Maldives Minicoy Mahl Dhivehi
 Myth of Portuguese
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The following feedback was received from Abdullah Waheed, MD, son of Athiragey Ali Manikfan and Dherhinaagey Fathimah Didi. Dr Waheed is currently based in New Delhi in India. He is commenting on my page headed Myth of Portuguese Rule (Disgraced Hilaalys Rule by Proxy).

Friday 1 June 2001   7:06:47pm New Zealand Standard Time

Your article on Portuguese rule is most interesting. Actually the Portuguese myth is also one of my pet theories. I have always felt that Andhiri Andhirin was a character fabricated to cover the fact that the so-called Christian rulers were in fact Maldivians.

Having said the above, I must also reiterate that there is an inescapable need to be objective and evidence based, particularly since it would be an uphill task to convince the public opinion in Malé that their cherished history is a myth. So, let me raise the following points, not so much to discredit your theory, but to play the devil’s advocate, so that we could anticipate the sort of objections that conservatives might come up with, and prepare ourselves.

  1. Why do you think the man’s name was Andhiri Andhirin and not Mohammed? He was supposed to have a brother called Mathukkala. Why do you think his Muslim father gave HIM an Arabic name and his Muslim brother a Dhivehi name? Why couldn’t it have been the other way round? Is it not conceivable that historians have tried to hide the fact that it was actually the half-Maldivian boy who later became the Christian ruler?

  2. You say no record exists in Portuguese archives. Have you actually checked? I ask this because Salih and I are also planning to check them. If you have already checked, there is no need for us to duplicate the effort.

  3. You state that ‘Farangi’ is ‘Frank’. As a matter of fact ‘firangi’ is a term still used in India to describe Europeans in general, though originally it might have denoted the French. Since the Maldivian and Indian words are almost identical, we can safely assume that we borrowed it from India. It is therefore possible that when we borrowed it the word had already acquired the current meaning it has in India.

  4. Buraara Koi’s story is, after all, a myth. Myths tend to change over time in line with people’s thinking. Unpleasant facts tend to go out and wishful dreams come in. You can see in the story such wishful stuff like the miracles that have come in. Unfortunately it is not so easy to find out what was purged out. We could only guess. One definite candidate for the censoring scissors is the inconvenient fact that most of the Christians and even their leader were Maldivian.

  5. Considering the inevitable process of adaptation of myths to politically correct forms Buraara Koi is an unreliable source without independent corroboration.

  6. You do consider Taareekh as an independent source. But it may not have been. There is a strong reason to believe that Tajuddeen himself has drawn from the same source as Buraara, which is oral tradition. Consider this: Taareekh has very little to say about Kalafan’s relatively long reign, apart from general praise, which anybody could guess. Obviously there were no records that Tajuddeen could refer to. So how can we assume that there could have been records for an earlier period? Interestingly, the only thing Tajudeen details, Kalafan’s “martyrdom”, also happens to be the stuff popular myths are made of.

  7. Tajudeen’s sources regarding the “Furethikeysin” incident may have been more reliable. Though he was not born by that time, there is a distinct possibility that he had the chance to hear this from old men who were eyewitnesses to the incident. (From my own experience: I was born several decades after Ibrahim Dhorhimeyna Kilegefan's death. But I got pretty reliable stuff about him from Bodufenvalhugey Seedhi, with whom I lived for about 5 years). The definite description may thus have been the result of more accurate knowledge.

  8. The Christian rule and Malabar (Holin) rule were not described in the Tareekh by the same person. Tajudeen died before the latter incident, which was described by his successors. We cannot therefore take any differences in their choice of words too seriously.

  9. Even today Maldivian nationalism is often equated with Islam. So there is no surprise that the Portuguese/Christian incident was described as Islamization. Since the Malabars themselves were Muslims their defeat could obviously not have been described as Islamization.

  10. While there may not have been many blacks in Portugal, there could have been considerable numbers in their colonies. History records that unlike their English and French counterparts, the Portuguese were not totally averse to marrying their colonial subjects.

  11. You say that according to Buraara there were Frenchmen in Malé. But had this been true, wouldn’t Pyrard have mentioned this fact? This would have been of considerable importance to him as a fellow Frenchman, and also to the readers of his French publication. Pyrard describes the period as one of unparalleled prosperity. Why wouldn’t he have been keen to give credit to his fellow countrymen, had they been there?

  12. Viyazor, as you say, may have been derived form ‘vedor’, which makes it a title. What was the actual name of the man? Did oral tradition leave it out because it was an Arabic name?

  13. The same also goes for Andhiri Andhirin. There is one particular oral tradition which has a prominent Maldivian saying, ‘how does it matter to us whether the king is Ali (which also means light) or Andhiri (dark).’ Is it not a bit too convenient that the Muslim king’s name meant light and the Christian ruler’s name meant dark? Obviously some smart Alec was attempting word play with ‘Ali’. Isn’t it plausible that the ‘name’ Andhiri Andhirin ultimately derived from the above saying?

  14. While the scenario you describe about religion in Europe is true, it is a bit far fetched to imagine that Pope Paul IV could exert any control over the actions of Viyazaoru in such a distant corner of the world as the Maldives. Incidentally, since Buraara does not say Kamba Aisha converted to Christianity, how did she ‘marry’ Viyazoru?

  15. Mohammed Ameen was an interesting case. He blatantly fabricated stuff, like his own French genealogy and the stuff he put in Pyrards mouth about Kalafan. What made him tick? Perhaps, in his time the rest of Maldivians were so backward that he may never have imagined a time would come when guys like us would be dissecting his statements.
Abdullah Waheed