Every land has its own share of folk tales. Whether they are fictitious or non fictitious, they are instrumental in defining the culture of the land.
Myths play an important role in aligning an identity to a land. It helps in developing strong beliefs and notions that dominate people residing in the area. Hence, myths are important to construct the individuality of the masses.
Maldives has its own set of myths that have helped in constituting the culture of the small archipelago island. Some of the myths are mentioned below:
Myths of Origin
No one knows as to how Maldives came into origin. However, myths revolve around the story of origin defining the roots of the Maldives Island. According to the myths, the coconut tree and the tuna fish – the two major trade products hold significance in the origin of the civilization.
Maldives recorded the death of the first settlers in large numbers. Amongst the survivors, there was one sorcerer or ‘fandita’ who cultivated the coconut trees out of the skulls of the first inhabitants buried over there. This is how the island got its national symbol ‘coconut tree’.
Same is the case with the ‘tuna fish’ – their staple dietary food. The myth says that the Seafarer went to the Dagas, the mythical tree at the end of the world, to bring the fish to the shore.
Myths of Extinction
The end of Maldives is believed to be catastrophic in nature. The myth suggests that the islands of Maldives will meet a similar fate as Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The land will get submerged in the water.
King Koimala was the first ruler of the Male atoll of Maldives. There is a strong myth revolving around the existence of the ruler. Koi belonged to a small forest in Sri Lanka. At that time, the Sri Lankan land was ruled by King Serendip. The guards of the King would often explore the woods for cattle and food. One fine day, while roaming in the forests, they discovered a young boy who was living among the herd of cows.
The King invested time in teaching lines of communication to the ‘flower of the jungle’. After years of practice, the boy finally learnt how to converse. It was then the King compelled him to unravel the mystery of his discovery in the forest. He led the troops of the King to the caves where he resided. However, no one could enter the cave except Koi.
Every time Koi entered the tunnel of mystery, he would return with gems. The greedy King wanted to claim the treasure of Koi. So, he got his daughter married to the orphan boy. Although they were married, they lived in two different orchards. The advisers told the King to send them off to a nearby island where they can live together. The proposal was accepted by Koi on a condition. He demanded to be assisted by certain set of slaves and some wealth to establish a Kingdom elsewhere in exchange of the precious gems from the caves.
Soon, arrangements were made to sail the newlywed couple to a foreign land. They explored the sea before anchoring their ship at an island which he named as “Rasgetheemu”. The slaves anchored their ship at an island nearby “Alhugetheemu”.
Soon, Koi began to build his new Kingdom by the fine collection of treasures received from the King Serendip. As soon as the slaves began to dig the island, they found 7 black naped terns. The birds began to cry, circle and finally went away. Noticing the same, Koi ordered to resume work after few days. A similar event was witnessed the next time. Instead of seven, this time, 5 black naped terns appeared and circled in the air. Koi felt the negativity and postponed the work again. However, the third time only one bird appeared and cried. Koi took this as an omen and quickly packed their belongings and abandoned the island.
They then anchored at the seashore bank of Male. Although the island had few inhabitants, they all felt it was not an ideal island to settle. Yet, Koi sought their permission and began to construct his empire at the Male atoll. While the empire was being erected, Koi noticed that the fishermen of the island practiced Buddhism.
Thus, once the Kingdom was set up, Koi became the first King of the Male atoll. He then encouraged the practice of Buddhism as a religion in the area.
Rannamaari is a sea monster, known to exist in the Maldivian waters. It emerged from the deep blue sea and could be placated by a sacrifice of a virgin. This claimed the lives of many virgins until Abul Barakat, Berber scholar from Morocco came to the sunny side of life in the 12th century. The news of Rannamaari made him inquisitive and instead of the young girl,he stepped in to experience the sea monster. He stood at the Idol House where the sacrifice procession was about to take place. The entire night, he recited from the Quran, while waiting for the sea monster.
Now, the myth suggests that the sea monster, on hearing the recitation of the Quran, dived back into the sea. This broke the entire inhabitants of Maldives into a celebratory mode, rejoicing the result. This led to the King officially adopting Islam as a religion. Soon the entire population converted to Islam, abandoning the practice of Buddhism.