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The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil
Francois Pyrard de Laval
translated into English in 1887 from the third French edition of 1619 by Albert Gray assisted by H.C.P. Bell

Vol.1 Chapter 11

Of the religion of the inhabitants of the Maldives, and the ceremonies which they observe.

The religion which they profess is that of Muhammad, and there is no other throughout the islands, save among the foreigners who land there; albeit of these the most frequent are Arabs, Malabars, and Indians of Sumatra, who hold the same faith.

Maldivian Mosques
Their temples are called Mesquites ('miskit') which are well built of fair worked stone and well bonded; they have thick walls and stand in the middle of a large walled square, which is their cemetery, where they bury their dead - or rather, some of them: for they choose burial-places where they will, and everyone likes to have a place for his own. The temple is square, facing the west, for that, they say, is the direction of the tomb of Muhammad.

It has three doors, and at the entrance to each, on the outside, there is a large well, descended by steps, the bottom and sides of which are paved and fitted with flat stones, well polished and neat, to accommodate them at their ablutions; and thence to the door is a paved way of the same stone (for all the rest of the close or cemetery is only sand), so that they may not be soiled after bathing, and then they must mount eight or nine steps to the elevation of the temple. The paved floor of the temple is covered with pretty mats and carpets; and they are careful to keep it neat and clean; none dare even spit or blow his nose there; and if they have no handkerchief, and have a mind to spit, they must go to the door-step and spit outside.

The superstructure is of wood, the carpentry of which I admired much, for it could not be better polished or worked. The walls are wainscoted with wood, worked and fitted in the same way; and the whole of the woodwork, outside and in, is put together without nail or bolt of any kind, and yet holds so fast that one could not take it to pieces unless one knew the artifice.

You see large slabs, either of stone or wood, fixed to the walls in various places, on which are engraved letters and inscriptions in the Arabic language. At the end of the temple, towards the west, there is a little enclosure like a chapel in the choir of a church (that is, in the temple of Male'), where the king sits along with his nearest relative, who carries his sword and shield, the Fandiyaru, one of the katibs, and the four mudims. Next to this enclosure are two large galleries where the soldiers and their captain sit with their arms.

And generally throughout the temple, which is spacious and of large extent, there are partitioned spaces for certain persons - not, however, for a single person, but for those of a certain order, estate, age, or quality. And this order is so well observed, that no one would dare to set himself in a place ordained for one of another condition, otherwise he would be fined in a penalty prescribed in this behalf; so there is no jealousy or dispute about places, and a commoner could as easily get a great lord fined on the spot for taking his place, as the lord the commoner.

In this temple are lamps kept burning continually; there are coconut trees set apart as an endowment for this purpose by every man and woman householder, who help to keep it up. These temples, or miskit, are very numerous in all the inhabited islands, and in some islands one sees as many as nine or ten; but their festival is celebrated in one only, which is ordained for the purpose, and is in consequence greater than the others, the latter being like chapels or oratories for praying in, founded by the devotion of individuals. The principal one, in which the festival is held, is built and maintained at the common expense, and is called Hukuru miskit, Friday mosque.

praying arrangements at the Hukuru miskiy, Friday mosque in Male' Maldives by Maldivian scholar helping HCP Bell in 1880s
2009 version prepared by Maldives Culture editors. The original plan published in 1887 was confusing. It was drawn with west on the right, and positions were marked with letters. The key listing of Dhivehi names was only partially translated. This 2009 version is sited with east to the right.
Footnote 1887: I am indebted to Mr. Bell for the accompanying plan of the chief mosque at Male', and the interior arrangements at present. He has obtained this from his Maldive pandit, who, on hearing Pyrard's account interpreted to him, bore witness to its substantial accuracy. The walls of the partitions are said to run to the roof, or at least above a man's height. They are loopholed or trellised, so as to allow of hearing, and, to some extent, of seeing through.

It is also to be remarked that the festival is not celebrated in any island unless it has forty persons above the age of fifteen years, not counting the katib; consequently, in such an island there cannot be a katib, who is the principal officiating minister in the ceremony. In such case the inhabitants go to a neighbouring island; albeit, they have one or more miskit in their own island for their daily prayers. Each miskit has its own priest, called a mudim, who receives the revenues and takes charge of it as a chaplain does of his chapel. The islands which have a sufficient number of people have also a katib, or rector, who is a superior priest of their religion, and says the public prayers, and delivers sermons and homilies, having under him the mudims of the several miskits. All work together in teaching the people the law of Muhammad, and especially the mudims, who teach the children to read and write the language of the country, and that of Arabia, in return for which the parents give them some fitting reward.

Prayer customs
Every day of the week, they go at daybreak to the temple, and for this they give a reason according to their belief, namely, that the world is flat, and not round, and that there is a wall of copper all around which prevents the world from being submerged by the waters which encompass it; and that the devil, the enemy of the human race, is at hand all night trying to pierce and undermine this work, and when the day breaks he must nearly have worked a hole. By reason whereof all the men from fifteen years of age upwards go at break of day to the miskits to make their prayers, for without such prayers the world would perish.

(Footnote 1887: The Arabs believe the earth to be flat and surrounded by the ocean (el-Bahr el-Moheet), which is surrounded by a chain of mountains called Kaf. The latter are described by El-Kazwini as composed of green chrysolite, like the green tint of the sky. These mountains are the abode of the Jinn.)

Four other times during the day they enter it - at noon, at three in the afternoon, at sunset, and at ten at night, remaining in the miskit each time for about half an hour. The women never enter the temples, but remain at home and say their prayers there. Nevertheless the men need not go to the temples on week days if not so disposed, but may say their prayers and perform the ceremonies called 'namaadu' at their own houses or elsewhere; and what is more, no one is compelled to say prayers.

If, however, it were known that a man did not say them at all, no one would eat or hold intercourse with him: that is all the punishment that would befall him; and such a one, they would say, was not a good moslem; and for this reason they nearly all do it; yet it is a heavy tax upon their time, whether they are busy or not. They also use beads, as we do, but without crosses. Before entering the temple they wash their feet, hands, ears, mouth and eyes, using the while certain ceremonies and prayers, which vary according to the hour, festival, or other occasion; for example, when they have performed the offices of nature, or touched their privy parts, they have to wash and to say prescribed prayers; so also, after sexual intercourse they must bathe the whole body, and say other prayers; if it has been with his own wife, they must be of another kind, for they hold themselves polluted by it, and they would not omit this ceremony for anything, believing that by this means they are purified of their sins and defilements. (Footnote 1887: The references here are to the greater and less ablutions, ghusl and wudu, the former being used after such pollutions as he mentions, the latter on every occasion before prayer.)

What I considered indecent, besides the superstition of their damnable and abominable errors, was their washing and bathing all in the public gaze, and many together, and saying their prayers quite loud, whereby from their various prayers one became aware of their most secret doings - when they had slept with their wives, and when not, and when with other women.

They call circumcision 'Seunat'. (Footnote 1887: Arabic 'sunnah', 'the duty'. Christopher gives the Maldivian verb 'gebaindang', 'to circumcise'. The age varies between six and sixteen among moslems, but the rite is not performed until the boy can distinctly pronounce the profession of faith.) All are circumcised - that is to say, the male children - when they reach the age of seven; then they hold a feast for all comers, which lasts for ten days, according to their means, and there is dancing to the music of flutes and tambourines, and other rejoicings. For circumcision there are operators who only circumcise, and do nothing else.

This is the manner of the proceeding. Six or seven hours before the circumcision, the child is bathed in the sea, and kept there till the hour arrives, for they say that this causes the member to shrink, and renders the skin more soft. A shed is constructed on purpose in the yard of each man's house, covered all round with cloths or silk stuffs; the floor of it is covered with fine white sand. The child is then brought into the shed, where, to prevent him struggling, two or three mudims are stationed, who meanwhile chant the proper verses and prayers.

The operator, taking a little white lime, marks all round the member the line where he has to cut, then draws the prepuce as far as he can and ties it with a little cord, and then performs the operation with a razor used only for that, and very keen and sharp. The boy is tended and doctored by the operator himself, until he is recovered. Meanwhile, the relatives and friends of the parents come to visit him, bringing presents for the operator, who also receives payment from the father.

Recovery takes about fifteen days, and then the operator takes the circumcised boy to the sea and bathes him, saying prayers and performing ceremonies the while; then he puts into his hand a little palm or coconut branch, fixing at the end of it a little piece of white taffetas, cut, to a point like a little pennant, and called 'dida', flag. This they offer, with all their vows and offerings, as we do wax candles; but they offer various other things, as I shall describe. Before a child is circumcised, they say that he is innocent and cannot sin; and, indeed, most of them before this time wear no cloth to cover their private parts, for they say that one who cannot sin has no shame; but after circumcision they fail not to cover then'.

For their daughters, there are no feasts or ceremonies, except that for their circumcision they draw two or three drops of blood when they reach the age of two years. When the children grow up they hold in great respect the man who circumcised them, and call him their master.

Throughout the year they celebrate many festivals. In the first place, the Friday of every week is kept solemn. They call this festival 'Hukuru', Friday, and in Arabic 'diu matil', and all the people join in it - i.e. the men and youths, but not the women, nor the boys until they have attained the age of fifteen, or are at least proficient in the faith, and have been through the whole of the Koran, which they call 'Guruaan' or 'Guruvan'.

On Thursday evening, the eve of the festival, some have vespers said at home: this they call Saluat, 'salaatu'; others have prayers made for the dead, and with this view prepare some food and drink, sending the same to their priests or mudims of the mosques near which the deceased are buried; or else they bid them to come and say the prayers at their houses (this prayer is called Pastia, 'fatiha'), and entertain them; so that often the mudims cannot partake of the repast, and put off saying prayers for some, for fear lest they should be obliged to eat when they cannot. All this evening they use quantities of perfumes, as well in their temples as in their own houses.

This Friday festival is celebrated with great ceremony and in great style, as I have seen it done at Male'. In the morning, the man whose duty it is to make public proclamation on behalf of the king, goes round the island, bearing in his hand a kind of metal bell called koli, which resembles the cover of an alembic, with a wooden mallet, with which he strikes the bell; and at every cross-road he stops and admonishes the people that it is their Hukuru festival. He is assisted by three persons carrying straight trumpets, in their language called Tarapilly, 'taalafili', which are blown at the same moment.

The people, on receiving notice of the festival, cease from their labours, which they may not resume for the rest of the day. They go to bathe and wash, saying certain prayers, which vary according to the occasion or feast at which the ablutions are made; everyone puts on his best clothes, and dons the finest he can, according to his means and quality, and all from the age of fifteen upwards are obliged to be present.

Meantime, over the gateway of the king's palace, the players of instruments, different kinds of drums, flutes, hautbois, fifes, etc. (for they have no stringed instruments), play continuously from morning to midday. (Footnote 1887: 'Beru', 'tomtoms' or 'drums'; 'dummaarhi', 'flageolets' or 'haut bois'; 'taara', 'tambourines', are instruments mentioned by Mr. Bell). The trumpets, too, are blown; all these have certain single notes, which harmonise very well. The four royal mudims also are there; they are men of quality, of birth and education, their office being one of honour and dignity; and no one can become katib of the king's island unless he has previously been one of these four. They are not like the mudims of the mosques who minister to the people on all occasions; for they perform service only on the feast day and at other solemnities.

These four mudims all together ascend a stone building of great height, which adjoins the mosque, and putting their hands to their ears, cry out three times in unison with all their might and in fearful tones, these words in Arabic, 'Allahu Akbar', that is, 'God is Great', and add something about Muhammad.

The king's procession
Afterwards they go to the king's palace and do the same; and then the king, if he wishes to attend (as, indeed, he seldom fails), sends a carpet of silk to be put at his place: if he does not so, it is a sure sign that he is not coming. Thence the mudims proceed to the house of the katib, and do the like. On receiving the notice, he attires himself in a long vestment of white cloth, putting over it a cassock, or gown made in the Arab style, with slippers of gilded leather. The mudims attend him, as he attends the king. If the king is going, all the lords, gentlemen, captains, and soldiers proceed to fetch him at his palace, and accompany him in line, all with their arms, and to the sound of trumpets and drums, in great magnificence.

minaret in Male, Maldives 1879

If he does not go, he comes out at his usual hour at midday. The katib also has his head veiled with a white veil, and over that a large white Turkish turban, which covers him completely, so that he cannot see, and one of the mudims leads him by the hand, and conducts him to the mosque, where he is the last to arrive. By this time all the people have assembled, and the king is there, and has said his prayers; but as soon as the katib enters he must begin at once. So the katib (who is a kind of parson), taking his place at the end of the temple, ascends a pulpit of wood, constructed for the purpose, six or seven steps from the ground. There, holding a naked sword in his hand, pointed downwards, he brandishes it to and fro, and recites his usual prayers.

During this, all the people are at their prayers, and do their namaadhu unceasingly, putting themselves in various postures, sitting, standing, kneeling, with foreheads to the ground, hands raised and lowered, and then crossed, heads and eyes turned hither and thither. It would be hard to describe all their gestures and antics during this interval. At that time they lay down their arms, and even their knives, and they would not dare have anything upon them but their clothes, which, however, must be of the cleanest.

The katib changes the prayers every Friday until the end of the year, and then begins afresh. He repeats them all by heart; yet for all that, one of the mudims holds the book before him, and if the katib were to miss a single word, nay, even a syllable or a letter, the mudim would correct him loudly and distinctly; for they hold that if there should be the slightest fault, the festival would be null and void. I have seen them in anxious discussion, one with another, upon this point.

In the island of Male', there are two katibs (same in 1880s), who relieve one another, and celebrate the festival in turn, week by week: the other islands have only one. The service lasts about two hours. Sometimes the grand Fandiyaru, who is the religious superior of all the islands, gives a sermon or homily, according to the occasion, and adds a prayer for the health of some one, or for the downfall and destruction of their enemies, as the case may be. This done, everyone salutes his neighbour, taking hands, and saying 'salaam aleicum', peace be with you, which is the ordinary salutation of all moslems.

When the king returns from the temple he has a finer retinue than on his going thither, for the Fandiyaru, the naibs, katibs, mudims, and gentlemen of quality, besides those who conducted him thither, like to accompany him to the palace in the same ceremony wherewith he came. Then he thanks them and sends them so fine a repast that they spend the rest of the day enjoying themselves with good cheer at the king's expense. This is never omitted when he goes to the mosque; but the order of their eating is that those of the same rank and quality are together, apart from the others, as I have said above.

New Moon festival
On new moon days throughout the year a like festival is held, and a general rejoicing as soon as the new moon is observed. They put in order their houses, courtyards, and all the streets; while at the entrances of the mosques, and at all house doors, as well without as within, they place on each side coconut shells cut in half, like wooden bowls, full of white sand, upon which they lay embers, and throughout the night they burn thereon aromatic gums, scented woods and perfumes, and inside their houses in like manner, at the corners of their beds and elsewhere.

On all feast days, they daub and decorate their doors and furniture with sandal and other aromatic woods and paste of perfumery; but above all they solemnise four new moons in the year more than the others. In the month of December, about the new moon, they observe a fast, called in Arabic 'Ramadan', and in their language 'roadha'. I say about the month of December, for I cannot with certainty designate the time, seeing that their month and year are lunar, and are not fixed as ours are. This solemn fast begins at the new moon, and ends at the new moon of the following month. It does not, however, commence exactly at the time of the new moon, but when they first observe it; so that in some atolls and islands it begins a day sooner or later, according as they descry the crescent.

The months are reckoned in the same way; it is not counted a new month till the moon is seen, which is very uncertain when the sky is thick and cloudy. Sometimes the months are different in different places. In order to observe the moon, everybody betakes him to the highest eminence in the island, and each one is very keen to be the first to discover the moon and show it to the others. Forthwith the king has volleys of cannon and musketry fired; and trumpets, drums and other instruments are played. This takes place at all the new moons; but at the four above mentioned, more of it, and at that one (Ramadan) most of all. Forthwith they say their prayers, and take each other's hands, giving their ordinary salutation; then put their hands over their eyes and cover their faces for a long space; and so continue their devotions throughout the following day.

This happens at the beginning of every month; but at the month of Ramadan the ceremony is much more grand. On that night, men and women go separately to pay visits, regale themselves in company at banquets, dances and amusements, and retire not till it be nearly dawn. Before it be day, all go to bathe and perform ceremonies peculiar to this night alone, whereby they hold themselves to be purified of all their past sins and prepared for the fast ensuing. They dress themselves and wash their teeth well, and put aside their betel, though so used to it that they can but ill afford to want it; then they go to bed.

Thenceforward they fast all day long until the night, and with so much scruple that not only do they taste nothing, but they would not even wash their mouths, nor put their fingers in them, nor swallow their spittle; so they are obliged to spit frequently: and this is very inconvenient, especially when they go to the temple, where, it not being lawful to spit within, they have on every occasion to go to the door. The men may bathe, provided they do not immerse the head, for fear lest a drop of water should enter by the mouth or the ears; but the women may not, for they might admit water elsewhere, so great is their superstition.

Half an hour before sunset all the men and boys above fifteen years take themselves to the temple, so as to be there exactly when the sun disappears. During the half hour, they wash and clean their teeth and their mouths very thoroughly, and for this purpose the mudims of the mosques throughout the fast supply large packets of toothpicks ('dhaiy konna kashi'), scrapers, and little coconut wood implements expressly made for cleaning the mouth and teeth. This done, the mudims cry out three times and enter the temple. One of the mudims then advances as far as possible in front, no one being at either side of him, but all behind.

So it is they make their prayers at the temple, while the women make theirs at home; and afterwards they make good cheer with their friends, entertaining each other in turn. Nobody does otherwise; all are fond of entertaining their friends. And for a long time before, they make the necessary provision by laying up a store of meats and luxuries. You would be surprised to see how curious and exact they are in all this; how careful they are to scour and clean all their kitchen and table utensils, their furniture, and their houses, too, in such wise that I think I have hardly ever seen such cleanliness and neatness. Even the poorest do the like, and save all they can to make good cheer during Ramadan with their relatives, friends, neighbours and those of their own class; and they spend more in that one month than in the six preceding. On some days the king entertains large numbers of persons - on one day the lords, on another, the soldiers, on another, the Fandiyaru, katibs, mudims and other clergy, and so on through all the people of the island, never inviting but one class on the same occasion.

This he does with great magnificence and at great expense, in the style of the country, and with perfect order and propriety; the lords, too, do the same with their friends and equals: for it is a rule which they scrupulously observe, not to eat with persons of a different order. The captains entertain the soldiers, and so everyone in his own rank of life, from the lowest to the highest.

This supper is called 'roadha veellun', as who should say 'breaking the fast'. Only the men and boys feast in this wise: the women are never present; yet true it is, that by night they send each other presents and eatables, and they bathe every evening, when the men are not allowed to do so. They say that throughout Ramadan men abstain from their wives during the fasting days, but not during the night; and when they do indulge, both are bound to go and bathe, and say certain prayers the same night and before daylight.

Every day during this month, until the new moon following, they fast in the manner described, and abstain all the time as far as they can from committing any sin, more so than at other times, and are very zealous in good works. If perhaps they have broken their fast any one day or more by some slight act, they add at the end as many days as they have missed. This happens often, for they are very superstitious, as I have said, and even believe that the fast is null if they have lost blood at any part of the body; moreover, they will none of them do any work during the month of the fast, how poor they may be; and they make up their minds neither to go out of their island, nor to send any thence. Nevertheless, they are not forbidden to work: they prefer not to do so. The Fandiyaru gives a sermon every day at three in the afternoon, lasting two hours, either at the king's palace or at the temple, or at his own house, which all the inhabitants of Male' are careful to attend; it is given in the native language, sometimes in Arabic, and thence interpreted.

They employ the rest of their time in the exercise of arms and in various games, such as the game of ball, of which they have three kinds; it is kicked with the feet, and they assemble in bands and companies to play it. (Footnote 1887: The game of football, not practised by the Singalese, was probably introduced from the Malay countries, where it is a favourite amusement.)

On their part the women and girls pay visits at each other's houses, and play little games suitable to their sex and to their bringing up; and of these they have many kinds and varieties.

Courting and marriage customs
In this month, you see boys and girls caressing and making love of their own accord, more than at other seasons. Then they send songs, sonnets, and verselets, written on coconut leaves, which are as white as paper, the letters being graven with bodkins. The boys cull the fairest and sweetest flowers, and arrange them in garlands very prettily, and send them to the girls, who in return send some betel, nicely ordered and prepared. This is their way of making love. They are not allowed to marry by day in this month, but must await the night. In short, during this month they seek out every means of passing the time gaily.

Ramadan tithe
So the fast of Ramedan lasts from one new moon to the next. The women and girls are obliged to fast eight days longer than the men at the close of the month, on account, as they say, of their courses. Three days before the close of Ramedan, the bell, or koli, and the trumpets go round the town in the usual way, as when a festival or a royal command is announced, and warn the people on behalf of the Fandiyaru (whom the Arabs call 'Cady'), that all the Maldive islanders should bring or send in writing the names of all, both great and small, men and boys, women and girls, to be registered; those of Male' to the Fandiyaru, and those of the other islands to the naib of their atoll.

When they do this, they have to give in for each person an offering of half a larin, equal to four sols of our French money, or its equivalent in goods; this is done quite voluntarily and faithfully, for they believe that without it their fast would be of no effect. It is called 'fithuru', as being the tribute which they pay to God and Muhammad; and those who have not wherewithal to pay this offering, beg it of the rich, who willingly give for that purpose. Those who wish not to be obliged to others, nor to have the shame of being paid for (as indeed it is a badge of shame and of poverty; the king pays for everyone who asks him, as do the lords and the rich), and those who have not at the time a half-larin or its equivalent, make a written declaration that they cannot pay till after the festival, and thus make a debt of it. Fathers and mothers pay not only for themselves but also for their children, as soon as born, until they marry or cease to live with them, and also for their servants and slaves.

The money collected is divided into three parts, which amount to a great deal according to the country notions. For receiving and guarding this fithuru there is a very good system, for there are four receivers chosen for this office alone from among the men of means and the officers of the Fandiyaru. One of these officers represents the king, another the clergy, the third, those who are only recently of their religion, and the fourth, the poor. There are also eight persons who make entries in writing of everything presented, refusing nothing that is brought, be its value or price what it may. All the money and goods are put aside until after the festival, when all is received, for a fair and proper division.

The first part belongs to the priests, i.e. the Fandiyaru, naibs, katibs, mudims, dheyvaani (who are the sergeants), and other like functionaries. The second is given to those who have recently become of their religion; and the third is for the poor; and if anything remains over to be paid, that is the priests' concern, for they are responsible for it, as being church money; but they never lose any.

The fast ended, they celebrate a grand festival, and one of the greatest solemnity with them, called Eid. The day is no more certain than the commencement of Ramadan, for it is the day of the new moon following, i.e. when it is seen; and this renders it somewhat uncertain year by year. They hold the same festival and solemnities at the sight of this moon as of its predecessor; the bell and trumpets make a round of the island to announce the festival, as also next morning early, in like manner.

All rise very early, wash and bathe the whole body, with ceremonies peculiar to this occasion. It must be noted that their fast is not over until the service and prayers are performed, and they go forth of the temple; then they come out with scents and perfumes, and put on the finest clothes they have, which are made expressly for this day and the festival following, and after that are preserved with great care, in order to be placed after their death upon their coffins when they are borne to the grave. They are early at the temple - that is, about seven or eight o'clock, and not at midday, as on Fridays. The service lasts an hour and a half, being shorter than usual; and afterwards, when the king goes forth, he returns to his palace with a braver retinue of grandees than on other days; cannon are fired, and the air resounds with the noise of drums, flutes, and musketry.

When the king enters the second court of the palace, a bullock and a ram are brought forth and slain in the presence of him and his retinue, as a kind of sacrifice; they are cut up into pieces and distributed among the grandees of the island, or others to whom the king is pleased to send, for he gives his directions there in person. The recipients esteem it as high an honour as among us it is to receive the consecrated bread. Those who get a good share call together their neighbours to participate, if they are so minded, for it is a mark of friendship so to do; and those who can get a morsel to eat think themselves in luck.

This done, the king retires to his apartments, whence he goes not forth until, after dinner, he comes to see the games and amusements. Meanwhile, he provides a banquet of all the luxuries of the country, for all classes of people in his island, according to their rank and quality, in separate rooms and sheds, which are hung with pretty cloths. The festival lasts two days longer. The nobles and captains entertain their friends, soldiers, and servants; after dinner there is nothing but games, dancing, and rejoicings, which take place in front of the king's palace only. On the third day these are held in front of the houses of the nobles and persons of quality, who are greatly honoured thereby.

maldives sports arena 1879

The chief sports are with arms, the buckler and naked sword. They fence with dexterity, but suffer no harm, all the blows being received on the buckler. They use also pikes, hung with bells, in which case they receive the thrusts in like manner upon the buckler. All join in this mimic warfare with good temper, dancing and leaping to the music of drums, trumpets, flutes, etc., which play incessantly. The king comes to view the scene, but he remains not long. The queens, too, and their ladies look on; but they are concealed by jalousies and curtains, so that they cannot be seen.

There is no other kind of dancing, nor at any other time, neither on the part of the men nor the women, save it be of some good-for-nothing creatures, who play the buffoon by night to make their neighbours laugh. Some folks disguise themselves in foreign dress, and construct large and roomy ships, which they run along the streets and highways with armed parties on board, and when the ships approach one another they have a fight; and this affords great amusement. The king gives betel and areca to his whole court, both small and great (this is much thought of), as also do the chiefs and captains to their followers, soldiers and subordinates.

Mas Eid
At the last quarter of the moon following this festival they have another, called Mas Eid, i.e. 'grand festival', lasting three days, when they observe the same ceremonies. (Footnote 1887: The festival referred to is the 'Idu-l-kurban', or 'Idu-l-azha', the 'feast of the sacrifice', commonly called the greater Beiram. It is generally regarded as in commemoration of the sacrifice of Ishmael, whom the moslems substitute for Isaac. The great day is the 10th of the month Zu'l Hijjah, when the pilgrims, halting in the valley of Mina, on their return from Mount Arafat to Mecca, perform their sacrifice. This festival continues three or four days.)

It is the holy day upon which the moslem pilgrims assemble at Mecca to visit the tomb of Muhammad. More ceremonies are then performed than during all the rest of the year: on that day they come from all parts of the world, and sometimes when they have arrived too late, and it is over, they have to await the return of the festival for ten or eleven months.

Full Moon festival
About the month of April or May, at the full moon - a day before and a day after - they have a festival called 'Foi kakkan', that is to say, 'full moon'. It is more of a rejoicing than a religious festival. When it is evening, the neighbours assemble; gentle and simple. I thought it was like St. John's with us French.

Each bringing his portion of rice; they make a big fire at the nearest cross-roads, and there cook their rice. While they are all around the fire, instruments of music are played; and betimes some merry-andrews, disguised as birds, wild beasts, or such like, come and dance, indulging in lascivious and indecent gesture, even in the presence of women and girls, who are there along with the men.

This goes on throughout all the islands, but at the palace the king gives rice to the soldiers for doing it. They say it was at this moon that rice was brought to the islands for the first time, and on that account they have from time immemorial kept this holiday, which lasts three days.

Festival of the Dead
In the month of June, or thereabouts (for, as I said, their months do not accord with ours), they keep a festival of the dead, with many superstitious observances. On the day, the king, with all his wives (who have not permission to go outside their houses but on this day only), pays a visit to the tombs of his predecessors, and to those of persons held to be saints in their religion; there he makes offerings, burns perfumes, and presents some dida, flags, as we should candles.

Everybody, too, goes to visit the graves of his kindred and friends, and presents as many portions of food as he has dead relatives and friends. The food is laid aside by the mudims of the neighbouring temples, who offer as many separate prayers as there are portions. All the graves of those who have kinsmen and friends living are visited, and replenished with white sand on that day, and perfumes are burned while the prayers are said.

Next day there is a general almsgiving at the king's palace, the king giving to all the poor with his own hand; and they, well aware of the day, come up from the most distant islands for it. He makes inquiry first what people they are, and if they be indeed in want: for to those who are not, he gives only a little silver ring worth half a larin, of which he has a large number made against this day to give to folks of the lowest estate, who bring there all their children to receive of the king each his ring.

On this same day, all householders likewise give alms, according to their means, being bound to give to the poor the fifth part of their goods, provided they are worth at least 100 larins; and those who are not worth 100 larins are not obliged to give anything in alms.

Rice Eating festival
About the month of August or September, for two days the king has a large quantity of rice cooked very thin, or half mixed with honey and coconut milk; this is carried about the island in tubs containing about a hogshead (approx 50 gallons) apiece. The bearers of it have cups and ladles to serve out to all they meet, and no one declines, be he beggar or lord. Everyone does the same on his own account, and even the poorest must cook some rice and send it to his neighbours. They told me that they keep this festival in remembrance of a miracle which Muhammad did as on this day, while he was at the wars, and they call it kan'di kakkan.

There is yet another very solemn festival about the month of October, which takes place at night, and is called Maulood; they say it is the night when their prophet Muhammad died. (Footnote 1887: Muhammad died at noon on the 12th day of Rabia-el-Awwal of the 11th year of the Hijira. The 1st, 4th, 8th, and 12th of this month are observed as maulood at the Maldives). This is the ceremony: they begin a month before the festival, by meeting to elect officers to make arrangements and to supervise; these number at least fifty, all men of quality, and act as our 'valets de feste'. Their duty is to go from house to house collecting from every man the sum at which he is rated, according to his means; they go also to ask people to take part, and to arrange everything; though, indeed, the people of the parish fail not all to assist at this festival, which is diligently observed in all the islands.

At Male' I have seen it performed at six places. The king bears the expense of one celebration, which takes place at his palace. At the four corners of the island it is celebrated by the people in their several parishes, and one general celebration for all the people is held in the middle of the island, in front of the principal temple. At each of the six places is erected for the occasion a wooden house, sixty feet long by forty broad, or thereabouts; the roof is of coconut branches; the wood of which it is constructed must not have been, nor may in the future be, used for any other purpose, not even for the festival of the following year.

The ground is covered with fine white sand to the depth of half a foot. This house within is hung with cotton or silk cloths of all colours, and of the finest and richest description available. Above, to serve for a ceiling, they stretch pieces of cotton cloth, very white and very fine, and to support them they run cotton cords, dyed black, from side to side at right angles and aslant, so cleverly that the white above seems to be cut into squares and lozenges of exactly the same size: it is very neat.

On the sand wherewith the ground is covered they spread pretty new mats, on which each one sits, and there are no other seats. On all sides are hung copper lamps to the number of about thirty; each is large and has two wicks, so that it is almost as bright as daylight. By contrivances with air-holes, odorous perfumes are introduced within, though burnt without, for the heat of the place of itself is well-nigh insupportable: only the fumes and the odour come within.

There are other conduits, too, for the introduction of water, which is very necessary, for they often wash their mouths by way of refreshment after chewing betel, which they do the whole night long. In the middle of this hall there is a table of the height of the knees, whereon are arranged little wicker baskets, and polished lacquer vessels containing various kinds of cates made of rice flour with coconut sugar, like little macaroons, of the thickness of the thumb: these are excellently well served with all kinds of native fruits. The table is covered with sweet-smelling flowers, while all around are jars containing drinks of different mixtures, chiefly flavoured with ambergris and musk. The whole is covered over with a large cotton cloth worked with a coloured pattern.

The people rig themselves out in their bravest style; but only the men and boys are present, and no women. The men of quality of the parish do not go, for it would be beneath their dignity; it is a feast of the common folk. They assemble at eight o'clock in the evening, and sit in places assigned to them, according to their rank, by the stewards of the festival.

All night long the Fandiyaru, katibs, naibs, and mudims, with all the rest of the clergy, and other good singers, cease not to chant With all their might in alternation like a choir; nor is their chanting without rule, for some of them who know not how to sing have to take lessons from a master: so the harmony is good, and the singing far from disagreeable. They call this chanting 'zikuru', and say that they are the Psalms of David.

On the stroke of midnight everybody with one accord lies down at full length with his face to the ground, and so remains for a space of time. Then of a sudden the Fandiyaru or the katibs stand up, and all the rest after them, and set aleaping upon each other as they were madmen or lunatics, crying, at the top of their voices, 'Aly alas Mahomedin', again and again; this lasts for some time. I have inquired of them why they did this, and they asking 'What?' and I replying, 'These mad leapings and dancing', they told me they knew nothing of having danced or done any such thing, but only remembered that for a space of time they had been rapt with ecstasy and had been partakers of heaven and the joys of their paradise. Sometimes the Fandiyaru remains for an hour or more like dead; they say then that he is transported to heaven, and that it is a mark that he is a righteous man. The king does not take part in this festival the whole time; he comes to see what is going on for an hour or two, and then returns.

In this manner I have many a time seen it in his company. Fifty persons are elected to minister to the rest; this is a great honour, and there is no one but is glad enough to accept the office, for none but distinguished men and scions of good families get the offer. These officers distribute during the night to all ranks of the people, seated in their proper order, a portion of betel and areca, arranged and prepared in a different style from their ordinary (I mean of the common folk, for the king and the great lords always use it prepared in the same way). They give as many as a dozen portions to each person, whoever he may be; in like wise they present to all who have a mind to drink, beverages of the country brew, in large copper bowls, exceedingly well fashioned and worked, and with a cover on the top. Now and then are brought like bowls full of water, with basins, for washing the mouth and hands; they would not for the world let a drop of water or any refuse fall to the ground.

The people are arranged in lines, and at intervals are vacant spaces for passing between them. Towards the close of the night the chanting ceases and the Fandiyaru and katibs say prayers, after which they proceed to the midst of the hall, where the aforesaid table is spread; this they uncover, and all crowd around, and each one receives a portion; this they take great care of, and carry it home to show that they have been to the festival. At the same time the officers, taking some aromatic waters in vases placed there, sprinkle it upon the bodies of all present, touching them with their hands; and this is received by them as a benediction of great efficacy.

This done, they must lay to the eating, for they have no celebration of solemnities without that. So the officers bring basins of water for washing their hands and mouths, they having done nothing but chew betel the night long; then they make a circle of nine or ten together, but always of the same class, and grouped according to the prescribed order. Viands are brought upon large heavy dishes, each of which contains other small ones, in which are various meats, well served, and these are placed in the midst; it takes three to carry them. And when they have done eating, they go home to bed.

Footnotes 1887:

Buddhist influences in Maldives
Pyrard does not class as a religion the worship of Nature and of the elements, which undoubtedly existed in his day, and indeed still survives: all such observances he ranks as superstitions. Apart from all these remains of a primitive faith, there lies the question whether Buddhism ever ruled at the atolls. In his time, Buddhism was but little understood, and he himself seems to know nothing of it, so that we need not be surprised to get little or no information from him. We may bear in mind, too, that in India, except where Jainism prevails, traces of Buddhism are to be found in ruins and sculpture, but hardly at all in the religious observances of the people. Further than this, Islam has in all cases made a cleaner sweep of all pre-existing forms of worship than any other missionary religion. Yet it seems likely that further investigation will justify the conjecture already made by me (J. B. A. S., vol. x, new series), that there was an intervening Buddhism at the Maldives.
The Singalese chronicles and sacred books are found to contain no reference either to the Maldivians or to their religion. Christopher, however, notes that at the Maldives the body is buried in the posture of the recumbent Buddha, i.e. on the right side, with the right hand under the right ear, and the left placed along the thigh. But this was the mode used with Muhammad himself, and adopted throughout all Islam.
Christopher was also informed by a learned Buddhist priest that there were formerly on the Maldives two noted temples of Buddha. He gave the names of the islands, but Christopher 'could not recognise them as perpetuated to the present day'. The name of the priest is not given, and no Singalese priest now knows anything of the matter. Mr. Bell, however, has it on the assertion of trustworthy natives, that there are on the island Fua Mulaku 'jungle-covered ruins of a tope or dagaba, and amid them the stone image of a Buddha in the sthanamudra, or standing position.' The tope is described as resembling the solid bell-shaped dagabas, rising from platforms, usual in Ceylon.
Such ruins the islanders of the southern atolls term 'astabu' (Addu atoll), 'havitta' (Fua Mulaku), and 'veyre' (atolls further north), in which it is easy to recognise the Sanskrit stupa, chaitya, and vihara. One of the islands in Ari atoll is called Vihama-fushi, and one in Male' atoll Vihamanafushi, meaning 'the island of delightful viharas'.
Mr. Bell notes an island called Munnafushi, perhaps = Munipura, 'Buddha's city'; and another, Hulhudeli, Sin. saladala, 'Bo tree island'. He also mentions that the term applied by the Maldivians to their first sovereign converted to Islam is Darumavanta, i.e. Dharmmavanta, 'religious', 'just'. Christopher further states that the Bo tree (Ficus religiosa or Pipal) is said to be 'still suffered to stand alone in the vicinity of mosques, when all other shrubbery is cleared away for the burial ground.'
As to this, Mr. Bell remarks that only two Bo trees, 'boi gas', are known to be growing at the present day on the Maldives: one in Suvadiva atoll, the other at Male' near the palace, but not within the walled enclosure or burial-ground of any mosque. So little is known of the islands individually, that it is rather premature to conclude that there are not more Bo trees, or that it is not held in some veneration. The evidence of names is not of great value, unless coupled with other testimony; but the existence of actual dagabas, witnessed by any European who knows a Buddhist building, will settle the question (see Christopher, Trans. Born. Geo. Soc., i, pp. 313-14; Bell, Report, pp. 59, 74, 75).
Since the above went to press, a pamphlet on the island of Minicoy has appeared, from the hand of Mr. 0. Bartholomeusz, the medical officer who served there during the erection of the lighthouse. He states that 'the general belief of the islanders is that their ancestors were Buddhists'; and that there still exist, in close proximity, the ruins of a Buddhist temple and of an artificial tank. But whether the temple be a dagaba or a vihara, and upon what evidence its Buddhist character is determined, he does not indicate.

Sport in Male'
Mr. Bell gives the following picture of these sports, which are still observed: 'On fete days at Male', sports (kulhi jahan) are exhibited, under rules and restrictions, to prevent injury to the performers. The arena is simply a portion of one of the main streets, with thatched buildings on either side, from which the Sultan and ladies of the harem may view the sports. All the male spectators stand round in a ring. The sports consist entirely of mimic hand-to-hand combats between successive sets of performers, two at a time, armed with sword, ('kan'di'), and targe, (shield, buckler, 'addana'), lance ('dhan'di-haliya'), or quarter-staff ('kulhi jaha dhan'di'). The players do little more than posture at each other ad nauseam, and show but little skill in managing their weapons. The Sultan and by-standers alike appear to evince no real interest in the proceedings, which are conducted from first to last in gravity and silence, and repeated for days together with wearisome monotony. It is not considered beneath the dignity of the principal men to take part in these games.

Full Moon festival
From Sinhala 'poya', a change of the moon, and 'kanava', to eat. This festival is evidently not Islamic, and is probably the Buddhistic celebration of the full moon (Sinhala 'depoya') of the month Wesak (May), when the Singalese commemorate the attainment by Gautama of Nirvana. Whether its introduction to the Maldives had anything to do with that of rice, we are likely never to know.
The description of the observance is, however, a true picture of the Kandyan festival at this day. Many a time have I been present at these nocturnal festivities, made weird and fantastic by hideous disguises and pantomimic gestures, displayed to crowds of gaily-dressed Kandyans. The whole scene is lighted by flaring torches, amid the sombre shadows of the temple trees, while here and there groups stand or sit round little fires at which coffee and 'appas' are being prepared for the sustaining of exhausted nature. No indecent gestures or behaviour are now to be observed, though these were characteristic of some of the Ceylon festivities too, until they were suppressed in Knox's time. That traveller, however, expressly says that the orgies he describes were never performed in presence of women (Knox was in Ceylon from 1660 to 1679).

St John
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, June 24th. The reference is, however, to the Eve or Vigil, to the celebration of which all the popular ceremonial was confined. This consisted in bonfires. torchlight processions, dancing, etc., the celebrants adorned with garlands, ribbons, and other gewgaws. It was a superstition of the Middle Ages, probably transmitted from pagan times, that it was advisable to keep watch through this night, to prevent a temporary wandering of the soul from the body. An account of the festival will be found in Chambers' Book of Days.

Psalms of David
The Psalms of David are well known even among remote moslem communities (Mungo Park, Travels, c. xi). Compare the quaint account of Lancaster taking his leave of the Sultan of Acheh: 'And when the general took his leave, the king said to him: Have you the Psalms of David extant among you? The general answered: Yes, and we sing them daily. Then said the king: I and the rest of these nobles about me will sing a Psalm to God for your prosperity, and so they did very solemnly. And after it was ended the king said: I would hear you sing another Psalm, although in your own language. So there being in the company some twelve of us, we sung another Psalm: and after the Psalm was ended the general took his leave of the king.'

Regarding zikuru, Arabic zikr: These performances consist of chorus chanting at night, the name of God being perpetually repeated, accompanied by motions of the head, hands, and whole body. The munshids at intervals sing religious odes or love songs to the accompaniment of a kind of flute.

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