Andhra Pradesh Overview
Andhra Pradesh is a state located in the southeastern part of India, situated within the subcontinent. It shares borders with the Indian states of Tamil Nadu to the south, Karnataka to the southwest and west, Telangana to the northwest and north, and Odisha to the northeast. Stretching along the Bay of Bengal, the eastern boundary boasts a 600-mile (970-km) coastline.
Telangana, once a region within Andhra Pradesh for nearly six decades, became a separate state in 2014 after being carved out. Hyderabad, located in west-central Telangana, serves as the capital for both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The state’s name, Andhra Pradesh, finds its roots in the Andhra people, who have inhabited the area since ancient times and developed their unique language, Telugu. Andhra Pradesh took its present form in 1956 following the demand for a separate state from the Andhras.
Though primarily an agricultural state, it also has some mining activity and a significant presence of industries. Covering an area of 106,204 square miles (275,068 square km), it had a population of 84,665,533 as of 2011.
Land – Relief, drainage, and soils
Andhra Pradesh is characterized by three main physiographic regions: the coastal plain, the Eastern Ghats mountain ranges, and the plateau in the southwest.
The coastal plain, also known as the Andhra region, stretches almost the entire length of the state, reaching from the Bay of Bengal to the mountain ranges. Numerous rivers flow from west to east through the hills into the bay, watering this region.
The deltas of the two most important rivers, the Godavari and the Krishna, form the central part of the coastal plain, comprising an area of fertile alluvial soil.
The Eastern Ghats, a part of a larger mountain system that extends from central India to the far south, runs parallel to the east coast. However, the mountains do not form a continuous range as they are interrupted by the great river valleys. These mountains have highly porous soils on their flanks.
The southwestern part of Andhra Pradesh, commonly referred to as Rayalaseema and belonging to the Deccan (peninsular India), is a plateau region composed of gneissic rock. Gneiss is a foliated rock formed deep within the Earth’s interior under conditions of heat and pressure.
The plateau’s highest elevations, exceeding 2,000 feet (600 meters), are found in the far southwest, gradually sloping downward towards the northeast. The main drainage system in this region is formed by the Penneru River. Over time, erosion has shaped the plateau into a landscape of graded valleys, featuring red sandy soil and isolated hills. Additionally, certain parts of the area contain black soil.
Andhra Pradesh experiences three distinct seasons: summer, monsoon, and winter.
Summer lasts from March to June and is characterized by exceptionally hot and humid weather. In the central part of the state, maximum daily temperatures often exceed 95 °F (35 °C) and can even go beyond 104 °F (40 °C). However, in the far southwest, nightly minimums drop to around 70 °F (20 °C).
The monsoon season, which spans from July to September, brings tropical rains to the region.
Winter sets in from October to February and brings relatively cooler temperatures. In January, maximum temperatures range between 86 and 95 °F (30 and 35 °C) in most areas except for the northeastern part of the state. The lowest temperatures during winter, around 60 °F (15 °C), are observed only in the extreme northeast.
The annual precipitation in Andhra Pradesh primarily comes from the southwest monsoon rains, with varying patterns across different regions of the state.
Coastal areas experience a relatively higher amount of rainfall, ranging from about 40 to 47 inches (1,000 to 1,200 mm) per year. Moving towards the southwestern plateau area, the precipitation gradually decreases. In the westernmost part of the plateau, the rainfall can be as low as half of what the coastal areas receive.
However, portions of the northeastern mountains witness more significant rainfall, with precipitation totals exceeding 47 inches and, in some areas, reaching as high as 55 inches (1,400 mm).
Plant and Animal
Andhra Pradesh’s coastal plain is adorned with mangrove swamps and palm trees, creating a picturesque landscape. The plateau, on the other hand, features scattered hills covered in thorny vegetation.
Approximately one-fifth of the state’s total area is covered in forests, with the Eastern Ghats being home to dense woodlands. Within these forests, both moist deciduous and dry savanna vegetation thrive, and one can find an abundance of teak, rosewood, wild fruit trees, and bamboo.
Other parts of the state showcase a variety of trees such as neem, which yields an aromatic oil, as well as banyan, mango, and pipal (Ficus religiosa). In addition to these, Andhra Pradesh boasts a diverse range of flowering vegetation, including jasmine, rose, and several endemic species—especially in the hilly region of the Eastern Ghats.
Apart from common domestic animals like dogs, cats, and cattle, Andhra Pradesh is home to a diverse range of wildlife.
In the hills and forest areas, one can find majestic creatures such as tigers, blackbucks, hyenas, sloth bears, gaurs, and chital, adding to the richness of the ecosystem.
The region also boasts a vibrant avian population with dozens of bird species, including striking flamingos and pelicans. Additionally, there are some rare and precious varieties like the Jerdon’s courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus), found in the thorny or scrub-covered regions surrounding the Eastern Ghats.
Moreover, the eastern coast serves as a nesting ground for sea turtles, contributing to the natural heritage of Andhra Pradesh.
People of Andhra Pradesh
The population of Andhra Pradesh, much like other states in India, is incredibly diverse. Instead of specific ethnic affiliations, the state’s communities are more readily identified by a combination of language, religion, and social class or caste.
Telugu serves as the official and most widely spoken language in the state. However, there is a small minority that speaks Urdu, a language primarily associated with northern India and Pakistan. Additionally, other groups speak languages from bordering regions, such as Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi, and Oriya.
Furthermore, the state’s Scheduled Tribes, officially recognized as indigenous minority peoples outside India’s caste hierarchy, speak languages like Lambadi (Banjari) and several others. Members of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes (formerly known as “untouchables”) together constitute more than one-fifth of Andhra Pradesh’s total population.
The majority of Andhra Pradesh’s residents practice Hinduism, making it the predominant religion in the state. There are smaller segments of the population who follow Islam or Christianity.
Christian communities are mostly concentrated in the urban centers and coastal areas of the state. On the other hand, Muslims primarily reside in the Rayalaseema region.
Approximately one-third of Andhra Pradesh’s population resides in urban areas. Among the urban dwellers, about half of them live in the state’s ten most populous urban areas, particularly in the industrial and manufacturing regions around Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada in the northeast. Other notable large cities in Andhra Pradesh include Guntur, Kurnool, and Rajahmundry.
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Agriculture, primarily focused on food grain production, remains a major but gradually declining sector in Andhra Pradesh’s economy in terms of value. The state holds a significant position as one of India’s leading rice-growing regions and is a major contributor to the country’s tobacco production.
The agricultural importance of Andhra Pradesh can be attributed to its rivers, especially the Godavari and the Krishna, along with the Penneru, which play a crucial role in supporting the state’s agricultural activities.
For an extended period, the benefits of the rivers in Andhra Pradesh were limited to the coastal districts of the Andhra region, which had the best irrigation facilities. However, starting in the mid-20th century, significant efforts were made to harness the waters of the Godavari, Krishna, Penneru, and other rivers by constructing dams and reservoirs. These projects have brought benefits to both the coastal and drier upland regions.
In the Rayalaseema region of the plateau, canal irrigation has played a vital role in developing agro-industrial complexes that rival those of coastal Andhra Pradesh. Notably, the Nagarjuna Sagar multipurpose project diverts the waters of the Krishna River for irrigation, leading to substantial increases in rice and sugarcane production.
The abundance of paddy rice has facilitated the production of various products like rice flour, rice-bran oil, paints and varnishes, soaps and detergents, cardboard, and other packaging materials, as well as cattle feed—all processed locally. Furthermore, the state’s agriculture encompasses a wide range of commodities, including various cereal grains, pulses (peas, beans, and lentils), peanuts (groundnuts), corn (maize), and cotton, all of which are locally processed. Additionally, a variety of fruits and vegetables are grown across the state.
In Andhra Pradesh, animal husbandry has witnessed substantial growth, particularly since the beginning of the 21st century. Livestock raising now contributes approximately half as much in overall value as crop production.
Various animals are raised in the state, including cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry. Dairy and egg production, in particular, have experienced significant expansion, reflecting the increasing emphasis on these aspects of animal husbandry.
The woodlands of Andhra Pradesh are a rich source of high-quality timber, with prized varieties like teak and eucalyptus being annually harvested. Additionally, the forests provide valuable non-timber forest products, including sal seeds used for extracting edible oil, tendu leaves utilized for rolling cigarettes, gum karaya (a type of emulsifier), and bamboo, which holds significant importance.
The state’s long coastline and numerous rivers contribute to a substantial and growing fishing industry. Both freshwater and marine aquaculture play a crucial role in the fishing sector, and open-sea fisheries also make a significant contribution. Notably, prawns and shrimp are among the primary products of this thriving industry.
The Andhras have made a significant contribution to India’s cultural heritage. Over the ages, architecture and painting have flourished as highly developed arts in the region. One of the unique dance forms in the Indian tradition is the kuchipudi style of dance, which originates from Andhra Pradesh. Furthermore, Karnatak (South Indian) music has been greatly influenced by Andhra roots, with many major composers of classical Indian music hailing from the state. Most of their compositions have been in the Telugu language.
Telugu, one of the four literary languages of the Dravidian family, holds a prestigious position among Indian languages. It is renowned for its antiquity and cherished for its melodious quality by many. Telugu literature played a prominent role in the Indian literary renaissance of the 19th and 20th centuries. During this period, writing underwent a revolution in literary forms and expression, partly influenced by Western genres. Andhra Pradesh boasts numerous periodicals in English, Telugu, and Urdu, contributing to its cultural diversity.
The Telangana region’s Muslim culture further enriches the state’s cultural tapestry.
Before Indian independence, arts and literature thrived primarily through the support of royal patrons and private organizations, many of which continue to exist. After gaining independence, the state took initiatives to promote and preserve the fine arts, dance, drama, music, and literature by establishing autonomous academies. These academies aim to revive, popularize, and foster cultural expression in Andhra Pradesh.
The conscious cultivation of cultural activities is more prominent in urban areas than in rural regions. Cultural performances, literary gatherings, and religious discussions mostly take place in towns and cities. The diversity in cultural development across different parts of the state, shaped by various historical circumstances, has led to recognizable variations in dialects, caste structures, and other traditions. Consequently, rural arts have been enriched and diversified.
Rural areas have their indigenous cultural media, such as balladry, puppetry, and storytelling. These traditional forms of expression are often used in social and political communication. Additionally, the mass media, particularly radio, television, and internet access, have reached rural communities, bringing awareness of classical traditions to them and exposing urban populations to rural arts.
History of Andhra Pradesh
Although Sanskrit writings dating back to around 1000 BCE mention a people known as “Andhras” residing south of the central Indian mountain ranges, definitive historical evidence of the Andhras dates from the times of the Mauryan dynasty, which ruled in the north from the late 4th to the early 2nd century BCE. The renowned Mauryan emperor Ashoka (reigned c. 265–238 BCE) sent Buddhist missions to the Andhras in the south.
Around the 1st century CE, the Satavahanas (or Satakarni), one of the most distinguished Andhra dynasties, rose to power. They held dominion over a significant part of the Deccan plateau and established trade relations with Rome. The Satavahanas were patrons of various religions and skilled builders. Their principal city, Amaravati, boasted Buddhist monuments that marked the beginning of a new architectural style. Experts attribute some of the renowned paintings in the Ajanta Caves of the Deccan (now in Maharashtra state) to Andhra painters from that period.
Buddhism thrived under the Andhras, and their capital became home to the great Buddhist university of antiquity, where Nagarjuna (c. 150–250 CE), the founder of the Mahayana school of Buddhism, served as a teacher. The ruins of this university, located at Nagarjunakonda, still bear traces of its former grandeur.
Over the following millennium, the Andhras continued to thrive, and in the 11th century, the eastern Chalukya dynasty unified most of the Andhra region. Under the Chalukyas’ rule, Hinduism became the dominant religion, and the first Telugu poet, Nannaya, initiated the translation of the Sanskrit epic, Mahabharata, into Telugu, thereby marking the birth of Telugu as a literary medium.
During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Kakatiya dynasty of Warangal (now in Telangana) played a crucial role in extending Andhra power both militarily and culturally. Under their regime, the Andhras’ commercial expansion towards Southeast Asia reached its zenith.
By that time, followers of Islam had established themselves in the north, and their invasion of the south resulted in the fall of Warangal in 1323. However, the emergence of the Vijayanagar kingdom, situated to the southwest of Warangal, temporarily halted further expansion of Muslim power. Vijayanagar, widely acclaimed as not only the greatest kingdom in Andhra history but also one of the greatest in Indian history, flourished under the rule of its preeminent king, Krishna Deva Raya (reigned 1509–29). The kingdom became synonymous with military prowess, economic prosperity, effective administration, and artistic splendor. This period also witnessed a flourishing of Telugu literature.
However, the formation of an alliance between various neighboring Muslim principalities eventually led to the downfall of Vijayanagar in 1565, with the Muslims gaining control over the Andhra areas.
In the 17th century, European traders began to involve themselves in Indian politics. The successive nizams (rulers) of Hyderabad sought to consolidate their kingdom against rivals and obtained support from both the French and later the British.
As a result of their assistance, the British acquired the coastal Andhra districts lying to the north of the city of Madras (now Chennai) and subsequently the hinterland districts. This led to the major part of the Andhra country coming under British rule, becoming a part of what was then known as the Madras Presidency.
However, the Telugu-speaking Telangana region remained under the dominion of the nizam of Hyderabad, and the French gained control of a few towns.
During the 19th century, Indian nationalism began to emerge, and the Andhras actively participated in this movement. Prominent leaders like Kandukuri Veeresalingam became pioneers of social reform in the region. In the fight against British rule, Andhra leaders played crucial roles.
Their pride in the historical and linguistic accomplishments of their people fueled the demand for a separate province. Simultaneously, a movement was organized to unite the Telugu-speaking people living under British rule with those under the nizam’s administration.
After India gained independence in 1947, the Andhra region remained divided both administratively and linguistically. In 1950, the southern and eastern Andhra portion was incorporated into Madras state, while the Telangana region became part of Hyderabad state.
The demand for separate statehood by the Andhras grew increasingly intense, and in 1952, a local leader named Potti Sreeramulu went on a fast until death to draw attention to the issue. In response to the people’s persistent demand, the central government eventually created Andhra state on October 1, 1953. This new state included the Telugu-speaking districts of the former Madras state to the south. This significant action set the precedent for the formation of linguistic states throughout India, a process that began in 1956 and continued into the 21st century.
Through the States Reorganization Act of 1956, the state of Hyderabad was reorganized, and its Telugu-speaking districts, constituting Telangana, were joined with Andhra state on November 1, 1956, to form the new state of Andhra Pradesh.
A notable aspect of the new state government was the establishment of regional committees for Telangana and Rayalaseema. These committees were created to ensure that the opinions and interests of the people in these two regions were represented and protected, as they were economically and educationally less developed compared to the coastal Andhra areas.
However, over time, it became evident that Telangana, excluding Hyderabad city, was consistently lagging behind the coastal areas in terms of economic and social progress. As a result, a movement emerged in the late 1960s to separate Telangana from the rest of Andhra Pradesh.
In late 1969, the government forcefully suppressed demonstrations by pro-separatists, causing the movement for a separate Telangana to wane for several years. However, at the onset of the 21st century, the demand for a separate Telangana state gained significant momentum, spearheaded by the establishment of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, a political party dedicated to achieving this goal, in 2001.
Years of discussions ensued, as those in the remaining parts of Andhra Pradesh strongly opposed the idea of relinquishing Hyderabad, the state’s most populous and economically important city, to Telangana. Eventually, an agreement was reached, designating Hyderabad as the capital of both states for a duration of 10 years. After this transitional period, Hyderabad would become the exclusive capital of Telangana.
In February 2014, both chambers of the Indian parliament gave their final approval for the creation of Telangana, and on June 2, 2014, Telangana officially became the 29th state of India.
Since the creation of Andhra state in 1953 and its subsequent transformation into Andhra Pradesh three years later, the state’s government has largely been under the control of the Indian National Congress (Congress Party). However, in the early 1980s, growing disparities in the development of different regions within the state led to the emergence of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), advocating for reduced central government involvement in state affairs but not supporting the separation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh.
The TDP ruled Andhra Pradesh for a significant part of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, led by its founder Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao, followed by Nara Chandrababu Naidu. The Congress Party returned to power in 2004. Nonetheless, the TDP regained control of the state government in 2014, with Naidu once again assuming the position of chief minister.