Sculpture & Decorative Arts

Excavation in Maldives have revealed a number of statues in the region. Most of the Statues in Maldives are pre-Islamic and are associated with its earlier Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

Photo Source: Photo Source: Maldives National Museum

Excavation in in Ali Alif Atoll also revealed a Giant Buddha Statue, which had been carefully buried and preserved underground for nearly 800 years. (Pictured Below)

Picture Source:

However, there have been a number of incidence of vandalism in Maldives. The destruction of the Gaint statue of Buddha found in the Thoddu is but one example. More recently in  February 2012, a group of Islamic extremists forced their way into the National Museum in Malé and attacked the museum’s collection of pre-Islamic sculptures, destroying nearly the entire collection of thirty Hindu and Buddhist sculptures dating from the 6th to 12th centuries. To read more about the incident please click here:,10753,0,0,1,0#.UfeeU41gc_8

The Maldives National Museum houses a number of impressive statues from Maldives’s past, for further details please click here:

Decorative Art in Maldives

Stone Carving: Corals have been used as a material in construction of mosque (see the details of the coral mosques of Maldives here), walls, tombstones and in mound. Raw corals are easier to work with and most cases corals are left in the sea and part by part are removed and taken to work with.

Photo Source:

Laajehun (Lacquer Work): Laajehun is made from the combination of juices from trees. The use of lacquer travelled to Maldives via China and Japan. Over the year’s Maldivian craftsman have mastered the use of lacquer and use it for a variety of purposes, and this is applied to a number of objects that inspire the decorative art tradition of Maldives, these include: Wood and metallic, Skin and bone of animal and birds, egg shells, paper products, glass, mud products.


on Maldives Culture
Read More…


Maldivian craftsmanship had a regional reputation of excellence. Traditionally handicraft in the Maldives includes mat weaving, embroidery (kasabu boavalhu libaas), coir making and lacquer work, with each island and atoll specializing in one of the many handicraft traditions. As with many developing countries, industrialization and the cheap foreign products have furthered the degradation of the local handicraft industry. Highlights of some handicraft products from Maldives are given below:

Laajehun (Lacquer Work): Laajehun is made from the combination of juices from trees. The use of lacquer travelled to Maldives via China and Japan. Over the year’s Maldivian craftsman have mastered the use of lacquer and use it for a variety of purposes. Besides aesthetic, lacquer has traditionally been used as a protective coating on wood to maintain its quality. Below is a list of objects that lacquer work is usually done on:

  • Wood and metallic
  • Skin and bone of animal and birds
  • Egg Shells
  • Paper products
  • Glass
  • Mud products

Lacquer work is usually divided into two parts: Lacquer preparation, and Lacquer application known as Laa hingun. There are various ways of applying lacquer to the object.  For more information on Maldivian Lacquer work please click here:


Photo Source:

Thun’du Kunaa:
Thun’du kunaa or mat weaving is another prominent feature of Maldivian craftsmanship. Mats are usually made of fine pattern grass or kunaa from G.Dh. Gadhdhoo. These elaborate grass mats make for elegant gifts. Only a knife (used for splitting screw-pine leaves) is used for making kunaa besides the loom of wood with the reed of split bamboo. Kunaa weavers cultivate their own grass and collect the leaves and roots which are used for dyeing. The mats are woven using hau. After the hau is dried it is stained with natural dyes which vary from fawn to black and yellow. The rush is then trimmed and strips are then woven on a horizontal loom.

Photo Source: National Handicraft Center Maldives,

Feyli Viyun: Feyli Viyun, handloom, has been a central part of the Maldivian dress as far back as 1340s. During the monarchy Feyli was worn both by men and women. Traditionally, Men wore the materials on formal occasions while women wore it both formally and informally. Feyli is made from cotton or ‘ui’.

One of the ways to categorize Feyli is on the basis of their measurement and is as follows:

  • Boly Feyli: Worn by both men and women. The special feature of the bolu feyli and the artistry of the weaver is shown by the different designs made on the feyli with Kasabu (needlework using gold and silver thread)
  • Thinfatheege Feyli: Usually worn my men.
  • Hatharufatheege Feyli: Usually worn my women as a wrap around.

While the traditional centers of this craft were the islands such as Dhevvadhu, Fodhdhu and Kachcheymidhu, in recent time, it is Feyli from Baa Atoll Eydhafushi that usually has the best craftsmanship.
Coir Rope:
Coir rope is spun from the fiber extracted from coconut husk after it has been in the sea for few weeks. The fiber is then pounded to separate the fiber stands. Once the strands have dried they are twisted by hands to produce coarse rope of the needed thickness.


The woody skeleton of the coconut palms and the hard portion of spine of palm frond are used in basketry. This craft continues to be used as household items such as covers for food; sieves and winnowers. The use of basketry has evolved to make ecofriendly waste baskets, elaborate shades for lamps.

Stone Carving

Corals have been used as a material in construction of mosque (see the details of the coral mosques of Maldives here), walls, tombstones and in mound. Raw corals are easier to work with and most cases corals are left in the sea and part by part are removed and taken to work with.



While fine art practices, primarily drawing and painting exists in the Maldives, in the Maldivian context the word “art


There are a number of dance forms in Maldives. Over centuries of interaction between cultures on the shores of Maldives, the nation has developed a number of dances.

Bodu Beru: Bodu beru is one of the most popular forms of folk music and dance in Maldives. Participation in Bodu Beru folk music transcends the barriers of age. In Bodu Beru, there is one lead singer and a band of 10-15 people, who sing in chorus and play an assortment of percussion instruments. As the song continues, the rhythm picks up and people come out of the troupe and dance to the tunes of the music. Spectators join to clap and dance. Bodu beru is a tribal dance that usually takes place during most festive occasions. The date the dance was introduced to the country by African slaves from East Africa ranges from the 12th to the 19th century. (Kirsten Ellis and Sansoni 1992)

During the reign of King Mueenuddeen I these slaves were liberated and sent to Feridhoo in Alif-Alif Atoll. It is believed that Boduberu spread out from there to become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the country. The musical instruments that are used consist of three or four drums made from hollowed coconut wood made in the form of small barrels with both ends sealed with goat hide or manta ray skin.

Please click here to watch a video:

Bandiyaa Jehun Dance: Bandiyaa Jehun is a popular dance form that takes place in the Maldives Island. Much like the Indian pot dance, women carry metal water pots as props to sing and dance to the tune of music.  Performers sing and dance to melodious tunes while taping the rhythm on the pots with rings worn on the fingers. Usually, women wear a long skirt and a blouse called Dhigu hedhun. Over the years the dance form and the accompanying accessory have been modified.

Please click here to watch a video:

Bolimalaafath Neshun Folk Dance: Bolimalaafath Neshun is performed by women. It represents the old tradition, when women used to offer presents to the Sultan on special festive occasions such as Eid. Usually, the gifts basket, which consists of shells, is kept in a small beautifully decorated vase called Kurandi Malaafath. The women carrying thevase also wear brightly colored dresses. The dance usually has about 24 performers.

Dhandi Jehun Folk Dance: Dhandi Jehun is a popular dance form performed by a group of around 30 people. The dance style differs in each atoll. The dance consists of a lead singer, who usually sings the “Thaara” songs or “Unbaa” songs, while other group members sing in chorus and dance to the beat of the song. Each performer holds sticks called Dhandi, which he strikes to the Dhandi of the performer facing him in accordance to the beat of the music. Women performers use shorter sticks and move to faster beats, the men use only one piece of stick which is about three feet long and move to slower music. This is mostly performed to celebrate festive events such as Eid and other national occasions.

Kadhaa Maali Folk Dance: This dance form only survives in Kulhudhuffushi in the south Thiladhunmathi atoll. Kadhaa Maali is initiated by beating of drums, and a Kadhaa –consisting of a copper plate and a copper rod. The dance is associated with the warding off of evil spirits associated with terrible sickness and epidemics prevalent in the island community. About 30 men dressed in different costumes dance to the drums. Their garments exhibit various ghostly figures and evil spirits. It is these ghosts or the evil spirits that are addressed as “Maali”. The dance did not develop in isolation. Traditionally, a congregation of the elders of the island would practice a late night walk around the island to ward off the evil spirits. The midnight walking usually began after the late evening prayer, and would continue for three consecutive nights and on the third night as to mark the end of the working the island community would engage in different types of music and dancing. This ritual was a prelude to Kadhaa maali.

For more information on the dance form of Maldives please visit the following sites:



Kirsten Ellis, and Dominic Sansoni. The Maldives: Paradise Isle of the Indian Ocean. McGraw-Hill, 1992.


With the screening of “Thin Fiyavalhu


The history of literature in the Maldives goes back centuries. The most ancient evidence of written text in Maldives is the copper plates grants or L


Maldives cuisine is characterized by its use of coconuts, fish and starches. As a result of cultural overlays Maldives has picked up on various culinary features from across the world especially India and Sri Lanka. Fish and rice are the staple foods of Maldives with meat and chicken eaten only on special occasions. National dishes include fried fish, fish curry, and fish soup. Curries are usually eaten with steamed rice or with roshi. A number of vegetarian options are also available, curry using eggplant, pumpkin, and unripe banana function as the main ingredients. Arecanut is used as an after dinner mint.

The recorded history of the Maldivian gastronomy goes back centuries. Ibn Battuta, the famous traveller, wrote about the use and importance of the coconut tree to people and tradition of Maldives in his work The Rehla of Ibn Battuta – India, Maldive Islands and Ceylon, during this travel in the area in the 14th century. To read the text click here:

Desserts like Banbukeyo Bondibai, Dhonkeyo Kajuru are also very popular in the Maldives.
For recipes of Maldivian cuisine please click here:

Photo Source:

For a video presentation of Maldivan food please click here:

More information on food from Maldives here:

Maldivian dishes have been enjoyed by Maldivians and visitors over centuries. Maldivian food provides a healthy and delicious option for the palate. To learn how to cook Maldivian food please click here:


Rice and Fish

Rice and fish are the foundation of the diet; a day without a meal with rice is nearly inconceivable. Fish, meats, poultry, and vegetables are cooked in spicy curry (torkari) sauces that incorporate cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, and other spices. Muslims do not consume pork and Hindus do not consume beef. Increasingly common is the preparation of ruti, a whole wheat circular flatbread, in the morning, which is eaten with curries from the night before. Also important to the diet is dal, a thin soup based on ground lentils, chickpeas, or other legumes that is poured over rice. A sweet homemade yogurt commonly finishes a meal. A typical meal consists of a large bowl of rice to which is added small portions of fish and vegetable curries. Breakfast is the meal that varies the most, being rice or bread-based. A favorite breakfast dish is panthabhat, leftover cold rice in water or milk mixed with gur (date palm sugar). Food is eaten with the right hand by mixing the curry into the rice and then gathering portions with the fingertips. In city restaurant that cater to foreigners, people may use silverware.

Three meals are consumed daily. Water is the most common beverage. Before the meal, the right hand is washed with water above the eating bowl. With the clean knuckles of the right hand the interior of the bowl is rubbed, the water is discarded, and the bowl is filled with food. After the meal, one washes the right hand aging, holding it over the emptied bowl.

Snacks include fruits such as banana, mango, and jackfruit, as well as puffed rice and small fried food items. For many men, especially in urbanized regions and bazaars, no day is complete without a cup of sweet tea with milk at a small yea stall, sometimes accompanied by confections.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions
At wedding and on important holidays, food plays an important role. At holiday or formal functions, guests, are encouraged to eat to their capacity. At weddings, a common food is biryani, a rice dish with lamb or beef and a blend of spices, particularly saffron. On special occasions, the rice used is one of the finer, thinner-grained types. If biryani is not eaten, a complete multicourse meal is served: foods are brought out sequentially and added to one’s rice bowl after the previous course is finished. A complete dinner may include chicken, fish vegetable, goat, or beef curries and dal. The final bit of rice is finished with yogurt (do).

On other important occasions, such as the Eid holidays, a goat or cow is slaughtered on the premises and curries are prepared form the fresh meat. Some of the meat is given to relatives and to the poor.

To read more about Bangladeshi food please click here.

To learn to how to cook food from Bangladesh please click here.


The folk dress of Maldives is comfortable and adapted to suit well in the tropical weather; cotton being the material of choice. The women wear the Dhivehi libaas. The dress is more often than not adorned with gold and silver colored threads. The men wear Maldivian Sarong and full sleeve white shirts.



Photo Source:


The excavation conducted in the southern Maldives by H.C.P. Bell, the first Archaelogical Commissioner of neighboring Sri Lanka, during the early 1920’s provides a comprehensive report on the pre-Islamic tradition and culture of the Maldives. Bell, in his expedition, examined a ruined stupa in Foh Mulah, and excavated an extensive “sangharama

Heritage Sites

The Maldives lies in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Historically, it was famous for the cowry trade and as a transit point for seafarers crossing from East to West and vice versa. The initial settlers were from India, Sri Lanka, East Africa, Arabia, Persia and the western parts of the Malay Archipelago. The Maldives boasts a cultural fusion with a history that extends to 300 BCE, and an interesting interaction between different religions and importantly between Buddhism and Islam. The local people practiced Buddhism until the conversion Islam in 1153 CE.

Construction in ancient Maldives was mainly dependent on the local availability of materials. Coral stone and timber were the only long lasting materials available and coral stone became the primary building material for monumental buildings. Live reef coral boulders or Porite corals are removed from the seabed, cut to stone blocks while they are soft and air-dried-before it gets used for construction. They were highly suitable for architectural and sculptural works. Coral stone construction methods or coral carpentry existed as early as the Buddhist period and continued until the introduction of masonry in the late 18th century.

Coral stone mosques were most outstanding in their design, decoration and grandness. The walls of the mosques are built of finely shaped interlocking coral blocks. The amount of detail and decoration that goes into these buildings simply displays the extent of the skill of the local people. It can be concluded that stone construction in Maldives became more refined during the Islamic period and the stone building and especially stone carving techniques of the east African Swahili region influenced the already developed techniques of the Buddhist period. It is the fusion of these cultures that led to the emergence of new techniques which is seen in the coral stone mosques in Maldives.
Maldives has proposed the following properties to the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

For a detailed look into Maldives and UNESCO please click here:

Friday Mosque, Ihavandhoo, Haa Alifu Atoll

The Friday Mosque in the island of Ihavandhoo was built in 16 December 1701 CE (15 Rajab 1113 A. H.) during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Muzhiruddin (1701- 1705 CE) and continues to be used as a mosque. The complex consists of the mosque building, a short minaret, an octagonal water well, a mausoleum and the tombstones of the cemetery.

Friday Mosque, Meedhoo, Raa Atoll

The Friday mosque in the island of Meedhoo is believed to be 300 years old and estimated that it was built around 1705 CE during the reign of the first Sultan from Dhiyamigili Dynasty, Sultan Muzaffar Mohamed Imaduddin II (1704- 1721 CE) and continues its use as a mosque till today. It is an example of a coral stone mosque with Dhaalas and Mihrab chamber. The quality of coral workmanship and interior calligraphy is as high as many other mosques and very well maintained. The mosque is a typical small mosque with prayer hall, Mihrab Chamber and side “Dhaalas” or verandah like antechambers on three sides.


Friday Mosque, Malé, Kaafu Atoll

The Friday Mosque in Malé is the most important heritage site of the country with continuous use from the time of construction. The mosque building is the biggest and one of the finest coral stone buildings in the world. In 2008 UNESCO included Malé Friday Mosque and its complex in their Tentative World Heritage List. Malé Friday Mosque is located in the capital island Malé, and was built in 1658 CE during the reign of Sultan Ibrahim Iskandhar I (1648- 1687 CE), replacing the original mosque built in 1153 by the first Muslim Sultan of Maldives, Sultan Mohamed Bin Abdullah.

Eid Mosque, Malé, Kaafu Atoll


The Eid Mosque located in a congested area of the capital island Malé was built in 1815 during the reign of Al-Sultan Mohamed Muinuddin (1799- 1835 CE) replacing an older mosque built during the reign of Sultan Imaduddin (1620-1648 CE) and continues its use as a mosque till today. The historical writings of Hassan Thajuddeen indicate that in about 1815 CE (1230 A.H.), the old Eid Mosque was demolished and a new Eid Mosque was built. The present mosque complex has been reduced to the mosque building and a coral stone well.


Friday Mosque, Fenfushi, Alifu Dhaalu Atoll

The Friday mosque in the island of Fenfushi was built between 1692-1701 CE during the reign of Sultan Mohamed of Dhevvadhu (1692-1701 CE) on the site of an earlier mosque built by Kallhukamanaa continues its use as a mosque till today. The mosque complex has a complete set of components including the mosque building, a unique coral stone bathing tank, coral stone wells, a sun dial, a large cemetery with tombstones of fine quality and a coral masonry boundary wall surrounding the mosque with two entrances. In front of the door there is a shrine that encloses a tomb which is said to be the tomb of this couple’s (the husband was Dhidhdhoo Kakuravathi Thakurufaanu) son Mathukkalaa.


Old Mosque, Isdhoo, Laamu Atoll


The Old mosque in the island of Isdhoo was built in 1701 CE during the reign of Sultan Ali VII and continues its use as a mosque till today. This is the mosque where the copper chronicles ‘Isdhoo Loamaafaanu’ (oldest historical writings found in Maldives) was kept. The mosque complex has the mosque building, old well and a cemetery with tombstones. This mosque is one of the finest surviving examples of a small coral stone mosque with “Dhaala