Monday, September 27, 2021
Andaman and Nicobar

People & Lifestyle

▪ Naming ▪ Marriage ▪ Death ▪ Beliefs and Superstitions


Every child is named for life by the mother after one of about twenty conventional names without reference to sex, immediately upon pregnancy becoming evident. To this is subsequently added a nickname varying occasionally from personal peculiarities or sometimes from flattery or reverence. Girls also receive 'flower names' after one of sixteen selected trees which happen to be in flower at the time they reach puberty. The honorifics maia and mam are prefixed out of respect to the names of elderly males and chana to all names of married women. Girls are addressed by the 'flower name' and the elders by the honorific.


The Andamanese are monogamous. Divorce is rare and unknown after the birth of a child. Unfaithfulness after marriage is not common and polyandry, polygamy, bigamy and incest are unknown. Marriage after the death of one party or divorce is usual. Before marriage free intercourse between the sexes within the exogamous limits is the rule, though some conventional precautions are taken to prevent it. Marriages are not religious but are attended with ceremonies.

Marriages are the business of parents or guardians who have a right to betrothal which is regarded as a marriage. There is no caste feeling and tribes will in circumstances favoring it, inter-marriage and adopt each other's children. Within the tribe there is so general a custom of adoption that children above six or seven rarely live with their own parents.

Only husband and wife can eat together. Widows and widowers, bachelors and maidens eat with their own sex only. A man may not address directly a married woman younger than himself nor touch his wife's sister. All this creates a tendency towards the herding together of the women.

Beliefs and Superstitions

The Andamanese idea of the soul arises out of his reflection in water and not out of his shadow.  His reflection is his spirit which goes after death to another jungle world, Chaitan, under the earth which is flat and supported on an immense palm-tree. There the spirit repeats its former life, visits the earth occasionally and has a distinct tendency to transmigrate into other creatures. Every child conceived has had a prior existence and in naming a second child after a previous dead one, because the spirit of the latter has been transferred to the living one.

The superstitions and mythology of the Andamanese are the direct outcome of their beliefs in relation to spirits. Thus fire frightens Eremchanga. They avoid offending the sun and the moon by silence at their rise. Puluga shows himself in storm and so they appease him by throwing explosive leaves on the fire and deter him by burning bees wax because he does not like the smell. Earthquakes are sport of the ancestors. There are lucky and unlucky actions and a few omens and charms. Animals and birds credited with human capacities. Convicts murdered by Jarawas at the beginning of the century have been found with heavy stones placed on them and stones are placed along their pathways. Every Andamanese knows that this is a warning to the birds not to tell the English that the men had been murdered and that the murders had passed along the path in front.

The greater part of the mythology turns on Puluga and his doings with Tomo, the first ancestor, to whom and his wife be brought firi and taught all the arts and for whom he created everything. This belief is still alive and every natural phenomenon is attributed to Puluga.

Other stories relate in a fanciful way the origin of customs. For example tattooing and dancing, of the arts, articles of food, harmful spirits and so on. An important ethnological item in these stories is the constant presence of the ideas of metempsychosis and metamorphosis into animals, fish, birds, stone and other objects in nature. The fauna chiefly known to the Andamanese are considered to be ancestors changed supernaturally into animals.

The Anadamanese believe in the spirits of the forest, the sky and the sea and in the existence of the souls of their dead ancestors. But the ceremonies and rituals characterising their social and religious life are marked by extreme simplicity


Death occasions call for loud lamentation from all connected with the deceased. Babies are buried under the floor of their parent's hut. Adults are either buried in a shallow grave or tied up in a bundle and placed on a platform in a tree. Wreaths of cane leaves are then fastened conspicuously round the encampment and it is deserted for about three months. Burial spots are also sufficiently well marked. Mourning is observed by smearing the head with grey clay and refraining from dancing for the same period. After some months of the bones of the deceased are washed, broken up and made into ornaments to which great importance is attached as mementoes of the deceased and because they are believed to stop pain and cure diseases by simple application to the diseased part. The skull is worn down the back suspended from the neck, usually but not always by the widow, widower or nearest relative. Mourning closes with a ceremonial dance and removal of the clay. The ceremonies connected with the disposal of the dead are conventional, reverential and with some elaboration in detail.