Martyrs’ Day: December 23
Martyrs’ Day is a public holiday in the Maldives.
Martyr’s Day—or shaheedhunge dhuvas as its known locally—in the Maldives celebrates the death of Sultan Ali VI as he fought the Portuguese with little support from the rest of the people. He died in the battlefield in 1558 and is considered a national hero and a martyr. The date of his death was on the 1st day of the month of Shauban, year 965 A.H. of the Islamic calendar. This is why the date changes from year to year in the Gregorian calendar.
History of Martyrs’ Day in the Maldives
The Portuguese were interested in the Maldives due to the existence on the islands of cowry shells and ambergris, important for the production of perfumes. They were fought back three times by Ali Rasgefaanu, later to become Sultan Ali VI. The Portuguese attacked again in 1558, but Sultan Ali VI could not repel the attacks and eventually was killed. His tomb was built in the same place where he died in Malé, and Martyr’s Day is devoted to him and all that fought by his side for the Maldives.
The Portuguese occupation lasted for 15 years, adding dark pages of history to the Maldives as the Portuguese tried to enforce Christianity on the people. Mohamed Thakurufaanu and his two brothers still fought the Portuguese using guerrilla warfare tactics and managed to retake the island of Malé from the Portuguese leader Andreas Andre.
The Maldives’ Martyrs’ Day Traditions, Customs and Activities
The remembrance of Sultan Ali VI and all other heroes that have fought for the Maldives has generally been decreasing in significance for the people. They usually spend Martyr’s Day quietly at home after going to prayers at a mosque. Some people of the Maldives may enjoy outings to neighboring islands for relaxation and vacation purposes on this day.