Totem symbolism of clanship. According to anthropologists, in the evolutionary processes all human races had to pass several stages of changes. At the primary stage, according to many anthropologists, totems were adopted by all human groups. Among the aborigines of Australia and the natives of North America totems were found even in the 19th century. In the language of the Ojibwa and the Algonkin of America this was called 'ototeman' meaning 'brother-sister relationship'. Totem is derived from this word. In this society among brothers and sisters of the same group marriage or sexual relations are prohibited.

William Crook has identified the Hindu incarnations as totems. According to him, the incarnations of pig, crocodile, fish, nrsingha (half man-half lion) and 'kalki' or white horse are in fact totems. He has also called the animals gods or goddesses ride totems. He was of the view that Brahma's carrier swan, shiva's bull, Kartika's peacock, agni's ram, Varuna's fish etc support this theory of totems.

Many of the Vedic rsis (saints) is said to have had their names named after lesser animals, which are totems. Beliefs that have evolved later hide their totemic origins. The examples he cited are: Bharadwaj (from a bird called Bharat), Gautam (from cow), Kashyap (from tortoise), Shunak (from dog), Maudgalya (from cat fish), Kaushik (from owl) etc. The evolution of all these family groups owes a lot to totemism.

Among the adibasis (aborigines) of India and Bangladesh, totem culture is still traceable. The santals of Bangladesh are followers of totems. Their clans are known after the names of trees, herbs, animals etc. For instance, the 'Hansda' clan has evolved from duck, 'Hemborom' from betel nut, 'Murmu' from nilgai (wild cow), 'Maran-nadi' from grass and 'Soren' from fighters. Even fruits and stems are identified as totems. [Momen Chowdhury]