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Why “Dots On the Map”?

If you take a look at South Asia on the Google Map and click zoom many times, you may notice some dots appearing on the dark blue surface of the Indian Ocean. With every click more dots will appear and they will start to form irregular rings surrounded with the turquoise lagoons. These dots are in fact the island country, the Maldives.

The Maldivian islands, lying southwest from the Indian Peninsula form 26 ring-shaped atolls, consisting of around 1190 islands (the Population and Housing Census of 2006)[1] formed in. The outline and the location of the country is reflected in its name, as notices Clarence Maloney in his article Where Did the Maldives People Come From?:

Seafaring explorers of past centuries fancied that the shape of this chain of atols[2] resembled a garland, and indeed on a map it does look like this. So the Archipelago came by the name mala div (garland island, a common word in Indian languages) (…).

The garland islands are spread on 90 000 square meters across Laccadive Sea. However, the land territory encompass less than 300 square meters, which makes Maldives the smallest Asian country and world’s ninth.[3] Luxembourg – a European Duchy – rather modest by size – is bigger than Maldives more than eight times. The biggest island belonging to this state called Gan can be walked around in one hour.

One of few modern scientists, who visited and wrote about the Maldives is Thor Heyerdahl, Norwegian ethnographer, author of “Kon Tiki Expedition”. In the 80-ties he was asked by the Maldivian authorities to visit their country and examine some surprising archeological discovery. In the completely Islamic region one discovered sculptures of the Buddhist origin. Heyerdahl’s task was to find out who had built them. He described his expedition as a journey across a thousand “dots on the map in the Indian Ocean”.

 

          

 


[1] The controversy of number of the islands derives from difficulties with defining an island (any piece of dry land or land with vegetation) as well as with their constant appearance and disappearance. The figure ranges from 1080 to 1302 (Maps of Maldives 2008).

[2] Word atoll derives from a Maldivian dictionary. Original Dhivehi word is atholhu and that is why Maloney believes it should be spelled with single l (Maloney).

[3] Maps of Maldives 2008

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