“Handi mal” – the flower that demons love

“One night I was walking along the finivaamagu road. Out of the blue, I saw a woman on the road. She was walking ahead of me, pacing relatively close to me (just 20 ft away). She was dressed in red, attiring libaas (the traditional Maldivian dress). Her hair was decorated with flowers and the scent of the flowers prevailed the atmosphere. I walked a little faster and then she also paced faster. I started to run. Then she also started run. I ran as fast as I could and reached very close to her. She never turned her head. I intended to stop and grasp her. But I could not have a grip on her although I almost reached her.  Abruptly she vanished. I searched the whole road. I could not find her. Then I realized that it was a handi.” This is how an old fisherman of my district described an incident that he encountered about 40 years ago in Fuvahmulah. 

Crinum asiaticum (KENDHULHU)

Superstitious beliefs have existed since the early days. People also believe that magic influence the political process in the Maldives – throughout its history. Many of us are prone to superstitious beliefs. So it is customary for people to believe in demons, spirits or “supernatural” creatures. 

We believe in various forms of evils spirits- dhevi, vigani, handi, kadoi, bodoi, miskidhaaraa, vigani, handi, baburukalo, avateriya, kirufelihooni edhurukaleygefaanu and so on.

Handi is spirit that takes the form of a fair woman with long disheveled hair, and is usually dressed in red. It is said to be able to travel at great speeds and harm people if disturbed. It is mostly seen in the afternoon or evening. The color red is associated with handi. But people say that it appears in various colors. When afflicted, the victim can be driven insane. There is a belief that handi loves flowers and scents. 

Crinum asiaticum (poison bulb, giant crinum lily, grand crinum lily, spider lily), locally known as handi mal (kendhulhu), is a plant species widely planted in many warmer regions as an ornamental. It is a bulb-forming perennial producing an umbel of large, showy flowers that are prized by gardeners. All parts of the plant are, however, poisonous if ingested. This is a common plant found in the Maldives. 

There is a superstitious belief that Kendhulhu is a plant used by handi. According to elderly people, many avoid this plant, especially at night. If an individual plucks a flower, the handi will possess the person. People claim that some are driven insane due to the assault of handi for disturbing them while they reside in these plants. So it is a great superstitious belief that the flower of these plants are very special to handi.

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