Maldives Folklores and Tales: Addu Yaahumbaraha

Adu Yaahumbaraha

The story of Yaahunbaraha is one that many still remembers. There may be different versions, but it is based on a true story. Yaahunbaraha was the biggest ship that was built in the Maldives before the second World War. When our parents tell the story, you may feel like its Titanic as far as the size is concerned.

Biggest Ship ever built

Locally known as Yaahunbaraha, people then thought it’s the biggest ever ship that can be built in the Maldives. Adduans boast building bigger ships than the rest of the Maldives. Yaahunbaraha was the pride of Addu, and owned by the famous Elha Didi ge Ali Didi. For over 20 years Yaahunbaraha sailed the trade route between Ceylon and Addu Atoll on annual trips.

Addu Yaahumbarahaa’s Last Trip

In early 1940s, during the first World War, the Maldives felt no big security threats, the allies were winning, trade trips were severely disrupted. Finally, mighty Yaahunbaraha was   given permission to resume trade. Fully loaded with dry fish, coconuts, and other local produce the vedi started its 10 miles’ journey toward Ceylon. There were 39 people most of them being businessmen.

Sea Monster

With Mohamed Ali as the Captain and Abbeyya ge Ibrahim Didi, the second in command, looking out from the top of the mast, the vessel maneuvered following the currents and sailed on southwest monsoon wind, there was no sign of danger. After several days from Addu, and end of the mighty ship came as   a huge sea monster appeared from the middle of the ocean.

The Fate

A day later anther another vedi was sailing the same route. The maalimee saw a cloud of birds and as they closed on what they  terrified them. The knew it was Yaahumbaraha with dead corpse which the birds were feeding on. Some of them said they should leave immediately, there has been a demon here. But some of the traders didn’t believe the demon story. So they got to a dingy (bokkura) went aboard the drifting vessel to find that the cargo untouched. So they took as much cargo as they can be being careful not take anything that can be identified. They left Yaahumbaraha to its fate and left with their vedi overloaded with goods.


They were all happy but were silent. The fact that they did not know what really happened to the most famous ship and the people terrified them. For the next several weeks, even after arriving Ceylon some of them had nightmares having seen the dead corpse being eaten by the birds who fought on human flesh.


A year later, as the story told, on one of the islands in Addu Atoll a woman spread a mat on the street and put some pillows on the mat. An old lady came by and saw one of the pillows and screamed. “This is my pillow, I made it with my own hands. The woman came out of the house and asked as “what are you saying?”; “this is my pillow”. I swear in the name of God, this is my husband’s pillow,”

“Have you gone mad, it’s my pillow” The young woman said. “No I am not, something happened to my husband.”  The matter was taken to the Island Office. The island Chief brought in all the people who went on that trip and questioned them. Most of them kept silent while one of them revealed the secret. Finally, all of them confessed. They were taken to the court and punished.

Japanese Submarine

Some years after Second World War the two Maldivian men came from Singapore and told the horrific stories.   A Japanese submarine attacked

Yaahumbaraha killed all the people onboard except for the two men Abbeyya and Ali Nasir were the only survivors. They were held in a concentration camp in Singapore.


Credits: Picture widely believed to be Yaahunbaraas in 1941. Copyright: W.Manner/Picture taken from Peter Doling’s ‘From Port T to RAF Gan’

The article is based  on local folklores and information from an article on