HDh. Keylakunu

Discover the lush history of Keylakunu Island in the Maldives – a forgotten paradise of vibrant culture, diverse flora, and a tale of resilience.


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Nestled within the Maldives, the 80-hectare island of Keylakunu stands apart with its verdant expanse. Despite a rainstorm rendering it uninhabited two centuries ago, Keylakunu boasts a unique feature – an abundance of large trees and lush foliage. Banyan trees and coconut palms grace different corners of the island, complemented by the presence of kandoofa’s mangroves and other towering flora. Notably, even breadfruit trees, a rarity on rural islands, find their place within Keylakunu’s forest.

HDh Keylakunu Aerial

Echoes of a Forgotten Past

Despite the passage of over 200 years, remnants of human habitation endure on Keylakunu. Canals on its eastern and western sides bear witness to bygone times, believed to have once facilitated travel to and from the island. Vestiges of cemeteries and mosques linger, accompanied by old stone water wells that sustained life long ago.

HDh Keylakunu Ground Shots

Ancestral Heritage and Vibrant Culture

Located in Southern Thiladhunmathi, Keylakunu’s history is rich and storied. Once home to a thriving population, it was renowned for its industrious workforce, skilled artisans, and vibrant culture. Fishing, agriculture, and atoll-wide transportation were its hallmarks. The Keylakunu Mauloodh, a grand gathering of blessings and prayers, stood out as a significant event. Dignitaries from nearby islands graced the occasion, led by a revered figure from the atoll.

HDh Keylakunu Ground Shots

Tragedy Strikes

On December 8, 1821 AD, disaster struck in the form of a devastating rainstorm, marking the 13th Sunday of Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1237 AH. This calamity, intrinsically linked to the bodu mauloodh held on that fateful day, reshaped Keylakunu’s destiny. Various versions of the tale recount how the island succumbed to the elements, as shared by the Keylakunu “Lonu” family.

HDh Keylakunu Ground Shots

A Legacy Preserved

In the aftermath of the rainstorm, Keylakunu’s once-thriving settlement vanished. Descendants of the island’s inhabitants now reside scattered across various provinces and parts of the Maldives. Today, this historically significant island rests under the mantle of protection, a testament to its enduring significance.

In an exclusive interview, Ahmed Mohamed Kurinbi, a 77-year-old member of the Lonu family and a direct descendant of Keylakunu’s past, offers insights into the island’s history and the profound impact of the rainstorm that reshaped its destiny.

Ancestral Lineage Unveiled

Ahmed Mohamed Kurinbi shares his family lineage, tracing back through generations. Lonu Ayyabe, his great-grandfather, was the son of Lonu Hassanbe, and Lonu Hassanbe’s father was Lonu Yousuf Thakurufaanu. Lonu Yousuf Thakurufaanu’s father, an individual who either washed up on Kurinbi during the destructive rainstorm or visited during that period, was none other than the esteemed Lonu Aaila, presently residing in Kurinbi.

HDh Keylakunu Ground Shots

An Island’s Leaders and Events Remembered

On his paternal side, Ahmed’s grandfather, Moosa Katheeb, served as the former island chief of Keylakunu. Ahmed recounts narratives passed down by Moosa Khatheeb, detailing the island’s vibrant history. In its heyday, Keylakunu housed the most extensive population among all atoll islands. The Mauloodh, a significant gathering of blessings and prayers, was set to take place under the guidance of Kanamana Katheeb’s son.

HDh Keylakunu Ground Shots

The Turbulence of Fate

Preparations for the Mauloodh ceremony were in full swing, with feasts and arrangements in every household. However, a peculiar turn of events unfolded as the leader prepared to initiate the ceremony. The crucial turban cloth, essential for the ceremony, went missing, thwarting his participation. It later emerged that the cloth had been concealed by Keylakunu Katheeb’s daughter.

Unforeseen Tragedy and Dispersal

As the community grappled with the unraveling events, an incoming storm cloud loomed on the horizon. Amid the rainstorm, Keylakunu’s destruction commenced, forcing residents to scatter across various islands for safety. Dispersed to places like Kumundhoo, Neykurandhoo, Vaikaradhoo, Kurinbi, and Kulhudufushi, these survivors carried with them the legacy of their lost island.

HDh Keylakunu Ground Shots

Enduring Resilience and Revival

Their migration not only enriched these islands’ populations but also fueled Kulhudufushi’s growth. However, population expansion encountered hurdles. To counter this, the island’s leaders sought a sorcerer’s aid to enhance numbers. Kanbo Rani, a sorcerer from Alifusi, inscribed spells on a piece of wood, which was placed in the mosque. This marked the turning point for Kulhudufushi’s resurgence.

Ahmed Mohamed Kurinbi’s account resonates as a testament to the interwoven threads of history and the resilience that lives on in the generations born from Keylakunu’s legacy.

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