Andriana is both the name of the noble class and a title of nobility in Madagascar. Historically, many Malagasy ethnic groups lived in highly stratified caste-based social orders in which the andriana were the political and/or spiritual leaders. Among the Merina of the central highlands of Madagascar, the emergence of a noble class is attributed to its decree by King Andriamanelo (1540–1575), later subdivided into four sub-castes by King Ralambo (1575–1600) and eventually six sub-castes by King Andriamasinavalona (1675–1710).
The use of the word "Andriana" to denote nobility occurs among numerous Malagasy ethnic groups including the Zafiraminia, the Merina, the Betsileo, the Betsimisaraka, the Tsimihety, the Bezanozano, the Antambahoaka and the Antemoro. Andriana often traditionally formed part of the names of Malagasy kings, princes and nobles. Linguistic evidence suggests its origin is traceable back to an ancient Javanese nobility title, although alternate theories have been proposed.
According to K.A. Adelaar, the Malagasy title "andriana" probably originated from the ancient Javanese nobility title Rahadyan (Ra-hady-an), "hady" meaning "Lord" or "Master." In Malagasy the term became Rohandryan and later Roandriana, mainly used in the Southeastern part of the island among the Zafiraminia, Antemoro and Antambahoaka ethnic groups. In the central Highlands among the Merina, Betsileo, Bezanozano, and Sihanaka, the term became Randryan and later Randriana or simply andriana.
Other propositions have also been given on the possible etymology of "andriana", though none has seriously challenged the principal hypothesis cited above, which is based on solid linguistic arguments. Nonetheless, these alternative hypotheses include the Sanskrit aryan, meaning "noble"; the Sanskrit raja, meaning "king" or "prince"; the Hebrew adri; the Sanskrit kshatriya, the noble caste in India—a term that became satrian in Malay, meaning "knight" or "warrior";—or the modern Javanese raden, which itself also probably derives from the Old Javanese rahadyan defined above.
In Madagascar, the name of a Malagasy sovereign, prince or nobleman was often historically composed by placing "Andriana" as a prefix to the remainder of the name. For example, the name of Merina king Andrianampoinimerina is a composite of "Andriana" and "Nampoinimerina", while that of the celebrated Sakalava warrior Andriamisara is formed from "Andriana" and "Misara".
In Madagascar today, names beginning with the "Andria" prefix are common. However, unlike in Western cultures where children automatically inherit the family name of a parent, Malagasy parents are free to choose their child's first and last name as they please. Following the end of the monarchy in Imerina, many parents have chosen to give their children names including the "Andriana" prefix, despite lacking any family connection to the former aristocracy.
Sub-castes among the Merina
King Andriamanelo (1540–1575) is credited with establishing the Andriana as a separate class in early Merina society. This class was sub-divided into four groups by his son, the King Ralambo (1575–1600):
- Andriantompokoindrindra, the Eldest son of the King Ralambo and his direct descendants,
- Zanadralambo amin'Andrianjaka, the other sons of the King Ralambo.
- Andrianamboninolona, the uncle of the King Ralambo and his direct descendants.
- Andriandranando, the great-uncle of the King Ralambo and his direct descendants.
And further it was divided into six groups by Ralambo's great-great-grandson King Andriamasinavalona (1675–1710) based on locality and genealogical proximity to the ruling family. The andriana class was divided again into seven groups by King Andrianampoinimerina (1778-1810). In rank order, these groups are:
- Zazamarolahy (or Marolahy): Direct male descendants of the sovereign. It is among the small, elite sub-group of these called the Zanakandriana that the next ruler was selected.
- Andriamasinavalona: Noble descendants of the four sons of King Andriamasinavalona who were not assigned to rule one of the four sub-divisions of Imerina that had been made the fiefs of his other four sons.
- Andriantompokondrindra: Descendents of King Andriantompokoindrindra, the eldest son of King Ralambo.
- Andrianamboninolona ("Princes Above the People") or Zanakambony ("Sons Above"): Descendents of those who accompanied King Andrianjaka on his conquest of Antananarivo.
- Andriandranando (or Zafinadriandranando): Descendents of the uncle of King Ralambo.
- Zanadralambo amin'Andrianjaka: Descendents of Ralambo's other children who did not accede to the throne.
The Andrianamboninolona, the Andriandranando and the Zanadralambo amin'Andrianjaka are often subsumed under the label Andrianteloray.
Lifestyle in Imerina
The Andriana benefited from numerous privileges in precolonial Madagascar. Land ownership in Imerina was reserved for the andriana class, who ruled over fiefs called menakely. The populace under the rule of an andriana lord owed him—and the king—a certain amount of free labor each year (fanompoana) for public works such as the construction of dikes, rice paddies, roads and town walls. Posts of privilege within the government, such as judges or royal advisers, were likewise reserved for certain groups of andriana.
The valiha, the national instrument of Madagascar, was originally an instrument of the masses but came to be affiliated with the noble class in the 19th century. The valiha featured heavily in the music of the Merina royal court performed at palaces such as Ambohimanga or the Rova at Antananarivo. The strings of the valiha were more easily plucked with the fingernails, which were commonly grown long for this purpose; long fingernails became fashionable and symbolic of belonging to the andriana class within the Kingdom of Imerina.
At Antananarivo, only andriana tombs were allowed to be constructed within town limits. Hovas (freemen) and slaves were required to bury their dead beyond the city walls. The highest ranks of andriana were permitted to distinguish their tombs by the construction of a small, windowless wooden tomb house on top of it, called a trano masina (sacred house) for the king and trano manara (cold house) for the Zanakandriana, Zazamarolahy and Andriamasinavalona. This tradition may have originated with King Andriantompokoindrindra, who is said to have ordered the first trano masina to be built on his tomb in honor of his memory.
Andriana were also subjected to certain restrictions. Marriage outside the caste was forbidden by law among the lowest three ranks of andriana. A high-ranking woman who married a lower-ranking man would take on her husband's lower rank. Although the inverse situation would not cause a high-ranking man to lose status, he would be unable to transfer his rank or property to his children. For these reasons, intermarriage across andriana caste divisions was relatively infrequent.
Role in post-imperial Madagascar
The Andriana, along with the other castes, played an important part in the independence of Madagascar. For instance, Joseph Ravoahangy-Andrianavalona, a Merina nationalist and deputy, was andriana of the Andriamasinavalona sub-caste. The secret nationalist organization V.V.S. (Vy Vato Sakelika) was composed of some Andriana of the intelligentsia. A 1968 study showed that 14% of the population of Imerina was Andriana.
The andriana have been key players in Madagascan political and cultural life after independence as well. The andriana were deeply affected by the 1995 destruction of the royal palace, the Rova, in Antananarivo, and their approval and participation were periodically solicited throughout the reconstruction process.
In 2011, the Council of Kings and Princes of Madagascar promoted the revival of a Christian andriana monarchy that would blend modernity and tradition.
Tantara ny Andriana
Much of the known genealogical history of the Andriana of Imerina comes from Father François Callet's book "Tantara ny Andriana eto Madagasikara" ("History of the Nobles"). This collection of oral tradition about the history of the Merina Dynasty was originally written in Malagasy and published between 1878 and 1881. Callet summarized and translated it in French under the title "Tantara ny Andriana (Histoire des rois)" in 1908. Tantara ny Andriana constitutes the core material for the historians studying the Merina history, and has been commented, criticised, and challenged ever since by historians from Madagascar, Europe, and North America. For examples, refer to Rasamimanana (1930), Ravelojaona et al. (1937), Ramilison (1951), Kent (1970), Berg (1988) or Larson (2000). The work is complemented by oral traditions of other tribes collected by Malagasy historians.
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- History of the Merinas
- History of the Betsileos
- History of the Sakalavas
- List of Malagasy monarchs
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