Nuno J.V. Rubim writes to the author from Portugal
you are right. Maldives was never an official
issue of Goa's governors, nor of the Portuguese
Crown. The Portuguese chroniclers, Barros, G.
Correia, Castanheda and Couto always referred
to Maldives associated with the struggle against
Mamale of Cannanore, Calicut and as a place
to intercept ships bound to Mecca, specially
from Aceh. Even the fort built at Malé
was a private adventure."
about 1950 there was a street in Malé called
Andiri Andirin Magu, named after the Regent
of King Manoel Siri Dhirikusa Loka (previously known
as Hassan IX). This street was to the West of what
is now Maafannu Theemuge- the presidential compound.
For nearly 400 years the inhabitants of Malé
did not find it offensive to have one of their streets
named after a compatriot now vilified as a Portuguese
invader. Interestingly there was no street named after
Bodu Thakurufan (Kateeb of Utheem) until the 1990's.
Today the annual Maldive display of fanaticism in
bashing the modern state of Portugal has reached an
embarrassing crescendo. The scale of ignorance is
such that, based on a recently fabricated myth, a
respected state of the European Union is insulted
every year on the first day of Rabee el-Awwal.
Flag of Portugal 1495 - 1578
That there ever existed
Portuguese sovereignty over any part of the Maldives is
a myth fabricated relatively recently. No such record exists
in Portuguese archives and there is no reference to Portuguese
rule in the Tarikh, the official Maldive chronicle
written prior to the 20th Century.
No doubt the Christian King
Manoel Siri Dhirikusa Loka, formerly Sultan Hassan IX, had
the moral and some material support of the Portuguese who
evangelised him. The bulk of the evidence supports the view
that there were Portuguese volunteers or mercenaries under
the command of his captains in the expeditions sent to the
Maldives. His regent in Malé was Andiri Andirin,
a Maldivian by birth and upbringing, albeit of foreign parentage.
16th Century Portuguese nau
The Tarikh uses the
terms Nasorah (Christian), Kaafaru (infidel)
and Faranji ("Frank", a term used interchangeably
to mean European and Christian) to refer to the Christian
rulers of the Maldives and their Christian subjects. The
oral tradition as related by Buraara Koi also refers to
the Kaafaru to describe the persuasion of the non-Moslems
in the Maldives at that time and only occasionally as Faranji.
Buraara is more specific
than the Tarikh regarding the allegiance of mercenaries
in the employ of Andiri Andirin. When the Thakurufans of
Uteem took up arms against the regime in Malé, according
to Buraara, Andiri Andirin despatched a fleet of Malabars
to quell the rebellion. Malabar was a term used to
describe the people of the Western coast of Southern India
At the time Malé
finally capitulated to Kateeb Mohamed Thakurufan of Uteem,
according to Buraara, the expatriates there comprised of
Goans (undoubtedly Portuguese subjects), Frenchmen and Malabars
and evidently they were all in the employ of Andiri Andirin.
It was unlikely that any Portuguese authority would have
engaged Frenchmen, subjects of a rival mercantile power.
Vasco da Gama- First Portuguese mariner in Asia
Up until his assumption
of the regency in Malé, Andiri Andirin is referred
to by Buraara as Goa Kalu Faranji, which means the
"black Frank of Goa" or the "black Christian
of Goa". Why was he black? At that time it was highly
unlikely that there were any dark-skinned people in Europe.
The Kingdom of Grenada, the last Moorish (some of whom were
dark-skinned) State in Europe fell more than 50 years before
to Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille. Was Andiri
Andirin not Portuguese?
Tarikh and Buraara Koi, however, do refer
to the Portuguese quite specifically. For instance there
is a reference in the Tarikh to an abortive invasion
in 1624 (over fifty years after the so-called Portuguese
rule ended), in the reign of King Siri Kula Sundhura Katthiri
Bavana (Sultan Shuja'i Mohamed Imaduddine I), headed
by a captain "Balbagi".
The authors of the Tarikh
were very careful to describe the invaders specifically
as Furhetikeysin (the Maldivian word for Portugal
is Furhetikal and the Portuguese is Furhetikeysin)
and not merely as infidels, Christians or Franks. [It must
be noted that the Tarikh was written over nearly
300 years by many authors]
During the regency of Andiri
Andirin, undoubtedly there would have been many Portuguese
people based in the Maldives, as traders, mercenaries and
missionaries. Other European mercantile powers in Asia,
the French and the Dutch and later the English would have
viewed this arrangement as Portuguese rule.
Where transfer of sovereignty
had not taken place, Christian mercantile powers at that
time operated by establishing spheres of influence and by
mutual understanding kept away from each other's sphere
of influence. In common usage, European merchants regarded
these spheres of influence as being under the rule of the
respective mercantile powers.
IX and his fellow converts were probably not the first
Maldive Christians. Theophilus, sent by Emperor Constantius
(about AD 354) on a mission to Arabia Felix and Abyssinia,
was one of the earliest, if not the first. He had
been sent when very young a hostage a Divoeis,
by the inhabitants of the Maldives, to the Romans
in the reign of Constantine the Great. His travels
are recorded by Philostorgius, an Arian Greek historian,
who relates that Theophilus, after fulfilling his
mission to the Homerites, sailed to his island home.
reference). Theophilus was a well-known
physician. Could it be that he was the first Maldive
doctor who practised in Europe?
is said that Theophilus was from a place called Divus.
This is variously understood as the Maldives
Another Roman source, Amianus Marcellinus courtier
to the Roman emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus wrote
in AD 362 about Maldive envoys that came to the emperor's
court. He called the Maldives Divi, which could be
another Latin form of Divus.
This was undoubtedly the
reason why Bell and other European writers such as the Frenchman
François Pyrard de Laval had referred to the Portuguese
presence as Portuguese rule. In spite of references to Portuguese
rule, Bell concedes that the "Islands were then governed
by a Native Regent, under the control of the Portuguese
Commandant, who ruled in the name of the exiled King Dom
Manoel (Hassan IX)".
Buraara describes in minute
detail the odi (sailing vessel) of the Viyazor, the collector
of revenue or Atoluverin of the four atolls to the north
. Although the designation
of Viyazor was derived from the Portuguese word vedor,
interestingly, his vessel flew a plain red flag, and not
the Portuguese ensign. From time immemorial until 1903,
the flag of the Maldive sovereigns was the plain red flag
shown at the top of this page.
The Viyazor of Baararh himself
sounds very much a Maldivian by disposition, even though
Andiri Andirin was supposed to have recruited him in Goa
to act as a pilot in his expeditions to capture Malé.
If the Viyazor was not a Maldivian, he must have been someone
who was very familiar with the Maldives and Maldivian customs,
before his arrival with Andiri Andirin.
Knight or Witchdoctor?
Koi a narrator of ancient history was politically
quite incorrect regarding the personality and character
of Mohamed Thakurufan, Kateeb of Utheem who is now
given credit for "liberating" the Maldives
from "Portuguese rule". Buraara certainly
gives Mohamed Thakurufan all the credit worthy of
a conquering hero of Islam, but he is also described
as an adulterer, a necromancer , a cheat and someone
who enjoyed trapping birds into his extended adolescence.
wrong with bird trapping, but duplicity, adultery
and necromancy were unbecoming of a knight of Islam,
according to conservative commentators who wielded
such commentator was Hussain Salahuddine, a twentieth
century chief justice and one time royal commissioner
of history. Buraara’s account was totally unacceptable
for Salahuddine, so he revised it and wrote an alternative
only evidence and justification for the change was
that the traditional version of Mohamed Thakurufan’s
character was incompatible with someone who waged
Jihad (holy war) for the cause of Islam- very
subjective and emotive indeed.
he systematically and quite openly purged the traditional
versions of "objectionable" events and accounts
and inserted politically correct material in their
place- some of it fabricated by his own admission.
bowdlerised Buraara's account, inserting "Portuguese"
where Buraara and the Tarikh had used terms
such as Kaafaru and Nasorah.
was Mohamed Amin Dorhimeyna Kilegefan's father-in-law.
work on the subject is worthy of literary merit. However
as a source of historical or traditional reference,
its unreliability cannot be emphasised strongly enough.
Salahuddine’s account remains the favoured version
with the Maldives authorities.
to Buraara, he had a wife in Goa when he married the widow
of the slain Sultan in Malé. No Catholic would have
been allowed to divorce his wife, let alone take more than
one wife. King Henry VIII had to secede England from
the Church of Rome in 1534 because Pope Clement VII would
not allow him to divorce Catherine of Aragon. It was highly
unlikely that in 1558 Pope Paul IV would have consented
the Viyazor of Baararh to take a second wife.
tradition describes the Viyazor as a likeable fellow, who
occasionally shared a meal with the Thakurufans of Uteem
in a communal plate. Moslems would willingly share a meal
with Christians, but it was unlikely that they would eat
with a Christian from a communal plate. According to Buraara,
the Viyazor was steeped in astrology, numerology and dabbled
in necromancy. If he were a Portuguese Christian, the Holy
Inquisition would have had him burnt at the stake for such
terminology used in the Tarikh to describe the end
of the rule of the Christian King and the end of Holin rule
in 1752 is also significant. While the end of Christian
rule is described as a conversion to Islam, the end of Holin
rule is described as a "transfer of ownership of the Kingdom
toits people". This means that while the end of Holin rule
was clearly recognised as liberation from a foreign power,
the author of the Tarikh saw the end of Christian
rule merely as a coup d'état.
had used translations of the Tarikh in his Monograph.
Where the Tarikh clearly uses the terms described
above, Bell uses the term "Portuguese", in translation.
Whoever was Bell's translator must have been keen to draw
a comparison between the colonial history of Ceylon where
Bell was born and that of the Maldives.
British rule ended in the countries of Southern Asia in
1947 and 1948, these countries started celebrating independence
days or national days. This and the wave of Nationalism
sweeping Asia and much of the world at that time dictated
that, like other countries, the Maldives also celebrated
a so-called "National Day".
a loss for a day, Mohamed Amin Dorhimeyna Kilegefan came
up with the idea of appointing the first day of the Islamic
lunar month of Rabee-al-Awwal as the National Day of the
Maldives. Three and three quarter centuries before on this
day, according to the Tarikh, Mohamed Thakurufan
kateeb of Uteem assassinated Andiri Andirin and seized control
of Malé. Many traditional versions, including Buraara
place the date of the event in the month of Rajab. Raabee-el-Awwal
is, of course, holier in the Islamic calendar.
National Day had to be romanticised with the defeat of a
colonial European power. The myth of Portuguese rule over
the Maldives was thus fabricated, institutionalised and
committed to official history.
The myth of Portuguese rule is perpetuated annually
since the late 1940's. All manner of festivities, including
school children made to perform quaint dances dubbed "cultural",
take place every year. These celebrations were canned in
1965 by Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir Rannabandeyri Kilegefan,
until reinstated by the regime that succeeded his presidency.