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The Maldivian language, the first Maldive scripts, the architecture, the ruling institutions, the customs and manners of the Maldivians originated at the time when the Maldives were a Buddhist kingdom.
Buddhism probably spread to the Maldives in the 3rd century BC at the time of Emperor Ashoka's expansion, and became the dominant religion of the people of the Maldives until the 12th century AD.
The Maldivian archipelago took to Islam in the 12th century and consolidated as a sultanate, developing strong commercial and cultural ties with Asia and Africa.
From the mid 16th-century, the region came under the increasing influence of European colonial powers, with the Maldives becoming a British protectorate in 1887.
A strong underlying layer of Dravidian population and culture survives in Maldivian society, with a clear Tamil-Malayalam substratum in the language, which also appears in place names, kinship terms, poetry, dance, and religious beliefs.
Local historian Hassan Ahmed Maniku counted as many as 59 islands with Buddhist archaeological sites in a provisional list he published in 1990.
In the Malabar language nale means four and diva island.
So that in that language the word signifies "four islands," while we, corrupting the name, call it Maldiva." The first Maldivians did not leave any archaeological artifacts.
The person traditionally deemed responsible for this conversion was a Sunni Muslim visitor named Abu al Barakat, stemming either from the Maghreb (as according to Ibn Battutah His venerated tomb now stands on the grounds of Hukuru Mosque, or miski, in the capital of Malé.
Built in 1656, this is the oldest mosque in Maldives.