The Realm of the Maldive Islands (Divehi Rajje) has an ancient history going back at least 2,000 years to Buddhist and Hindu times. The founder of the original Hindu kingdom of Deva Mari, Surudasaruna Aditya, the supposed son of King Sri Brahma Aditya of Kalinja. His descendants converted to Buddhism shortly after the 3rd century BC,after which the kingdom became known as Deva Mahal. The Solar Dynasty became extinct in the male line towards the end of the 9th century AD. The last ruler, Queen Dhamaha'ara married another prince from Kalinja, and founded the new Lunar Dynasty.

The islands were invaded by the Chola King during the tenth century, when he established his ruler over the northern most atolls Malikatholhu and Thiladunmathi. The kingdom being reunified again when King Maha Parama expelled the Indians in 1117. In 1153 King Tribhuwana and his brother, Sri Kalo, converted to Islam and built the first mosques at Malé, though Islam first arrived in the islands in 1127. Nevertheless, Islam took quite a long time to take a full hold in all the islands, achieving that end only after several centuries and after several instances of bloodshed and force.

The country numbers over a thousand low-lying coral islands and Atolls scattered like a necklace of pearls in the middle of the Indian Ocean, south west of Ceylon. Increasing trading and cultural links with the Arab world eventually resulted in the establsihment of an Islamic Sultanate in 7th July 1153. Although, it took many centuries before Islam fully permeated through the many islands and throughout society. Strong measures were taken to eradicate non-Muslim beliefs and practices, this included the re-writing of history and the dissavowell of the pre-Islamic heritage of the islands. Nevertheless, the rulers continued to use ancient Sanskrit titles alongside their Islamic styles until the middle of the twentieth century. The sultanate was attacked by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century but regained its independence in 1573. They also fell prey to the marauding rades of the Ali Rajas of Connore, who frequently kidnapped princes and influential nobles and carried them off to the Laccadives.

Although the islands established close trading relations with the Dutch, after that power took control of Ceylon, the Maldives remained splendidly aloof from the Western powers for another two centuries. This continued until the increase in concern by the British that the islands may fall under the control of some other foreign power. The Germans and Italians having recently demonstrated their interest in the eastern seaboard of Africa, and the French in the islands off the south-eastern coast.

The Malives became a British protectorate on 16th December 1887, and thereafter supervised by them according to a unique political doctrine, best described as "sublime indifference". Palace revolutions came and went, Sultans overthrown several times over, even a quasi-republic established in 1953, without the slightest reaction from the protectorate authorities. On one occasion a missintepretation of a letter from the man who should merely have been a regent, resulted in his mistaken recognition as sovereign and Sultan by the Governor of Ceylon in 1893. The Imperial power not being comfortable about losing face by recognizing their error, he was allowed to continue in power, until quietly overthrown during a visit to Suez to marry an Egyptian bride ten years later.

The half-hearted experiment without a sultan 1953 proved unsuccessful. Popular sentiment restored the sultanate in 1954. The country achieved full independence on 26th July 1965, and the Sultan proclaimed King, with the style of His Majesty. However, the old King's popularity did not endure the machinations of ambitious politicians, drunk with the populist dreams then in vogue throughout the Arab world. They engineered a "popular" refurrendum against the monarchy and established a republic on 11th November 1968. The old King died six months later.

The new republican regime was not entirely free of monarchist tendencies. The new President was an Amir of noble and royal descent. The regime not only continued to award the old noble titles but also established a few new ones of its own. However, the republican subsequent regime has proved to be avowedly anti-monarchist, to the point where discussion and even historical research are "severely discouraged". This "strongly held" republican sentiment, however, actually the consequence of several exhaustive but embarrasingly fruitless investigations to establish any Royal descent for the presidential family whatsoever. Since then, by some miracle, a sayyidi descent has emerged, and the family declared to be the senior family of sayyidi descent anywhere on the planet. What need of mere royal connections now.

The Sovereign (after 1965): Jala'ala ul-Malik, i.e. King and the style of His Majesty
NB: previous rulers were styled: Sultan of Land and Sea and Lord of the twelve-thousand islands, holding both the Arabic title of Sultan and the more ancient Divehi title of Maha Radun or Ras Kilege. They also assumed a classical Divehi reign name at their installation or, "gong ceremonies", when they were invested with the Sword of State. The traditional European style for the ruler was Sultan of the Maldive Islands, with the style of His Highness.
The chief consort of the Sovereign: Rani Kilege.
The sons of the Sovereign and grandsons in the male line: Manippulu (in Maldivian) or Amir (in Arabic), i.e. Prince.
The daughters of the Sovereign, and grand-daughters in the male line: Goma (in Maldivian) or Amira (in Arabic), i.e. Princess.
More distant members of the Royal House could be granted the titles of Prince or Princess in a parasol ceremony.

In common with most Islamic societies, the Maldive Islands do not have a system of hereditary nobles. Instead, a limited number of noble titles were bestowed on individuals for their lifetimes. Although normally conferred on members of the Royal House or on aristocrats, the appointment of commoners was not uncommon. In the latter case, appointment to a peerage title raised the status of the family into the aristocracy.
Male Royal titles and titles of nobility for life:
Ras Kilege.
Farina Kilege.
Rannabanderi Kilegefa'anu.
Dorimena Kilegefa'anu.
Oligina Kilege.
Da'arada Kilege.
Kuda Rannabanderi Kilegefa'anu.
Dorimena Kilegefa'anu.

Female Royal titles and titles of nobility for life:
Rani Kilege.
Ma'ava Kilege.
Kamba'adi Kilege.

Ranking after the peerage, were several important administrators, not unlike our own Great Officers of State (furada'ana). These are given here because the titles involved are almost identical to the titles of nobility, but without the suffixes of Kilege or Kilegefan:

Ranking below the Great Officers of State, were a larger number of gentry titles, the more important of these were:
Watha Banderi.

In addition to these official titles, borne by the recipients for life, a hierarchy of hereditary titles by virtue of rank also existed alongside them. Those for males were arranged in the following descending order:
Sultan (the sovereign).
Manippulu (prince).
Maniku (or Manikufa'anu).
The female equivalents of these were:
Goma (or Gomafulu) (princess).

According to the 1931 Constitution, the ruler must be a Sunni Muslim, not guilty of any Sharia offence, male aged 17 years or over, be of sound health and mind, be a free man, have all five senses, able to read and write Dhivehi, have administrative talents, be born as son of the last king, or grandson in the male line of a king descended from king Ghazi Hassan Izudeen, the son of Muhammad Fa'amuladeri Kilegefa'anu of the Huraa dynasty.

Nishan Izzaiytheri Verikan (the Order of the Distinguished Leader): Founded by King Muhammad Farid I ca. 1965. Awarded in five classes (1. Nishan-i-Ghazi, 2. Nishan-i-Izz ud-din, 3. Nishan-i-Shahid-i-'Ali, 4. Nishan-i-Iskander, and 5. Nishan-i-Majidi)
Askari Medalge Verikan (the Military Medal): Founded by King Muhammad Farid I al-Awwal.

Amir: Arabic title meaning commander or prince, used in the Maldives for princes and peers of the realm alike.
Anianga: Minister of State and Royal Announcer.
Atollu: province, not coral reef surrounded by a lagoon.
Atolluverin: provincial governor.
Banda'ara Naibu: Attorney-General.
Bodu: great, grand, chief, principal.
Bodu Banderi: Chief Treasurer, ranking as a Vizier.
Bodu Vazir: Chief Minister or Grand Vizier.
Da'arada (or Dahara'a): General, ranking as a Vizier.
Devehi: the usual term used by Maldivians to describe themselves, meaning "islander".
Dhandanayaka: Minister for Justice.
Divehi: native language of the Maldives, with certain affinities to old Sinhalese or Elu.
Didi: rank suffix first applied to the members of the deposed Diyamigily Dynasty and their descendants, later extended to the non-royal lines of the Hura'age, i.e. Athirige, Henveyruge and the Kaka'age. Later extended to the descendants of the kilege nobles and the commner wives of princes.
Fa'anu: honorific suffix used to increase the status, title or rank of an individual.
Fakha'ama: Excellency.
Fa'amuladeri: Minister of State and Royal Teasurer.
Fandia'aru (or previously Uthupadiari): judge.
: Minister for Police, ranking as a vizier.
Furada'ana: great officers of state.
Goma: "ambergris", the most precious commodity in the islands. A title meaning royal prince or princess, but limited to the latter from the middle of the nineteenth century.
Gomafulu: a royal princess of the first rank, daughter of a Sultan by a Goma.
Hakura'a: one of the Vazierin, Minister for Public Works.
Haadiyari: preacher, ranking as a vizier.
Henevirasun: also transliterated via Arabic as shanuraza, regent or commander-in-chief, once the most senior official after the king.
Kala'a: Prince. A title in use before the accession of the Hurage dynasty.
Kala'afanu: Lord.
Kalaminja: A prince of royal descent from both parents.
Kalifa'anu (or Kalige): suffix borne by those not belonging to the aristocracy or gentry.
: Princess. A title in use before the accession of the Hurage dynasty, later conferred as a special title on commoner wives of Sultans especially promoted to this rank.
Kathiri: kshatriya, noble, exalted.
: the chief spiritual and temporal authority in each island or village, except in Malé, where they only exercised religious authority.
Kilege (or Kilegefa'anu): peerage title limited to eight males and three females, at any one time, three additional titles being created by the Republican regime in 1976, but all such titles were abolished by Act of Parliament in 1979.
Ma'a (or Maha): great.
Banderi: Minister of the Royal Household and Keeper of the Royal Seal.
Ma'afa'akalu: Receiver-General of Revenue, ranking as a vizier.
Ma'ali: Sublime.
Ma'ana'ayak: Admiral, ranking as a vizier.
Ma'apasagi: Minister of State and Keeper of the Royal Records.
Maha Radun: maharaja, great ruler, great king.
: King.
Manippulu (or Manifulu): royal prince, son or grandson of a sultan.
Manikufa'anu: suffix borne by individuals descended from previous Royal dynasties, Sidis, and the children and grandchildren of those holding Kilege titles.
: Director of Immigration and Ports.
Mudimu: administrator working under the Chief Justice and responsible for the maintenance of mosques and burial sites.
Naibu: deputy, lieutenant; chief judicial functionary on each island, responsible to the Chief Justice on Malé.
Pallavainsanu: a Minister of State ranking immediated after the Dhandanayaka and the Uthupadiari, but whose functions remain clear as the office became obsolete many centuries ago.
Radun: raja, ruler, king.
Kilege: queen consort, title of the formally designated and invested consort of the ruler, usually created at a Gong ceremony, not necessarily assumed as of right. Sometimes conferred on the eldest daughter of the reigning Sultan.
Rannabanderi: Minister of State and Keeper of the Crown Jewels.
Ras Kilege: ruler, king.
Rasgefa'anu: demunitive or honorific of Ras Kilege, meaning ruler or king.
Rehendi: regnant female ruler.
Saridaleys: ivory throne.
Seedi (or Sayyid): descendant of the prophet.
Shahbandar: one of the Vazierin, Minister for the Navy or Admiral-in-Chief.
Shanuraza: later transcribed as henevirasun, meaning regent or commander-in-chief, once the most senior official after the king.
Singhassana: lion throne.
Sultan: post-Islamic title for ruler.
Sultana: the usual post-Islamic title for a regnant female ruler, usually accompanied by the Devehi style of Kathiri Maha Rehendi.
Sumuww: "Highness".
Thakurufa'anu (or Takkhan): suffix borne by the gentry.
Uttama Fandia'aru (or previously Uthupadiari): Chief Justice. He ranked before the great offices of state and held charge over civil and ecclesiastical justice, the maintenance of mosques, burial sites, charitable trusts, religious rituals and the recording of the tarikh (state chroncile).
Vazierin: ministers, usually ranking below the great officers of state.
Vela'ana'a: one of the Vazierin, First Lord of the Admiralty or Admiral.
Vizier: minister.
Waqf: charitable trust.
Waliyy ul-Amr (or Wali al-Amir): "Governor in Command", the title of the Head of State during the period of the first "republic" in 1953-1954.

Allama Ahmed Shihabuddine of Midu in Addu Atoll. "Kitab fi Athaari Meedoo el-Qadimiyyeh". Maldive Antiquity.
Bell, H.C.P. 1922-35.  "Excerpta Maldiviana." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Ceylon Branch, 1922-1935. VOL. XXIX, No 75, pp 99-104; No 76, pp 194-214; and No 77, pp 283-303. VOL. XXX, No78, pp 132-142; No 79, pp 257-270; and No 80, pp 436-447. VOL. XXXI, No 81, pp 180-195; No 82, pp 400-415; and No 83, pp 539-578. VOL. XXXII, No 84, pp 76-123; No 85, pp 226-242; and No 86, pp 372-387. VOL. XXXIII, No 87, pp 47-90; and No 88, pp 169-191.
H.C.P. Bell. The Maldive Islands: Monograph on the History, Archaeology and Epigraphy. Government of Ceylon, Colombo, 1940.
Sir Albert Gray. "The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil", Vol I, Vol II (Parts I and II). The Hakluyt Society, First Series 80, 1887-1888.
Clarence Maloney. People of the Maldive Islands. Oriental Longmans, Bombay, 1980.
Hassan A. Maniku & G.D. Wijayawardhana. Isdhoo Loamaafaanu. Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, Colombo, 1986.
Agostinho de Azevedo Meirelles e Domingos de Araujo Affonso (comps). Nobiliário de familílias de Portugal de Felgueiras Gayo. Impressão diplomática do original manuscrito, existente na Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Barcelos. Tomo décimo sétimo. Oficinas Gráficas da PAX, Braga, 1938-1941.
Lars Vilgon. Maldive Odd History: The Maldive Archipelago and its People, Volumes One to Four. Privately published by Lars Vilgon, Stockholm, 1992-1993.
Majid Abdul-Wahhab,
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
Copyright© Christopher Buyers
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who may have changes, corrections or additions to contribute. If you do, please be kind enough to send me an e-mail using the contact details at: Copyright© Christopher Buyers
Copyright© Christopher Buyers

Copyright© Christopher Buyers, August 2000 - October 2008