Andhra history is filled with glorious empires, righteous kings, and cultural achievement. From the Andhra dynasty (frequently referred to as Satavahanas) to Ikshvakus to the Kakatiyas, the region is well known and regarded in the pages of Itihaasa and Purana. While Andhras also feature as figures in the Puranas, their historical accomplishments are also many.
Thus, Andhra history can be divided into the Puranic (legendary), Ancient, Medieval, Colonial, and Modern. The fame of its kings, wealth of its region, and beauty of its language remain common themes throughout the annals of Indian history.
Table of Contents
Sons of Visvamitra
Madurai and Thanjavur Nayaks
Pusapatis of Vizianagaram
Alluri, Sitarama Raju
Uprising in Telangana and Operation Polo
Nandamuri, Taraka Rama Rao (NTR)
Pamulaparti, Venkata Narasimha Rao
Nara, Chandra Babu Naidu
The Andhra tribe is first mentioned in the Aitareya brahmana. Originating from North of the Vindhyas, they migrated to the Dakshinapatha and mixed with the Nagas of the region–giving their name to the Andhra desa.
The region also features a unique connection with Maharishi Visvamitra. The great sage had once saved the young boy Shunasepa from an heinous act and adopted him as his son. However Kausika’s natural born sons refused to accept Shunasepa as their brother. In response, the Maharishi cursed them despite their blood relation, and they crossed the Vindhyas–reputedly becoming the progenitors of the modern Andhras.
The name Andhra is also copiously mentioned in the Mahabharata. Krishna’s uncle Kamsa was advised by a vassal king from Andhra named Chanoora. The Andhras are also mentioned as having participated in the Kurukshetra War.
- Rao, P. Ragunadha. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the Earliest Times to 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2012. viii
- Srihari, R. (1984-03-05). Proceedings of the Andhra Pradesh Oriental Conference: Fourth session, Nagarjuna University, Guntur, 3rd to 5th March 1984. The Conference.
The Ancient period of Andhra is still shrouded in mist. While the Puranas have recorded king lists naming rulers from this part of India, modern historians are still reconciling these with the historical record. One particular question is whether the Pauranic Andhra Dynasty were actually Satavahanas.
According to the current historical paradigm, the Andhras were originally feudatories of the Mauryas (who incorporated Andhra desa into the Mauryan Empire). They are delineated in the king lists after the Sungas and Kanvas. The Andhra king defeated and overthrew the last of the Kanva kings and conquered Magadha. British Indology doesn’t answer how long their rule lasted, but Pauranic history gives us a clear history of 32 Andhra Kings in Magadha (many with the Satakarni patronymic of the Satavahanas) spanning 506 years.
The king lists then record that the Andhras were then followed by the famous Gupta dynasty who were also called Andhra-bhrityas, or servants of the Andhras, since the Guptas had served as Generals for Andhra Kings. However, this would also mean the entire current Indian historical record is off by at least several hundred years, as Pauranic history dates the Gupta Dynasty to 327 BCE, not the current 320 CE. It is up to future Indians to resolve this colonial holdover.
In any event, we do know that the Satavahanas ruled Andhra from Amaravati. The present historical and the Pauranic historical construct both assert that the Satavahanas were one and the same as the Andhras, beginning with their first king Simuka.
Simuka is the first recorded king of the Satavahana dynasty, and is dated to 221 BCE. Satavahana comes from the words Sata (Lion) and Vahana (Vehicle). Thus, the Satavahanas were those who rode the Lion as their Mount. The Lion and Narasimha Swami remain important to Andhras to this day. Foreign accounts from the time record that the ” the Andarae, a still more powerful race, which possesses numerous villages, and thirty towns defended by walls and towers, and which supplies its king with an army of 100,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and 1,000 elephants” were next in power to the Mauryas. In fact, following the Sungas and Kanvas, the Andhra dynasty is credited to be the next dynasty to establish its rule in Magadha, after conquering Pataliputra. The Matsya Purana lists 30 Andhra rulers in the King Lists. The greatest ruler however was Gautamiputra Satakarni.
Indeed, Gautamiputra’s is a glorious name and period (the Saka-Salivahana era 78 CE is attributed to him) and he defeated the central asian invaders who broke into India after the fall of the Mauryas. As the Kshatrapas assimilated into indic culture (their king Rudradaman was a famous sanskrit poet), they intermarried with the Satavahanas, with both Gautamiputra and his successors boasting Saka brides.The last great king of this lineage was Yajnasri Satakarni who again defeated his Saka relations.
The Satavahanas were known not only for their military prowess, which safeguarded large sections of India from barbarian invasions, but also for their maritime trade expansion and cultural impact. Despite being orthodox Brahmanas, the Satavahanas also patronized buddhism. Indeed, their second capital at Amaravati (Guntur) became a thriving buddhist center, famous for a grand stupa. Learning, art, and culture also thrived in this era. The celebrated buddhist scholar Nagarjuna was a notable figure during this period. The Satavahana empire ultimately broke up around 224 CE, with feudatories such as the Chutus declaring independence and new entrants emerging on the scene.
Ikshvaku is a legendary name not only in Andhra, but all of India. This mighty kshatriya lineage originates in the sacred city of Ayodhya, where the Suryavanshi dynasty of Sri Rama ruled. As with much of Indian history, confirmation of this is hard to come by, but available records assert that the Ikshvakus who ruled Kosala moved across the Vindhyas after being defeated by Mahapadma Nanda and established Dakshina Kosala. An Ikshvaku prince named Yashodara is credited with founding the dynasty’s rule in Andhra at Pratipalapura (Bhattiprolu).
The Salankayanas were the next Andhra dynasty to rule in the region. Their kingdom was based between the Krishna and Godavari rivers. Their capital was at Vengi in Godavari district. Telugu as a language started to be distinctly identifiable in this period. They were vassals of the Pallavas and were eventually defeated and overthrown by the Vishnukundins. Despite being patrons of the orthodoxy, they also constructed viharas for Buddhists.
The Pallavas had originally ruled as feudatories of the Satavahanas–lending further credence to the theory of the their Telugu origins. They eventually struck it out on their own under Simhavarman I and had expansive domains primarily anchored around northern Tamil Nadu. They famously warred with the Chalukya dynasty, with a cross-peninsula rivalry that would take both lineages to each other’s capitals. Their earliest inscriptions are found in Nellore and Guntur. Ruling from Kanchipuram, this dynasty dominated southern Andhra and northern Tamil country for several hundred years, before being unseated by the Cholas during the reign of Aparajitavarman.
The Vishnukundinas (375 CE-612CE) were a traditional Telugu speaking kshatriya dynasty who ruled from Indrapalanagara, in modern Nalgonda district. Centering their capital in the heart of Andhra, they were able to project power not only in the rest of Andhra, but Orissa as well. They arose in the period when the Vakatakas began to ebb and following a matrimonial alliance with the latter, the Vishnukundinas became a Deccan wide imperial presence. Other rajdhanis of this clan include Vengi and Amaravati.
The dynasty reached its highpoint under Madhav Varma II whose conquests earned him the title Dakshinapatha-pati (Lord of the South)–this would be later emulated by the Chalukyas under Pulakesin II.
The Vishnukundinas were no stranger to literary accomplishment. Vikramendra Varma I was a well recognized poet and was described as Mahakavi. What he lacked as a ruler he made up for in literary gifts. An incomplete work on Sanskrit poetics called “Janasraya Chando Vichiti”, is credited to Madhav Varma IV who received the title of “Janasraya”. The Vishnukundinas were eventually eclipsed by the Eastern Chalukyas, who ruled Andhra from Vengi.
- Rao, P. Ragunadha. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the Earliest Times to 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2012. 1-23
- G. Durga Prasad, History of the Andhras up to 1565 A. D., . Guntur: P.G. Publishers.9-84. 1988
- Plin. Hist. Nat. VI. 21. 8 23. 11., quoting Megasthenes
The early medieval period saw an eclipse of Andhra power. The region which once sent its armies across the Vindhyas to safeguard India from barbarians, came under the rule of neighboring Indian powers. The Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Vengi Chalukyas, and Telugu Cholas all made contributions to Andhra during the heydays of their influence. Andhra power eventually reasserted itself in one of India’s most stubborn opponents to the Delhi Sultans, the Kakatiyas.
The Kakatiya dynasty (1000CE-1323CE) represents the fructified dream of a unified Andhra. Though the family steadily increased its fortunes in the employ of medieval empires such as the Rashtrakutas and Chalukyas under chieftains such as Venna and Erra, it eventually founded its own kingdom first at Hanumakonda then at the Capital of the Andhras: Warangal. Coming from the word Oru kallu (one stone, or Ekasila in sanskrit), Warangal was an excellently fortified city, the ruins of which can still be seen today at the UNESCO heritage site. This once great city of the Andhras was founded by the dynasty which would go on to unify all the Telugu speaking peoples under their own banner for the first time in half a millennium.
While the royal dynasty begins with Beta I, Kakatiya’s first prominent ruler was Rudra deva who declared independence from the Chalukyas. It was he who first enlarged the dynasties minor holdings into a strong and expansive kingdom. Having reached the coasts and the Godavari delta, Rudra deva constructed the Thousand Pillar temple at Hanumakonda. This king then expanded south to Srisailam. He eventually came into conflict with the Seuna king of Devagiri who invaded Andhra. He died opposing the invaders, and was succeeded by his younger brother Mahadeva, who fell while beseiging the mighty Devagiri fort of Maharashtra.
Rudra deva was also an accomplished author, having written the Sanskrit work Nitisara. The great Battle of Palnadu (1163) was fought during his reign, resulting in the eclipse of the Telugu Chodas and the ultimate ascendancy of the Kakatiyas.
Battle of Palnadu
Photo: Wiki Commons
Referred to as the “Andhra Kurukshetra”, the Palnati Yuddham was a pivotal battle was immortalized by the poet Srinatha in his composition Palnati Veera Carita. This clash on the fields of Palnadu had an array of courageous knights and even featured an Andhra Abhimanyu in a heroic warrior named Balachandra. This battle brought an end to the Vengi Chalukyas and set the stage for the rise of the Kakatiyas.
The antagonists on one side were Vira Raju and Nagamma Reddy (Kalachuri vassals) and on the other was his step brother Malideva, supported by Recherla Dodda and Brahma Naidu (Chalukya vassals in Andhra). The latter appear to have been in favor of abolishing caste distinctions among the ruling classes. In true, Mahabharata fashion, they were exiled for 7 years (in the wake of mutual suspicions). In the fateful battle on the banks of the Naguleru, the flower of Andhra chivalry died in a cataclysm worthy of the middle ages (though this generation of warriors would have been better used in fighting off foreign invasion of the North).
The Recherla faction was ultimately victorious, though Vira Raju was reinstated due to the death of Malideva. The war in turn exposed the vulnerability of the Vengi Chalukyas, leading to war with surrounding states and the ascendancy of the Kakatiyas.
The Palnati Yuddham was memorialized in the 1947 and 1966 Telugu films of the same name.
The Great Rulers
The next ruler of note was Ganapati Deva. Though taken captive by the Yadavas to ensure the loyal Kakatiya general Racharla Rudra’s cooperation, upon his release, this nephew of Rudra Deva went on to be crowned and unite virtually all of Andhra under his rule, which extended as far south as Nellore. He even conquered Kanchipuram and laid its kingdom to tribute. The international port of Motupalli gained prominence under him and the great fortress of Golkonda was constructed by him. His reign was possibly the most celebrated in the annals of the dynasty.
The third major ruler of the dynasty was in fact a Queen: Rudrama Devi. Deprived of male heirs, Ganapati Deva took the uncommon but religiously sanctioned step of using the putrika ceremony to anoint his daughter as Yuvarani, and for all practical purposes, she would be treated as the soon-to-be coronated son of the king.
Rudramba remains celebrated to this day as the only ruling Queen of Andhra. She is also celebrated for her stout resistance to the invading Seunas, and for the unceremonious defeat she inflicted upon them despite the odds. Despite the valor of this Queen, she fell in battle when her expedition to put down a revolt in Kadapa was defeated by an ambitious feudatory, Amba deva.
The final ruler of the Kakatiyas was Prataparudra, who avenged his grandmother by vanquishing the rebellious Amba deva in a well planned 3-prong campaign. He expanded his kingdom to the Raichur doab, Bastar in Madhya Pradesh, and even northern Tamil country, transforming it to a true Samrajya. This king however is best known for his heroic resistance to the Delhi sultans, and he annihilated their army at the great battle of Upparapalli (in modern Karimnagar). Alauddin Khilji’s favorite general, Malik Kafur returned with another army four years later in 1307. Though he laid siege to Warangal, the defenses were too strong and the resistance of the Andhras too great for the Turks to breach, so Prataparudra stood resolute.
Unable to defeat the powerful Andhra King in his well-defended position, the frustrated Kafur instead decided to engage in rapine and murder all around the surrounding countryside. Moved by this tragic scene of his subjects suffering under these cruel and cowardly barbarian tactics that violated all the laws of civilized warfare in India, Prataparudra decided to accept defeat and pay tribute instead. While this was a nobly sentimental move, he should should have accepted the unfortunate casualties as the price of freedom, and made the enemy pay in blood rather than pay the enemy in gold. All this did was make Delhi stronger and fabulously rich with Andhra’s captured wealth (including the kohinoor). Nevertheless, he would, however, go on to throw off the Delhi yoke at the first opportunity.
It took 5 entire campaigns against him before the Kakatiyas were finally destroyed. Indeed Prataparudra crushed another Delhi army in the fourth campaign when he bravely sallied forth from his capital to wipe out Ulugh Khan’s forces. He however failed to follow up on this victory and take war to the enemy. As a result, Delhi sent another force within a year, and through the use of of new and more powerful catapult, Delhi finally conquered Warangal after breaching its walls. Prataparudra’s valiant life ended in chains, submerged in the River Narmada.
Despite the self-sacrifice of the last king of this dynasty, history also offers lessons to not only all Andhras, but all Indians as well. Prataparudra should have been aware of the fate of the Yadavas of Devagiri, who were tricked by Alauddin Khilji into thinking he was a horse trader before he surrounded their poorly provisioned capital and starved them into submission. Despite the dynastic bad blood, he should have sent aid to the ironically named Ramachandra Seuna. Surely even the most basic intelligence would have informed him of Turk atrocity in the North and appetite for conquest in the South. He should have known that after Devagiri, Warangal would be next.
He would have been better served had he followed the path of another Pratap, who as the Maharana of Mewar, stoutly and continuously resisted the Mughals and regained most of his kingdom without ever bowing his head. Prataparudra should have laid the groundwork for a long war and allowed for a swift deccan cavalry to transport him from a network of capitals, forts, and hill refuges, as the Maharana did from Chitor, Kumbhalgarh, and Gogunda and retake his land after tactical retreat. He also should have laid more emphasis on diplomatic efforts to create an alliance against Delhi, rather than fight the Sultans (who ruled a much larger empire) on his own. As was said during the American Revolution, better to hang together than hang separately. While Prataparudra should be celebrated for his long fight and noble end, the kshatriya’s duty is to “save from destruction” not only with his sword and city, but also through his mind and will.
In the 300 year rule of the Kakatiyas, great works of literature were produced. The Andhra Mahabharatamu started under Nannaya, and finished under Tikkana, is dated to the early period. Tikkana also produced the Nirvachanottara Ramayana. Most famously, Gona Buddha Reddi, a feudatory of Rudradeva, was the first to translate the Ramayana into Telugu with the Ranganatha Ramayana (one of the reference works for Ramanand Sagar’s famous serial). Marana (a student of Tikkana’s) wrote the Markandeya Puranam in Telugu, and Baddena (a subordinate king) produced the Sumati Satakam and Niti Sastra. Other important Telugu works of the period include Nannechoda’s Kumara Sambhavam, Ketanas’ Dasakumara Charitra, and Manchana’s Keyurabahu Charitra.
Sanskrit works produced under Kakatiya patronage include Satkalyamalla’s Udatta Raghava Kavyam, Jayapa Senani’s Nritya, Gita, and Vadya Ratnavalis; and most notably, Maharaja Rudradeva himself authored a Niti Sara. Prataparudra himself composed a drama (Yayati Charitramu) and scholar-Poet Vidyanatha’s treatise on rhetoric was called Pratapa Rudra Yaso Bhushana in his patron’s honor . Thus Prataprudra himself was not only a benevolent ruler, and courageous warrior, but a man of culture and literature as well. This great king was not only a valorous warrior General, but a wise and prosperous ruler with cultural sensibility.
Marco Polo is recorded to have visited the Kakatiya port city of Motupalli in A.D. 1293. He had a high impression of the kingdom’s wealth and the efficiency of its administration. He even mentions the fort of Golkonda constructed by the Kakatiyas, and spoke highly of it as well as the diamonds for which the region was famous.
Great irrigation works were also produced via numerous viaducts, tanks, and lakes (most famously Ramappa and Parkhal). Prataparudra in particularly reclaimed jungle tracts in Rayalaseema. While the founder of his dynasty was a Jaina, Prataparudra (like the majority of the dynasty) was a devoted (but tolerant) Saiva. The renaissance of Saivism in this period is credited to Sripati, Manchana, and Mallikarjuna Panditaradhya.
The tragic fall of Warangal in 1323 was shortlived, as the brave and celebrated Musunuri Nayaks avenged the end of their former liege-lord and retook the capital of the Andhras.
Prolaya and Kapaya Musunuri are credited with leading this confederacy of Nayaks that resisted the Delhi Sultans and fought on behalf of Dharma. Following the fall of Warangal, a wave of patriotic feeling swept the lords of Andhra, and the 75 Nayaks all swore allegiance to the Musunuris and Telugu Thalli to unburden the sacred earth from the barbarian foreign invaders who plundered and defiled the land. In a rapid campaign, Ekashila (Warangal) was retaken a mere 3 years after its capture. Having served his purpose of uniting the clans and refurbishing the national fortifications, Prolaya Nayak retired to Rekapalli fort.
His cousin Krishna (Kapaya) Nayaka continued the struggle even managing to retake the great fortress of Golkonda that was constructed by the Kakatiyas. He had liberated virtually the entire Andhra country from the Turushka. Alas, the tragic flaw of unholy ambition and mindless rivalry soon afflicted the great confederacy of Nayaks. The jealous and traitorous Recherla Nayaks sold out to Sultans and even induced them to attack Krishna Nayaka so that they could expand at his expense. Indeed, they truly were the Jaichands of the South.
Krishna Nayaka sacrificed everything for the freedom of the Andhras–his kingdom, his son (Vinayaja Deva–who led an ill-fated offensive campaign against Mohammed Shah), even his own life. This brave soul eventually fell in battle, achieving a martyr’s death fighting the treacherous sons of Singama Nayak (of the Recherlas).
The kingdom of Rachakonda was one of the successor states of the Kakatiya dynasty. It arose due to the intrigues among the Nayaks (no doubt encouraged by the Turks) following the retaking of Warangal. Due to the politics of the time and their rivalry with the Reddy Kingdom, the Recherlas of Rachakonda shamelessly allied with the Bahmanis against Vijayanagara. This unfortunate move went against both Rajadharma and Rajaniti (not to mention, buddhi…) as Rachakonda ended up being taken over by the Bahmanis anyways. Perhaps the Kings of Rachakonda would have been better off had they allied with the Gajapatis of Orissa or even better, worked out their differences with the Vijayanagara Empire and the Reddy kingdom, who after all, were fellow Telugu speakers.
Despite the strategic foolishness and anti-national selfishness of these rulers, they showed better judgment in cultural matters and are notable for patronizing the famed poets Srinatha and Pothana.
The Reddy kings represent the commitment of all four varnas to hindu dharma. Though of the fourth varna, this dynasty arose to fill the terrible vacuum left in the wake of the Khilji invasions from Delhi. They proudly declared their restoration of the agraharas to the Brahmanas after having driven off the Turushkas in a popular rebellion.
The dynasty had a number of great rulers who reigned as Rajas. Their capitals were at Addanki, Kondaveedu, and finally Rajamahendri (Rajahmundry). The great forts of Kondaveedu and Kondapalli were constructed by them.
The Reddy kings should be credited for their strategic thinking (all-too-frequently wanting in Indians of that period…and even today). While guerrilla warfare tactics appear to have been used by the Kakatiya vassals to frequently defeat attacking Delhi Sultanate armies, Vema Reddy used them for offensive effect and retook Andhra territory lost to the Turks.
Contrary to colonial history books, the tide of Islamic invasion had been held back by Hindu armies for several hundred years (Rajput armies had decisively defeated the Arab invasions at the Battle of Rajasthan and even managed to halt the Ghaznavid invasions at the Battle of Bahraich). However the Turk armies under both the Ghaznavids and Ghurids and their successors were known not only for their barbarity but for their unorthodox and lightning fast cavalry archer tactics. Rather than the fight them with the traditional heavy and lumbering armored hindu armies, the Vema used guerrilla tactics to great effect, skillfully using light infantry drawn from the ranks of the peasantry. In adapting to the new situation and understanding the nature of the enemy, they were able to rule the coastal Andhra region for over a hundred years and keep it sheltered from the depredations of the Bahmani Sultans.
The Empire of Vijayanagara represents the glorious noontide of Andhra culture and the Telugu language. Though the empire was seated in Karnataka, mana samskruti flowered like never before at the “City of Victory”.
There are two main stories involving the founding of this mighty imperium. One suggests that the founders, Harihara/Hakka and Bukka hailed from a region in Karnataka (Kampili). The other and more popular one is that they were Andhra nobles in the court of Prataparudra and were captured and converted following the fall of Warangal. Though they were sent back down from Delhi to consolidate Khilji rule in south, in both versions they rebelled under the guidance of Sage Vidyaranya and reconverted to Hindu Dharma, becoming the foremost protectors of it in that period. While the original capital was at Anegondi, and there were later capitals in Telugu country at Chandragiri and Penukonda, Vijayanagara was the second and greatest seat of the empire, giving it its name. Thus was born the Vijayanagara empire and the Sangama Dynasty
Harihara was the founder of both the Empire and the Sangama dynasty. Whether he was a treasury official or a noble or a soldier from the court of the Kakatiyas, Hakka Raya formed what would become a solid wall against foreign invasion for almost 300 years. Due the efforts of him and his successors, Andhra samskruti and Indic civilization was allowed to continue to flower in South India.
Hakka Raya established the imperial capital at Anegondi. The first Raya was then succeeded by his younger brother.
The 2nd Raya engaged in large scale expansion of the empire. He shifted the capital from Anegondi to the better defended Vijayanagara. This massive city was protected by surrounding hills and a ring of forts. There was a also a lake to ensure fresh water during sieges. He spread throughout south India. Most notably, his younger son, Kumara Kampana was celebrated for his great victory over the Sultanate of Madurai, which had been oppressing the ill-starred residents of that unfortunate city for 70 years. His exploits were memorialized by his wife, the Andhra Princess Ganga Devi, who wrote in chaste sanskrit. Bukka Raya was also a great patron of learning. In addition to his family preceptor, VIdyaranya, the scholar Sayanacharya was a key figure in his court. In addition to this sage’s commentaries on the Vedas and Upanishads, he is also notable for having recorded the speed of light (186,000 mi/sec). Thus, the Vijayanagara empire stood for Dharma and Learning (in that order).
Despite the greatness of Prince Kampana, Bukka’s successors presided over a period of relative stagnation and later decline in the empire.
There were however, two exceptions to this in the Sangama dynasty. The first was Harihara II, who expanded all along the eastern and western coasts, conquering even Goa and Chaul in Maharashtra.
The second was Deva Raya II. Not only did he expand the empire territorially, but presided over a cultural flowering. As a ruler, he managed to successfully defend against attack from the Bahmanis. The with the exception of the extreme north of Karnataka and the Golkonda region, virtually all of South India was at his feet. Even the rulers of Ceylon and Burma paid him tribute. There was also a literary flowering at the court, as the poet Srinatha left Rachakonda and became the star attraction at Vijayanagara. The Persian Ambassador Abdur Razzak said the following about “The City of Victory” under the rule of this greatest of Sangamas:
“[The] ear of intelligence had never been informed that there existed anything equal to Vijayanagara in the world” and the “pupil of eye has never seen a place like it”
This proud master of the South (and lion of a pride of 4000 queens), was succeeded by lesser men. The last ruler of this dynasty was Praudha Raya, who other than committing patricide to rid the empire of his corrupt and unpopular father, authored a sanskrit work on erotics, Ratipradipika.
The final Rayas of the Sangama were deeply unpopular and unable to defend the empire against the simultaneous depredations of the Bahmanis and Gajapatis–the capital itself was now threatened. Riding on the palace revolution led by Praudha Raya, Narasimha was able to salvage the rapidly declining fortunes of Vijayanagara. Saluva Narasimha was one of the great generals of the Sangamas, and he was able to stabilize the empire within and secure it without, barring one major reverse against the Gajapatis, where he was captured and forced to give up Udayagiri.
As prince Thimma Bhupala proved to be unpopulared and was murdered by an army commander, prince Immadi Narasimha Raya II (his younger brother) soon took the throne. Real power however laid with Tuluva Narasa Nayaka, who had been serving as regent since Saluva Narasimha’s death. Tuluva Vira Narasimha took his title afterwards and then overthrew Narasimha Raya II, ending the brief Saluva dynasty.
The high point of Vijayanagara’s empire was surely under the Tuluva dynasty. While the founders of it had started off as regents, the were ultimately able to stabilize the empire and take it to its grandest heights. While Tuluva Narasa and Vira Narasimha were able to wield power and steady it, taking formal power in the process, it was Vira Narasimha’s younger brother, Krishna Deva, who was the greatest hero of the dynasty and the Empire.
Sri Krishna Deva Raya
KDR is without a doubt one of India’s greatest rulers. He was described by Niccolo Conti as genial, medium build and complexion, and terrifying in anger. A disciplined king, he started his mornings with a daily workout and riding routine with a regimented diet.
Equipped with martial and strategic skills, the Emperor was one of the great commanders of any era, inflicting crushing defeats on the Deccan Sultans and Gajapatis alike. Indeed, he managed to finally bring the ruler of Orissa to heel, after 100 years of the latter’s selfish opportunism at Vijayanagara’s expense (rather than make common cause against the Deccanis). His defeat of the Sultan of Bijapur was even more ground-shaking, as he even occupied the deccani capital.
Curiously, KDR chose to return the city to the Adil Shahis after releasing Sultan Mahmud from prison. Why he chose to do so is not clear, as this move proved to have catastrophic consequences in less than 50 years. Indeed, rather than choosing the haughty and magnanimous title of “Establisher of the Yavana Kingdom”, the Raya should have been “Dis-establisher of the Yavana Kingdom” and added those dominions to be protected under his Chhatra. Nevertheless, his singular military masterpiece was the battle of Raichur, where facing defeat, the brave Raya organized a final cavalry charged that scattered and destroyed the enemy. His shrewd diplomacy with the Portuguese ensured a steady supply of war horses and assistance against the Sultanates.
Krishna Deva Raya’s greatness stems not only from his military and political victories, but also from his culture. In the great tradition of Vikramaditya before him, this warrior poet patronized a galaxy of literati known as the Ashtadiggajjas. These 8 laureates were Allasani Peddana, Dhurjati, Nandi Thimmana, Madayyagari Mallana, Ayyalaraju Ramabhadrudu and Tenali Ramakrishna. Devaraya himself was no stranger to composition, penning the famous Telugu work Amuktamalyada. Whether he was from Andhra or not, few in history have matched the passion for and patronage of Telugu for which the Emperor was known.
The Lord of the South was considered the most powerful king of India by Babur the Mughal, a testament to his historical importance. Indeed, had the Raya’s line not prematurely ended in tragic circumstances, this master of war and statecraft could indeed have launched a peninsular or even pan-Indian empire. Indeed, true lovers of Andhra cannot help but heave a sigh of wonder of what truly could have been. History however had other plans for the Empire, and KDR’s heir apparent, Tirumala was poisoned. Suspecting his loyal and clever minister Timmarasu, the grieving Raya had him blinded. Historians suggest the mantri was innocent, with suspicions pointing to the then recently defeated Gajapatis of Orissa (though the Deccan Sultans had the most to gain). In any event, the Araveedu dynasty soon took over in an ever-declining but no less heroic final act of Vijayanagara.
The final dynasty of the empire proper, the Araveedus rose under Aliya Rama Raya. A heart-broken Krishna Deva had appointed his younger brother Achyuta. Though a pale shadow of his elder brother, the new Raya proved competent enough to maintain the empire and protect its holdings–including the Raichur Doab. Unfortunately, the powerful commander Aliya Rama was a machiavellian politician, who was steadily undermining the Tuluvas. What’s more he apparently relied on the Adil Shahis to periodically mediate between him and Achyuta. After the passing of Achyuta, his son, the heir apparent was soon killed, and the minor Tuluva, Sadashiva was declared Raya, under Aliya Rama’s tutelage.
Aliya Rama Raya
As Regent, Aliya Rama Raya (ARR) was the virtual Emperor. His long running schemes finally coming to fruition, he became master of Vijayanagara.
Aliya Rama Raya’s career stands as testimony to horrific consequences of unrestrained ambition and shameless politicking. Worst of all was his involvement of a foreign power in internal political disagreements. Recently some historians have attempted to redeem ARR, stating that his policy of playing one Sultan off against the other was a clever one and that his gestures of “adopting” the Adil Shahi Sultan of Bijapur were also brilliant and “secular” maneuvers. The reality is, these efforts proved as successful as the Marathas overtures to the Nawab of Lucknow in the lead up to Panipat III (in contrast, Ibrahim Khan Gardi who identified with his Indian blood and proved loyal to the bitter end). The deccan sultans patronized Persian culture at the expense of Indian culture, encouraged Persian/Turkic immigration, and had infinitelymore in common with each other than with the Emperors of the South. Those who rule as foreign colonisers will eventually seek the whole colonial pie as the British did. The Rayas should have known better and devoured the Deccanis one by one rather than merely accepting crumbs like ARR did with Raichur and Kalyani.
The privileged commander who craved power at all costs, presided over the destruction of the very golden city he craved to rule. Indeed, while having aspirations and goals are worthy, they must be restrained and checked by duty. Dharma comes first. By failing to do his duty as commander and regent, Aliya Rama Raya succumbed to burning ambition losing both it and his own all too long life. India’s modern politicians would do well to learn from this lesson. Short term gains should not threaten long term interest.
Battle of Talikota (Raksha Tangadi)
The powerful empire of the Rayas had under Tuluva Krishna Deva, managed to bring all its rivals to heel, reducing them to obeisance. But as Machiavelli said, rivals should either be treated with respect or destroyed, for men will avenge a small injury, but from a large injury, they cannot recover. While the Rayas failed to learn this lesson, the Deccan Sultans certainly learned it well, and they formed a confederacy that would defeat and lay waste to that once glorious city, following one of the pivotal battles of history–Talikota.
On that fateful 26th day of January, 1565, the Empire that was once poised to be an all-India power, suffered a tremendous blow that would alter the course of India. Much like the Second Tarain and Panipat III, the odds were initially not in favor of the invader. Indeed, both Prithviraj and Bhau were better armed and equipped to defeat their antagonists than in previous engagements. While Prithviraj lost by falling for Ghori’s fake peace overture followed by a nocturnal sneak attack (not to mention releasing Ghori after winning First Tarain), Bhau lost due to not properly ensuring supply of food/water and putting it in a poor strategic position, where the enemy could cut it off. He was further burdened by accepting the childish civilians who insisted on accompanying the Maratha army so that they could finally see the northern holy sites, despite the seriousness of the conflict.
With Rama Raya, we have an overconfident leader who failed to plan on what to do if the battle goes ill. The best commanders always have a back up plan. This is why the Indian penchant for sentimentalism and pointless superstition must be banished forthwith. War is serious business, and not the place for senti types who think having a back up plan itself is a poor omen. Serious business requires serious people–judging by the accounts of Rama Raya’s conducting of the battle–he did not appear to be one. Most telling of all was his reluctance to relinquish power even in his 80s and his acting as commander at Talikota despite being long past his prime. Other than making provision for this as well as the faithlessness of the Adil Shahi, he placed far too much trust in the Gilani brothers who betrayed their liege lord. Indeed, Rama Raya was foolish for having entrusted two commanders who were formerly employed by the Adil Shahi–worst of all in the most important section (the rear guard).
The engagement opened with an initial engagement where the Nizam Shahi and Qutb Shahi of Golkonda were severely defeated by the advance guard under Tirumala Deva. As they regrouped, the Adil Shah, who had sent false messages of neutrality joined up with the other four sultanates. The Imad Shah then sent in his force to make battle on the ford of the Krishna river. This was annihilated by Venkatadri (Rama Raya’s second brother), and the former fled from the field. As Rama Raya took the center and Tirumala formed the left, even the Adil Shahi was countered. The Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar then signaled for the two Turkic commanders under Rama Raya to then betray Vijayanagara and join the jehadis at that moment. With several divisions under them (estimated in the tens of thousands) the Gilani brothers broke their oaths and fell upon Rama Raya’s rear. The Nizam Shah at the same time launched an intense cannonade of grapeshot and a charge directly towards Rama Raya, where he was captured despite fervent resistance. He was quickly beheaded. This sight caused the morale of the more numerous Vijayanagara army to drop.
Despite this, Tirumala continued to give battle and attempted to shore up the center, but Ali Adil Shah’s reserve division was then released–attacking from the rear, all while the deccani artillery continued to wreak havoc (unanswered due to the many artillery captured by the Gilani’s and the remainder being exhausted of ammunition). When brave Venkatadri too also fell, it became apparent that the battle was lost. Retreat turned it to rout–and more than a lakh (possibly several lakh) of Vijayanagara’s finest fell in retreat as the predatory deccan cavalry mercilessly swooped upon them.
Fearing the worst, Aliya Tirumala returned to the capital, relieved it of its treasury and crown jewels and escaped with the Royal Family and Nominal Raya Tuluva Sadashiva. The refugees of Vijayanagara fled to Penukonda, where a new capital was established. While the remaining Nayaks fled to their respective domains–the way to Vijayanagara was now open.
Sack of Vijayanagara
The Crown Jewel of the Empire was the unrivaled “City of Victory” built on the banks of the Tungabhadra.
To lose a battle, even due to incompetence, is negligence, to let a brilliant gem and massively fortified city like Vijayanagara fall without contest, is downright criminal. The Araveedus and Nayaks alike should be condemned for leaving this city bare (literally and figuratively). While it is indeed wise to live to fight another day–this unmatched urban fortification was simply emptied of its treasure (and Royal family) leaving an unprotected and exposed civilian population. It is indeed possible that some attempt at defense was made–but this does not at present appear plausible given the near uniform historical view on this matter. There are indications that the civilian populace that chose to remain put up a desperate but ultimately futile fight.
Vijayanagara was utterly ruined by the unleashed hordes of Sultanates, who for 3 days wreaked such barbaric atrocity on the city as to be unspeakable. The heat from the flames caused the granite hills that once offered sanctuary to its citizens to crack. Indeed, the destruction of this city stands as example to all civilized people on the importance of sound statecraft and prudent leadership. Despite its many victories worthy of its name, so fell this great citadel of Dharma.
Twilight of Empire
The Finals Days of the empire under the Araveedus were a dim and constant struggle. While under competent rulers, it had managed to still retain much of the South. There were even occasional victories of consequence at the river Penneru, where the rule of Venkata II offered a few decades of respite for all those upto the Krishna river. However, the frequent Nayak rebellions and continued Sultanate attacks (under exhortation from the Mughal Shah Jahan and even some traitorous Nayaks) ultimately proved too much. In particular the Mughal’s directive to the sultanates to uniformly extinguish Hindu rule should be indicative to those “seculars” who foolishly celebrate the rule of foreigners who preferred Persian to the local languages. Vijayanagara and Dharma both paid the price for Aliya Rama Raya’s so-called “cosmopolitanism” and forays in pointless short term political games at the cost of long term, permanent objectives.
In the remaining eighty some odd years, the capitals were shifted three times–from Penukonda to Chandragiri to Vellore. Internal dissensions and rival claims to the empire resulted in wasting of manpower and frequent internal revolts. Again failing to learn the lesson of their Patriarch, Aliya Rama Raya, the Araveedus idiotically continued to involve and take the assistance of the Sultans in internal matters. Sriranga III was the the final ruler of the Empire. The last days of this scion of Vijayanagara were grim and grave. It was finally at Vellore that the once proud and unbowed Rayas were finally cornered and the empire dissolved, and Sriranga’s final days were spent as a dependent of loyal vassal in Karnataka (the Nayak of Ikkeri). As will be discussed in the next section, the petty ambitions of petty chieftains ruined the chances for successful retrenchment and rebirth to the “City of Victory”.
Madurai, Gingee, and Thanjavur Nayaks
In the aftermath of Vijayanagara’s fall, the many vassals of the Rayas (notably the Maharaja of Mysore) stayed loyal, in the hopes that the empire could be rebuilt on the ashes of catastrophe. However, a number of unworthy nayaks soon had delusions of grandeur. The once loyal servants of Vijayanagara soon nursed selfish ambitions when the needs of the people were the greatest. Despite the repeated pleas of the Rayas, these petty chieftains sought to create petty chiefdoms of their own–frequently declaring independence, even marching against the Emperor. Of the major Telugu chieftains, only the Nayaks of Thanjavur proved faithful in the Araveedus time of need. Madurai and Gingee Nayaks proved especially narrow minded and selfish–frequently declaring independence and even coordinating with the Sultans.
The original name of Gingee is Krishnapura. The many later occupants of the famous fort changed the name frequently, with the French being credited for the current name. The present set up of the fort is credited to Krishnappa Nayaka. The son of shipping merchants, established a dynasty that ruled from 1507-1648. The commercial influence of this dynasty spread all around the Coromandel coast and reached as far as Burma.
The Nayaks of Gingee eventually fell to the Sultans (under order from the Mughals), as did the next Â dynasty, the Madurai Nayaks.
The longest reigning of the Nayak monarchs, the Madurai dynasty lasted until 1731. While these rulers should be remembered for their unworthy conduct of statesmanship (especially in their early yeas), they had architectural and and administrative sense galore. Indeed, these Nayaks are locally remembered less for their betrayal of the Rayas to the benefit of the Deccanis, and more for their more artistic contributions.
Most notably, the magnificent temple of Meenakshi, that the abominable Madurai Sultans had desecrated and destroyed, was rebuilt. Along with it, many other temples, dams, canals, and fortifications were constructed to improve the welfare and security of the people. The Polygar (Palayyakkarar) system was also devised by these Nayak kings in order to stabilize their rule in this part of Tamil Nadu.
Ultimately, the petty rajniti of the Madurai nayaks was not nor should ever be forgotten. The enraged Raja of Mysore took revenge on the Madurai Nayaks by attacking and retaining Coimbatore and Salem. The dynasty limped on for another couple of decades, frittering away their strength in a pointless blood feud with the Tanjore Nayaks, and wasting away crores of treasure in tribute to the very foreign rulers (Mughals and Nizam/Nawab) that they should have been opposing. The settlement of Madras also dates to their rule, as a polygar named Damarla Venkatadri Nayak bestowed a land grant upon the British East India company to build a factory there in 1639 (on the condition it was named after Chennappa Nayak–Chennapattinam). As the rule of the Nayaks gave way to the Sultans, the British capitalized on this confusion and built Fort St. George and a harbor on that granted plot of land.
There were however periodic exceptions, the most important being Rangakrishna Virappa Nayaka, who refused to submit to Auranzeb, and fought successfully to retake large parts of his kingdom that were lost to the Deccanis, during the reign of Chokkanatha (who lost his bearings after the fall of the Thanjavur nayaks). Tragically, Virappa died at the young age of 22, with his mother serving as regent for his infant child. Ultimately, while the petty dreams of a petty dynasty of 13 rulers was accomplished, Dharma, Vijayanagara, and even Nayak unity were all severely harmed. The Nayaks that politicked with the Sultans were ultimately overthrown by those very foreigners, when the Nawab of the Carnatic (Chand Sahib) dethroned the last potentate–the Ruling Queen Meenakshi. People, dynasties, and countries reap as they sow.
The lasting effects of Tirumala’s treachery to Sriranga III forever stains his descendants. Indeed, still steaming from the Emperor’s premature ending of his pretense to independence, the faithless ruler of Madurai roped in Gingee and Thanjavur in his conspiracy against the Raya. Thanjavur ultimately saw reason and sent his submission to his liege lord. Seeing this, Tirumala then induced the Sultan of Bijapur to attack Vijayanagara–and he eagerly accepted this invitation. However, to Tirumala’s surprise, the Sultan then turned on Gingee and Thanjavur, defeating them both before falling on the Madurai region. He then extracted submission and tribute from Tirumala. Had this Nayak had the foresight to realize the invader would naturally be more oppressive than his legitimate co- national superior, he would have saved both himself and his subjects a lot of trouble–and perhaps even the collapsing empire of Vijayanagara.
Not content with this humbling, he then sought to avenge himself upon the King of Mysore by inducing Golkonda to attack it–which it happily did. In the process, the Nayak of Madurai wasted massive amounts of tribute to the ravenous invader as payment.
His crass stupidity in matters of diplomacy aside and warped sense of priorities aside, Tirumala made a tremendous impact in the realm of art and architecture. The Nayak palace and the Meenakshi temple are so highly regarded, that Tirumala is credited with evolving a distinct Madurai school of the Dravidian style of architecture.
This dynasty’s origins in the region go back to Sevappa Nayaka who was granted the region in 1532. The first Nayak of Thanjavur (Tanjore) had served with distinction as an administrator and builder under Krishna Deva Raya and was Achyuta Raya’s ceremonial betel bearer. Sevappa himself was the son of the viceroy of Arcot, before being rewarded for his loyalty and accomplishment with this vassal kingdom.
If Madurai proved treacherous, Thanjavur proved loyal and faithfully supported the imperial cause. Despite Tirumala’s attempts to rope them in, they ultimately sided with their rightful overlord. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Raghunatha, this Nayakdom proved comparatively shortlived to their counterparts in Madurai. Indeed, the blood feud between the two houses proved so great that Ragunatha’s successor, Vijaya Raghava spitefully blew up all the ladies of his house in a fiery combustion rather than hand over his daughter (Madurai nayak’s secret beloved) in marriage to the faithless house of Madurai. He died in battle on the steps of his palace, leaving a grieving Chokkanatha of Madurai to end the former’s house and install his younger brother. The latter was soon displaced by the Marathas–bringing the rule of Andhra kings in Thanjavur to an end.
In this dark period of Andhra history, there remained at least one bright light in the name of Raghunatha Nayak. Though of the same community background, Raghunatha and Tirumala are an interesting study in contrasts. While the latter gave in to unrestrained ambition, Raghunatha ultimately saw the greater good of maintaining his fealty to the cause of the Emperor. He faithfully served in dispatching the Bijapuris from Penukonda, and ousted the pretender from imperial throne at the Battle of Toppur. He was also a sworn enemy of the Portuguese and drove them back at every turn through open campaign and intrigue, and ended their rule in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. In the realm of culture, Raghunatha was no laggard.
If Tirumala was a great builder, then Ragunatha was a great composer. A patron of literature, the Nayak of Thanjavur presided over a tremendous production of literature. His son wrote a history of this dynasty called Raghunathabhyudayam and is also described by Yajnanarayana’s Sahitya Ratnakara. One of his wives, Ramabhadramba was also a gifted poetess. He also patronized other Telugu poets such as Madhuravani, Chemakura Venkataraju, and Krishnadhwari. A poet himself, Raghunatha composed the Telugu kavyas Parijatapaharanamu, Valmikicharitram, Rukminiparinaya Yakshaganam and Ramayanam as well as the Sanskrit plays Sangita Sudha and Bharatha Sudha.
This patron of the arts was a gifted musician himself, not only being a skilled veena player, but even pioneering his own carnatic music ragas, talas, and melas (Jayanta sena ragam, Ramananda Talam, Sargita vidya and Raghunatha melas). He also constructed the Saraswathi Mahal Library along with several temples.
His son Vijaya Raghava continued in this literary tradition and wrote more than 30 books in Telugu, himself. It begs one to wonder what the possibilities for Telugu literature would have been had not the blood feud between Tanjore and Madurai brought this line of Nayaks to a premature end.
The name Golkonda (i.e. Golconda) comes from the Telugu words Golla Konda (shepherd’s hill). The Sultanate of Golkonda takes its name from this fortress built by the Kakatiya dynasty. So formidable was this hillside fastness that years after the Bahmanis took it from the Recherlas, one of their commanders asserted independence and established it as the capital of his kingdom. Thus began the rule of the Quli Qutb Shahs.
This dynasty began in 1518 and ended in 1689–when the Mughals under Aurangzeb put an end to them. While the city of Hyderabad eventually became the seat of government, it was the nearby (and now wholly within Hyderabad) Golkonda fort that gave security to these rulers. These seven sultans frequently warred with the other deccan sultanates as well as the Reddi Kingdom, the Gajapatis, and Vijayanagara. Though they were prolific builders, who engaged in large scale expansion of Golkonda, they generally alternated between benign neglect and cruelty toward the local population.
To the detriment of Andhra culture, they primarily encouraged the foreign Turkic and Persian cultures. However, some are recorded to have given patronage to Telugu poets such as Singanacharyudu, Addanki Gangadharudu, and Kandukuru Rudrakavi. In particular Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah, had been granted refuge by Aliya Rama Raya, and had gained an appreciation for Andhra bhasha. He patronised Telugu writers such as Kandukuru Rudrayya (who wrote Janardana Satakam and Surgivavijayam) as well as Addanki Gangadhara Kavi. Another Sultan gave patronage to Malla Reddi who composed the work Padma puranam. In general, however, it was persian and eventually urdu, which were encouraged. Urdu is reputed to have gained literary currency under the rule of Mohd. Quli Qutb Shah, the founder of Hyderabad.
The last Golkonda sultan was Tana Shah, and retained the services of the well-known ministers Madanna and Akkanna. The efforts of these two administrators kept Aurangzeb at bay for many years, before Golkonda and the dynasty fell to the Mughal.
With the fall of the Quli Qutb Shahs, it was the city of Hyderabad that would gain prominence in Andhra. Following the capture of Golkonda, the Asaf Jahs were installed as governors of Aurangzeb’s deccan subah (province).This dynasty began with Qamaruddin Khan and ended with Osman Ali Khan. True to the latter’s name, they were of Turkic origin, and reputed to have come from Samarkhand.
These Mughal subordinates would go on to form their own state–having the distinct ignominy of being the first native state in India to become of a vassal of the British through subsidiary alliance. They had previously become virtual puppets in the hands of France’s envoy Dupleix (and notably employed the butcher De Bussy, remember as Bouchi or Bouchorda by the Andhras who suffered from his brutal tactics), but then they tilted to the English after the latter won the Carnatic war and ejected the Frenchmen. It was during the rule of the nizams that the Northern Circars (the rich regions around Machilipatnam to Vizianagaram) were given to the French. While these traitors were content to cultivate the local Hyderabadi culture, they gave valuable assistance to the English pirates against Mysore and the Maratha empire in particular. They styled themselves with the title Nizam ul-Mulk.
Culturally, Hyderabadi urdu came into its prime during this era due in addition to the patronage of Persian culture and architecture–even migration. The treatment of the Telugu-speaking populace would vary depending on the influence of the ulema or arab/persian/turkic foreign imams who would demand discriminatory and degrading treatment of the hindu population. While some Nizams assented to this (notably the last), others attempted to maintain some equidistance, giving periodic respite to the people of the Telangana region (who suffered the most). Their marriage alliances with the Ottoman Turks certainly gave strong indication of how they saw themselves as foreign colonists–who were in turn subordinates of english colonizers.
They prospered through their possession of Andhra’s natural wealth (which they retained control over through collaboration with British oppressors)–in particular, the fabulous diamonds produced by the Kolluru and Paritala mines. Their rule was frequently miserly (the last Nizam was styled “The Richest Man in the World”) and oppressive-with their feudal lords frequently having a free rein with the civilian populace. While Hyderabad was lavished with buildings, Osmania University, and infrastructure, the outer regions suffered under deprivation–resulting in the disparity between the Seemandhra and Telanagana regions today. Indeed, if the horrific razakar atrocities of the 1940s were any indication, the lot of Telugu speakers under their rule is not something to remember kindly.
The word polygar is an english corruption of the Telugu word Palegaadu, which in Tamil is Palaiyyakarrar. While this system is often traced back to Vijayanagara and even the Kakatiyas, it reached its ultimate form under the Madurai Nayaks. Each palem was a territorial unit under a lord (Palegaadu) who was responsible for produce agrarian revenue. Notable Andhra origin Palegaadus include the famous Veerapandiya Kattabomman and the Marudu brothers.
These figures launched what was referred to as the Polygar war. This conflict which preceded the Indian Rebellion of 1857 in Northern India by half a century, was a protacted struggle involving use of jungle warfare by the heroic resistance fighters who refused to acknowledge British attempts to impose their authority from Chennai (Madras). In the end, the logistical and diplomatic odds favored the British who brutally suppressed this uprising.
Veerapandiya Kattabomma Karuthayya Nayakudu is recognized as one of the first Indian freedom fighters today.
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The colonial period represented a sea change from the previous areas. Now ruled by foreign masters from 2 oceans away, the Andhra period had to content themselves with struggling and surviving in an era that would see the most cruel rates of taxation, and economic plunder that would drive large sections of the masses to starvation and indentured labor in the West Indies, South Africa, and Malaysia. Indeed, the proud sons of Nayaks soon found themselves little better than slaves, tending fields in distant foreign lands. Such was the lot of the Andhra in this era. While most attempted to survive, some even managed to thrive, utilizing the colonial education to gain employ in the civil service or to engage in trade in distant regions such as Burma.
Northern Circars, Vizianagaram, and the Bobbili Yuddham
In the chaotic era of Vijayanagara’s decline, coastal Andhra saw the native people steadily lose powers to outsiders. First the Sultans who bloodily expanded into the Raya’s former domains, then the Kings of Odisha, then the Mughals, then the French (who were granted the Northern Circars by the cowardly Nizams), and finally the British. In the middle of these territorial transactions there remained the Nayaks, hereditory Zamindars, and the Pusapatis of Vizianagaram.
Pusapatis of Vizianagaram
The Pusapatis of Vizianagaram were Suryavanshis descended from the Guhilot clan of Mewar. This familial relation was confirmed by the Maharanas of Udaipur. They had allied with their fellow Suryavanshis of Odisha, the Gajapatis against Vijayanagara. However, they were conquered by Krishna Deva Raya and retained as subordinates. After the fall of Vijayanagara, they were defeated and reinstated by the Golkonda Sultans and later Mughals and British.
They built the fort city of Vizianagaram in 1713, which they attempted to distinguish from the great city of the Rayas.
Memorialized in the movies Bobbili Yuddham (1964) and Bobbili Simham (1994), the Battle of Bobbili is emblematic of how history repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce. With ongoing Turkic invasions in progress, the crassly stupid Recherlas collaborated with the Bahmanis to defeat their Musunuri rivals at Warangal. Similiarly, the Pusapati relied on the French soldier of fortune, Marquis de Bussy to defeat his Bobbili rivals. At this time, the entire region of the Northern Circars (Vizianagaram to Srikakulam) was under de facto French rule as a grant from the Nizam (who all but acknowledged Dupleix as his superior).
In the midst of these grand chess games, the Raja of Vizianagaram seems to have been content to feud with the Bobbili chiefs rather than evict the foreign Hyderabadi Turks or the French. In fact, he employed de Bussy to defeat his rival, the Bobbili Raja.
De Bussy’s brutal tactics are remembered to this day by people in the Andhra country. Bouchy is synonymous with brutal and monstrous behavior used to scare children into obedience. That a Suryavanshi claiming descent from the illustrious house of Mewar would employ such a brigand in a petty/pointless conflict in the wake of foreign imperialists is truly astonishing and tragic. The Bobbili Raja Ranga Rao and his general Tandra are remembered today for their heroic resistance to the French troops, the honorable death of their womenfolk, and the bitter revenge wreaked on the Pusapati king whom they assassinated. (Sidenote: it should also be said that the Pusapatis later redeemed themselves by fighting a war against the British 40 years later, culminating in the battle of Padmanabham 1794. The King Vijayarama Raja gave his life there, though the dynasty lives on).
In any event in a tragic fashion, the final war fought by Andhra kings in the wake of colonial European rule was between Telugu brothers with the connivance and assistance of outsiders…sounds all too familiar…
Nevertheless, there remained some who bitterly chafed under the cruel British yoke. Two Andhra heroes should be proudly remembered for their heroism.
Uyyalawada, Narasimha Reddy
A polygar of the Rayalaseema area, Narasimha Reddy refused to acknowledge British authority after the Nizam ceded the region to the East India Company. He attempted a brief uprising and targeted symbols of British authority. While he managed to elude capture for over 3 months, he and his followers were betrayed by an informant, captured, brutally beaten, and paraded. He was executed by the colonialists for threatening their illegal and unjust occupation.
Alluri, Sitarama Raju
Another famous name in Andhra, is that of Alluri Sitarama Raju. Â Manyam Veerudu (hero of the jungles) led the Rampa Rebellion in the early 20th century, in the background of the Independence Movement. Protesting the unjust Colonial law that restricted the movements and traditional agriculture of Andhra tribals, Raju soon started an uprising by raiding police stations. After capturing guns and ammunition, they began assassinating british officers.
The rebellion went on for a year in the forests of Chintapalli, before Sitarama Raju was finally captured and killed in 1923.
The People Awaken
The Andhra country was divided between the Madras Presidency and Hyderabad state. Indeed, this period represents the nadir of Trilinga desa, with its people powerless, divided, and oppressed. Outsiders had finally managed to divide and rule the once proud scions of the Satavahanas. In these dark times, a few brave, educated, and patriotic souls in both Madras Presidency and Hyderabad state began speaking our to ensure the interests of their people.
Andhra Mahasabha and the Andhra Movement
The Andhra Mahasabha was first convened on May 26, 1913 in Bapatla. Under the presidency of B.N.Sarma, 800 delegates from the Telugu districts of Madras Presidency along with observers from Warangal and Nagpur coalesced for discussion. There was great interest in forming an Andhra province out of the joint Telugu-Tamil Madras Presidency.
A separate Andhra Congress Circle was eventually formed. Konda, Venkatappiah and Pattabhi, Sitarammayya were two of the most prominent members of this group. Though an Andhra province was not granted during the colonial period, Andhra state and eventually Andhra Pradesh were realized due to these first stirrings.
It should also be remembered that some (not all) non-Telugus of Madras Presidency actively worked to encourage dissensions among Rayalaseema Telugus and stirred up fears of “domination” from kosta Andhras, in the quest for an Andhra province. Indeed, despite his general contributions in India, C. Rajagopalacari in particular should be faulted for his politicking–which certain other non-Telugu modern politicians seem to be replicating with the misguided Telangana movement today.
Telangana (Nizam Andhra Mahasabha)
Contrary to the foolish pawns of desa drohis, Telugus have historically always referred to themselves as Andhra. Even during the time of the Nizam, the Telugu speakers of Hyderabad state named their association not Telangana Mahasabha, not Telugu Mahasabha, but Andhra Mahasabha. Â The real pity is that the descendants of those patriots have forgotten the wisdom of their forefathers.
Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya
Considered one of Gandhiji’s most trusted lieutenants, Dr. Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sittaramayya was born in West Godavari District in 1880. A physician by training, he joined the National Independence Movement in 1921. He was also one of the earliest champions of an Andhra province and spoke on the importance of linguistic provinces.
He was also an accomplished writer having authored the History of the Indian National Congress, Gandhi and Gandhism, and Feathers and Stones.
He lived long enough to see his dream of Andhra Pradesh become a reality.
Andhra has the unique distinction of producing 3 Andhra presidents. The first of these was Dr. Radhakrishnan.
Born in Tamil Nadu to Telugu speakers, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan is the most recognized Andhra figure in the Indian Independence Movement. In his time he was celebrated as a scholar (translating traditional hindu texts such as the The Principal Upanishads). This philosopher and scholar on comparative religion would go on to become India’s Second President. His birthday is celebrated in India today as “Teacher’s Day”. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna.
A prominent lawyer and important figure in the Indian Independence Movement, Varahagiri Venkata Giri would go on to become India’s Fourth President and the Second Telugu President. He was an important scholar on Labor relations and would receive the Bharat Ratna for his services as Governor of a number of states as well as President.
Considered one of the most prominent leaders of India’s freedom struggle, T. Prakasam was the most popular Andhra leader in the country. Born in 1872 in Guntur district, he migrated to Nellore and Ongole, where he continued his studies. He eventually passed the F.A. examination and eventually joined Madras Law College. After practicing law in Rajahmundry, he used his new found wealth to enter politics (going to England in the interim to become a barrister) and eventually set up a practice in Madras. Despite how lucrative his livelihood had become he gave it up and started the english daily Swarajya to publish the Congress message. He took part in the Salt Satyagraha, eventually becoming Premier of Madras Presidency and finally the Chief Minister of Andhra state.
Though a traditional bastion of culture and religion, Andhra has long been a center of reform (dating back to Apasthamba who updated the Dharmasutras). The medieval period saw an entire war fought over ending casteism on the fields of Palnati. The colonial period saw new such reformers in the names of Kandakuri, Veeresalingam and Raghupati, Venkatratnam Naidu.
Born in Rajahmundry in 1848, Kandakuri Veeresalingam Pantulu was one of the earliest colonial social reformers in India. Losing his father at an early age, he was raised by his mother, Purnamma, who wanted her son to earn a strong education. He was a teach in Korangi and Rajahmundry. He worked for the upliftment of dalits and devadasis. He was also credited with the first known Telugu novel Rajesekhara Charitra.
He started a girls school at Dawaleswaram in 1874 and worked tirelessly for widow remarriage and women’s education. He was also an anti-corruption leader.
Raghupati, Venkatratnam Naidu
After Veeresalingam, Andhra was fortunate enough to see yet another reformer carry the torch. Raghupati, Venkatratnam Naidu was born in 1862 in Machilipatnam. He earned his MA from Madras University and became a teacher and social reformer. The Raja of Pithapuram came under his influence and both worked for the upliftment of dalits and devadasis. It is due to him that the practice of devadasi (which itself strayed from the original dancing focus of the profession) disappeared from Andhra. The women of this community are now able to live with honor and dignity in different professions.
Naidu eventually became Vice Chancellor of Madras University.
- Rao, P. Ragunadha. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the Earliest Times to 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2012.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Krishnamurty, Salva , A History of Telugu Literature, Volume 1. Inst. of Asian Studies, 1994
The Modern era saw the rise of a number of Independence and Post-Independence figures. Andhras were second to none in India’s Independence movement, featuring many leaders who made an impact on the national stage. The numerous Telugu speaking members of the Indian Civil Service continued to serve–only in the IAS and under a government they could proudly call their own. This period saw not only the first breaths of freedom for Andhras in a few hundred years, but also an opportunity for Andhra culture to finally flower again on its home soil. The creation of an Andhra State and an eventual Samaikya Andhra, restoring Telugu Thalli in Telangana, allowed Andhras to finally chart their own destinies, and with the rise of NTR, restore their self-respect within the Indian Union.
Originally from Machilipatna, Pingali Venkayya was an Indian Freedom fighter who met Mahatma Gandhi during the Anglo Boer War. He subsequently joined the Independence movement. True to his Andhra roots, he was an expert on diamond mining and a geologist. He would go on to design Modern India’s Flag, the Tiranga, and replaced the spinning Charkha loom with the Dharma Chakra from Ashoka’s Lion Capital.
Uprising in Telangana and Operation Polo
The Nizam of Hyderabad’s rule was always an oppressive colonial entity. Privileging foreign languages and cultures, the Telugu speakers became second class citizens, with their language mocked as “Telangi Bedangi” by people who, oddly enough, spoke a much rougher tongue–persian. With the turkic nawabs and bahadurs frequently preying upon young, unprotected women. These periodic crimes soon crescendoed into continuous atrocity with the wretch foreigner Qasim Rizvi began to wield power on the Nizam’s behalf and attempted to establish an Independent Hyderabad state separate from India, mocking and disrespecting Hindus much like the Owaisis of today. Rizvi formed the MIM (which the Owaisis also reestablished with a mere All India MIM) and created razakar militias that left a horrendous legacy on the population that survives in the historical memory of Telangana’s people today–making the modern Telanagana state movement’s praise of the Nizam and injury of the suffering of their own ancestors. The unspeakable outrages perpetrated on womenfolk alone should make these fools think twice. Alas, for selfish gain, some people are literally prepared to sell their mothers…
Nevertheless, like the Musunuri Nayaks of yore, Andhra again became a field of patriots during the Telangana Rebellion. While many of the traitorous telugu speaking feudals sought to protect their privilege under Nizam rule, the people at large were swept up in a patriotic fervor. They fought to rid the Telangana region of the colonial Turkic Nizam and rid the people of the barbarian Rizvi and his monstrous razakars.
The Nizam’s attempts to delay decision and avoid merger with India finally reached an end when Sardar Patel pushed for and launched Operation Polo to liberate Hyderabad state from the clutches of a corrupt and bigoted Feudal regime. The clownish Rizvi who foolishly boasted to raise the asafia flag on the Red Fort saw his “brave” troops and even more cowardly razakars mopped up in a mere 5 days. Rizvi was soon captured and imprisoned and the brave people of Telangana were finally liberated from the Â misrule of religious bigots. Hyderabad state was finally liberated and the patriotic Andhras of the region were finally returned to an Independent Mother India.
Andhra’s Amarajeevi, Potti Sriramulu is more than any other man, responsible for reunifying the Andhra people for the first time since the Kakatiyas. This selfless freedom fighter was feted by none other than Gandhi himself, who reputedly said “If only I have eleven more followers like Sriramulu I will win freedom [from British rule] in a year.”
This Nellore native not only fought British rule but casteism. His public movement for an Andhra state culminated in fast on to death. After his passing, the movement escalated with occasional outbreak of rioting and destruction of property. Andhra state was established in 1953, to preserve the culture and history of the Andhra people and Telugu language. The capital was at Kurnool. This momentum then led to the reuniting of Telangana with their brothers in Rayalaseema and Seemandhra for the first time in 600 years.
Nandamuri, Taraka Rama Rao (NTR)
The most famous of Telugu Cinema’s stars, NTR would achieve lasting political impact with his formation of the Telugu Desam Party. Designed to restore Andhra self respect at a time when Telugu was being bullied out of Hyderabad and when an arrogant Rajiv Gandhi had the gall to publicly slap the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Rama Rao garu sent a thumping electoralmessage to the Congress not to disrespect the people of this ancient region. It was under his government as Chief Minister of AP that Hyderabad first started to become a true capital for the Telugus. While his administration began to fade in his later years, NTR will always be remembered as an Andhra hero, both on and off-screen.
Pamulaparti, Venkata Narasimha Rao (PVNR)
Following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by the LTTE, PVNR assumed the Prime Minister’s Chair in 1992, becoming the first Andhra PM. Hailing from the Telangana region, Narasimha Rao garu was a natural polyglot, speaking 13 languages (7 fluently) including Telugu, Hindi, Urdi, and Marathi. He was also an author, publishing The Insider under a pseudonym.
Considered by Andhras and non-Andhras alike to be India’s greatest Prime Minister, PVNR was often compared to Chanakya–not only for his serious and studied demeanor, but also for his clever preparation for India’s path to nuclear power status, careful liberalization of India’s economy, and strong diplomatic efforts . His trademark pout was a cartoonist’s delight. He undoubtedly has a defining place in the history of Modern India.
Nara, Chandra Babu Naidu
If NTR built the foundation for Telugu Pride, it was CBN who truly put Andhra back on the map. Under his administration, the sleepy princely backwater of Hyderabad become Cyberabad–one of the world’s IT capitals. Indeed, the modern city on the Musi river is truly stamped with his legacy, bringing the Information Age to the Diamond of India.
Unfortunately, his passion for the new economy did not reach all of Andhra’s prajas in time. He lost the subsequent elections due to ongoing farmer suicide crisis in Andhra.Due to the petty politics of other politicians, the Telangana movement was restarted by modern day Rachakonda Rajas and Madurai Nayaks. While Naidu’s creation of the Greyhounds allowed AP to finally put the Naxals on the backfoot, the push for Telangana seems prepared to fritter away not only this law and order victory, but Andhra’s place in the globalized economy.
Whether Andhra will see good governance again (let alone stay united), only time will tell.
- Rao, P. Ragunadha. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the Earliest Times to 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2012. 36-168
The Andhra province of India has three main regions: Telangana, Kosta, and Rayalaseema. While political opportunists have attempted to tamper with history (even going so far as to falsely praise foreign oppressors who disrespected a), the historical unity of these three regions cannot be denied.
Last united under the Kakatiya dynasty, the undivided Andhra has a cultural unity going back thousands of years at least as far back as the Maurya dynasty. In spite of this, thoughtless people have aggravated the political and social misunderstanding between the various regions by only insisting on their regional characteristics being given pride of place or one dialect being better than another this is also wrong. The motto of Unity in Diversity must apply at state as well as national levels. Thus, all dialects, traditions, and other characteristics should be celebrated. That is also what this site aims to do.
The Telangana region of Andhra features some of the most heroic events in Andhra history. From the brave resistance of the Kakatiyas to wars of the Musunuri nayaks for Warangal to the war for liberation from the Nizam, the region’s history is a matter of pride for all speakers of the Telugu language.
Warangal, Karimnagar, Adilabad, Nizamabad, Medak, Rangareddy, Mahboobnagar, Nalgonda, and Khammam.
Coastal Andhra is filled with lush vegetation and prized coastline. It was also the site of the famed Reddi Kingdom that arose from the ashes of the Kakatiyas.
Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, Prakasam, and Nellore.
Rayalaseema gets its unique name from the Greatest Raya of Vijayanagar, Tuluva Krishna Deva. It is also the home of the world wealthiest temple and second most wealthy religious institution, the famous Tirupati Venkateswara Temple.
Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur, and Kurnool
The most famous places to visit in the state are :
- Guthikonda Caves
- Amaravati Museum
- Mypad Beach
- Belum Caves
- Ramkrishna Beach
- District Archaeological Museum
- Rishikonda Beach
- Undavalli Caves
- Purani Haveli
- Andhra Pradesh State Museum
- Golkonda Fort
- Borra Caves
- Bhongir Fort
- Kolanupaka Museum
- Warangal Fort
- Mogalarajapuram Caves
- Buddha Statue at Hussain Sagar Lake
- Yaganti Caves
- Nagarjunakonda Museum
- Ananthagiri Hills
- Araku Valley
- Horsley Hills
- Rock cut Buddhist Stupas at Bojjannakonda
- Udayagiri Fort
- Penukonda Palace
- Chandragiri Fort
Religious Places to see :
The most famous religious places to see in the state are :
- Amaravati Amareswara Temple
- Hanamkonda Thousand Pillared Temple
- Ghanpur Temple
- Ramappa Temple
- Undavalli Cave Temple
- Sri Kalahasteeswara Temple
- Veerabhadra Temple
- Kanaka Durga Temple
- Tirupati Venkateswara Temple