Though performances of traditional music and dance are not everyday events, there is a contemporary Divehi culture which is strong and adaptive, despite foreign influences which range from Hindi movies and Oriental martial arts to Michael Jackson and Muslim fundamentalism. Western fashions, pop music and videos are visible in the capital, but on public occasions, like the beginning and end of Ramadan, the celebrations always have a distinctly Maldivian touch. There are three daily newspapers and several magazines in the unique national language, rock bands who sing Divehi lyrics, and multi-storey buildings which echo the architecture of Maldivian island houses.
A bodu beru means a big drum, and gives its name to the best known form of traditional music and dance. It's what tourist resorts put on for a local culture night, and it can be quite sophisticated and compelling. Dancers begin with a slow, nonchalant swaying and swinging of the arms, and become more animated as the tempo increases, finishing in a rhythmic frenzy. There are four to six drummers in an ensemble, and the sound has strong African influences. Contemporary local rock bands often perform at resorts where they do credible covers of the usual old favourites. Performing for a local audience they may incorporate elements of bodu beru in their music, with lots of percussion and extended drum solos. Cassettes from local bands are sold in Malé music shops.
Islam is the national religion and all Maldivians are Sunni Muslims. No other religions are permitted, though ancient beliefs survive: for example, islanders fear jinnis - evil spirits which come from the sea, land and sky. These are blamed for everything that cannot be explained by religion or science. Fish and rice are the staple foods of Maldivians with meat and chicken eaten only on special occasions. National dishes include fried fish, fish curry and fish soup. Arecanut (an oval nut chewed with betel leaf, cloves and lime) is the equivalent of an after-dinner mint. Alcohol is only available in tourist resorts. The local brew is raa, a sweet and delicious toddy tapped from the crown of the palm trunk. Apart from coconuts, there are very few fruits and vegetables grown on the islands, so most of the food served at tourist resorts is imported.
A glimpse into the Culture of Maldives can give you a more vivid portrayal of the land, its people, their beliefs and customs. Maldives, which is officially known as the Republic of Maldives, is an island nation consisting of a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean. Maldives is located south of India's Lakshadweep islands and about seven hundred kilometers south-west of Sri Lanka. The original the inhabitants of the land were Buddhists, but Islam was introduced in 1153. Later during the 16th to 19th centuries, it became Portuguese (1558), Dutch (1654) and British (1887) colonial possession. In 1965, Maldives obtained independence from Britain and in 1968 the Sultanate was replaced by a Republic. Maldives is the smallest Asian country when it comes to population and it is also the smallest predominantly Muslim nation in the world. Culture of Maldives borrows considerably from a number of sources and the most important of them is its proximity to the shores of Sri Lanka and southern India.
The population is mainly Dravidian from the anthropological point of view. The official and most common language is Dhivehi which is an Indo-European language. The present-day written script is called ‘Thaana' and is written from right to left. English is used in different fields including commerce and as the medium of instruction in government schools. The language, by virtue of the Indo-Iranian Sanskritic origin, signifies a later influence from the north of the subcontinent. The legends have it that the royal dynasty that ruled the country in the past has its origin there.
These ancient kings probably brought Buddhism from the subcontinent but the Maldivian legends do not have any clear reference to it. After the long Buddhist period of the history, people of Maldives were converted to Sunni Islam during the mid-12th century. Islam is the official religion of the land and it is required to be a follower of it for citizenship.
Since the 12th century AD, there were influences also from Arabia in the fields of language and culture of the Maldives. This has to do with the fact that the general conversion to Islam took place in the 12th century and its location is a crossroads in the central Indian Ocean. The island Maldives Culture boasts of a few elements of African origin and also from the slaves brought 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 people claim their ancestry related to the released African slaves.
Culture of Maldives is fascinating and helps you to understand the land better before your Maldives tours and travel.