Introduction | Titles
| Offices | Ranks |
the thirty or so years since the monarchy was abolished, the facts
about the aristocracy and ancient titles, offices and ranks have
been forgotten. Such things were deliberately left out of written
records because it was politically incorrect to talk about such
"barbaric" customs of the past. However people are still
very much class conscious. Those who have been vocal against the
old "barbaric" ways (what they call the "beyfulhaa
ways") are the ones who are now interested in re-imposing
the class system. They now see themselves as the "upper classes".
The much despised upper-level of speech and address are now being
shamelessly mimicked by those who have condemned it most in the
past. The reality is that they still have difficulties with the
subtleties and semantics of that system and have grossly bastardised
it. Those who try to mimic give themselves away quite easily.
Royal Jetty in Male.
Currently there is an imitation of this
a host of material on the subject has been published which is
not entirely accurate. A quick search of the Internet produced
very interesting material such as this link.
The author of the link thinks that:
the upper class, with names like Don Seedi, Don Kaloa, Ibrahim
Fulu, Ibrahim Maniku and Moosa Didi, were close friends and relatives
of the sultan and his family. Yet even among these families there
were marked differences..........".
fact none of the above names belonged to the upper classes That
was why the author of the link had difficulty explaining the apparent
"marked differences" among those families. Names such
as Don Seedi and Mossa Didi may have belonged to the upper class
if the bearers of such names were married into royalty or Kilege
nobles, or were kilege nobles or their descendants themselves.
Otherwise the bearers of such names were of the upper middle class.
The bearer of a name such as Ibrahim Maniku would have been of
the lower middle class. Bearers of names such as Don Kalo, Ibrahim
Fulu were definitely of the lower class and would have not been
even admitted to the presence of the royalty and the nobility
unless they were servants or officials. It was unlikely that a
person called Don Kalo would have even been admitted to the presence
of royalty at all. If such a person were recruited as a servant
or official, he or she would have been given a new name ending
is not my intention to hurt the sensitivities and feelings of
any individual. I am aware that people could be very sensitive
about their backgrounds. This is purely an historical document
without any ridicule intended.
Introduction | Titles
| Offices | Ranks |
highest title awarded by the sultans and sultanas of the Maldives
was that of the kilege. In the last four to five centuries of the
monarchy, the following titles have been awarded: To both men and
women; Ras Kilege. To men only; Faarhanaa Kilege, Rannabandeyri
Kilege, Dorhimeyna Kilege, Faamuladeyri Kilege, Maafaiy Kilege,
Kaulannaa Kilege, Oliginaa Kilege, Daharada Kilege, Kuda Rannabandeyri
Kilege and Kuda Dorhimeyna Kilege. To women were bestowed only Rani
Kilege, Maavaa Kilege, Kambaadi Kilege and Maanayaa Kilege. The
optional and honorific suffix of fan had been added to the
word kilege over the last couple of hundred years.
esplanade called Dhedhoraarhi Dheythere within the outer
perimeter of the Etherekolilu (King's Court)
Ras Kilege was ex-officio, the king-sultan or the queen-sultana.
The other kileges were sometimes known as amirs or commanders of
the realm and must not be confused with kaleygefan (or kaleyfan)
which is either a very low rank or an honorific way of addressing
or referring to saintly people. The elevation to the title of kilege
raises a person and his or her immediate family to the level of
the aristocracy. However, there were no hereditary titles. It was
in republican times, as late as 1976, that the last three kileges
were created. Since then, the titles have been abolished by Act
of Parliament and the then living four kileges were stripped of
lower title was that of kangathi; these titles were not suffixed
by the word kangathi. These were usually awarded to prominent provincial
subjects, or sometimes to members of Malé ís middle classes.
The recipients were not regarded as aristocrats, unlike the kilege
nobles. The kangathi titles included: Maafahaiy, Meynaa, Ranahamaanthi,
Gadahamaanthi, Hirihamaanthi, Fenna, Wathabandeyri, Kaannaa, Daannaa
and Fandiaiy. There is no record of a woman being awarded with a
kangathi title. In 1976, when the then living kilege nobles were
stripped of their titles, the then living single kangathi was allowed
to keep his.
recipients of kilege and kangathi titles kept them for life. There
was no mechanism, even at the disposal of the sultan or the sultana
to revoke these titles. Therefore, on several occasions, kileges
or kangathis had been convicted of high treason and yet held on
to their titles.
titles of kilege and kangathi were granted by the gong ceremony.
Introduction | Titles |
Offices | Ranks | Surnames
as opposed to titles, were obviously more functional and the recipients
did not keep them for life. The highest offices were those of the
furadaana. Most of the furadaana offices were similar in name to
those of the kilege titles; the difference being the omission of
the suffix of kilege (fan). Furadaana offices included Faarhanaa,
Rannabandeyri, Dorhimeyna, Faamuladeyri, Maafaiy and Handeygiri
or Handeygirin. The prime minister (Bodu Vizier) was traditionally
one of the furadaana. However, on many occasions there have been
Prime Ministers who were either kileges or one who did not hold
any other office. The most likely prime ministerial candidates among
the furadaana would have been the Faarhanaa, the Rannabandeyri or
the Handeygirin. The Dorhimeyna was usually the commander-in-chief
of the armed forces.
the furadaana in precedence at the court of the sultans and the
sultanas were the vazierun or ministers. In later centuries, the
distinction between the furadaana and the ministers often became
somewhat vague. Both the furadaana and the ministers tended to be
lumped together, with the term furadaana falling out of everyday
use, and the term bodu muskulin being used instead. The ministers
included the Velaanaa (or the Velaanaa-Shahbandar) who was the admiral-in-chief
and foreign minister, the Hakuraa who was the minister of public
works, the Bodubandeyri who was the chief treasurer, the Maabandeyri
who was the chief of palace staff and keeper of the royal seal called
the Kattiri Mudi, and the Daharaa (or Daharada) who was the commander
of the land forces. There were several minor offices below the ministers
such as that of the Meerubahuru (derived from amir-el-bahr, Arabic
for commander of the sea, which is the origin of the word admiral)
who was in charge of the port of Malé and immigration. There
was also the Faiylia or the chief scribe and keeper of public records.
office of the Uttama Fandiyaaru or the chief justice took precedence
over the furadaana. The chief justice was responsible for civil
and ecclesiastical justice and the up-keep of mosques, burial sites
charitable trusts, religious rituals and the sanctioning of marriage
and divorce. He was also the recorder of the state chronicle called
the Tarikh. Criminal justice was the joint responsibility
of the Bandaara Naibu or the Attorney General and the Chief Justice.
the outlying atolls, the atoluverin or the provincial governors
represented the sultan or the sultana. [Atoll (atolu) in the Maldive
Language, from which the word has passed into English, does not
mean a coral reef surrounding a lagoon; it means province. The Maldivian
equivalent of the anglicised word atoll is eterevari. In this document,
the word atoll is used in its original Maldivian meaning]. The sultan
or the sultana was represented on each individual inhabited island
or village by the kateeb, who was (and still is) the chief temporal
and spiritual authority. The atoluverin and the kateebs enforced
criminal justice and collected the vaaru (poll tax) and the varuvaa
(land tax) on behalf of the bodubandeyri or the chief treasurer.
In Malé , the functions of the atoluverin and the temporal
duties of the provincial kateebs were carried out by the avarhuverin
of Henveyru, Maafannu, Macchangoli and Galollu. The avarhuverin
were the chief civic officials and were responsible for law and
order, criminal justice and the upkeep of public lands in Malé.
The kateebs of Malé were purely religious functionaries.
member of the royal household staff with the rank of kakaa
every island there was a naibu (now called Qadi or Gazi) who was
the representative of the chief justice. The naibu was responsible
for civil and ecclesiastical justice and for sentencing criminals.
He also sanctioned marriages and divorce and administered charitable
trusts called waqf. The chief justice was also represented on each
island by a mudimu who was responsible for the upkeep of mosques
and burial sites.
offices of the ministers, chief justice attorney general, atoluverin,
kateeb, gazi and mudimu have survived into republican times. Their
functions remain largely as they were under the sultans and the
sultanas, although the chief justice and the gazis are no longer
responsible for religious functions, burial sites and charitable
trusts. They now preside over civil, ecclesiastical as well as criminal
cases. The attorney general is now purely the chief prosecutor and
the mudimus are now only callers to prayer and prayer-leaders at
offices of uttama fandiyaaru, bandaara naibu, furadaana and ministers
were granted by the gong ceremony. The offices of avarhuverin, atoluverin
and kateeb were granted by royal warrant, while those of the naibu
and mudimu were granted by warrant of the chief justice
kangathi title-holders and officials, from the uttama fandiyaaru
down to the kateeb and mudimu had their personal names suffixed
with the name of his title or office. In common usage, this would
have itself been suffixed by a cognomen indicating rank by birth;
a custom carried over, probably from the castes of the pre-Islamic
eras. These cognomen would have ranged as follows: Children and
grandchildren of kileges, members of previous royal dynasties and
Seedis (supposed descendants of the prophet Mohamed) would have
had the names of their offices suffixed with Manikfan; the middle
classes would have had theirs suffixed with Thakurufan or Takkhan,
the lower classes would have had theirs suffixed with Kaleyfan or
Kaleyge. For example, if a chief justice by the name of Ibrahim
were of upper class birth, he would have been known as Ibrahim Uttama
Fandiyaaru Manikfan; if he were of lower class birth, he would have
been known as Ibrahim Uttama Fandiyaaru Kaleygefan. Irrespective
of birth, he would have been referred to in all royal warrants,
writs and ceremonies as Ibrahim Uttama Fandiyaaru Alla, or the Subject
Chief Justice Ibrahim.
Tuttudon Goma and Maandhoogey Titti Goma, Majid's paternal
aunts, circa 1930
exceptions to this convention were the kileges, whose names were
suffixed only by their kilege titles, irrespective of rank by birth.
The kilege title superseded any rank by birth and elevated the recipient
and his or her family to the ranks of the aristocracy.
of the royal family had their names (or more often, some diminutive
term of endearment such as Tuttu, Don, Titti or Dorhy) suffixed
with Manippulu, if they were princes and Goma if they were princesses.
Manippulu was a fairly recent term. Until about the early nineteenth
century, both princes and princesses had been referred to as goma.
More correctly, a prince was kalaa and princess, kambaa. Until very
recently, members of the royal (patrilinear) line of the ruling
dynasty did not fill any public office.
have always been mystified by the surname. There is an array of
reasons for this.
Lanka Naming conventions:
The traditional Maldive naming convention seems to be remarkably
similar to the Sri Lankan Sinhala naming convention. As a
result of contact with other Sri Lankan peoples and various
Indian ethnicities such as Chola and Bengali, what Maldivians
have as a naming convention can best be described as a lack
of a uniforn convention.| details |
the Maldivian word for surname, vanan, is the same as that
for nickname. Evidently the prophet Mohamed frowned upon nicknames,
or so many Islamic scholars taught in the Maldives. Consequently
it was believed that surnames were sinful.
as in many oriental traditions such as the Chinese, the Maldivian
surname was positioned before the given names. For instance in the
names Deng Zhaoping and Guifuku Don Kalo, Deng and Guifuku are respectively
the Chinese and Maldivian surnames. In the Middle Eastern and Western
traditions, the surname comes after the given names. In the names,
Manyouk el-Kalb and Libby Windsor, el-Kalb and Windsor are respectively
the Arabic and English surnames. As Maldivians came increasingly
in contact with Middle Eastern and, more recently, Western peoples,
they are finding it increasingly difficult to discern the differences
among the different systems.
an inherited surname is perhaps regarded as a vehicle of the class
system. In spite of the seemingly rigid class structure, the average
Maldivian has always been a remarkably egalitarian creature at heart.
Unlike many other societies of the Southern Asian region, there
has been a tradition of social mobility in the Maldives. After all
it was possible for Hilaaly Hassan and Isdu Ali, who were both born
peasant to become sultanss, if we are to believe the oral tradition
as related by Buraara Koi. The surname has been seen as vehicles
of the class structure not only in the Maldives. It has long been
the policy of the ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party in Iraq,
for instance, to discourage the use of surnames that identified
people with traditional communities or localities. To this end,
President Saddam Hussain axed his own surname of el-Takriti,
which identified him to the Sunni Moslem region of Takrit, and First
Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz dropped his surname of Hannah
which identified him as a Christian.
the patio of Sosun Villa a Maldives government-owned
residence in Colombo: Standing from left Hussain Habeeb Manippulu
and Mr Hassan Ali Didi. Seated from left Abdul Wahhab Manippulu
(Majid's father) and Mohamed Amin Dorhimeyna Kilegefan circa
many Maldivian surnames were rather explicit and colourful in their
literal meanings. Guifuku (piece of excrement), Hadi (ugly), Hadibappa
(ugly father) and Oofindu (pointed genital) were just a few of the
more hilarious examples that come to mind. Families who have had
the misfortune of inheriting these surnames, understandably, have
been fairly keen to let them lapse. This is perhaps a commentary
on the Maldivian psyche. It must be borne in mind that amongst the
English there are still families who have no qualms about calling
themselves Ramsbottom or Topless, although one must admit that some
families have tried to gloss these over to Ramsbotham or Topliss.
traditional Maldivian name was made up of three components. Examples
of such names include Guifuku Don Kalo, Oofindu Kaiydaa Fulu, Maakana
Kudatuttu Didi, Dhoondeyri Ali Manikfan and so on. The first component
was the surname; the second component was the given name or a term
of endearment such as Tuttu, Kuda, Don or a combination of such
a term and a given name such as Kuda Hussain or Don Mariyambu. The
optional third component indicated rank and or cognomen by birth
or association. The traditional birth ranks and or cognomen included
Manippulu, Goma, Kalaa, Kambaa, Rahaa, Manikfan, Didi, Seedi, Sitti,
Maniku, Manike, Thakurufan, Thakuru, Kalo, Soru, Manje and so on.
Some of them probably corresponded with the castes of the pre-Islamic
cultures of the Maldives. Fulu was a rank by association. It indicated
possession by a person of noble birth. That is to say that a person
called Ahmed Fulu was a slave or a descendant of a slave or a servant
of the royal families. People of the humblest birth who entered
the service of royal households or foreign slaves purchased by the
great nobles in the ancient slave markets of Arabia and brought
back to the Maldives acquired the rank of Fulu. Such slaves were
typically Negroes from Africa or Slavs from the many Eastern European
territories held by the Ottomans. Whatever their true ethnic origin,
Eastern European slaves were referred to as Charukeysi (Circasian).
Families that bore the surnames Charukeysi or Baburu
(Negro) were definitely of slave origin. Very often, Negroid and
Eastern European slaves in the service of royalty and nobility were
raised to prominent offices. Their descendants sometimes took as
their surnames the given names of their slave progenitors. For example
a family called Yaagoot was descended from a Negro slave of that
name who served a Diyamigily sultan in the Eighteenth Century. A
family called Heyna was descended from an African Negro slave of
that name who was owned by Sultan Mohamed Imaduddine IV
in the Nineteenth Century.
Maldivian surnames, not unlike English ones, described a place of
ancestral abode or a trade. Names such as Kakaagey, Athireegey,
Huraagey, and so on described places of abode in much the same way
as did Millhouse, Wellington, and Kilmister. Names such as Kamburu
(Blacksmith), Vadi (Carpenter), Sikka (Mint Master), Koli (Gong
Officer) and so on described an ancestral vocation. Occasionally
there were surnames that referred to a foreign nationality, in which
case it was more likely that an ancestor up the line had a business
association with, or was an employee of, a group of foreign merchants
rather than actual foreign descent. Examples of such surnames were
Turuki (Turkish), Seenu (Chinese), Ingireysi (English), Holhi (Southern
Indian) and Solhiyaa (Sri Lankan Moslem).
king's procession emerging from the Eterekoilu on to
Meduziyaaraiy Magu. The musketeers and the lancers followed
by the pipers drummers and trumpeters and finally the king and
courtiers. Circa 1920 in the reign of King Siri Kula Sundhura
Katthiri Bavana (Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddine III)
of the family surname was mostly patrilinear. However, it was not
uncommon to find matrilinear transmission of surnames. This depended
on which parent had the better social and financial standing. If
the mother was endowed with more material assets and was better
connected than the father, then the traditionally materialistic
Maldivians would have passed on the mother's surname to the offspring.
There is some evidence that in pre-Islamic times, as a rule, children
acquired their mother's surname. In the royal chronicle, the Raadavali,
the early Lunar Dynasty rulers had only their matrilinear pedigrees
listed. Maldivian women traditionally kept their surnames or what
passed as surnames upon marriage. Even now, it is illegal in the
Maldives for one to change one's surname by virtue of marriage.
Maldivian surname is definitely in crisis. The desire to be free
of a potentially rigid class-based structure or embarrassment arising
from the semantics of the name itself or plain ignorance and confusion
arising from contact with a variety of foreign naming systems have
meant that the traditional surname and indeed the naming format
has disappeared. Maldivians these days find it very difficult to
comprehend the very concept of the surname, Maldivian or otherwise.
there is a hopeless jumble of naming systems, if they can be called
systems at all. Occasionally one comes across an older person who
still has (if his good sense has not already persuaded him to change
it) a name in the traditional format. Invariably the offspring of
such living relics do not follow the same tradition.
Introduction | Titles |
Offices | Ranks | Surnames