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The ancient Sri Lankan chronicle Mahawamsa refers to an island called Mahiladiva ("Island of Women", महिलादिभ) in Pali, which is probably a mistranslation of the same Sanskrit word meaning "garland".Jan S Hogendorn, Grossman Professor of Economics, theorises that the name Maldives derives from the Sanskrit mālādvīpa ().None of these names is mentioned in any literature, but classical Sanskrit texts dating back to the Vedic period mention the "Hundred Thousand Islands" (Lakshadweepa), a generic name which would include not only the Maldives, but also the Laccadives, Aminidivi Islands, Minicoy and the Chagos island groups.) from the Arabic word Mahal ("palace"), which must be how the Berber traveller interpreted the local name, having been through Muslim North India, where Perso-Arabic words were introduced to the local vocabulary.BC–AD 300), most probably fishermen from the southwest coasts of what is now the south of the Indian Subcontinent and the western shores of Sri Lanka.From the mid 16th-century, the region came under the increasing influence of colonial powers, with the Maldives becoming a British protectorate in 1887.Independence from the United Kingdom was achieved in 1965 and a presidential republic was established in 1968 with an elected People's Majlis.

The Maldivian archipelago was Islamised in the 12th century and consolidated as a sultanate, developing strong commercial and cultural ties with Asia and Africa.

A strong underlying layer of Dravidian population and culture survives in Maldivian society, with a clear Dravidian-Malayalam substratum in the language, which also appears in place names, kinship terms, poetry, dance, and religious beliefs.

Malabari seafaring culture led to Malayali settling of the Laccadives, and the Maldives were evidently viewed as an extension of that archipelago.

One such community is the Giraavaru people descended from ancient Tamils.

They are mentioned in ancient legends and local folklore about the establishment of the capital and kingly rule in Malé.

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