from slaves brought to the court by the royal family and nobles from their hajj journeys to Arabia in the past. There are islands like Feridhu and Maalhos in Northern Ari Atoll, and Goidhu in Southern Maalhosmadulhu Atoll where many of the inhabitants trace their ancestry to released African slaves

So what are u waiting for lets visit Maldives...