While the Maldives celebrates its National Day in relation to the legendary exploits of Mohammed Thakurufaanu against Andhiri Andhirin, we know next to nothing about the history of the period. Most of what is taken today as history really comes from an oral tradition handed down from generation to generation and last narrated by Burara Mohammed Fulhu in the mid 20th Century. Even a cursory glance will confirm that most of the story is simply fantasy –splitting islands and breaking masts with magic spells.
Historically the first scholar who attempted to glean some facts from the myth was Hussein Salahuddin (1881 – 1947). His attempt, though commendable, was incomplete because he did not reconcile the story with existing historical records. This leaves several fertile areas for research.
The history of celebrating the National Day is relatively short. Amir Mohamed Amin, the ruler of Maldives, instituted the National Day against a background of a wave of nationalism that was sweeping across South Asia in the post World War II period, which culminated in the independence of India, Pakistan and Ceylon. Maldives also negotiated a new agreement in 1948 with Britain, the colonial power. The agreement, which gave internal autonomy to Maldives, was trumpeted at the time as independence. As part of the celebrations, the title of Dhorhimeyna was conferred on Amin. During the build-up to this 'independence' national symbols were created, including the national anthem, national emblem and …the National Day.
After 1965, when the Maldives gained independence, National Day celebrations were abandoned in favor of the Independence Day. National Day was later resurrected by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 1979 as part of his personal vendetta against President Ibrahim Nasir, which included reversing everything done by the latter.
Up to 1948, when Amin created the appropriate mythology and meta-narrative for the National Day, the Portuguese were not specifically identified in any historical record as the enemy whom Mohammed Thakurufaanu fought. Hassan Thajuddin's Thareekh simply labels the enemy as 'infidels.' Since Thajuddin had specifically referred to the Portuguese (Furhethikaalun) in connection with another event, it is surprising that he did not use the word Portuguese to refer to Thakurufaanu's enemies. Interestingly, no record exists in Portuguese archives regarding the supposed Portuguese rule of the Maldives. This is even more surprising because the archives chronicle Portuguese colonial exploits in meticulous detail, including accounts of the voyages of individual ships along with their ports of call and manifests.
There are many other mysteries and questions that need answers:
- Why did Mohammed Thakurufaanu and his successors, Ibrahim Kalaafaanu and Hussein Faamuladheyri Kilegefaanu, continue to use their non-royal titles (Thakurufaanu, Kalaafaanu, Faamuladheyri, which are considered below the dignity of a king) after assuming power? No coronated King of Maldives had ever done that.
- In 1827, Ali Raja, Mariambe Ali-Adi Raja Bibi, of Cannanore wrote a letter to the Sultan Mohamed Mueenuddine I of the Maldives, claiming sovereignty over the Maldives based on an agreement between Thakurufaanu and 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 Ali Raja. Interestingly, Burara Mohammed's story also refers to such an agreement and goes on to say that after winning the war Thakurufaanu gave the Malabaris an inhospitable island Kattalafushi, in return for their help in the war. What really happened?