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Maldivian Legends -

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Antique Map Maldives
Every country has its own mystical legends passed on from generation to generation - so does the Maldives.

The main myths about the islands’ origins reflect the dependence of Maldivians on the coconut tree and the tuna fish.

One legend says that the first inhabitants of the Maldives died in great numbers until a sorcerer, or fandita man, made coconut trees grow out of the skulls of buried corpses of the first settlers. Thus, according to Maldives lore, the coconut tree is said to have an anthropomorphic origin.

The tuna fish is believed to have been brought to the Maldivian waters by a mythical seafarer called Bodu Niyami Kalefanu who ventured close to the Dagas (the mythical tree at the end of the world) to bring this valuable fish.

Folktales where fishes, crabs and seabirds are the heroes, introduce us to the world of the local fauna of the Maldives Atolls, where land animals are very few. Many of these are tales for children and some are still quite popular. 

1598 Middleburg Bertius Maldives map 
The first settlers in the Maldive Islands were Dravidian people from the nearest coasts of India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The people of Giraavaru, an island located in Male’ Atoll who are considered the first settlers, claim ancestry from ancient Tamil people.

Legend says that Giraavaru fishermen used to go regularly to a certain large sandbank at the southern end of their atoll to clean tuna fish after a good catch. Owing to the large amount of tuna offal and blood, the waters around that sandbank resembled a big pool of blood (maa ley gandeh). "Maa" (from the Sanskrit "Maha"), meaning big, and "Ley" meaning blood. The sandbank expanded in the midst of the waters tainted with fish blood. Trees began to grow on it and it is said that the first one was a papaya tree. As time went by the sandbank became an island and, because of the colour of the sea around it, was formally named Maa-ley (Male’)

Another explanation for the origin of the name Male’ (and which explains why it is always written locally with an apostrophe) is that it is named after the Malei dynasty which ruled the archipelago 800 years ago. 

Source: IN TOUCH magazine - Baros Maldives

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