Waheed is a Maldives born medical practitioner who
has a deep understanding of southern Asian issues.
He has contibuted to this site by offering feedback
on the page on Maldive
A comment from Dr Waheed will also be found on
the page on the Aborigines
Minicoy and the
Maldives are distant neighbors, united by ancestry and divided
by history. Today, the 70 miles from the Maldives to Minicoy
may seem further than the two thousand miles to Malaysia;
but it was not always so.
most Maldivians of the present generation Minicoy is an abstraction
as far removed from reality as a fairy-tale kingdom. But to
Maldivians of just a few hundred years back, Minicoy was very
real –as much so as Addu, as seen in the old expression ‘Malik-Addu’
that described the length of the territory. However, throughout
known history, Minicoy remained a bone of contention between
the Maldives and its neighbors. The once-there, once-here
territory became finally there when British forces
defeated the Arackal Kingdom (ruled by Ali Rajas) of Cannanore
in 1783. As fate would have it, at that crucial point in history
Minicoy was under the Ali Raja, and so it went under British
suzerainty, becoming a directly ruled part of the British
Empire in 1908.
two brothers separated after childhood, the Maldives and Minicoy
shared a common ancestry, spoke the same language, believed
the same religion, followed the same trades and sailed the
same seas before they went their separate ways. Due to the
closed nature of the two territories till recently, it is
quite likely that they retain many of the original commonalties.
This is more likely to be true of Minicoy that has remained
in relative isolation up to the present. Minicoy therefore
could be a mirror that reflects the Maldives of a bygone era.
Note the distinctive bow unique
to the Minicoy-Maldive archipelago
During early twentieth century,
the bandodis of Minicoy sailed to Sri Lanka, the Andamans,
Calcutta and Burma. The choice of these ports was partly influenced
by the fact that the islanders required no passports to visit
them under British rule. Minicoyans engaged in inter-port
trade between these ports to supplement their income from
fish exports. The main products of Minicoy were mas
and rihaakuru. The islanders were experts in the technique
of pole-and-line fishing.
were sea-worthy two-mast vessels about 70 tons in size. Local
carpenters built them with native timbers such as aani,
funa and bread-fruit. Manikfans owned the bandodis
and operated them with the help of malmis and khalasis.
sailing season in Minicoy began in mid-August or early September
and went up to early May, when the onset of the Monsoon was
expected. Bandodis first sailed to Sri Lanka with fish
and copra, taking about six to seven days to reach Colombo
or Gally. From there they sailed eastwards with textiles reaching
Nicobar in 12 to 13 days. While based in Nicobar they made
several round trips to Burma carrying copra on the onward
journey and rice on the return journey. Then they sailed to
Calcutta with copra and shells. Finally the bandodis
returned to Minicoy with rice and provisions taking about
25 days on the sea.
also made shorter trips to the Indian mainland for provisions.
But always, the malmis made sure that they returned
home before the onset of monsoons, a powerful force that had
continued to dominate their lives from time immemorial.
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