His full name was Andrianampoinimerinatompokoindrindra. To date, it remains the longest name that has ever existed in the island country in the Indian Ocean known for its long tongue-twisting names. Many have wondered why Madagascar has a history of long names. And not just names of people, but also names of places are quite long to the extent that they are difficult to pronounce.
The name Andrianampoinimerinatompokoindrindra, formed of 36 characters, belonged to the King of Imerina who reigned from 1787 to 1810. Otherwise known as Andrianampoinimerina the Wise, he is recognized as the father of the Madagascan people. Andrianampoinimerinatompokoindrindra means “the prince who was given birth by Imerina and who is my real lord.”
Since time immemorial, particularly in the 17th century, kings and princes from the Imerina Kingdom had long names. Andrianampoinimerina’s long name isn’t the only interesting fact about the king as some historians say that he succeeded in uniting the kingdom of Madagascar by taking a wife from each tribe in Madagascar.
Considered one of the greatest political rulers and military strategists of all times, Andrianampoinimerina was born in 1745 in Ikaloy in the kingdom of Ambohimanga. His father was Andriamiaramanjaka (King of Ikaloy) and Ranavalonanandriambelomasina (Princess of Ambohimanga) was his mother.
In 1787, he became king of the small Ambohimanga kingdom and went on to defeat the neighboring kingdom of Antananarivo moving his headquarters to Antananarivo. With his aim being to unite Madagascar as one big kingdom, Andrianampoinimerina united the various Merina kingdoms from the central plateau of Madagascar. In fact, he was the first Merina monarch to consolidate his power and make Merina a unified kingdom. He and his armies conquered other highland tribes, including the Betsileo, Sihanaka, Bezanozano and Bara territories.
By 1810, at the time of his death, he had conquered two-thirds of Madagascar. Today, he is regarded as one of the greatest Merinas to have ruled Madagascar before the French occupation. He issued land reforms and trade regulations. Some of his innovations were rice storage for orphans and widows. Besides, each person was given enough land for rice production to help take care of their families. He led various community projects, such as building canals, and standardized the usage of weight scales and all units for volume and length measurements at the markets. The king saw to it that the use of money was standardized and regularised. He also banned the burning of forests and introduced street cleaning.
With many wives and around 30 children, Andrianampoinimerina’s successor was his son Radama I, who continued what his father had started by conquering most of the remaining land of Madagascar with the help of the British.
The Merina Kingdom was the most powerful empire in the history of Madagascar. Its monarchs were almost done with the unification of Madagascar into a single, centralized state when French troops occupied the capital in 1895, turning the island into a colony.
Today, the Merina people make up a large proportion of the educated middle-class of Madagascar, according to Britannica. Most of them are government officials, managers, businessmen, and technicians.