Republic Day in the Maldives comes on November 11th to celebrate the replacement of the longstanding Sultanate with a republican form of government in 1968.
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The holiday follows close after Victory Day on November 3rd, which celebrates the defeat of terrorists trying to overthrow the republic in 1988. Thus, it is a week full of patriotism and festivities.
The Maldivian sultanate began back in 1153 A.D., when the reigning Buddhist king converted to the Islamic religion. Prior to the Buddhist days, there had been a Hindu monarchy, and before that, the islands were ruled by a succession of Queens. Once established, the sultanate went through nine different dynasties, some of which were overthrown and then reinstated at points.
In 1887, the Maldives became a British protectorate after the sitting sultan signed a deal with the British governor of Ceylon. Sixty-six years later, Maldives briefly became a republic, though still under British control. This occurred because the next in line for sultan declined the job and became president instead. However, the people of Male, the capital, chose a sultan anyway and overthrew the first republic when it was still only months old. A second republic was then set up in 1959 in only three of the 19 atolls that make up Maldives, but it also failed shortly afterward.
Then in 1965, Maldives was granted its independence from Britain, and within a few years, a referendum was held in which 81 percent of the people voted to replace the sultanate with a republic. The parliament actually voted for a republic first on November 15th, 1967, while the referendum was held on March 15th, 1968. On November 11th, 1968, the republic was officially pronounced as having been established. Ibrahim Nasir, who had been the final sultan’s Prime Minister, became the first president of the modern Republic of the Maldives.
Besides being the anniversary of the proclamation of the republic, November 11th is also the day on which a new Maldivian president is inaugurated, though only once in five years.
Every November 11th, Republic Day celebrations are held all over Maldives’ widely scattered islands. They celebrate not only the end of the sultanate but also the beginning of a new era, economically as well as politically, for their nation.
Some ideas on what to do should you be in Maldives on Republic Day are given below:
- Attend official events in Male and all over the country. There will be speeches, special events and ceremonies, and two kinds of parades. The first type of parade is that of the marching band, while the second consists of processions of school kids walking down the streets dressed up in their very best clothes.
- Eat “Republic Day” foods, which you will find in abundance at the celebrations. These include: “huni hakuru folhi,” a kind of coconut cake; “bodibaiy,” a super-sweet rice snack; and “masroshi,” a sort of “fish-stuffed pancake.”
Republic Day is one of the best times to visit Maldives to get a taste of their culture and heritage, even as you also enjoy the many other attractions.