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Bodufenvalhuge Sidi

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Bodufenvalhuge Sidi

Bodufenvalhuge Sidi or Assayyidhu Bodufenvalhugey Seedhee (1888 - 1970), was a much-celebrated Maldivian intellectual and writer.[1]

Bodufenvalhuge Sidi, born on 19 May 1888 as Hussain el-Hussaini, was Bodufenvalhuge Don Manike and Mohamed Kuda Sidi’s son. He was a poet and also one time chief justice. He married eight ladies and had five surviving children, from four of these marriages. His first wife was Bodugalhuge Aysha Didi, daughter of Bodugaluge Lhatuttu Didi.

Among his descendants are Ahmed Mujuthaba and Mohamed Mustafa, who are both prominent in Maldivian administration and politics.

Bodufenvalhuge Sidi spent several years of his youth in Addu Atoll with his maternal relatives. Addu Atoll was the main centre of learning in the Maldives at that time, the turn of the 20th century. He was educated there by a well-known master and relative, Elhageì Abdullahi Didi son of Ganduvaru Hasan Didi also known as Don Beyya of Meedhu. Bodufenvalhuge Sidi was credited with many of the developments in Maldivian poetry in the 20th century. He was the last major poet to write in the Maldivian poetic style called raivaru and one of the first poets to write in the style called lhen. Bodufenvalhuge Sidi's early poems were mainly political satire.

In 1925, an attempt was made to depose Sultan Mohamed Shamsuddin III in favour of Prince Abdulla Imaduddin, son of the deposed King Siri Kula Sundhura Katthiri Bavana (Sultan Mohamed Imaduddine VI). The deposed king was exiled in Egypt while Abdulla Imaduddine was on a visit to Male' from Egypt. The attempt was foiled in February 1925 and Abdulla Imaduddine was deported to Egypt. The other conspirators were banished to various atolls of the Maldives. Bodufenvalhuge Sidi, the most well-educated and widely respected of the conspirators, was accused of masterminding the plot. He denied the charge and claimed that he advised strongly against the timing and the modus operandi in the plot. Bodufenvalhuge Sidi engaged in hunger strike and refused to answer any questions saying that he had done nothing wrong. After he had agreed to take his food, he insisted that it nust be delivered from his residence. He was successful in having this wish granted and at every meal time his brother-in-law Beruge Yoosuf Fulhu turned up with his meals and waited there while he ate. Bodufenvalhuge Sidi was implying that he did not trust the Maldivian authorities. Usually the authorities meted out summary justice in cases such as that. The victim would be taken outside and given a good flogging with a cat-o-nine-tails until he was covered in blood, then lonumirus (chilli paste) would be applied to his wounds and he would be banished to a remote island. In Bodufenvalhuge Sidi's case they were reluctant to do so because the British had become aware of the situation. The Maldives was then a British Protectorate even though the British were bund by a treaty not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Maldives.[2]

Bodufenvalhuge Sidi was banished to Hulhudheli in a southern atoll. Many of his maternal relatives from Addu Atoll regularly stopped at that island for provisions and water on their way to and from Male'. The authorities then became suspicious and decided to send him to Maamakunudhu, the remotest of the northern islands.

In exile in Maamakunudu Island, Sidi continued to pursue his literary work and wrote much of his poetry. It was there that he adopted his pen name of "Himaarul Qowm" or "Donkey of the Nation". He distributed his poetry, then banned by the government, to his associates in Male' through an ex-wife of his, Maavaa Kileygefaanu Ganduvaru Goma, and his sister Bodufenvalhuge Don Didi. Bodufenvalhuge Sidi remained on Maamakunudu Island for eight years until he was pardoned in a general amnesty following the forced abdication of King Shamsuddin. Upon arrival in Male he was appointed Chief Justice. He was also appointed to the Council of Regency that ruled in the absence of a sultan. After Bodufenvalhuge Sidi returned to Male', he continued to write poetry and a few novels and other books. He was the last known person with a working knowledge of the older Maldive script called Dhives Akuru. As-Sayyid Bodufenvalhuge Sidi was one of the very few Maldivian people of modern times who understood the now-forgotten ancient Divehi letters in which parts of royal grants, warrants and deeds were written. He learnt this ancient Dhivehi writing systems in Addu Atoll. Until early in the twentieth century, all government correspondence to and from Addu Atoll was written using these ancient Divehi letters.

Apart from a stint in politics as the Minister of Education, Bodufenvalhuge Sidi remained in the legal/ecclesiastical professions. His literary work gradually became less radical and more conventional with age. Bodufenvalhuge Sidi died in Male' on 2 June 1970.

Works

Best known among his novels were Dillygey Ibrahim Didi ge Vaahaka, and Maa Makunudu Bodu Isa ge Vaahaka. He also published a treatise on Maldive poetry called Divehi Lhen Hedumuge Masaikaiyterikamuge Ran Taraadu.

In 1959, during Sultan Mohammed Farid’s reign, former Prime Minister (and later President) Ibrahim Nasir expressed a wish to have a book written about the former Maldivian script which by that time was largely ignored by Maldivians. Thus, he contacted As-Sayyid Bodufenvalhuge Sidi who swiftly obliged and wrote Dhivehi Akuru. By means of this small book Bodufenvalhuge Sidi (1888-1970) wanted to clearly show the fact that in ancient times Maldivians were writing from left to right in their own script. Hence ‘DIVEHI AKURU’ is perhaps the only book ever written in Tāna that opens from the left side. The last chapter of this book shows a text where the Divehi Akuru are coming along with Arabic script. As the reader acquainted with Maldivian writing can see, this book is Volume 1 (evvana bai). Perhaps Bodufenvalhuge Sidi had the intention of publishing a second, or perhaps even a third volume on the subject. But unfortunately this important Maldivian learned man died before being able to do so.[3]

Even though H.C.P. Bell did a very careful and thorough research on the Maldivian documents, Prime Minister Ibrahim Nasir’s intention was to have a book on the ancient script of the Maldives written by a Maldivian. Prime Minister Nasir's request to Bodufenvalhuge Sidi was done in order to clarify H.C.P. Bell’s misinterpretations, no matter how few. A staunch Maldivian nationalist, Nasir took this issue as a matter of national pride.

Present day members of Maldivian cultural institutions are aware of the lacunae in Bell's research and of Bodufenvalhuge Sidi's valuable contribution to mend matters, but little has been done to correct those inaccuracies. Still, H.C.P. Bell’s broad and valuable contributions to the study of the Maldivian language and scripts should not be underestimated.

Notes

Bodufenvahuge Sidi. Divehi Akuru; Evvana Bai. Malé 1958. Reprinted and edited by Xavier Romero-Frias with an introduction and Appendixes by the editor.

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