Minicoy Maldives history royal royaltyMaldives Minicoy Mahl Dhivehi
Minicoy Maliku     History

English-Mahl Dictionary
Fareesha Abdullah
Michael O'Shea
in Australia

Mahl-English Dictionary
Click here or on graphic above for sample pages

"Not many know that nine years after India's Independence, the Union Jack was found fluttering on a lighthouse at Minicoy in Lakshwadeep. The wizened lighthouse keeper was unaware that India had become independent. When the inadvertent lapse was discovered in April 1956, the British government sent a special officer to lower the Union Jack."


An insult to a Minicoy lighthouse keeper's intelligence or were things that simplistic back then? Minicoy islanders had long been well-informed globe-trotters. Ed.

Not part of the Maldives

Minicoy is not a part of the Maldives. In 1983 a senior official of the Maldive regime, a brother of the Maldive President who is still in power since before then, made a public speech claiming Minicoy for the Maldives. That sparked off a diplomatic crisis.

Even today many Maldivians privately harbour such sentiments.

We need to remember that, in the civilised world many of us live in, what determines international borders is neither geographic proximity nor cultural affinity.

Since I uploaded this page more than one Maldivian have contacted to congratulate me for putting the historical record straight about, what they call, Maldive rights over Minicoy. I am sorry to disappoint them and others, but I do not subscribe to any such claims.

The purpose of this site is not to placate the ego and contribute to the territorial aggrandisement of the Maldive Republic.

According to Ellen Kattner, oral tradition has it that Kamboranin and Kohoratukamana (Click to see note), two princesses from the Maldives, came to Minicoy. When they arrived, the tivaru, who had been living there before, left the island for Sri Lanka. Their descendants form the aristocracy of Minicoy. The lower classes are made up of the descendants of their crew.

Minicoy lighthouse
Minicoy Lighthouse

It is unclear when Minicoy came to be grouped with the Laccadive Islands now known as Lakshadweep. The term Lakshadweep means a hundred thousand islands. The Laccadive group consists of only 25 islands and it is unlikely the name refers to a numerical value. It is possible that the term originally applied to the Laccadive-Maldive-Chagos archipelago. Even then the number of islands is only around 2000.

The kings of the Maldives styled themselves as "Kings of Twelve Thousand Islands". This indicated a huge number rather than a numerical value. In the old Maldive duodecimal system of counting, twelve thousand was a round figure such as a hundred thousand in the decimal system. Clearly, therefore, twelve thousand was the figurative duodecimal equivalent of the decimal a hundred thousand. Even today in Maldive and Minicoy speech, terms such as "lakka duvas" (a hundred thousand days) are used to refer to a huge number- in this case, a huge number of days. (click to see note)

Coat of Arms of the Ali Raja of Cannanore
The coat of arms of the Ali Raja of Cannanore

Until the 16th Century, the Laccadives appear to have been under the suzerainty of the Kolthari Raja of Chirakkal in what is now the Indian state of Kerala. With the Portuguese ascendancy in the region, it became necessary for the Kolthari to transfer sovereignty of the islands to their hereditary admiral, the Ali Raja of Cannanore. It is unclear if Minicoy was included in this transfer or if in fact Minicoy ever formed part of the dominons of the Kolthari.

Until relatively recently, the kings and queens of the Maldives issued edicts addressed to the subjects in their realm "Malikaddu Midhemedhu". This meant "Between Minicoy and Addu". Addu was the Southern-most island in the dominions of the Maldive kings and was in Addu Atoll. The island was dredged off by the British in 1959 to construct the airfield on neighbouring Gan island. As late as AD 1696, a grant issued under the Seal of the King Siri Kula Ran Mani of the Maldives referred to him as "Malikaddu Midhemedhu ekanuonna mi korhu anikaneh nethee korhu" which meant "Sole Sovereign with no other over what lies between Minicoy and Addu". The grant was issued in the matter of the building and upkeep of a mosque in the island of Finey in Thiladhummathi Atoll.

Athiri Ganduvaru Baugey Khadija Manika

(click here to view Khadija Manika's genealogy)

Khadija Manika, an aristocratic lady, is wearing a traditional Minicoy-Maldive women's costume. Khadija Manika is also a descendant of the Maldive Royal family, the House of Hilaaly and Huraagey.

According to ibn Batuta, only the feyli wrap-around used to be worn from the waist down. The gown was a compromise with Islam evolved a few centuries after the conversion. There was much resistance to imported foreign concepts of modesty.

Click to read more.

On December 18, 1790 Minicoy was surrendered to the Court of Directors of the English East India Company by the Ali Raja of Cannanore, Junumabe Ali-Adi Raja Bibi II. The Ali Raja was allowed to administer Minicoy in return for a tribute to the East India Company. She continued to dispute the transfer of sovereignty but in 1824, her successor, Mariambe Ali-Adi Raja Bibi made a formal written recognition of the suzerainty of the East India Company. She and her successors, however, continued the tributary arrangement.

On 27 July 1795, the Governor General of the Presidency of Madras under whose jurisdiction Minicoy was, abolished Junumabe Ali Adi-Raja Bibi's coir monopoly. This was the beginning of the end of the Ali Raja's real control over Minicoy.

n 1857, suzerainty over Minicoy transferred from the East India Company to the Indian Empire when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress.

In 1905 under the heavy burden of debts to the Empire, Mohamed Ali-Adi Raja agreed to surrender sovereignty and control over Minicoy. He died before the formal transfer. After an attempt to back track, his successor Imbicchi Ali-Adi Raja Bibi finally signed over Minicoy to the Emperor Edward VII on 9 February 1909, back dated to 1 July 1905. Following this, Minicoy was annexed to the District of Malabar.

A Hero in Time?

Uteem Mohamed Thakurufan and his band of rebels took up arms against their king (Siri Dhirikusa Loka Hassan IX later known as Manoel) who had converted to Christianity. They made Minicoy their base while making raids on islands under the sovereign authority of their king. Thakurufan was an agent of the Ali Raja of Cannanore. The nature of the relationship between Mohamed Thakurufan and the Ali Raja of Cannanore was outlined in a letter sent by a later Ali Raja, Mariambe Ali-Adi Raja Bibi, to the Sultan Mohamed Mueenuddine I of the Maldives. The letter was dated Friday 17 Jamada-el-oula Anno Hegirae 1243 (7 December AD 1827). According to the letter Mohamed Thakurufan had entered into a treaty ceding sovereignty of the Maldives to the Ali Raja of Cannanore in the event Thakurufan was established in power in Male. (refer page 294 of Divehi Tarikh). A reply was sent from Malè explaining that Thakurufan had no legal authority to enter into such a treaty with the Ali Raja of Cannanore. (see also Myth of Portuguese Rule)

n August 1947 the possessions of the Emperor of India passed to either the Indian Union or Pakistan according to an agreed demarcation line. The rulers of the independent countries that were vassals of the Emperor had the choice of acceding to either India or Pakistan.

While Minicoy was a sovereign possession of the Emperor and not that of an independent country such as Cannanore, Kashmir or Hyderabad, it is unclear why India felt it necessary to hold a plebiscite in Minicoy in 1956 to determine whether or not the people of Minicoy wished to join the Indian Union.

On 1 November 1956, India formally annexed Minicoy and incorporated it into the Union Territory of Laccadive Minicoy and Amindivi Islands, renamed Lakshadweep in 1973

Coat of Arms of the Ali Raja of Cannanore
The South Asian Subcontinent's only independent state with a Muslim dynasty was the House of Arakkal. The Arakkals gained prominence in the16th century at the expense of the neigbouring Hindu Chrikkal dynasty. The Arakkals allowed female succession and their most prominent ruler was a queen, Junummabe Ali Raja Bibi who ruled for 49 years. The Ali Rajas clashed with the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and the Mogals for supremacy. They eventually formed an alliance with the Mogal governor of Seringapattam, Tippu Khan Bahadur. Just before Tippu was defeated by the British, the Ali Raja made peace with the British and became a British tributary. By 1909 the British had reduced the Ali Raja to an insignificant vassal without any real power. The last Arakkal ruler was Mariummabe Ali Raja Bibi. She was deposed and her territories were annexed by India in 1948.





















  Kamboranin probably meant "lady queen consort". Kohoratukamana probably meant "red cheek lady"


















Note on the duodecimal system of counting


The duodecimal system was based on the fact that there were twelve moons during the year. The decimal system is based on the fact that most of us have ten digits between both our hands.

Twelve thousand as a round figure is arrived at by combining a duodecimal concept (12) with a decimal concept (103). Ten to the power of four is the round figure closest to 12,000 of the decimal system. The equivalent duodecimal round figure would be twelve to the power of four, in terms of place values. Of course, these values are not numerically equal.

Until about the early twentieth Century, both the decimal and duodecimal systems were in vogue. For example coconuts, fish catch and measures of grain were counted in the duodecimal system. Only ten duodecimal numbers remain in current usage, namely fasdholhas (sixty), fasdholhas ekeh (sixty one)....fasdholhas nuvaeh (sixty nine).

Even after the decimal system of counting was adopted, the base twelve concepts persisted resulting in curious amalgums>