The Nakaiy

The seasons in the Maldives are dictated by wind direction: the Iruvai monsoon comes from the NE, the direction of the Indian subcontinent, and the Hulahangu monsoon with winds from the SW, pick up moisture as it moves over the Indian Ocean. These two monsoons were customarily divided into 27 or 28 Naikay.

Link to Nakaiy Almanac, 1994-2022 Explnation
(image left)

The Nakaiy is a Maldivian pre-Islamic indigenous calendar based on monsoonal wind direction. The year's two distinctive seasons are divided into 27 movements that historically governed life in the Atolls. This weather model is now in an uncomfortable relationship with the changed climate and rhythms of life. Through a method of sounding, we have attempted to map complex weather data from 2002 to 2022 through the ancient Nakaiy model. Collecting oral histories, folklore, music and magic we have attempted to weave together multiple forms of knowing the weather.

The Nakaiy was based on the lunar stations as the moon passes in front of constellations in the ecliptic. This calendar divides the ecliptic into 27 segments named after the prominent constellations of the segment. The constellations are called Nakaiy (Sanskrit nakshatra). Nakaiy refers to the divisions of the stars and each division is named after a particular star. The Dhivehi names of the Nakaiy are closely related to Sanskrit so it is evident that this system came to the Maldives from India (Amin, Willets & Marshall, 1992). Each Nakaiy has 13 or 14 days and is fixed with the solar year. Hulhangu (the rainy or wet season) has 18 Nakaiy and Iruvai (the dry season) has nine Nakaiy. Hulhangu monsoon is approximately from 8th April to 9th December and Iruvai monsoon is from 10th December to 7th April. (Adam 2022: 18-19)

The Nakaiy system as a weather/auspiciousness calendar has been used in fishing and life in Islamic traditions too, into the 21st century. Its significance only started diminishing recently. The Nakaiy was deployed in a powerful 2019 political campaign. The remnants of the posters and stencils are seen throughout the Maldives.

Keyolhu Ahmed (Kondey)
GDh Gadhdho, 11/01/2023
Interviewed At Seenuge

07:18 - “...About the changes that are occurring in the seasons (moosun), what I can say is that, then, the wind did change to coincide with the Nakaiy. Now, changes to the winds don't come with Nakaiy. So what happens is, Allah makes things happen among a people according to how they collectively wish for things to happen, right? In that sense, we were only able to travel then, when the winds came.

So, that is how Allah makes it happen for us. That is what I will say about it.

Is that so... now we don’t wish for it?

Now we don’t have a need for the winds. Now we don’t have a care for whatever way the wind blows. We can leave on the engine. Isn’t that right? So we needed it then... Now, I remember when the boats don’t come back after travelling to Male’, the people of this island will go with bondibaiy (rice pudding), there is a Ziyaaraiy (shrine) in Gan, when you arrive near the Ziyaaraiy, the path from to Ziyaaraiy to the shore, the whole path would be cleared. It would have been cleaned. Then once they reach it, they recite what they recite, say their prayers, pray for the winds to turn, and then head back...and by the time the sun rises the next morning the winds would have changed.

These are things that have happened, you know? If you were to ask others also you will know these things. For those winds you would go to that shrine. Once there, having recited what they recite, eaten the bondibaiy, read the salawat and returned, the next day, roughly speaking within two days the winds do change. The winds change and the boats do return.”