By: Xavier Romero-Frías
Romero-Frías, born in Barcelona in
1954, is an independent scholar. He lived in the Maldives
between 1979 and 1991 studying the oral tradition
and other folk expressions. He has worked for the
Ministry of Education of the Maldive Government dealing
with the publication of schoolbooks, and for UNDP
in a project for the promotion of the local handicraft
industry. He is the author of a 300-page illustrated
ethnography on the Maldives, The Maldive Islanders,
A Study of the Popular Culture of an Ancient Ocean
Kingdom. Presently he resides with his family
in the city of Trivandrum, South India.
Romero-Frías is married to Aishath Naazneen
house in Malé, Maldives. She is a Divehi language
broadcaster whose voice is heard in the Maldives,
Minicoy, India and Sri Lanka.
read the Standard Indic transcription correctly in this
document, please right click here
and select Save Target As... and browse
to your Fonts folder to download and install TROM2DR.TTF
(file size: 46 kB). If you find some words unfamiliar
they will more than likely become familiar following
the correct installation of this font
Flags of the Citizens’ Majlis
First Flag of the Citizens’ Majlis
The Citizens’ Majlis is a consultative assembly for the
government in Maldives. The first flag was designed at the
beginning of the 1980s and it reflects the strong Islamization
drive of the ruling elite at that time.
The white disk had in it a verse from the Koran in bold
black Thuluth Arabic lettering. This flag was a typical
product of those years, when the Maldive government was
promoting Islam with vehemence and intensity.
New Flag of the Citizens’ Majlis
The flag was changed when a new building was built for
the Citizens’ Majlis in 1999. The new flag did away with
the Arabic lettering.
This flag was first flown by Muhammad Amin on his car
in 1950. Muhammad Amin brought the first car into the country.
Later this flag was also seen on the King’s car after the
restoration of the monarchy.
The Suvadive Government
Flag of the Huvadu Atoll Chief
Traditionally the kings did not treat all the atolls as
one homogeneous mass. Certain atolls, like Huvadu (known
also as Suvadiva, its ancient Sanskrit name), had customary
rights which gave them certain privileges even over the
ordinary subjects in MaleØ. Huvadu Atoll, whose Atoll
Chief had even his own flag, and the other southern atolls,
like Adödöu, certainly fell into this category,
as did some single islands like Giraìvaru.
At one time Adödöu atoll did not have a vaaruverin
(tax collector) or an atolöuverin (Atoll Chief) as
did the other atolls. The Adödöu high official
was a kudöa bandöeyri (junior treasurer or a junior
The enactment of the written constitution in 1932 extinguished
these customary rights and treated the whole of the Maldives
as a homogeneous mass. This gave rise to certain grievances
and the Adödöu issue was a good example. The presence
of the British made it easier for the Adödöuans
to break away. Their grievances were long standing.
United Suvadive Republic (1959-1963)
was formed by the three southernmost atolls (Huvadu, Fua
Mulaku and Adödöu). It would never be recognized
by any other government.
It is interesting that a proposition acceptable to the
Suvadivians around late 1962 and early 1963 that was seriously
considered even by MaleØ, was recognising a separate
independent government in Hitadu under the sovereign control
of the king in MaleØ. The parliament and the government in
MaleØ would have had absolutely no control over the
Suvadive state, with the king exercising sovereign control
through his privy council, which obviously would have Suvadive
members. Although this was acceptable to the Suvadivians,
Maldive Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir ruled it out because
the solution would have entrenched the monarchy. Nasir had
already decided to dispose of the monarchy by then.
The flag above is the one which appears in a picture taken
at the time which shows this flag behind President Afif
of the Suvadive Islands at an official ceremony.
Majid Abdul Wahhab, who owns the website maldivesroyalfamily.com
wrote the following about this flag: "There were many
versions of the Suvadive flag (note that the stars are slightly
smaller and that they are at a different angle than the
stars of the other flag depicted here). Originally I had
one I got from a flag site (the one with a large crescent
overlapping the three bands). Ibrahim Afifi Didi wrote back
to say that it was not the flag he remembered. Subsequently
I was able to get an actual photograph of the last flag
to fly over Maaranga (Secretariat building) in Hitadu from
Mohamed Saeed who was a member of the Suvadive Parliament.
This is the one now in my site and Ibrahim Afif Didi says
it is the authentic version he remembers..."
About the extinction of the Suvadive Republic Majid says:
"…That the Suvadive republic was a neo-colonialist
entity created by the British for their own ends was the
MaleØ government line at that time. In the light
of what I have said I don't feel that that claim is totally
justifiable. However if you take only the events of 1957-63
it would appear to be so."
Apparently in certain variants the stars appear to be
of different size. Addu people told me that the three stars should
have been the same size and if they were not on certain
flags, the woman or man who stitched the flag was to blame.
I tend to agree, because in Afif's picture (the one I included
in my book) the three stars look the same size. However,
in the coat of arms of the Suvadive government the central
star is much larger.
Minicoy Island (Maliku)
The people of Minicoy
(known as ‘Maliku’ in Divehi), number about 10,000. They
inhabit a 10km long island under Indian administration,
at the northern end of the atoll chain and are only about
4% of the total amount of Divehi people. Minicoy is an isolated
atoll composed of a large island (Maliku) and a small uninhabited
island (Vilingili). Although the ethnic and linguistic background
of the Maliku islanders is the same as in the Maldives,
Minicoy is now part of the U.T. Lakshadweep, India. Geographically,
Minicoy is much closer to the northernmost Maldive Island
(Turaìkunu), than to the southernmost Lakshadweep
Island (Kalpeni). Minicoy’s inhabitants speak, although
with some archaic variations, the MaleØ form of the
Divehi language, which they call ‘Mahl.’ (The rest
of the Lakshadweep group, like the islands of Androth, Kavaratti,
Chetlat, etc. Has more affinities with the Malabar culture
and the language spoken there is a form of Malayalam.)
Indian Union Flag
Oral tradition says that in centuries past Minicoy was
devastated by a cyclone that broke most of the coconut trees.
The island was then ruled by the Maldive king, so Minicoy
islanders sent a delegation to MaleØ asking for financial
assistance. Since the king told them that he had not enough
money in his treasury, this delegation went onwards to the
Malabar coast, where they found favor with the king of Cannanore
who agreed to help them rebuild their island. Thereafter
the Minicoy people owed allegiance to this kingdom of the
SW Indian shore. (Information: Magieduruge IbrahÄím
Culturally speaking, the people of Minicoy live in great
isolation, for Minicoy is totally off-limits for Maldivians
since 1957. Only Indians are allowed to travel to Minicoy.
Thus, Minicoians are steadily undergoing a process of acculturation
owing to lack of contact with the remaining Divehi people
and pressure to use other languages (Malayalam, English
Flag of the Raveri
The society in Minicoy was traditionally divided in castes.
One of the castes, the Raveri or palm-sap tappers, used
to fly this red pennant in festive occasions. Source: Ali
(I’m still on the search for more information about
The Maldives doesn’t have a proper Air Force, but a roundel
and tailflash exist. The few non-civilian airplanes and
helicopters are operated by the NSS (National Security Service).
3 to follow