Maldives Minicoy Mahl Dhivehi
Maldive national anthem

He delivered the Maldives from an embarrassment. Wannakuwattawaduge Don Amaradeva- composer of the music for the current Maldive national anthem.

Recipient of the Order of Padma Sri from the President of India and the Ramon Magsaysay Award from the President of the Philippines

Until the late 1940s the state anthem of the Maldives was a melody with no lyrics. It was called the Salaamathi and was performed by the royal band on state occasions at the Etherekoilu, the official residence of the King of Twelve Thousand Isles and Sultan of the Maldives in Malé. On most occasions the Salaamathi would be preceded by a seven-gun salute fired from the Aa-Kotte Buruzu bastion within the Etherekoilu.

In 1948 it was determined that the Salaamathi needed replacement with lyrics to accompany a new melody. The words were composed by a young poet and later a chief justice, Mohamed Jameel Didi, who was my mother's first cousin.

Until very recently most Maldivians seriously believed that music could not be composed and was derived from a universal repertoire. Given this, there was a risk that any attempt to compose an indigenous music for the new national anthem would be seen by some as an affront to Allah (the Islamic god).

Things indigenous were looked down upon then as they are even now. Indigenous names were already being dumped in favour of those of the colonialist Arab masters and their Urdu-and Persian speaking allies. In line with this trend, the words of the new national anthem were composed to sound like an Urdu poem, bastardised generously with as many Arabic words as possible.

Jameel Didi looked around for a tune to accompany his poem. His uncle, the chief justice Hussain Salahuddine (who was also my grandmother's first cousin through a different connection) had just acquired a new-fangled clock that played an excellent tune at the stroke of midday.
Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne?
And here's a hand, my trusty friend
And gie's a hand o' thine
We'll tak' a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne

What is relevant or appropriate does not seem to be such a big issue for Maldivians. In the 1980s the rose was adopted as the national flower. Roses have always been an exotic and rare species in the Maldives. Today smug officials shamelessly sport their national flower air-freighted in from Trivandrum (India) and elsewhere.

It is unlikely that a national animal is so far in place. The polar bear could well be at risk of being declared the Maldive national animal !

Salahuddine was the father-in-law of Athireegey Mohamed Amin Didi (later Dorhimeyna Kilegefan) who was then the Minister of the Interior and de facto chief executive of the Maldives. It was Amin Didi who commissioned the national anthem.

Little did Jameel Didi know that what he chose as the national anthem of the Maldives was sung the world over by drunken crowds at the stroke of midnight on every Christian New Year's eve!

Salahuddine's clock survived for many years. When I was a child my family lived in a house across a narrow lane from Salahuddine's house. The street was called Kaulhu Guirey Magu (crow defacating street). Although the old chief justice had long been dead then, two of his children still lived across the street from us and had taken great care to preserve their clock. I remember hearing the strains of Auld Lang Syne coming across crow defacating street. (By the way the colourful name of this street did not survive the Maldive national inferiority complex. Now it is called Canary Magu, still named after a bird but without mentioning its call of nature. Crows were a common pest in Malé at that time but it was unlikely that any of the island's inhabitants had ever seen a canary !)

Over the 1950s and 1960s it gradually dawned on Maldivians what their new national anthem stood for. Although the Salaamathi survived as the royal anthem until 1964, it did not occur to anyone to adopt it as the national anthem. In the 1970s there were still people who were alive and well, who had performed the Salaamathi.

In 1972, for the first time in history, the Maldives hosted a foreign head of state- Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand and of her other Realms and Territories beyond the seas.

The Maldive government of the time deemed it necessary not to confuse Her Majesty too much at her official welcome in Malé. Hastily they commissioned the composition of a new melody for the national anthem. By then most Maldivians had realised that music could actually be composed by human beings. To my mother's relief her cousin's words were still going to be preserved, albeit with some changes to accommodate the then 3-year-old republic.

Her Majesty must have liked the new national anthem of the Maldives especially composed in her honour. She sent ashore a naval band from a frigate accompanying the Royal Yacht Britannia to entertain her appreciative hosts. It was a very hot day even by Maldive standards and the band played "Rain drops keep falling...."

Gaumee Salaan
(national salute)

Gaumee mi ekuverikan mathee thibegen kureeme salaan
     Gaumee bahun gina heyo dua kuramun kureeme salaan

Dheenaai Thakhuthah heyo hithun hurumaiy adhaa kuramun
     Seedhaa vafaatherikan mathee thibegen kureeme salaan

While we remain in this national unity, I salute
     While we say many good prayers in the national tongue, I salute

While paying sincere respects to the Creed and the Throne
     While we remain truly faithful, I salute

Jameel Didi

The new melody of the Maldive national anthem was composed by a distinguished Sri Lankan maestro, Pandit Wannakuwattawaduge Don Amaradeva (Click to listen).