Everything's Possible, declares the Andhra Pradesh tourism department billboard. While it might seem like a tall claim, travelling through the state gives you ample evidence to back the assertion. From the sandy shores hugging the Bay of Bengal to the gleaming paddy fields of Nellore and sheer mountain cliffs rising from the plains of Tirupati, which seem ablaze in the fiery red glow of sunset, Andhra Pradesh has an extraordinary diversity of landforms.
Standing atop the Gandikota Fort, which straddles precipitous gorge, One can't help but marvel at the geological serendipity that went into its making for millions of years, a river gushed through the hills, chiselling a canyon in the process.
The state is speckled with forests, lakes and waterfalls, most of which still seem untouched by the relentless march urbanisation and industrialisation.
The lack of crowds and pollution, especially in the sparsely-populated countryside, make these even more alluring. Apart from glorious landscapes, one can find more than a dozen hill forts, palaces, some of the most significant Buddhist monuments of South India stupas, monasteries and cave complexes and, of course, temples here.
There is no dearth of shrines in this state, which boasts of the most frequented pilgrimage site in the world the Venkateswara Temple at Tirumala.
Most of them are at least a few centuries old and sport striking sculptures carved in stone. There are also many dargahs, which are frequented by both Hindus and Muslims and have incorporated many rituals practiced in temples a testament to the syncretic culture of the state.
And then, there is the cuisine a hot and spicy affair that never fails to set alight your taste buds with its generous use of chillies. No matter where you go, a fancy restaurant or a roadside vendor, Andhra meals a smorgasbord of rice, lentil preparations (pappu, pulusu and charu), curd, pickle and fried or gravy meat/vegetable dishes are bound to please your palate. Chicken, mutton and fish are an important part of the Andhra diet with various regions using different cooking styles to prepare them.
The state also has a rich legacy of arts and crafts, especially textiles, toys and puppets. One of India's most famous Classical dances, Kuchipudi has its origins here. It is this wealth of attractions and a rich cultural heritage that make Andhra Pradesh such a compelling destination. Although the state might not immediately come to mind when we think of the most visited places in India, it ranks fifth in terms of domestic tourist arrivals.  About 93 million people 7.3% of all domestic tourists travelled here in 2014, and so should you!

The Land:
Andhra pradesh can roughly be divided into two regions-Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra. The latter comprises the districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, East Godavari, West Godavari and Krishna and the
eastern parts of Guntur, Prakasam and Nellore. The coastline of the state, which spans over 973km is the second longest in India after Gujarat. It is studded with beaches, ports, freshwater lakes, estuaries and wetlands. The coastal flank is also one of the most fertile tracts of land in the country, owing to the deltas of the Godavari and Krishna, which ensure an abundant supply of water throughout the year. Rayalaseema, the south-western part of Andhra Pradesh comprises the districts of Kurnool, Anantapur, Kadapa and Chittoor. The region sees less rainfall than the coastal tract as it falls in the rainshadow area of the high Western Ghats. The rainfed Penna River, a mere trickle during the dry months, is its only major river. Besides, the largely rocky terrain prevents the absorption of water and hence, the groundwater table remains low. The soil in Rayalaseema is mostly red, which indicates a high content of iron. Black soil is also found in parts. The major crops in the region are groundnut, cotton, millets, such as ragi and jowar, pulses and mangoes.
Rayalaseema and the western part of Guntur district are located on the Deccan plateau, a large stretch of elevated, relatively flat terrain that spreads across the Indian peninsula. The coast and the plateau are a discontinuous range of mountains that run north to SOUth from Odisha to Tamil Nadu, almost parallel to the Indian Peninsula.
The hills, present in every district of the state have neither structural nor physiographic unity and often disappear for large stretches.
The highest peaks of Andhra pradesh are all located in the northern flank of the state. To the south, the deltas of Godavari and Krishna create a gap of 150km in the Eastern Ghats. With lengths of 1,465 and 1,400km respectively, they are amongst India's longest rivers. The Godavari flows through a scenic, narrow gorge in the Eastern Ghats known as Papikondalu before descending to the coastal plains.
The next major range is Nallamala (average elevation of 2,900-3,600ft), which stretches in a north-south direction parallel to the Coromandel coast. The Krishna river flows through the hills after its confluence with the Tungabhadra. Nallamala is home to the largest stretch of forests in Andhra Pradesh, which have been designated as the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve.
Erramala is a low-lying range of hills that stretch in a west-east direction in the Kurnool district. It forms a boundary between the basins of the Krishna and Penna rivers, located to their north and south respectively. Many caves, rock shelters and prehistoric rock paintings have been found in these hills.
The Velikonda Hills, which are mostly uninhabited, separate the Kadapa-Kurnool region from the southern coastal plains, and reach elevations of 2,500-3,000ft.
Nearby is Palkonda, which stretches from Tirupathi to Kadapa and Anantapur district and has an average elevation of 2,000ft. They rise almost perpendicularly from the ground, like a forbidding wall. The part of the range near Tirupati is also known as Seshachalam Hills. The Penna River flows between the two ranges.

The Climate:
Andhra Pradesh has three distinct seasons-winter, summer and monsoon. The temperature in winter (November-February) range from 12-32 degree C throughout Andhra, so at most, one might need light woollens. The hilly tracts can get a good bit colder and there have been instances when the mercury dipped to the freezing point in the higher attitudes of Visakhapatnam district.
The state has two monsoon seasons-the southwest and the northeast monsoons. The south west monsoons which envelop most of the country, hit the state in June and lasts upto mid september.
The north east monsoons, which mainly affects the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, spans from mid-October to December. It is estimated that the northeast monsoon contributes to 30% of the annual rainfall in the state. In recent years, owing to climate change, northeast monsoon showers have become more plentiful, leading to flooding in various parts of the state.
The only time you should avoid visiting the state is during the summer, which stretches from mid-March to end of June. The months of April and May are especially cruel, when the mercury hovers at 42-47 degree C and temperatures of even 50 degree C are not unheard of Andhra Pradesh's coastline is highly prone to cyclones and storms. These usually occur in the pre-monsoon (April-May) and Post-monsoon period (October-December ), though November has the highest frequency. Sometimes, there are multiple cyclones in one season.
While winter is generally considered to be the best season to visit Andhra pradesh, a trip during the monsoons can be equally, if not more, rewarding. During the rains, waterfalls are in full force, rivers are in spate and even the most barren of terrains is cloaked in carpets of verdure. Besides the cool winds, the rains bring keep temperatures low. However, heavy showers can often end up derailing travel plans.

The Past:
The earliest reference to Andhra is in the Aitareya Brahmana, a text which has been dated variously from 1000-500 BCE. However, it is only from the Mauryan Era (322-185 BC) onwards that we have historical evidence about the region. Megasthenes, a Greek traveller who visited the court of Chandragupta Maurya, mentioned that the kingdom of Andarae (Andhra) had 30 forts and an army consisting of 1,00,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 1,000 elephants.
After the fall of the Mauryas, the Satavahana Dynasty (2BCE-2CE) gained control of the territory. Their domain extended northwards to the Vindhya Hills and even beyond. Buddhism flourished under their rule and many of the monuments at Nagarjunakonda and Amaravati date back to this period. Subsequently, various smaller kingdoms Ikshvakus, Vishnukundins, Vakatakas, Pallavas, Anandagotras and Kalingas-ruled over the region until the rise of the Eastern Chalukyas, an offshoot of the Chalukyas of Badami.
Pulakeshin II, a legendary ruler of the Chalukya Empire, subjugated a town called Vengi in 624 CE and installed his brother as the ruler. The Eastern Chalukyas flourished for the next 400 years. At the time they came to power, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism were the major religions. Buddhism was in decline, Jainism lasted for a few centuries before petering out and Hinduism gradually became the dominant religion. Eventually, they were subjugated by the Cholas, one of the most powerful empires of south India.
Between the 12th-14th centuries, the Kakatiyas governed the area. Some commentators regard their rule as the “golden age” of Telugu civilisation. Rudhramadevi, one of the few female emperors in Indian history, belonged to this dynasty. Eventually the kingdom was unable to withstand the onslaught of invasions by Allaudin Khalji and split into various smaller states.
In 1336, the Vijayanagara Dynasty was established by the brothers Harihara I and Bukka Raya I. It is conjectured that they were treasury guards of the Kakatiya Dynasty.
European travellers accounts describe the glory of the empire, which is still visible in the ruins of their erstwhile capital, Hampi. The empire reached its apogee under Krishnadevaraya, who ruled from 1520-29. Not only was he an able administrator, he also built many temples and was a patron of art and literature. In fact, so great were his contributions that you will stumble across his name in every other chapter of this book! After his death, the empire went into decline and finally ended in 1646 CE.
The next major dynasty was the Qutb Shahis, which ruled from Golconda in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb seized control of Golconda in 1687 CE. As the Mughal Empire weakened, one of its officers, Mir Kamaruddin broke away to rule over the Deccan, thus giving rise to the Asaf Jahi Dynasty, whose rulers were also known as the Nizams.
In the 18th century, the Nizams, the English, the French and Hyder Ali of Mysore vied to gain control of the region. In 1800 CE, the British East India Company forced the Nizams to cede large tracts of their territory in Rayalaseema and Bellary, thereby reducing them to rulers of a subservient princely state with limited autonomy. They also acquired parts of present day Nellore, Prakasam and Chittoor districts, which became a part of the Madras Presidency in 1801 CE. The coastal districts were a part of the British administered Northern Circars.
Following Indian Independence, there were demands for a united Andhra province. Potti Sriramulu, a Gandhian leader, went to a hunger fast on 19 October 1952. He soon became a martyr to the cause, which led to violent protests all over the region, resulting in the creation of a separate Andhra State on 1 October 1953. Kurnool became the capital of the state.
In 1956, the Nizam's Telugu-speaking territories were incorporated into Andhra Pradesh, with Hyderabad as its capital. Following the bifurcation of the state in 2014, Amaravati is being built as its new capital.

The Language:
Telugu is the predominant language of Andhra Pradesh. With 74.2 million speakers (2001 census), it is the third most widely spoken Indian language after Hindi and Bengali. Telugu is particularly known for the euphony of its speech most of the words end in vowels, which give it a 'sweet' sound is this quality that has drawn praise from poets and writers over the centuries. Sri Krishnadevaraya wrote in his book of poems, Amuktamalyada: "Desa bhashalandu Telugu lessa" (Telugu is the best amongst the country's languages).
Although Telugu belongs to the Dravidian family of languages, it has a large number of loan words from Sanskrit. The language can be categorised into four main dialects which are spoken in different regions-East (Srikakulam and Visakhapatnam districts), South (Nellore, Prakasam, Kadapa, Kurnool, Chittoor and Anantapur), Telangana, and Central (Guntur, Krishna, East Godavari and West Godavari). The Rayalaseema region tends to adopt the diction of Tamil, whereas in the north eastern parts of Andhra Pradesh (Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts), Telugu tends to soundlike Oriya.
The trinity of poets-Nannayya, Tikkanna and Erranna-who lived from the 11th-14th centuries, have had a lasting impact on the language. The Vijayanagara Era is regarded as the 'golden age' of Telugu as the language flourished under royal patronage. Owing to its rich heritage and literature, the Government of India accorded Telugu the status of a classical language.
Another important language of the state is Dakkani Urdu, which is mutually intelligible with Hindi. Oriya, Kannada and Tamil are prevalent close to the borders of the state.


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