Numerical vocabulary: The
Maldive word for number and numeral was aka. Now this seems
to be replaced by an English derivative, nambaru. The probable
reason for the change was because aka acquired a stigma by
association with numerology and the pseudoIslamic fanditha
witchcraft. The word aka still survives in mathematical usage
and means square as in square metre. Mathematical area still is
called akamin. Numeral is also known as viya akuru
which means mathematical script.
Counting system: The original
Maldive counting system appears to be decimal (base ten) but at
some stage in history a duodecimal (base twelve) system was superimposed
over this and survived until the early part of the twentieth century
when the decimal system was restored to common usage. This restoration
was probably influenced by Borah merchants from the British province
of Bombay in India who set up shop in Male towards the middle of
the nineteenth century. Some of the current decimal numbers past
eleven and all of the decimal numbers used until early in the twentieth
century (even now by stuffy civil service accountants) reflect the
Gujarati and Hindustani influence of the Borahs.
Why decimal? The decimal system
was probably based on the fact that most humans have ten digits
between their hands. The duodecimal system was probably based on
the twelve moons of the seasonal year. Obviously early Maldivians
or whoever brought the duodecimal system to the Maldives looked
past their own hands into the heavens for mathematical inspiration.
A maritime people would have considered the four cardinal points
of the compass as providing a basis of their counting system. Four
is a factor of twelve rather than ten.
The numbers: The first ten
numbers of the old duodecimal system are very similar to the decimal
numbers of Sanskrit and Latin. This possibly indicated that a decimal
set of numbers predated the intermediate duodecimal numbers. Eleven
and twelve in the doudecimal system correspond to the current eleven
and twelve of the Sinhala language of Sri Lanka.

Latin

Sanskrit 
Divehi
Decimal


Cardinal unless stated


early 20th Century

Modern

1

unus 
eka 
ekeh 
ekeh 
2

duo 
dvi 
dheyh 
dheyh 
3

terni (distributive) 
tri 
thineh 
thineh 
4

quattuor 
catúr 
hatareh 
hathareh 
5

quinque 
panca 
faheh 
faheh 
6

sex 
sas 
haeh 
haeh 
7

septem 
saptan 
hatheh 
hatheh 
8

octo 
ashtan 
arheh 
arheh 
9

novem 
navan 
nuvaeh 
nuvaeh 
10

decem 
dashan 
dhihaeh 
dhihaeh 
11


ékaadashan 
egaara 
egaara 
12


dvaadashan 
baara 
baara 
13


tráyodashan 
theyra 
theyra 
19


uunavimshatí 
onavihi 
navaara 
20


vimshatí 
vihi 
vihi 
21


ékavimshati 
ekaavees 
ekaavees 
22


dvaavimshati 
baavees 
baavees 
30


trimshát 
thirees 
thirees 
31


ékatrimshat 
ehthirees 
thirees ekeh 
32


dvaatrimshat 
batthirees 
thirees dheyh 
40


catvaarimshát 
saalhees 
saalhees 
50


pañcaashát 
fansaas 
fansaas 
60


sastí 
hatti 
fasdholhas 
70


saptatí 
haiythari 
haiydhiha 
80


ashiití 
aahi 
addiha 
90


navatí 
navai 
nuvadhiha 

Decimal 
Duodecimal 
1 
ekeh 
ekeh 
2 
dheyh 
dheyh 
3 
thineh 
thineh 
4 
hathareh 
hathareh 
5 
faheh 
faheh 
6 
haeh 
haeh 
7 
hatheh 
hatheh 
8 
arheh 
arheh 
9 
nuvaeh 
nuvaeh 
10 
dhihaeh 
dhihaeh 
11 
egaara 
ekolhaheh 
12 
baara 
dholhaheh 
13 
theyra 
dholhas ekeh 
14 
saadha 
dholhas dheyh 
15 
fanara 
dholhas tineh 
16 
soalha 
dholhas hathareh 
17 
sathaara 
dholhas faheh 
18 
arhaara 
dholhas haeh 
19 
navaara 
dholhas hatheh 
20 
vihi 
dholhas arheh 
21 
ekaavees 
dholhas nuvaeh 
22 
baavees 
dholhas dhihaeh 
23 
theyvees 
dholas ekolaheh 
24 
sauvees 
fassihi 
25 
fansavees 
fassihi ekeh 
36 
thirees haeh 
thin dholhas 
48 
saalhees arheh 
fanas 
60 
fasdholhas 
fasdholhas 
72 
haiydhiha dheyh 
faahithi 
84 
addiha hathareh 
haiydholhas 
96 
nuvadhiha haeh 
hiya 
108 
satheyka arheh 
nuvadholas 
144 
satheyka saalhees hathareh 
assa (?) 
Interesting points to note are the similarities between the decimal
25 (fansavees) and the duodecimal 24 (fassihi). Fassihi
nearly literally means five and twenty. This also lends to the belief
that a decimal set of numbers may have predated the duodecimal.
The decimal word for fifty (fansaas) and the duodecimal word for
48 (fanas) are also similar. The decimal and doudecimal word for
60 is exactly the same and we must remember 60 is the lowest common
number in both systems that ends with a zero (zero is suhn
in both decimal and duodecimal Divehi).
PreArabic (Hindu) numerals:
The basis of the preArabic (Hindu) Maldive numerals was the first
eleven (in the duodecimal system) and the first nine (in the decimal
system) letters of the older Divehi (Divess) script. These numbers
can still be seen in surviving old manuscripts.
Alphabet based on numerals:
The modern Thaana script was invented based on the numerals known
to Maldivians at that time. The first nine letters of the Thaana
script are called the letters of the Arabi aka (Arabic numerals)
and look like the Arabic/ Persian numerals of the Hindu counting
system. The next nine Thaana letters are called the letters of the
Divehi aka (Divehi numerals) and look like the first nine
base letters (consonants without the vowel extensions) of the Divess
script. the remainder of the Thaana consonants were derived by adding
"arms", "legs" and dots to the Arabi aka
and Divehi aka consonants. As a sweetener for the mullahs,
the vowels known as fili were derived from the diacritical
marks used in the Arabic text (Mushaf) of the Koran (Islamic
holy book).
The Thaana alphabetical script used to write modern Divehi was invented
in resistance to the drive to Arabise and strip the Maldives of
its national heritage by the Islamic intelligentsia. In that regard
Maldivians proved to the mullahs to be resilient and a tougher nut
to crack than the Persians, Islamised Indians, Turks and the Malays
who all abandoned their indigenous writing systems and/ or adopted
the Arabic script. The Turks and the Malays have since dropped the
clumsy Arabic alphabet in favour of the Roman alphabet. Maldivians
invented their own nonIndic, nevertheless, nonArabic script we
now call Thaana to replace the former Indic script called Divehi
Akuru. The Indic script was written from left to right. The
mullahs objected to that and tried to impose a modified Arabic script
which they called hedhi akuru. The civil intellectuals refused
a bar of that and devised the compromise Thaana script.
Money: When the Ceylon and
British Indian silver (later nickel) rupee became the de facto
unit of currency from very early 20^{th} Century, the Maldive
currency unit, the laari was pegged to the rupee at the rate of
1 rupee equals to 120 laaris. In addition to the rupee, the British
Indian half rupee coin (also known as 8 anna) and quarter rupee
(4 Anna) coin were used as de facto legal tender. Until the
1970s, the Maldive 25 laari coin and 75 laari value were popularly
referred to as 4 anna and and 12 anna The 50 laari coin and the
half rupee note was never called 8 anna
This was a curious merger of the duodecimal and decimal. It must
be remembered that at that time the Sterling pound consisted of
240 pence, which was equal to 960 farthings, interestingly multiples
of 12. When the Maldives adopted the rufiyaa as its own currency
and issued its own currency notes in 1947, the Maldive rufiyaa was
set at 100 laari.
The use of the Imperial coinage was evidenced in the following verse
of a poem by Bodufenvalhugey Seedi, the author's maternal grandfather.
Seedi was a member of the ruling Council of Regency that decreed
the introduction of the decimalised Maldive paper currency in 1947
to replace the de facto Imperial coinage.
A
very bright thing, a round round thing
That everyone desires, a white white thing
At moving people's hearts, a very clever thing
Ever wondered what is this thing?

Goldsmiths continued to use the Imperial coinage as weights, as
they had done for many decades. One silver anna was 60 grains Troy.
The Indian rupee was 91.66% silver. The Ceylon rupee was 80.00%
silver until World War I, when it was reduced to 55.00% silver.
As a result there was a tendency for mostly Indian coins to remain
in circulation in the Maldives.
Until 1960, the laari coins came in denominations called the kuda
laari (small laari) medhu laari (middle laari) and bodu
laari (big laari). The kuda laari was equal to one laari,
the medhu laari was equal to three laari and the bodu
laari was equal to four laari. Three and four are factors of
twelve rather than ten indicating the duodecimal influence on the
currency. From 1960, the older laari coins were gradually phased
out and were replaced by decimalised denominations.
Duodecimaldecimal amalgums:
There were many other examples of the decimalduodecimal merger.
One of the titles of the Maldive sovereigns was "King (Queen)
of Twelve thousand Isles". This was clearly not the number
of Maldive islands but was meant to symbolise a huge number.
A standard packet of cowrie shell, the main export of ancient Maldives
consisted of 12,000 shells and was called a kottey.
Time: The basic unit of the
Maldive clock was the dhan, which was equal to three hours.
There were four daylight dhan and four nocturnal dhan
making a total of eight dhan in twenty four hours. The twenty
four hour period was called addaniru, which literally meant
"eight dhan period"
Who
knew the biggest number?
 the English the Indians
or the Maldivians?
As a Year Four (Grade 3) primary school pupil, one day I returned
from school and announced jubilantly to my mother that I had learnt
the biggest imaginable number from Mr Peter Wise, my new teacher.
I was sure my mother would be totally ignorant of that number. She
asked me what the number was and I replied that if she wrote down
a one followed by six naughts she would have that number and was
called a million.
My mother told me that she was not too sure of this million number
but she knew the Divehi name of the number written with one followed
by 20 naughts. She called it dhiha mahaasinku. To my absolute
disbelief she claimed she could name every number between one and
dhiha mahaasinku in Divehi.
The Maldive decimal system of numbers to the power of ten were as
follows. They were probably derived from Sanskrit?
Scientific
notation 
Divehi number 
Sanskrit
number 
1.0 x 10^{1} 
dhihaeh 
dashan 
1.0 x 10^{2} 
satheyka 
shatá 
1.0 x 10^{3} 
haas 
sahásra 
1.0 x 10^{4} 
dhiha haas 
ayúta 
1.0 x 10^{5} 
lakka 
laksá 
1.0 x 10^{6} 
dhiha lakka 
prayúta 
1.0 x 10^{7} 
kuroadu 
koti 
1.0 x 10^{8} 
dhiha kuroadu 
árbuda 
1.0 x 10^{9} 
arabu 
abja 
1.0 x 10^{10} 
dhiha arabu 
kharvá 
1.0 x 10^{11} 
karabu 
nikharva 
1.0 x 10^{12} 
dhiha karabu 
mahaapadma 
1.0 x 10^{13} 
neelu 
shankú 
1.0 x 10^{14} 
dhiha neelu 
jaladhi 
1.0 x 10^{15} 
fadhamu 
antya 
1.0 x 10^{16} 
dhiha fadhamu 
mádhya 
1.0 x 10^{17} 
sinku 
paraardhá 
1.0 x 10^{18} 
dhiha sinku 

1.0 x 10^{19} 
mahaasinku 

1.0 x 10^{20} 
dhiha mahaasinku 

I did not challenge Mr Wise to see if he had a term for dhiha mahaasinku. 