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maldives south central province buddhist archaeological

The South Central Province consists of Thaa and Laamu Atolls.

Thaa Atoll, also known as Kolhumadulu Atoll is an administrative division of the Maldives that corresponds to the natural atoll of the same name. Its inhabited islands include: Burunee, Vilufushi, Madifushi, Dhiyamingili, Guraidhoo, Gaadhiffushi, Thimarafushi, Veymandoo – the capital of Thaa Atoll, Kinbidhoo, Omadhoo, Hirilandhoo, Kandoodhoo, and Vandhoo.

The seas surrounding this atoll are known as good fishing areas and some of the Atoll’s islands have fish processing plants. Important Buddhist archaeological remains have also been found in the Atoll, including a large ruined stupa on the island of Kinbidhoo.

Laamu Atoll, also known as Haddhunmathi Atoll, is an administrative division of the Maldives that corresponds to the natural atoll of the same name. Its inhabited islands are: Dhanbidhoo, Fonadhoo, Gaadhoo, Gan, Hithadhoo – the capital of the Atoll, Isdhoo, Kunahandhoo, Maabaidhoo, Maamendhoo, Maavah, and Mundoo.

Several of Laamu’s islands located on the eastern reef contain important archaeological sites, like Dhanbidhoo, Mundoo, Gan and Isdhoo. Remains of monasteries, viharas and stupas of large proportions have been found here. There were also discoveries on Dhanbidhoo and Isdhoo of copper plates known as Lōmāfānu, that contain ancient writings related to the conversion to Islam, the destruction of the Buddhist monuments, the beheading of Buddhist monks and the building of mosques to replace the Buddhist temples and monasteries. These copper plates date back to the year 1193 AD.


Vilufushi is an island in the Thaa Atoll known for the various kinds of fishing available. The island was washed away by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami but was reclaimed with the help of foreign aid and new facilities were built so residents could return.


Madifushi is an island of the Thaa Atoll that is famous for its many boats and their ship transportation business. Though the island was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, it was rebuilt with the help of foreign aid by 2014.


Guraidhoo is an important island in the Thaa Atoll, considered a trading point to other islands in the atoll. The port is well built and provides a transit point for the many boats coming and going from Malé and other atolls in the area. With the rapid increase in population the government decided to increase the landmass reclaim more than 60 hectares of land from the west side of the island. Further development is planned which includes the establishment of an international airport as well as an international transit port and international yacht marina. Works are planned to begin in 2020. Guraidhoo is also the closest island to the new resort of Maalifushi which makes it a destination for island hopping guests and has provided job opportunities for the locals.


Kinbidhoo is an island located in the Thaa Atoll that was affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. There were important Buddhist ruins in an area of the island referred to as Veyru by the islanders. Unfortunately the Buddhist site was not protected after excavation and was heavily vandalised, leaving the steep hill that marked the location of the ancient Stupa almost flattened out.


Hirilandhoo is an island of the Thaa Atoll and recognised as one of the oldest of the archipelago. Its people are famous for their love of music and dance. A box containing a 9th century copper plate was discovered on the island. Hirilandhoo has also become a centre for boat crafting.


Dhanbidhoo is located in the Laamu atoll and is famous for its large ruins from the historical Maldivian Buddhist era. Ancient royal edicts written on copper plates, known as Lōmāfānu originating from the 12th century were found on Malé, and on this island indicating that there were large Buddhist monasteries on the islands of the Laamu atoll that were of great importance. The lōmāfānu found on Dhanbidhoo make it clear that the general conversion from Buddhism to Islam was ordered by the king, as were the destruction of the Buddhist statues and structures.


Gan is the largest island in the Laamu atoll and the entire archipelago and as such is divided into wards. Gan is connected with Maandhoo, the uninhabited island to its south, which in turn is linked with the regional domestic airport at Kadhdhoo by a short causeway. Kadhdhoo is linked from its south with Fonadhoo, the capital of the atoll by a causeway of almost one kilometre. This linked chain of four islands stretches up to about 18 kilometres in length, making it the longest length of dry land in the Maldives.

Gan is known for its fabulous beaches, and the impressive mounds from the pre-historic Buddhist era. The mounds known as “Hawitta” form a pyramid like structure. One ruin known as “Gamu Haiytheli”' is located in Mudhin Hinna and measures over 91 metres in circumference and is 7 metres tall. Local folklore claims that this was the last Buddhist temple of the Maldives. Other ruins include “Munbaru”' in Kuruhinna, which were some of the best preserved ruins from the Buddhist past however recent vandalism has taken a severe toll at the unprotected sites and only scattered stones and mounds of coral rubble remain.

In 2011 the Reveries Diving Village was opened providing guest accommodation, a restaurant, swimming pool, spa, and other facilities as well as a Padi Certified Dive School and water sport facilities, all meant to offer a new type of tourism.


Mundoo is one of the islands of the Laamu Atoll. It is situated in the long reef that fringes the eastern side of Laamu. This island has large ruins from the historical Maldivian Buddhist era, and the stupa was excavated in 1923 but it had been severely vandalised and almost all the carved porite stones had been removed.


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