It has been over 2,500 years since the first settlement in the Maldives. Historical documents show a structured government since the ancient days. The historical documents from other countries show their ancient rulers receiving gifts and pleasantries from the Maldives. And so in 362 A.D., a Maldivian delegation of nobles went to the Emperor of the Roman Empire in the east, Julian, in Constantinople, the modern day Istanbul, Turkey, with gifts according to the Roman soldier and historian, Ammianus Mecellinus. Between 658 and 662 A.D., King Baladitya of Maldives brought sent gifts to the Emperor of China according to the ancient historical documents of the Tang Dynasty. This shows that the Maldives was an established kingdom. Other tales passed down throughout history suggests that the Maldives had kings and queens centuries B.C.
History shows that the foundation of the Maldivian Monarchy was established by the son of Brahmaditiya, king of Kalinga, from the modern day Orissa, India, the Buddhist king, Sri Soorudasaruna Aaditiya.
So it is believed that Buddhism was introduced to the country during the reign of the first king. Archaeological evidence proves that the Hindu religion also had existed in the country. Historical evidence suggests other forms of monotheism led by priests before the arrival of Buddhism and Hinduism.
Buddhist texts show Brahmadatta as the King of Kalinga at the time of Gautama Buddha’s death between 488 – 395 B.C.
The Buddhist historical documents in Sri Lanka show that following his death, Gautama Buddha was cremated in a sandalwood pyre at Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India. The texts venerate a canine tooth retrieved from the funeral pyre by a disciple, Khema who then gave it to King Brahmadatte. After the relic became symbol of the right to rule, many wars were fought for it. In 400 A.D., then King of Kalinga, Guhasiva gained possession of the relic. But a King named Pandu heard of the relic and fought him for it with the intention of destroying it. However, he too, converted to Buddism. King Guhasiva passed on the relic to his daughter Hemamala and her husband Prince Danta. They took the relic to Sri Lanka during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Meghavarna. The Buddhist relic now resides in Kandi, Sri Lanka, at the Temple of the Tooth.
In the old days, the Kalinga were prominent travelers. Buddism was spread to the entire south and south-east Asia from Kalinga after King Akosha captured Kalinga in 261 B.C. and turned to peace with Buddism and began a mission to spread the teachings.
In the first century A.D., Kalinga had a strong naval presence. In 800 A.D. Kalinga established a kingdom in Java, Indonesia.
From the tenth century A.D., Kalinga was held by the Somavanshi Dynasty. During which time, the Maldives too was under the Somavanshi. The first King of the Somavanshi Dynasty in the Maldives was King Sri Baaladitiya.
The first King of the Maldives Sri Soorudasaruna arrived in the Maldives after the Kalinga King got angry with his son, and sent him off with his wife in two boats; they had 700 soldiers.
Sri Lankan epic, Mahavamsa, says that in 500 B.C., people traveled to Sri Lanka and the Maldives from Sinhapura, India; the Prince and his men on the two ships. One of the ships arrived in Sri Lanka while the other arrived in the Maldives. Mahavamsa indicates to the origin of the Sinhalese people in Sri Lanka.
Among the ancient documents of the Maldives, the Isdhoo Loamaafaanu copperplate mentions an ancient king, “Dasa”. Naseema Mohamed writes that it could be a name locals used for King Soorudasaruna.
The Koimala legend in Maldivian history is also considered to be a version of the first king of the Maldives. There are three versions of the story which suggests that theory to be accurate.
- According to one version, Koimala’s parents came from India, not Sri Lanka: The Indian king was angry with his son, and sent him off with his wife in two boats; they had 700 soldiers. They came to Rasgetheemu in Raa Atoll, and when he became king there, people called that island Rasgetheemu “King’s Landing”. Then the king and queen came to Male’, and Koimala was born from that Indian couple.
- In another variant, When Koimala and his wife came, there were already people here. Since she was a princess of royal lineage, the people asked her husband to rule.
- A myth in condensed form: One day, while a hunter king of Sri Lanka was hunting, he caught a man-beast in his net. The man-beast couldn’t walk, so the king taught him to do it. The man-beast then married the king’s daughter, but he made political trouble in Sri Lanka, so was forced to leave. He and the princess arrived in Rasgetheemu and they lived there for some time, where the locals there asked them to rule them.
And so the Koimala tale advertises the Kalinga and the first King as a foreigner with noble blood who arrived in the Maldives with his family and becoming the ruler as its structure in all the variations.
With little documentation of the pre-Islamic kings of the country, it is likely that the Koimala is considered to be the King when the Maldives converted to Islam in 1153 A.D. and consider Dhovemi Kalaminja Siri Thiribuvana-aadiththa Maha Radun as the First King of the Maldives.
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