Great Andamense Narration and Folklore


Tsunami Narration

While we were all asleep, the water rose and filled all around. We did not get up before the water rose. Water filled where we were and as the morning broke the water started to recede. You all don’t move on the seaside, beware the Earth is shaking. Sit in one place and do not move. We were all there when the earthquake came. The eldest told us, the Earth would part, don’t run away or move. The elders told us that’s how we know. Don’t move around, the Earth would split part. After the Earth stops shaking, get up and arrange your bed. If you go somewhere, something will happen. Elders told us this that if you move the Earth would part and we would get sunk.

Note: there is a background noise of other tribals talking to each other in Andamanese Hindi while the food is being cooked in big vessels.

Recorded, transcribed and translated by Dr Alok K Das.

Folk Stories

The Tale of the Ancient Phertajido

In ancient times there lived someone named Phertajido. Phertajido was the first man of the Andaman Islands. He originated from the hollow of a bamboo. He roamed here and there, searched for food and lived alone. He spent his time making bows and arrows.

One day, he shot the arrows here and there in all directions. Next morning, he went to search for the shot arrows. When he searched for the arrows he found a spring and drank the water from it and thus discovered drinking water. He went to look for more of the arrows and found one hidden in the roots of a potato plant. He thus found potato and took some with him. He looked for more of the shot arrows. This time he found the third arrow in the heap of incense (dhoop). He took a bit of the dhoop with him. He went to look for more of the shot arrows. This time he found a very fine soil of kɔʈ. He took some of this also with him. He made pots out of the soil. He dried them to harden. When the pot dried and got hardened, he put the potatoes in the pot and boiled them. He ate those potatoes.

While eating potatoes, an idea came to him to carve a sculpture. He made a human look-alike dummy out of the Kot soil. He put this dummy on a raised platform and burnt some fire under it and dried it well. Thereafter he resumed his bow making. He kept looking at the dummy while busy making the bows and arrows. He ensured that the Kot was lying on the platform. He went again to put some more wood into the fire and then came back to his bow peeling job. He looked back again. The platform shook as the lady Kot turned her side. Phertajido felt good and satisfied in his heart. He stood up again to kindle the fire.

                  When got tired of making bows, he went for hunting. He found a hunt and came back home with it. He looked at the platform from afar while coming. He found nothing on the platform. The platform was empty. His felt dejected and lost. He put down the hunt and sighed, “Where did Kot disappear?” He was feeling sad. He sat down on the ground with a heavy heart. He was oblivious of the fact that the lady Kot was inside the house. Kot saw Pertajido from inside the house and started laughing. She laughed, and laughed until she got tired of it. Surprised, Phertajido looked back. He saw Kot. Phertajido ran to her. He embraced Kot and started crying. After that, both of them started living together. They had many children. Their children married among themselves and thus their clan increased by leaps and bounds.

Phertajido once asked his wife Kot to make ropes. He went o bring pʰarako, a creeper found in the jungle which is good for making rope, and came back with it. He asked his wife to peel the creeper and make rope of it. His wife followed his advice and made a very long rope. It was so long that it coiled in the shape of a heap. Phertajido tied a stone at the head of the rope. He swirled and swirled the rope several times and finally threw it up in the sky. He pulled back the rope and found that the rope was entangled somewhere and would not come down. He twisted the rope to make it harder. The rope tightened. He tugged at it, but the rope would not move. He knew that the rope was stuck somewhere.

He went to call Kot. He said to her, “I will go up above the clouds. I will go and see the place above us. I will find out how the place looks like. I will go there tomorrow.”

Next day he climbed up above the clouds.

He saw the place and was surprised to find many people like himself.

He came back to the earth and told his wife about this. He told her that the place above them was nice and there were many people like the people of Andaman. He suggested her that both of them should go there.

Kot did not like his suggestion. She said, “How can we leave our children’s place?”

Phertajido said, “We will convince our children and then we will go.”

He gathered his children at one place. He tried to convince them. Phertajido said, “My dear children, please keep silence for a while. Your father and your mother are speaking to you. We will no longer stay here on this earth. We will go up above the clouds. You should live your life well here. Our time here is completed. Now we will go.”

Thus saying, they went up above the clouds through the rope.  Once they were up they cut the rope off from above.

An Ancient Story narrated by Nao Jr. on 21st January, 2006 night in Strait Island.

Recorded and Transcribed by Narayan. Reconfirmed and interlinearized by Anvita Abbi on 23.12.2006 in Port Blair.

Maya Jiro Mithe

(This is a story of a boy who belonged to the ‘Jero’ tribe, the tribe that lived near the sea shore. Other tribes who lived near the seashore were Khora, Bo, and Sare. This story tells of the man who was swallowed by a Bol fish and then all the rescuers became birds.)

Jiro Mithe was a young boy from the Jero tribe who was very fond of hunting in the sea.

Once he went thunting in the sea but could not find anything. Later on, he found a tiny sea creature like shrimp called “khata”. He sat down by the seashore to clean it. The more he cleaned it, the bigger it became. Finally, Jiro Mithe swallowed the whole Khata as he could not wait to eat it. While cleaning Khata and swallowing it, he had been sitting in a crouching position.

Suddenly a big fish “bol [1] ” came and swallowed Mithe. He wondered where he was as he was not aware of this new place, i.e., inside the stomach of the Bol fish. He could not even move his limbs as the place was rather tight and slimy.

Mithe Jiro’s family was worried as no one had seen him for one or two days. They went to the seashore and found the remains of the Khata and knew that this must have been the job of Mithe. They also found his bow and arrow and knew immediately that Mithe had not gone for hunting.

“Where can he go?” someone asked.

“He must be somewhere nearby” another said. 

After searching for a long time Mithe was nowhere to be traced. His folks thought ‘he must have been eaten by the Bol’.

The folks started their journey into the sea to hunt for the Bol. They knew that the Bol could not have gone too far as his stomach was full of Mithe. Soon, they saw traces of dirty water in the sea.

“See the dirty line that the Bol fish has left behind” Phatka said.

“Yes, we can trace its track” Kaulo said.

Benge nodded in agreement.

As Phatka was the cleverest of all, he was asked to trace the Bol fish. Phatka went further into the sea.

Soon Phatka found the fish with a bulging belly. In fact, the belly was bulging in a way that all could see that Mithe was still sitting in a crouched position inside the tummy.

Phatka tried to kill the fish with a long bamboo, but it would not reach the Bol. Benge also tried but did not succeed. Finally, they agreed that this job can only be accomplished by Kaulo. They said: “Call Kaulo, call Kaulo,”

They started calling, “Kauloooooo”.

Kaulo heard the voices of Benge and Phatka. ‘Oh, they must have found Mithe.’ He thought and started rowing his boat near them. 

“Where is he?’ Kaulo asked.

“Here he is, here he is” They said.

Kaulo said “look for the fish’s head, it must be in the sand”.

All the folks saw it clearly. The head was hidden in the sand. Kaulo said, “We have to hit him on the head and no where else because if we hit him in the belly, then Mithe will be hurt.”

“We found it we found it,” they yelled when they had found the fish’s head in the sand.

Kaulo hit the head of Bol hard. As soon as he hit him, the Bol started running in the water as fast as he could.

Kaulo ordered everyone to tie their boats with ropes so that the fish could not overturn them and could also be hunted easily. He threw one rope towards the fish to snare him and then Kaulo killed the fish. Thus, the Bol was killed. 

“Tie the fish to the side of the boat and pull him to the shore” Kaulo instructed. His folks did as they were told. They all brought the fish to the seashore and with great care cut his belly with the knife that Kaulo had.

Mithe came out alive but he was still sitting in a crouching position but his limbs had got numb and soft as he had been squeezed in the stomach of Bol.

Everyone helped preparing a machaan or a raised platform and lit a fire under it so that Mithe’s limbs could be warmed. After Mithe was feeling better, one of them asked’

“How will we eat the Bol?”

“We will cut it up in small pieces and then roast them in the fire on the machaan”. Someone suggested.

And that is what everyone did. Each of them cut the huge fish into small pieces. Only the children were left behind. Kaulo’s children said,

‘Abba, cut the fish into pieces and give them to us so that we can cook them in the fire.”

The children started making lot of noise. Some started howling. On hearing their constant demand, Kaulo got very angry but did cut up the fish into small pieces for his children. The children went towards the raised platform and threw the pieces in the fire for roasting them.

When the pieces started getting roasted, one of them [known as totale] kept swelling like a tummy. It kept on increasing in its length too as if it was made of rubber. It became longer and longer and longer….

Kaulo and his folks were so engrossed in cutting the rest of the fish that they did not notice the swelling of the totale.

Suddenly the totale burst with a big noise and all the folks including the children became birds.

Kaulo looked back and realized all the children had become small birds and flew to the sky.

He himself had become a bird.

He looked at the machaan but could not find Mithe.

If the children had not cooked the totale everyone would have been saved. But now, all of them had become birds.

Since then we do not kill Bol fish. And the names of our Andamanese birds are Kaulo, Phatka, Benge.

The story was narrated by Nao Jr. to Anvita Abbi on 4th January 2007 in Port Blair.

[1] Bol is a large fish and is known to swallow big animals such as pigs etc. It hides its head in the seabed, in the sand and can be recognized by the Andamanese easily as it rests in the muck, in shallow water near the bay area.