Maliku (Minicoy Island)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Minicoy near Maldives yet so far.

Minicoy Island or Maliku is the only inhabited island in Maliku Atoll and it is the second largest and the southern-most island of the Laccadive Archipelago north of the Maldives. The locals call the island Maliku (މަލިކު), as do the Maldivians, while it is Minikkoy (മിനിക്കോയി) in Malayalam . The nearest island is Thuraakunu in the Republic of Maldives. The island is administered by India under the Indian Union Territory of Lakshadweep. On the southern side of the island lies the uninhabited islet of Viringili.
Minicoy has a culture very different from that of any other island in the Union Territory. Dress, language, and food are similar to the non-Indian Maldive islands to the south of Minicoy. Dhivehi (Language of the Maldives) is the language spoken on the island. The language employs the unique Thaana script, written from right to left.
The social structure is anthropologicaly interesting, being a matrilineal Muslim society. The population follow the matrilineal system still prevalent in some parts of Kerala but are matrilocal in residence. Property is owned by females, a man will live in either his mother's or wifes's house. Remarriage for both men and women is accepted. As Muslims, they have conservative customs and traditions and yet they are liberal in approach. Here a man after marriage not only moves to his wife's home but also adopts her family name. Marco Polo described Minicoy as a female island. Women are dominant and make all the decisions.
According to oral history, two Maldivian princesses, Kamboaranin and Kohoratukamana, arrived on the islands. With the arrival of Maldivian royalty the Tivaru (or Islanders in Tamil) who had been living on the islands fled. In early written records, the territory of the Island Kingdom of the Maldives has been described as from the Minicoy in the north to Addu in the south. But it is unclear when Minicoy came to be grouped with the Laccadive Islands.
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, until it was surrendered to the British East India Company by Ali Raja of Cannanore on December 18, 1790. However, the Rajas continued to administer Minicoy after paying a tribute to the East India Company, until the Governor General of the Presidency of Madras abolished the coir monopoly run by the Rajas from Minicoy. In 1857, suzerainty over Minicoy was transferred from the East India Company to the Indian Empire when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress. Finally in 1905 Ali Raja surrendered sovereignty and control over Minicoy to the Empire, and Minicoy was officially signed over to the Emperor Edward VII by Ali Raja's successor.
In August 1947, Minicoy was passed to India as the Empire withdrew its control. On November 1, 1956, India formally annexed Minicoy and incorporated it into the Union Territory of Minicoy and Laccadive Islands, renamed Lakshadweep in 1973.
Uteem Mohamed Thakurufan, the Maldivian Hero, used Minicoy island as a base while waging a guerilla war against the Portuguese occupation of the Maldives.
According to Ellen Kattner, oral tradition has it that Kamboranin and Kohoratukamana, two princesses from the Maldives, came to Maliku. When they arrived, the tivaru, who had been living there before, left the island for Sri Lanka. Their descendants form the highest status-group of Maliku. The other status-groups are made up of the descendants of their crew.
The affiliation of the island to the Laccadive Islands now known as Lakshadweep is rather recent. The term Lakshadweep; according to folk-etymology, means a hundred thousand islands. The Laccadive group consists of only 25 islands and it is unlikely the name refers to a numerical value. According to Majid Abdul-Wahhab, it is possible that the term originally applied to the Laccadive-Maldive-Suvadive-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 Maliku 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.
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 Maliku was included in this transfer or if in fact Maliku 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 Maliku 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 Maliku 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, Maldives.
On December 18, 1790 Maliku 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 Maliku 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 Maliku 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 Maliku.
In 1857, suzerainty over Maliku 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 Maliku. He died before the formal transfer. After an attempt to back track, his successor Imbicchi Ali-Adi Raja Bibi finally signed over Maliku to the Emperor Edward VII on 9 February 1909, back dated to 1 July 1905. Following this, Maliku was annexed to the District of Malabar.
In 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 Maliku 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 Maliku in 1956 to determine whether or not the people of Maliku wished to join the Indian Union. A referendum was held and an absolute majority of the Malikun decided to join the Indian Union. On 1 November 1956, Maliku was incorporated into the Union Territory of Laccadive, Minicoy, and Amindivi Islands, renamed Lakshadweep in 1973.
Maliku is not a part of the Maldives. In 1983 a senior official of the Maldive made a public speech claiming Maliku for the Maldives. That sparked off a diplomatic crisis. Even today many Maldivians privately harbour such sentiments. But the civilised world, what determines international borders is neither geographic proximity nor cultural affinity.
Status groups
The bodun owned land and the bandu-odies (merchant ships) and they were the vering (rulers). The niamin were the pilots of the Bandu-odies and while on shore assisted the bodun in administrative and other leadership functions. They were the custodians of property and supervised public work. The medhukimbin and the raaverin were the working classes. The medhukimbin enjoyed a status higher than that of the raaverin. The raaverin tapped the coconut palms for toddy. This distinctive beverage is converted into a sweet palm syrup. The vinegar of coconut known as raahuiiy is also produced by the raaverin.
There are in total ten villages in Maliku which is below starting from North to South:-
1 Kendifarty
2 Fallessery
3 Kudehi
4 Funhilolu
5 Aloodi
6 Sedivalu
7 Rammedu
8 Boduathiri
9 Aoumagu
10 Bada
Each village of Maliku has a Bodukaka (male Mayor of the village) and Bodudatha (female Mayor of the village). Each village works as a gathering known as Baemedu. The Bodukaka announces each house through children of the village. The children will go to each house to call everyone for Baemedu. The male members in the house will gather in the village house to hear the purpose of the gathering. After the work is finished, there will be a feast prepared by the female members of the respective village.
The newborn child is named on the day of birth. The baby normally stays in the room in which it is born for the first six days. Customarily the birth would take place in the ansestral home of the mother. The mother's house name becomes the child's surname.
On the seventh day after birth the baby would make its first visit to the father's ancestral home where jewellery would be presented.
After 20 days the baby's head is shaven and the hair is weighed against something of value (traditionally gold or silver) which would be given to the poor. This ceremony is called boabeylun.
Circumscision of boys is followed by much celebration. Dancing and drumming in the evening forms part of the entertainment. The festivities usually continue for about a week.
Under the Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands (Laws) Regulations, 1967 of the Government of India, the following people may enter Minicoy (Maliku):
Persons who had taken up permanent residence in Minicoy at any time before 1967 and members of the families of such persons.
Member of the Armed Forces of India entering Minicoy on duty.
Persons serving in connection with the administration of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep proceeding to Minicoy on official duty and members of their families.
Officials and non-officials sponsored by any of the Ministries or Departments of the Government of India or the Administrator of Lakshadweep.
Indian Tourists permitted by the Administrator of Lakshadweep.
Non-Indian nationals permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India for visits for such periods as may be specified by the Ministry, or the Administrator of Lakshadweep.
Employees of the Indian federal and state governments, Indian public sector undertakings and bona fide domestic servants and cooks permitted by the Administrator of Lakshadweep.
Maldive nationals permitted by the High Commissioner of India to the Maldives to visit specifically Minicoy for the period not exceeding fifteen days. Such persons may not disembark on any other Lakshadweep island unless permited as per point 6 above.
The High Commissioner of India in Malé shall intimate the names of the persons whose visits are permitted and the period of their stay to the Administrator of Lakshadweep sufficiently in advance. The Administrator may, on valid grounds, extend the period of stay of Maldive nationals.