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Examples of fanditha in 20th century southern Maldives
Eyewitness accounts translated by website authors


Addu 1950s
Hassan Saeed, Hithadhoo 1997 A 500 gm gold chain had been stolen. The fanditha man gathered the suspects together and made them sit on the earth. He made a design with a few lines in the sand, and then drove a steel nail into the earth. He told the people that the guilty one would be unable to stand up. One middle-aged man remained sitting. He admitted to being an eye-witness to the theft, but would not say who had done it.

Another time, a theft had occurred from a house. The fanditha man brought a red feathered rooster to the house and tied it up at the front door in sight of all passersby. He rubbed perfume onto the rooster's comb. He then told all the potential thieves to walk up to the rooster and touch it on the comb. He told them that the rooster would crow loudly when it was touched by the thief. One by one the people went up to the rooster, as they walked away the fanditha man smelt their hands for perfume. The person who did not touch the rooster was thus identified.

Another testing method is to hang a cut-throat razor by a human hair in the doorway. Tell the people to walk under it, telling them that the culprit will have his throat cut by the falling razor. Whoever refuses the test is the guilty one.


Sri Lankan carpenter murdered in Feydhoo, Addu atoll in March 1958
He was working on the new houses built in Feydhoo for the Gan people who had to move when the British built the Gan base. The carpenter had formed a relationship with a Feydhoo woman named Safiyya. She was good-looking and quite popular with other men from the base as well. But Safiyya was already betrothed to a Feydhoo man.

One night the Sri Lankan went to meet Safiyya in the usual spot, a banana grove, and he was murdered. The culprit(s) were never arrested. An investigating panel from England spent 10 days at Gan looking into the murder but they could discover nothing. Safiyya refused to give any evidence; she had been threatened.

Soon after she became very sick with a genital infection. There were no medical facilities on Addu then, and she was taken to a fanditha man in Hithadhoo, because jinni or handi [malevolent spirits] were thought responsible for her illness.

The fanditha man organised 10 boys to sit around her sick bed and recite the Quran. They still remember her putrid smell. She was under fanditha treatment for 3 months, but her condition deteriorated and after being taken back to Feydhoo she died within weeks.


Maathodaa, southern Huvadhu atoll 1950s
Abdullah Saeed, Maathodaa, Huvadhu1997

I never believed in fanditha, our family was educated and studied the Koran. Once, a man accused me of performing fanditha on his fishing boat and preventing a good catch of tuna. I had been grilling fish on the beach and accidentally burnt a piece. This was the silly foundation of the fanditha charge.

I was summoned to the court on my island here in Maathodaa, the judge was from Vaadhoo. A friend went with me. I told the judge that I didn't do fanditha because I didn't believe in it, and fanditha was rubbish.

The judge believed in fanditha and he implied I was uneducated because I was from Maathodaa. I asked him where he had received his education, and then my friend interrupted and said the judge must have had his education in the jungles of Vaadhoo.

We were given 2 months house arrest for contempt of court. People said we would be crippled or die for denying the power of fanditha and insulting the judge. They were wrong about that too.



















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