Hinduism Andhra Pradesh
by
Lavanya Vemsani
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0216

Introduction

Andhra Pradesh is located in the middle region (Madhyadesha) of India, on the southeastern side, with the long coastline of the Indian Ocean on its eastern border. Due to the presence of its long coastline, Andha Pradesh played a central role in the trade between the East and the West. Andhra Pradesh was the emporium between India and Southeast Asia, and brisk trade also flourished with the Roman Empire via the Red Sea. Linguistic, religious, and social connections have been traced between Andhra Pradesh and Indian Ocean regions since prehistoric times, with increased trade recorded at the turn of the first millennium. Archaeologists have outlined sea routes that fostered trade links between the ports of Andhra Pradesh and the Red Sea ports of Saudi Arabia and Africa (Oman, Yemen, and Ethiopia), connecting it to the Mediterranean Sea trade with the Roman Empire. Hence, it is no surprise that the concept of middle finds unique expression in its language, religion, and culture. Its language is a unique blend of Prakrit (desi) with Sanskrit and Dravidian words. Madhyamikavada (the Middle Way) of Buddhism was founded by Acarya Nagarjuna, who was closely associated with Nagarjuna University at Sriparvata in Nagarjuna Konda. The lord of the middle, Narasimha, is the supreme deity of Andhra Pradesh; Narasimha was also declared as the state deity of Telangana upon its formation in June 2014. This unique Telugu culture was the central reason for Andhra Pradesh to have been established as the first linguistic state of independent India in 1953 (reorganized in 1956 with Telangana). However, Andhra Pradesh existed as a unified state of Telugus for less than three-quarters of a century until 2014, when it was divided into two states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. This article is titled “Andhra Pradesh”; hence, even though this article refers to Andhra Pradesh frequently, the reference is inclusive of Telangana for all the information discussed. Although the core of the Andhra Pradesh region is located between the valleys of the Krishna and the Godavari Rivers, its borders remained flexible historically, extending as far north as Sanchi (Satavahana era) and as far south as Tanjavur (Chalukya era). However, this region emerged as a distinct state corresponding to its modern borders only during the premodern era, when the Mughal Subedars founded the Hyderabad state in southcentral India, with their capital at Hyderabad.

History

Historically, Andhra Pradesh played a central role in the peopling, foundation, and evolution of Indian civilization. The historical background of Andhra Pradesh provides basic information and a chronological sequence for the evolution of the culture of Andhra Pradesh, as it became known in the 20th century. Although the region of Andhra Pradesh formed a crucial part of many historical empires, only a few empires located their capital cities within the modern borders of Andhra Pradesh, including the Satavahana Empire, the Kakatiya Empire, and the Chalukya states of Vengi and Vemulawada. Literary, artistic, and architectural activities supported by these empires help us understand the religious history of Andhra Pradesh. Vaidika (vedic) Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religious traditions flourished under the Satavahana, Chalukya, and Kakatiya Empires. While early religious texts and discourses of the Satavahana period were composed mainly in Sanskrit and Prakrit, Telugu became the main language of religious compositions and long texts only at the turn of the second millennium, sponsored by the Chalukyas of Vengi and the Kakatiya Empire. Andhra Pradesh became part of the Mughal Empire in the premodern era and the British Empire in the modern era. Therefore, it could be said that Andhra Pradesh historically shared sociocultural, political, and economic ties to the northern states of India, rather than to the southern states.

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