Minicoy society and culture and MaldivesMaldives Minicoy Mahl Dhivehi
  New Zealand Ensign
New Zealand
Compulsory reading for the student of Maldive history and anthropology

Michael O'Shea: Australian commentator on the Maldives
Home

HumanClick

majid@xtra.co.nz

Historical Flag of the Maldives
Majid's Pages
Maldives    

Xavier Romero-Frías    

THE MALDIVE ISLANDERS, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom.

Price: Euro 18 plus postage. Postage is 9 Euro outside of India. Contact NOVA ETHNOGRAPHIA INDICA: ethnoind@hotmail.com

| EPILOGUE | VILLAGES IN THE OCEAN |

INTRODUCTION

Maldives casting fishing net
Photo: Ismail Abdulla

When I visited Maldives for the first time, in June 1979, I used to spend a lot of time in the Majeedi Library. It was the main one in the capital, Male', and it has since been renamed as the National Library. Back then, it was a very quiet place where there was a pleasant atmosphere and the employees were friendly and helpful. As I wanted to know about the land, which incidentally is, like Siam, one of the few Asian countries which was spared foreign colonization, I read all that I could find there, which was not very much. I remember very clearly that what struck me most at the time was how few books of substance had been published about the Maldives, and the fact that most of them had been written long ago.

Those few old books dwelt at length on royal genealogies and life in the Sultan's court, where the few foreign travelers visiting the country (Ibn Batuta, Pyrard de Laval) had been entertained. Modern publications were little more than shallow statistical reports or glossy tourist guides. I felt that the country had been described but not understood. The Maldivian people, their way of life and their feelings had never been given a voice. They seemed to have been dismissed as 'just a silent presence in the background,' like servants in a palace. Thus, vast areas of knowledge about this island country had still not come to the light.

As years went by, I became fluent in the language and also developed a sense of perspective concerning the Maldivian cultural heritage. However, I was puzzled by the inconsistent Maldivian attitude towards history. A few gentlemen belonging to the educated elite were aware of an obscure and distant Buddhist past which, they would insist, has definitely faded into oblivion. They claimed that the present country had nothing to do with it. Recently, a few Maldivians acknowledge a form of what they call 'mysticism' within the autochtonous culture. However, they treat it as an isolated, purely local phenomenon of 'mysterious' origins. At a popular level things were even more clouded: most islanders didn't want to have anything to do with their Buddhist ancestors. They preferred to say that other folks had been Buddhist in their country, not them. It sounded as if the people of the Maldives had always been Muslim and could not have possibly been anything else. In what looks like a blind form of destructiveness, Maldivians, instead of acknowledging and giving due honor to their ancestral Buddhist heritage in which most of their culture is still rooted, spared no effort to dissociate themselves as much as possible from their own past.

Maldives cosmic diagram
Cosmic diagram
'These fish illustrations found in local astrology books are
among the few zoomorphic
representations made by
Maldivians since their
conversion to Islam.'


The Maldivian past is like a misty region, where even events of recent history seem to be far away in time. To the outsider, this gives the impression that the actual character of the Maldives is concealed behind a mask. At the same time, I could not avoid realizing that the visible face of the country was changing rapidly around me. During the 1980's the Maldive Islands underwent a profound transformation. I witnessed how the new aggressive Islamization and modernization of the country, paradoxically happening simultaneously, upset the traditional Island society, stifling most forms of popular expression. In a scenario where the forces of Islamization and technological consumerism were poised for a combined onslaught on the Islands, the stresses for the concealed ancestral cultural heritage were so huge that I wondered whether any traces of it would survive at all.

The awareness about a whole country losing its true personality, gradually translated itself into concern. In the face of the general passivity, I felt responsible for keeping the fragile legacy of the ancestral Maldivian expressions alive, which led me to collect clues about the country's past. This book is the fruit of many years of observing and collecting samples not only of tales, but also of the iconography, popular beliefs, festivals, rituals and customs of the Maldive Islanders. In the end I gathered such a vast amount of data, that it took me almost as many years to analyze them, categorize them and evaluate them in the context of the art and traditions of the Indian Subcontinent. This comparison was necessary since the Maldivian folkways didn't just pop 'mysteriously' out of the blue and, certainly, it is not merely an 'Islamic Country' as the local authorities would like us to believe: The present work, by comparing myths and way of life, tries to establish that the first people settling the Maldives were fisherfolk from the nearest maritime regions, the coastlines of South India and Ceylon. Besides the racial affinity, we will see how below the Islamic veneer the folk culture of the whole area is still very similar.

There are clear indications that sometime in Maldivian antiquity (probably about two millenia ago), a kingly dynasty from the northern regions of the Subcontinent established their power in the Maldive Islands without much local opposition. It is likely that those first 'noble rulers' brought the Buddhist Dharma in their wake, although there are legends that hint at a later conversion to Buddhism. In clear divergence from Sri Lankan myths, in the Maldives those northern kings perhaps became Buddhist centuries after beginning their rule over the Maldivian atolls. Then follows an analysis of the traces of Goddess-worship and the fear of spirits of the dead which are still present in Maldivian popular traditions. The Dravidian Devi cult and a form of tutelary spirit and ancestor- worship, are prevalent among the coastal peoples from the Tulu region of Karnataka to the southern shores of Ceylon.

Maldivian archaeological remains and some inscriptions found therein, point at influences from 8th or 9th century Bengal, in the form of Vajrayana Buddhist iconography and writing. This work describes the island world of esoterism and demonstrates how nowadays, to a certain extent, the Vajrayana Tantric teachings have endured in the Maldives in a syncretistic form of occult magical practices, known locally as fanditaverikan.1 Thus, the traditions described in this study are not yet a thing of the past. Many aspects of the ancient Divehi folkways remain alive and form a part of the present-day culture of most Maldivian individuals. This survival has not been easy, and towards the end of this book I describe how, since the thirteenth century, there have been quite a number of kings and 'holy men' who tried to make the Maldives more Islamized disregarding local cultural needs and values in the process.

I am aware that quite a few aspects of this study may offend some readers. Folklore is close to the more immediate realities of life, the worries of the common man or woman, young or old. Thus, in the text there are many explicit references to blood, sex, defecation, disease and death. To make matters worse, this is a field where nothing seems to be holy. Folkways consistently display a casual lack of respect towards established religions and government authority. However, instead of being ingenuous and condemn, one must keep in mind that folklore is rooted in emotions and deviations that all human beings manifest and reality doesn't leave much room for idealization. Those who may be dismayed by Maldivian popular culture should remember William Graham Sumner's testy dictum that anybody likely to be shocked by reading about folkways, of whatever sort, had better not read about folkways at all.2

Since Maldivians were reluctant to talk about their popular beliefs, it was initially not easy for me to get to the core of their culture. It took years of patient work and living among the average folk, sharing one roof, their meals, their preoccupations, their joy and their pain, to finally be able to understand their ancestral soul. I have spent a great part of my life among the Maldivians and I admire the way in which they have adapted to their environment. My hope is that this book will help them to recover their pride in their heritage.

The book is a good investment. Grab it while it is in print!

| EPILOGUE | VILLAGES IN THE OCEAN |

Maldives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minicoy society and culture and MaldivesMaldives Minicoy Mahl Dhivehi
  New Zealand Ensign
New Zealand
Compulsory reading for the student of Maldive history and anthropology

Michael O'Shea: Australian commentator on the Maldives
Home

HumanClick

majid@xtra.co.nz

Historical Flag of the Maldives
Majid's Pages
Maldives    

Xavier Romero-Frías    

THE MALDIVE ISLANDERS, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom.

Price: Euro 18 plus postage. Postage is 9 Euro outside of India. Contact NOVA ETHNOGRAPHIA INDICA: ethnoind@hotmail.com

| INTRODUCTION | VILLAGES IN THE OCEAN |

EPILOGUE

I believe, in fact that there is no greater suffering for man than to feel his cultural foundations giving way beneath his feet (Alberto Moravia, Italian writer.)

STUCK IN THE SANDS OF ARABIA



Maldives school uniform for girls
Illustration: Haveeru
Formerly a non-issue in the Maldives, female dress and self-righteousness suddenly made an impact on Divehi women throughout the country. An artificial form of prudishness was contrived when government-sponsored Arabic schools spearheaded the introduction of compulsory 'proper Islamic' uniforms for girls from mid-1980s onwards.

Is the fate of gradually becoming an Arab nation the Maldive Islanders' only option? This is the Maldivian dilemma since they made the decision to accept the Arabs as their undisputed cultural masters and began to sever their links with their own past. Nowadays Maldivians are culturally restless people who can never be at ease. The intense indoctrination of the 1980s and 90s, when Islamization was imposed on the islands at a much higher gear than at any time in the nation's history, has made Maldivians feel uncozy in their own country. The changes brought about have been of such magnitude and in such a short time, that there is now a whole young generation of Divehi people who, having not known how things were previously, take for granted that their home nation has always been so orthodox and impersonal.

Although in ethnically Arab countries it may not be so, in the Maldives Islam is an elitistic religion. Traditionally, only a very powerful sector of the elite, for various reasons, has cherished the strict Islamic rules. Furthermore, in the enforcement of orthodoxy downwards, it is this elite who, often hand-in-hand with visiting Arabs, has repressed or wiped out most Maldivian popular expressions leaving in its wake a bleak, unsmiling, hieratic ideology.

The relentless campaign to promote Islam spearheaded by the government since 1979 has been quite successful. In between, many Maldivians have adopted the Arab way of life and the Arab dress.1 The atmosphere in the capital Male', although the city looks now more modern and wealthy than before, is heavily charged with religion. Young people born during the last two decades only know the hard-line religious environment and most don't even know an independent Divehi cultural identity not attached to religious propaganda. Thus, they have grown accustomed to the prevailing cultural forgery and the ensuing loss of personal freedom. Since they didn't experience the mellower times preceding the year 1980, when for example, shops didn't have to close at prayer times and there were popular discotheques in Male', this is only natural.

Maldivian people opposing arabization are in a very vulnerable position, because they are easily, and conveniently, singled out as opponents of Islam. In a perverse paradox, the alien-based ideology of Islam in Maldivian goverment propaganda is equalled with patriotism.2 Within this perverted context, someone who is against Arab cultural intrusion is easily made to look like a person lacking patriotic fervor. As a consequence, the bitter irony is that Maldivians are misled into believing that the only way to become better citizens is by distancing themselves more and more from their own true national identity and become Arab look-alikes.

Maldives film advertisement on street
Maldivians have been traditionally a monogamous society. The Islamisation that began in the 1980s saw an upsurge in polygamous marriages that upset local values. Hagu An'bi (Second wife), the title of the Divehi movie announced on this Malé streetboard, reflects female concern towards what they perceive as hostile trends.

Most of the youth opposing arabization have despaired of protecting their own ethnicity, because the Maldivian or Divehi identity has been dishonestly usurped by an Arabicized elite who pretends that it is equal to Islam.3 The very governmental organization whose duty is, in theory, to protect and promote Maldivian culture has, symptomatically, a long and pompous name: Divehi Bahai Tarikha' Khidmaiykura Qaumi Markazu, which is made up of mostly Arabic words!4 A clear indication of this council's abysmal record in protecting the autochthonous culture is the fact that even its main publication (Faiytura) is used by the government as its mouthpiece for the flurther promotion of the cause of Arabization of the Maldives. Therefore, in the Maldive Islands one is confronted with the patent absurdity that the people who are most active in destroying the national cultural heritage are hailed as patriots.

Confronted with this farce, non-conformist young Maldivians have no choice left but becoming cynical and many have jumped into the bandwagon of contemporary consumerism.5 They choose foreign values that are more attractive to them because most are only vaguely aware that they have a culture of their own. These frustrated young men and women are very keen to display progressive, modern views, which they perceive to be neater and smarter, as a potent form of protest.

The modernity that inspires and gives hope to this section of the Maldivian youth comes to the Maldives nowadays from the influence of a multitude of sources. However, the greater role in fashions, tastes and new attitudes is played probably by the comparatively more democratic societies of urban East and South-East Asia, like Singapore, Japan and Thailand, towards which they display great affinity.

Is the only choice left for Maldivians now to further dismantle the cultural heritage they have been handed over from the previous generations?




1Recently some even have gone so far as to adopt the Arab language as their own.


2The government repeatedly (and somewhat unimaginatively) claims that the Maldives is a 100% Muslim country'. This means different things to different people, but it plainly comes down to the fact that there is no freedom of religion, no freedom of thought and no freedom of expression.

3Sadly, finding it impossible to express their frnstrations, many keen idealistic youngsters became victims of drug addiction in the last decades.


4Meaning 'National Council at the Service of Maldivian Language and History.' Except for the first two which mean 'Divehi language' and were thus completely unavoidable, the other words are in Arabic. The official translation of the name is 'Council for Linguistic and Historical Research.'


5As I am purely concerned with the 'tradition-versus-change' issue, I have avoided the word 'westernization'. Things are not as black-and-white as Muslim ideologists want to believe. One should keep in mind that, even within what has come to be labeled as 'The West', the conflict between traditional and consumerist attitudes is still simmering within every nation.

The book is a good investment. Grab it while it is in print!

Maldives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minicoy society and culture and MaldivesMaldives Minicoy Mahl Dhivehi
  New Zealand Ensign
New Zealand
Compulsory reading for the student of Maldive history and anthropology

Michael O'Shea: Australian commentator on the Maldives
Home

HumanClick

majid@xtra.co.nz

Historical Flag of the Maldives
Majid's Pages
Maldives    

Xavier Romero-Frías    

THE MALDIVE ISLANDERS, A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean Kingdom.

Price: Euro 18 plus postage. Postage is 9 Euro outside of India. Contact NOVA ETHNOGRAPHIA INDICA: ethnoind@hotmail.com

| INTRODUCTION | EPILOGUE |

VILLAGES IN THE OCEAN
In the low, lush tropical coral islands of the Maldivian Atolls, villages were located in the middle of the island. Owing to their independent spirit, Maldivians used to build their homes in a haphazard way about the island. Thick coconut groves and other vegetation encircled the human settlements, so that no house would be seen from the sea. The only constructions with a 'beachview' would be makeshift sheds for boatbuilding or boat- repair and lonely 'ziyarat' shrines.1

There are a number of reasons for hiding human settlements. Traditionally Maldivians didn't think that it was good for a person to look too much at the sea, because one's 'heart would turn to stone'. This sentence, in Divehi means that one would lose one's memory2 and become absent-minded, finding it difficult to concentrate on, for example, reading, and not that one would become merciless.

Furthermore, many trees didn't grow well if the salt-spray hit them directly. Therefore, the first barrier of resilient3 bushes growing close to the waterline and the second barrier of coconut trees, would effectively protect the more salt-sensitive plants growing in the interior of the island, like bananas, papayas and breadfruit trees. For the same reason, paths were narrow and winding, and the point where a path met the beach was considered an important geographical feature in the Maldivian settlement pattern.

Such points were called fannu in Divehi, the language of the Maldive Islands, and they were like the 'gates' or 'mouths' through which the village inside the island opened itself to the sea. People went to the waterline with a purpose. Men would go to the sea to fish, girls would go to the beach to scrub pots, all people would go regularly to answer calls of nature, and sometimes boys would go there to play. However, unless there was a necessity to go there, people would stay as much as possible in their villages inside the island.

The interior of the islands back then was a green, pleasant and cozy place, admirably described by H.C.P. Bell when he visited the Maldives in 1922:

"'A thousand trees towards heaven their summits rear' making of the clean-kept peaceful roads "with leafy hair overgrown", cool umbrageous "cloisters", almost continuous in their extension. Houses there are in plenty, but so well embowered and hidden by sheltering fences and skilful adaptation, as to give the effect of a somewhat close-set rustic village; with little suggestion of regular streets and habitations (...) to mar the picturesque peaceful tout ensemble. In roads, gardens, houses --no matter what or where-- "order in most admired disorder" rules.4

However, during the nineteen-forties, the self-contained world of the Maldive islanders experienced a terrible shock. Mohamed Ameen Doshimeyna Kileygefaanu, who ruled first as regent (since 1944) of an absentee Radun5 and then as President of the first Republic he proclaimed (in 1953, the last year of his rule), decided to build new avenues in the islands. The drive was allegedly to 'give a modern façade' to the country. However, given Mohamed Ameen's highly militaristic inclinations, it was probably a counter-insurgency measure (of preventive character, as there was no insurgency within the country back then). Having studied in Europe, the new ruler had knowledge of modern warfare and introduced many reforms in the Maldivian military.

Mohamed Ameen introduced leader cultism in the islands. He was the first Maldivian leader that displayed himself wearing a soldier's uniform: his portrait (see illustration) had to be displayed in every office, public buiding and school throughout the Maldive Islands. His desire was to have an avenue in every island to stage parades where he himself would be leading his modernized army. Soldiers were given khaki uniforms to replace the ancient black-and-white feyli waistcloth they used to wear.

Under the direct supervision of Mohamed Ameen, the entire Maldivian population, in every island of the country, was ordered to work in the construction of wide, straight streets. They were traced criscrossing every island from beach to beach and many valuable trees were sacrificed in the process. The punishments for any islander shrinking from work were unduly harsh, as these avenues had to be built in record time. Special government officers were dispatched to every important island in order to check that the work was advancing at a fast pace.

Thus, menfolk were not allowed to go fishing and spent their days working hard, felling and uprooting trees, digging and carrying earth from one place to the other. Since no modern machinery was used in the process, conscripted workers had to use their bare hands or rudimentary small tools. Island people said those were terrible times, that womenfolk and children went hungry for lack of fish. I met the widow of a man who was killed, tortured to death, in a punishing cell made especiafly for those who disobeyed government orders and went fishing or to gather coconuts to feed their families. The number of people who died in those circumstances was never recorded.

Islanders failed to understand the rationale behind such broad streets going literally from nowhere to nowhere and allowing the deadly salt-spray to enter right into the heart of the island. Traditionally, the paths within islands were winding and shady and, according to the islanders it was a pleasure to walk on them. Those paths were also winding, not only to avoid the salt-spray, but also to hamper the movements of certain evil spirits that moved in straight lines, like the malevolent spirits of the dead ancestors (kaddhovi).6

However, mostly, people were sore for having to sacrifice so much badly needed good soil and the cool shade and the fruits of different kinds the trees could offer. All individual islands in the Maldives are very small (the largest being barely 5 sq/km) and the total land surface of the whole archipelago lies around a mere 300 sq/km. Considering that there is so little of it, it is hardly surprising that land is so precious in the Maldives. Therefore, practically all Maldivians, except for a few staunch supporters of their charismatic leader, Mohamed Ameen, considered the broad avenues to be a pointless waste.

The traditional pattern of urbanization was brutally disrupted too. Maldive villages which had been originally clusters of homesteads, every house auspiciously aligned towards the proper orientation determined by the nakatteryaa or astrologer, became long alignments of houses stretched along the new avenues. All this had, and is still having, unforeseen traumatic effects upon the vitality of the Maldivian island society and many of those adverse effects have not even been fathomed. The reason being that the traditional position of the house and the orientation of its door in relation of the cardinal points had a paramount influence on social organization and attitudes.7

The new streets had to be fringed on both sides by coral walls. Thus, much sand, lime and coral stones were needed. The new homesteads delimited by walls, increased peoples privacy and did away with the custom of walking from one house to the other through the spaces between house proper and kitchen. This area was known as medugoti in most of the Maldives and as medovatte in the southern end of the country. Shaded by plantains, drumstick trees or fruit trees, the medovatte was where Maldivians, who used to live outdoors sharing the company of their neighbors, spent most of their life.

Most men and women in the Atolls claim that the new urban disposition led to the exacerbation of island rivalries and to the loss of community life. Many also blame the general growth of pride, demoralization and selfishness among islanders to the privacy and isolation of walled-in compounds. Thus, much of the island social fabric was destroyed by such an apparently harmless action as building new streets.

After the traditional urbanization pattern was callously disregarded and swept away by Mohamed Ameen, no one has come up with an alternative idea. This misguided plan is, even now, the only blueprint existing for island urbanization in the Maldives. Therefore, the local Island and Atoll Offices throughout the country keep still opening new straight, broad avenues and enforce the building of walIs8 lining them, exactly as in Ameen's time.

In 1985, one teacher in Meedhoo, Addu Atoll, an island crisscrossed by a broad, desolate and surrealistic looking avenue, glaring white in the harsh tropical midday sun, told me that most of his island's people thought walls were useless and didn't see the point in building them. As coral stones and lime were becoming rare, they were making a sacrifice to build the walls, considering that some of their own little houses were not even walled, but thatched. He concluded by saying that the government "doesn't realize how poor some people are."

All these evils could have been avoided if the common people's opinion had been valued or respected. Mohamed Ameen is now considered to be a great leader in the official Maldive propaganda. He is called 'The Great Modernizer.' However, his methods were feudal: to build his avenues, all able men in each island were recruited to do forced labor and were not allowed to attend to their families. Every morning the island men had to go to the empty space close to the government office and stand in ranks. Then, at eight o'clock they marched towards the road-building sites.

Anyone who reported late, was beaten with a stick. One man said that he had been given many lashes when he had been very late. If someone refused to come he would be locked in a small, stinking cell. Even though the actual republic was proclaimed only in 1953, the last year of Mohamed Ameen's rule, all those years are known as 'Jumhuri Duvahi' (the days of the republic) in the collective memory of Fua Mulaku people. According to one islander9 who lived through those times:

'When we had to open the new avenues in our island, many of those streets cut straight through marshy ground. Thus, we had to bring sand and gravel from the beach in baskets to the working sites. We also had to uproot the stumps of very large trees. We used iron rods and ropes. Work was very hard and we came back hot and exhausted. If we would have been fishing or climbing coconut palms, we would have been exhausted too, but at least we would bring fish or palm-sap home. Now we were arriving home empty-handed. Many children would die because of this. We were getting so little food that we were forced to eat papaya stems, plantain roots and different kinds of leaves.

The men who worked were given very little, and bad food. Not like the food you get at home. My neighbor was jailed after he had been unloading sugar sacks from a vedi (trading ship). He was so hungry he pulled a little bit of sugar from one end of the sack with his finger. He was seen licking his fingers by a supervisor and was reported. Then he was brought to the kosi (jail) straight away. His wife, an aunt of mine, went to plead to the authorities for his release, but was rudely sent back home under threats. Prisoners were given almost no food, they couldn't get the customary daily bath and were given no medical treatment. Thus, my neighbor died after a few months.

'When we washed him for burial, we saw that his body was full of horribly infected, stinking wounds. He was not the only one to suffer that fate though, as many more people died in that jail. A lot of women and children died of hunger during those days too, sitting silently in their homes.Their husbands were not able to bring any food home and they were too terrified to complain to the authorities.

'We didn't know why all this was happening to us. We were not informed properly of anything. They said that there would be less mosquitoes on the island, but we didn't understand what all that heavy work had to do with insects, and anyway there were the same amount of mosquitoes, if not more, afterwards. Our old people, racking their brains for an explanation, said: "Mohamed Ameen is the friend of the Englishmen. He wants to kill us all and give our islands to them,10 so they will come here with their cars and lorries. That is why he makes us build those avenues.'

Mohamed Ameen is still a controversial figure in the Maldives and his ten years of iron-fisted rule disgusted many islanders. However, he had, and still has, a group of fervent supporters. According to Koli Hasan Maniku, a local historian, his tenure was a 'one-man-show.' On the one hand, he introduced necessary reforms, but on the other hand, his contempt for the plight of the common man in hard times earned him fierce enemies all over the islands. It cannot be denied that he had a vision for the future of his country, but he adamantly disregarded advice and lacked the necessary imagination to adapt development policies to the needs of the Maldive Islands. Thus, his modernization campaign was perceived by the islanders to be a brutally carried out implementation of his personal whims and fancies.11

Last, but not least, Mohamed Ameen showed the same contempt towards autochtonous customs that Arab 'holy men', exalted to undeserved high positions, had displayed throughout Maldivian history.12 The period of his rule is remembered as a long and difficult decade by most islanders who had to live through it.13 Southerners claim that his harsh and insensitive policies disgusted them with the central government. Therefore, it is not unlikely that this resulting discontentment led, less than one decade later, to the self-proclamation of the Suvadive government in the three southernmost atolls.

This secession was a belated antagonistic reaction, unprecedented in Maldivian history, towards Mohamed Ameen's excessively centralistic policies. The ancient absolute power of the Maldivian Radun (which Ameen made not the slightest effort to relinquish) coupled with with modern methods of communication and control, translated itself into a Malé-centered tyranny that stifled the traditional economy and the independent and laid-hack island way of life. The Suvadive government was born out of sheer bitterness, as ethnically and culturally there was no justification for a division of the Maldives.

Notes:

1Nowadays, owing to a very high birth rate and a drastic reduction of the mortality rate, some islands have become overpopulated. Naifaru, Hinnavaru and Kandoludu in the North of the country are examples of islands completely covered by homesteads.

2Source Magieduruge Ibrahim Didi of Fua Mulaku Island (1982).

3Boashi (Messerschmidtia argentea) witn velvety grey-green leaves and magoo or gera (Scaevola taccada) with fresh-looking shiny yellowish green leaves. These bushes, common in every Maldive island just need sand and seawater to grow.

4H.C.P. Bell's Monograph, 'The Maldive Islands.'

5Radun or Rasgefaanu is the traditional way of referring to the Maldivian King. Sultan Abdul Majid was a Maldivian gentleman living in Egypt who had no interest in going back to his native country. Thus, Mohamed Ameen became the de facto ruler of the country.

6This metaphysical dimension points at the relationship between the layout of the village and the need of sanctifying space (Chap.1 'The First Mosques'). In the words of J.C. Levi-Strauss: "We have then to recognise that the plan of the village had a still deeper significance than the one we have ascribed to it from the sociological point of view." 'Tristes Tropiques'

7J.C. Levi-Strauss analyzed this phenomenon among an Amazonian tribe, the Bororo. Colonists were aware of this fact and to stupefy and neutralize the natives, they moved them to villages where houses were arrayed in parallel lines.

8Since the mid-nineteen-nineties some ecological laws have been implemented to protect the reefs. The indiscrIminate quarrying of coral stones has been restricted. Sand and gravel (coral products too) keep being quarried for the construction of walls though.

9I have chosen to protect this person's identity.

10The Maldives was then a British protectorate. However, Ameen is officially considered a nationalist hero.

11In spite of his 'modern' image, Mohamed Ameen's private life was rather like that of a feudal despot, as he mantained a large number of concubines from different islands.

12'Chap. 4 'Foreign Masters'.

13This is a good instance of the wide gap that separates popular sentiment and officially approved 'historical' records that merely glorify the ruler. Fortunately, some people were still alive to tell their side of the story at the time of gathering this information.

The book is a good investment. Grab it while it is in print!

Maldives