Eid al-Adha is an Islamic festival celebrated on the day after Hajj Day. Its significance is derived from the importance associated with Hajj; an annual Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. Muslims around the world observe this festival colorfully, as it is a public holiday stretching on to a few days.
In Maldives, it is no exception. Eid al-Adha is called “Bodu Eid” due to the “Bodu Mas” tradition observed in many parts of the country, mostly within the local islands. Family and friends usually travel together, some escaping the busy city life, and others to visit loved ones back home.
The day begins with an early morning Eid Prayer; a congregational event with the mosque flooding with worshippers followed by “Kulhi Boakibaa” (fish cake). Each household will prepare an abundance of tasty local food, inviting family, friends and neighbors for breakfast and lunch. Some of these feasts are completed by a “Malaafaiy”. Malaafaiy is the name given to large, wooden serving dishes, with the exterior and lid adorned with beautiful traditional lacquer work. The dishes are typically filled with rice and bowls of curry, as well as other side dishes, salads and bananas, covered by the lid. The Malaafaiy is wrapped in a cloth tied at the top. The cultural events, music and dance make this a memorable occasion. These events begin as early as in the morning and continue until the middle of the night.
The start of the festivities is usually by “Fenkulhi”, a playful activity in which small packets of water are mixed with colored dyes and oils and thrown at each other. While most people love it, some tend to avoid it, but bystanders are likely to get caught in the middle of it as children and adults alike run throughout the island, making everyone a victim of their frolics. It is much like the ever so popular game of Laser Tag, except there are no laser guns involved and everyone is a winner.
Music and dance fill up the streets and houses with joy and happiness. “Bodu Beru Jehun” (playing of big drums) is perhaps the most widely performed form of music and dance today. It consists of men in traditional wear, singing and dancing to songs which vary in mood and rhythm. Most of them begin slowly and increase in tempo and a couple of men start dancing as it progresses. The art of Bodu Beru dancing is unique as the dancers fling their arms and legs and sway to the beat in a fun way. The audience usually joins in - it is enjoyed by men and women of all ages.
Some of the other forms are “Bandiyaa Jehun” (a dance typically carried out by women using pots), “Dhandi Jehun” (a dance carried out using sticks) and “Thaara” which is tambourine, performed by 22 people seated in two parallel rows facing each other.
Various other games and theatrical street performances are enjoyed throughout the day including a parade which involves people painting their bodies with charcoal to represent a Black Demon, or “Dheli Maali” as it is locally called.
Bodu Mas is the most anticipated celebration of the day; it sees islanders gather and fishermen catch a big fish made out of woven coconut palm leaves. “Bodu'' means big whereas “Mas” means fish. This celebration is followed by “Maali Neshun'', a traditional form of dance performed by a group of people painted and dressed up as evil spirits and ghosts. This tradition is based on an ancient folklore in which a Bodu Mas (a big fish) along with Maali (ghosts) had come out from the sea and a struggle to catch this fish ensued. After a long struggle, the villagers are said to have succeeded with the help of a holy man.
While customs of traditions have changed overtime, Bodu Eid remains a testament to the strong community bonds in Maldives. It is a chance to get together, wind down and enjoy vibrant festivities, filled with fits of excitement, laughter and glee.