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.