Indology - Andhra Pradesh: Where the past meets the future
by Parveen Chopra
With a long history, rich cultural and spiritual heritage, the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh is poised to enter a new era, where all-rounded development for all has been envisioned by its Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu
Quli, who founded Hyderabad in 1591, decreed that it should be a replica
of heaven and unparalleled in the world. The poet-king proclaimed
his secular creed in a couplet:
reet kya hor Islam
Her ik reet mein hai ishq ka raz
(What is the heathen's way; which the Muslim's? The basis of every
creed is love.)
The history of the race of the Andhras, believed to be Aryans who migrated here from beyond the Vindhyas, dates back to the pre-Christian era. Andhras are mentioned in the Aithareya Brahmana. And their recorded history goes back to the Mauryan period.
The earliest of dynasties to have ruled over the Telugus was the Satavahana dynasty, also called the Salivahanas. Among the other notable rulers were the Kakatiyas in the 13th century AD. Literature, temple art and the fine arts reached their pinnacle during the rule of the Kakatiyas, who brought most Telugu speaking areas under their control. Following their decline in the 14th century, the Vijayanagar Empire was founded. Agriculture, commerce and the arts flourished in the Vijayanagar empire, which lasted till the 16th century.
Later, the Telugus had their heyday under the Golconda kings. This was the Qutub Shahi dynasty under whose rule the bright feature was the achievement of the Hindu-Muslim unity. Telugu officials had a prominent place in the court. The Golconda kings patronized the culture of the Telugu-speaking people. They even encouraged the study of the Vedas.
Indeed, even under later Muslim rulers, the Asif Jahi Nizams, freedom of religion here was exemplary. This and the state's geographical location-where south and north India converge-have given rise to its much-vaunted composite culture.
The political stability in the region also gave impetus to the growth of art and culture. Says Narender Luther, 68, former chief secretary of the state: "Andhra Pradesh is a microcosm of India. The composite culture of the state stems from a willingness to accept whatever's good."
Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is writing a new chapter in the history of the state. He is harnessing the most modern technology to improve the quality of people's lives. At the same time, spirituality is being encouraged to promote happiness and contentment. The second cannot, of course, bypass the first. Renunciatory tendencies in the past have brought India to a pass where, to use a Hindi saying, maya mili naa Ram (we found neither God nor wealth).
"Spirituality has always been part of the life of people here,"
says Phani Kumar, Commissioner, Directorate of Information and Public
Relations in the government of Andhra Pradesh. This, he says, has two
aspects. One, the state has a good representation of all major national
spiritual movements. The Arya Samaj, Bramho Samaj, Ramakrishna
Mission, Ramachandra Mission, Swaminarayans and Brahma
Kumaris-all have a base here. The people of Andhra have accepted
"Two, you take any place of pilgrimage in the country, be it Sai
Baba's temple at Shirdi or the temple of Ayyappa Swami in Sabarimala,
Kerala, the biggest contingent of visitors there will invariably be from
Andhra Pradesh. You will find notices written everywhere in Telugu also,"
Krishnamurti, one of the greatest thinkers and philosophers of modern
times, was from Madanapalli in Chittoor district. He founded the big
residential Rishi Valley School, also in Chittoor district.
Sai Baba, who is based in Puttaparthi, is a major spiritual force of
a different kind. Sadguru Sivananda, based in Vijayanagar, is another
well-known spiritual teacher.
of Andhra accept any kind of spiritual initiative taken by anyone anywhere,
says Phani Kumar. "This feeling of inclusiveness and acceptance
goes beyond religious barriers as well. One of the most famous dargahs
in Andhra, of Kale Shah Mastaan Ali in Nellore, attracts more Hindu
visitors than Muslims, and their names would be Mastaan Iyer, Mastaan
Reddy, and so on."
that when Mohammed Tughlak came to the south, many Sufi saints came
with him. Sufism
remains a living tradition in the state, with many active centers. Among
the many Muslim religious landmarks is the Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad.
Its name is derived from the Grand Mosque in Mecca on which it is patterned.
It is one of the biggest mosques in the country and can seat 10,000
worshippers at a time.
the largest churches in the country, with a seating capacity of 5,000,
is Medak, 60 km from Hyderabd. Noted for its Gothic architecture, it
has a majestic tower and three huge stained-glass windows that tell
Biblical tales pictorially. It was consecrated in 1924.
influence in Andhra gained ground during the reign of Emperor Ashoka.
The dhamma( the path)was preached here, as it was in all corners
of Ashoka's sprawling kingdom. Thereafter, Buddhism
in the state received another boost with the presence of the great scholar
is credited with founding the Mahayana branch of Buddhism. The philosophy
Nagarjuna popularised is known as Madhyamika, or the Middle Path, and
marked the turning point for Buddhism in terms of its imminent absorption into Hinduism.
became a Buddhist stronghold due to the active patronization by the wealthy
classes of the Godavari-Krishna delta. The largest number of Buddhist
chaityas, viharas and stupas has been unearthed in
Andhra Pradesh, and not Bihar, as is commonly believed. Some major sites
in the area where Buddhist relics have been excavated are Nagarjunakonda,
Anupu, Dhulikatta, Aduru, Bhattiprolu and Bavikonda, among others.
At Nagajurnakonda, the main stupa contains sacred relics of the Buddha
and there is also a partly ruined monolithic Buddha statue at the museum
there. Incidentally, Mahastupa, the largest Buddhist stupa in the country,
is at Amravati, one of the four main centers of Buddhist learning in India.
Though the neighboring Tamil Nadu is better known for its temple towns
like Madurai, Andhra Pradesh has many towns with major temple complexes.
atop the seven hills of Tirumala in the Eastern Ghats, lies the heavenly
abode of Lord Venkateswara (Balaji for north Indians). With a number
of temples situated in its vicinity, like the ones in Srisailam and
in Ahobilam, Sri Venkateswara temple is arguably the most popular and
visited religious site in the world. It is where, according to mythology,
Lord Vishnu is believed to have manifested spontaneously (swayam
'Venkateswara' has its roots in Vem-kat—one who cuts
or washes away sins, and that is what the Lord is believed to do by
the millions of devotees seeking his refuge. With some Shaiv elements
also apparent in the idol, the deity has been worshipped with equal
fervor by Vashnavites and Shaivates through ages and has been patronized
by the Pallavas, the Cholas, the Pandyas and later rulers with the same
reverence. Though its origin is shrouded in veils of mystery, the present
system of worship and management was laid in the 12th century by Sri
Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the organization which looks after the
management of the temple complex, is considered the best of its kind
in the country. Of course, an organization managing a temple that draws
millions of visitors and has an annual revenue collection of over Rs
300 crore, and gold reserves sufficient to crush the bullion market,
has to be that way.
temple not very far from Tirupati but far less popular (because of vastu
reasons, says B.N. Reddy, parliamentarian and vastu expert), is Sri
Kalahasti, situated on the banks of river Swarnamukhi. It is dedicated
to Lord Shiva in the form of Vayu Linga. The name 'Sri
Kalahasti' is derived from the legend depicting a spider (sri),
a snake (kala) and an elephant (hasti) as the ancient
worshippers of the idol.
in Kurnool district is another popular pilgrimage center, dedicated
to Sri Raghavendra Swami, a great proponent of the Madhava
school of Dwaita Vedanta, which propounds that God is independent
of his creation. He excelled in many fields such as logic, music,
yoga, dharma shastra and all the 64 arts. Considered an avatar
of Prahlada, he chose his Brindavan Manchaale (meaning the saint's dwelling
place, which got Sanskritized as Mantralayam later) on the bank of the
Tungabadhra, in 1671 AD. This spot is where Prahlada had supposedly
performed his yajna in krita yuga. His nephew, Narayanacharya, wrote
Raghavendra Vijaya, which gives a full account of the life of this great
Thousands of devotees flock to have darshan of their revered saint, whom they believe to be present there even today, to get their desires fulfilled. By now, over 300 temples devoted to the saint have come up in cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai.
Lepakshi, known for its rich fine art in stone carving and architectural beauty, is situated in the Ananthapur district. Famous for the Veerabhadhra temple, with magnificent hanging pillars and carvings of the Vasthupurusha, Lepakshi has become synonymous with the monolithic sculpture of Nandi (Shiva's vehicle).
One of the major classical dance forms of India, Kuchipudi,
takes its name from a village in the Krishna district of Andhra. It was
developed by Swami Siddhendra Yogi who incorporated a repertoire of religious
themes in the dance form. Says Phani Kumar: "It focuses on creating
rasa in an individual. How do you change his mood to anger, or fear? Kuchipudi
focuses on this aspect, and epitomizes the power of dance." Radha
Raja Reddy and Shobha Naidu are contemporary exponents of this style.
cultural figure was Thyagaraja, who is called a 'vaggeyakar' because he
wrote his songs and also set them to music. So wide is his appeal that
although he was from Andhra, his birthday is now celebrated even in Tamil
Nadu and Kerala.
the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, the other great logician was Annam
Bhatt who wrote Katha Sangraha, where he talks about aesthetics-how beauty
is created through dance, writing and art.
Pandit Jasraj is from Andhra. Tenali Rama was from here. He was to King
Krishna Deva Rai what Birbal was to Akbar. He wrote a classic of literature
called Pancha Mahakavya.
The state has
played a major role in the current revival of vastu shastra, because except
for some pockets in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, this traditional style of architecture
has remained a living tradition in Andhra Pradesh. Phani Kumar even wagers
that "according to some stories, the Sthapatis who are at Tanjore
actually went from here. Krishna Deva Rai, the greatest emperor that Andhra
had, sent one commander to rule Tamil Nadu as regent who made Tanjore his
headquarters. One-third of the population in Tanjore still speaks Telugu.
Besides, most ancient Telugu manuscripts are not in Andhra but in Tanjore."
FISHING FOR HEALTH
Andhra is fast becoming a hotbed of New Age therapies like reiki,
feng shui, magnet therapy, and so on. But one traditional
therapy that is becoming increasingly popular is the ' fish therapy ' for asthmatics carried out by the Bathini Goud family for
the past 100 years. It is held on an auspicious day in early June. A
live two-inch murrel (now popularly called bathini after the
family) is administered with a secret herbal paste. The famous bone-setters
of Chittoor also go about their business as usual. C. Pratap Reddy,
who started a chain of corporate hospitals, the Apollo group, is also
from Andhra Pradesh.
GAMES GENTLEMEN PLAY
The language spoken at least in the former Hyderabad state, heard in
almost all Shyam Benegal movies like Ankur and Nishant, is sweet. This
is because the medium of instruction here was Urdu, which was not the
spoken language of a majority of the populace. Urdu mushairas happen
here as much as in Lucknow or Lahore.
of Andhra Pradesh are genial, gentle, hospitable. The state, points
out Luther, has contributed the most number of governors, from Sarojini
Naidu to Chenna Reddy, an office that requires a special type of temperament,
found in abundance here.
has also contributed amply to cricket, called the gentleman's game. To
name a few stars: C.K. Naidu, Abid Ali, Mohammed Azharuddin, V.V.S. Laxman.
Tiger Pataudi had captained the Hyderabad team. In badminton, P. Gopichand
is creating waves now.
Modern Andhra Pradesh was created by combining the old princely state of Hyderabad with the Telugu speaking areas of the former state of Madras. The fifth largest state in the country, most of it stands on the high, arid Deccan plateau, sloping down to the fertile coastal region where the bountiful Godavari and Krishna rivers flow, earning for the state the epithet of 'rice bowl of India'.
To attract tourists, the state has golden beaches, hills, waterfalls, lakes, monuments, and varied flora and fauna. Borra caves, in the Araku valley, are a million years old and have magnificent stalactite and stalagmite formulations. Hyderabad also contributes numerous heritage sites and monuments, and not just the charming Charminar, which is in the middle of the old town, and ruins of the Golconda fort nearby.
A unique sight is the rock formations on the outskirts of the city, some of which are 2.5 million years old.
In 1933 Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore stayed in the Banjara Hills and was so fascinated by the area that he paid his tribute to the magnificent rock formations in the poem titled Kohsar:
From the distance thou didst appear
barricaded in rocky aloofness
Timidly I crossed the rugged path
To find all of a sudden
an open invitation in the sky
And friends embrace in the air
In an unknown land the voice that
Seemed ever known
Revealed to me a shelter of loving
The city today is an amalgam of old world charm and the spirit of enterprise. It has been beautified recently at Naidu's behest. With the CM's IT bonanza coming its way, Hyderabad is a happening city, vying with Bangalore for the title of the cyber capital of the country.
About 275 km from Hyderabad lies the cultural, political and educational center of Andhra Pradesh, Vijayawada. The legend goes that Arjuna won (vijaya) Shiva's blessings while praying here at the top of Indrakila hill, hence the name Vijayawada. The well-known Kanaka Durga temple is situated on the Indrakila hill.
The revolutionary approach of Naidu augurs well for the future of Andhra Pradesh. More than anybody else in recent history, the chief minister has understood the role of the state, which is to provide conditions to facilitate the well-being and growth of its people. His Vision 2020 for Andhra Pradesh is "where poverty is totally eradicated; where every man, woman and child has access to not just basic minimum needs, but all the opportunities for leading a happy and fulfilling life; a knowledge-oriented society built on the values of hard work, honesty, discipline and a collective sense of purpose."
Naidu believes that modern technology should be harnessed in the service of the common man. Consequently, his emphasis on the use of modern information technology in government to bring accountability, transparency and quick disposal of cases and redressal of grievances.
He also believes that IT can alleviate poverty: "I see three areas where information technology can be an effective tool-job generation, poverty eradication and wealth generation." Indeed, global computer giants like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle have already invested heavily in the state. The Hi-Tech city in Hyderabad has become a modern landmark. Naidu has managed to get more than a billion dollars from the World Bank to set up schools and health centers in villages.