Definitions

stone groove

Malé

Malé

Island summary
Belongs to Kaafu Atoll
Location
Population 104,403 (2006)
Length 1.7 km / 1.05 miles
Width 1.0 km / 0.62 miles
Malé (Dhivehi: މާލެ), (pronounced: "Maa-lay") population 104,403 (2006), is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Maldives. It is located at the southern edge of North Male' Atoll Kaafu Atoll. It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island from where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties ruled and where the palace was located, the city was also called Mahal. Formerly it was a walled city surrounded by fortifications and gates (doroshi). The Royal Palace (Gan'duvaru) was destroyed along with the picturesque forts (kotte) and bastions (buruzu), when the city was remodelled under President Ibrahim Nasir's rule after the abolition of the monarchy.

Overview

Although Malé is geographically located in Male' Atoll, Kaafu Atoll, administratively it is not considered part of it. A commercial harbour is located in the Island. It is the heart of all commercial activities in the country. Many government buildings and agencies are located on the waterfront. Malé International Airport is on adjacent Hulhule Island which includes a seaplane base for internal transportation. Several land reclamation projects have expanded the harbour.

The island is heavily urbanized, with the city taking up essentially its entire landmass. Slightly less than one third of the nation's population lives in the capital city. Many, if not most, Maldivians and foreign workers in Maldives find themselves in occasional short term residence on the island since it is the only entry point to the nation and the centre of all administration and bureaucracy.

The town is divided into four divisions; Henveiru, Galolhu, Maafannu and Macchangolhi. The nearby island of Vilingili, formerly a tourist resort is the fifth division (Male'viligili) considered by the government.

On 29th September 2007 a bomb exploded in Malé Sultan Park square injuring 12 foreign tourists. It was the first known bombing in the history of the Maldives .

Etymology

The name Malé is taken from the word "Mahaalay" which has come from the Sanskrit language. The name is derived from maha, meaning "big" or "great" and aalay meaning house. Generally the word Mahaalay is used for the palace of a king or capital (king's island) in Sanskrit, e.g. Mahaalay of King Asok. However, the folktale below suggests a different origin of the name.

The whole island group, the Maldives, is named after its capital. The word "Maldives" means "The islands (dives) of Malé'".

Origins of Malé

The first settlers in the Maldive islands were Dravidian people from the nearest shores, which are in the modern Indian Subcontinent and coastal Ceylon. Comparative studies of Maldivian linguistic, oral and other cultural traditions, in addition to folklore, point to a strong Dravidian influence on Maldivian society, centered in Malé, from ancient times. The people of Giraavaru, an island located in Male' Atoll (now a tourist resort, after its inhabitants were removed) claim to descend from the first settlers of the Maldives, ancient Tamils.

It is said that Giraavaru fishermen used to go regularly to a certain large sandbank (finolhu) at the southern end of their atoll to clean tuna fish after a good catch. Owing to the large amount of tuna fish offal and blood, the waters around that sandbank looked like a big pool of blood (maa ley gandeh). "Maa" (from the Sanskrit "Maha"), meaning big, and "Lē" meaning blood. Traditionally the first inhabitants of the Maldives, which include the Giravaru people, didn't have kings. They lived in a simple society and were ruled by local headmen. But one day a prince from the Subcontinent called Koimala arrived to Male' Atoll sailing from the North on a big ship. The people of Giraavaru spotted his vessel from afar and welcomed him. They allowed Prince Koimala to settle on that large sandbank in the midst of the waters tainted with fish blood. Trees were planted on the sandbank and it is said that the first tree that grew on it was the papaya tree. As time went by the local islanders accepted the rule of this Northern Prince. A palace was built and the island was formally named Maa-le (Male'), while the nearest island was named Hulhu-le.

The names of the main four wards or divisions of Malé Island are said to have been given by the Giraavaru fishermen: Maafannu from "maa" (big) and "fannu" (a place where a village path meets the sea), Henveiru from "en-beyru" (out where fishermen got their bait), Galolhu from "galu-olhu" (stone groove) and, Macchangolhi from "mathi-angolhi" (windward path-fork).

See also

Footnotes

References

  • H. C. P. Bell, The Maldive Islands, An account of the physical features, History, Inhabitants, Productions and Trade. Colombo 1883, ISBN 81 206 1222 1
  • H.C.P. Bell, The Maldive Islands; Monograph on the History, Archaeology and Epigraphy. Reprint Colombo 1940. Council for Linguistic and Historical Research. Male’ 1989
  • H.C.P. Bell, Excerpta Maldiviana. Reprint Asian Educational Services. New Delhi 2002
  • Xavier Romero-Frias, The Maldive Islanders, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom. Barcelona 1999, ISBN 84 7254 801 5

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