Maldives Minicoy Mahl Dhivehi
Maldive Flags
(Part 3 of 3 parts)

By: Xavier Romero-Frías

Xavier 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 of Gaìge house in Malé, Maldives. She is a Divehi language broadcaster whose voice is heard in the Maldives, Minicoy, India and Sri Lanka.

Font: To 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.

Car Flag

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 minister).

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.

        Suvadive Republic Flag

The 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.

        Suvadive Republic (variant)

Majid Abdul Wahhab, who owns the website 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 DÄídÄí)

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 and Hindi).

    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 Manikfan, Minicoy.

(I’m still on the search for more information about Minicoy flags).


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).

<<Part 1                    <<Part 2

Part 3 to follow