The Flags of Our Past
The Maldivian flag owes its origins to the plain red ensigns of the Arab trading ships which poured out of the Arabian Peninsula and East African coast into the Indian Ocean. The colour red was chosen because of its visibility when contrasted with the blue backdrop of the sea. Countries such as Oman, Zanzibar, Kuwait, the Comoros, and several other Arab states and colonies carried this design as the symbol of their respective nation.
And so a similar red flag was adopted by the Maldives, to be used as personal royal standards of the king and queen consort.
Later, in the 20th century, it became increasingly vital for countries to distinguish themselves from the rest of the world. Citing one of the nation’s most eminent historians Mr. Tanoodhooraiymaagey Shafeegu, one of our kings, though the date is not expressed clearly — most likely from the times around the early nineteenth century — caught sight of his royal red flag soaring from a white mast. A snake-like trail of black ribbon was decoratively wrapped around the mast at a descending angle creating diagonal lines of monochrome color, to which the king took great liking. He went as far as to incorporate the design from this very consequential mast to the royal flag.
Thus, a rectangular red flag was approved by our rulers as the first official national flag. It was marked with a dhandimathi, a band which was checkered with small black and white parallelograms.
Around the late 1920s or early 1930s, the Maldives acquired a new flag design, characterized by a centrally placed white crescent. Variations of the basic design were developed for special purposes to be used by the Sultan or the armed forces, as well as for display on public buildings for official holidays.
In 1953, the Maldives’ first republic was proclaimed (though short-lived), after which the then national flag was dropped. The modern form of the flag has a green panel with a white crescent, symbolic of the national religion, Islam, as well as of progress, prosperity, and peace. Its wide red border serves to represent the nation’s selfless martyrs, and of every drop of blood spilled in sacrifice to their nation.
Finally, on 26th July, 1965, Maldives regained its independence after having been an official British protectorate for nearly 80 years. Following liberation, the dhandimathi (hoist stripe) was erased from the national flag, only to show the tricolor emblem which is still seen today.