By Ravi Valluri

Years -if not aeons- ago, when the iconic film Shankarabharanam scorched the cinema halls of undivided Andhra Pradesh, the headlines of tabloids screamed (erudite critics cryptically opined the same) that Andhras would be Andhas (eyes impaired) if they fail to watch the much celebrated and acclaimed movie. This was an epoch making statement about the state. Of course today Andhra Pradesh is divided into two, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

“In Andhra, particularly the Bharata Shastra had been highly developed in the medieval times, in the courts of the Kakatiyas, Reddis, Rayas and Nayudus of Warangal, Kondaveedu, Vijayanagar and Rasakinda. In the Kuchipudi tradition, the Bhagavatas of Andhra preserved a considerable amount of the knowledge of Bharta Sastra,” penned Sri Ponnugi Sri Rama Appa Rao, talismanic Telugu author, editor and translator.

Andhra Pradesh is a viridescent and fertile land beyond the Vindhyas, in South India. It is bordered on the south by the terrain of the state of Tamil Nadu, the western part is fringed by Karnataka, and the northern area is flanked by Maharashtra, while the north-eastern areas are encircled by the states of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. The gargantuan water body of the Bay of Bengal encircles the state in the east. This lush landmass sprawls across approximately 275,045 square kilometres.

Nature has bestowed Andhra Pradesh with bountiful minerals, rivers, mountainous terrain, apart from arid area of Rayalaseema and a majestic coastline.

The graphic and majestic Eastern Ghats (which includes the prepossessing Araku valley), that run across the length of the state spice up with additional allure and attraction. Prominent rivers like the Godavari, Krishna, Tungabhadra, Pennar, Manjira, Nagavalli and Vamsadhara run through Andhra Pradesh from the North-West to the South-East. The entire state is interlaced by rivers and rivulets. The alluvial soil which has carpeted the land on account of these rivers makes the state extremely fertile and consequently converted Andhra Pradesh as a bowl of agricultural production.

The weather remains moderate all through most of the year. However, summers are searing as the mercury shoots up to 42˚C. The weather is particularly harsh between March and June, prior to the onset of monsoon.

Nature however has been benevolent during other months as the temperature hovers between 25˚C to 30˚C. Undivided Andhra Pradesh had an average density of 242 persons per sq km. Immediately after bifurcation both Telangana and Andhra shared Hyderabad as the capital. Though now Amravati is the new capital of the state.

The port town of Vishakhapatnam is an industrial township, with flagship companies like the Vizag Steel Plant and the Hindustan Shipyard generating employment to the people of the state. It is noteworthy to mention that Vishakhapatnam is the fourth largest port in the country and serves as a singular commercial hub of Andhra Pradesh. In ancient and medieval times Machilipatnam was a major port for maritime activities in this part of the country. Meanwhile Krishnapatnam and Kakinada have also emerged as important ports which have been engines of growth of the economy.

Telugu is the official language of Andhra. While this land is significantly populated by people of Andhra origins, the state also provides space to people of other states and is multicultural, multilingual and pluralistic in nature. There are several other languages spoken in the state which include Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Odiya, English and Urdu.

The Bapu Museum in Vijayawada, the Amaravati Museum in Amravati, exhibits at INS Kursura in Visakhapatnam, the Tribal Museum at Araku and the artefacts of Sri Venkateswara Museum at Tirupati display a varied collection of sculptures, paintings, and religious artefacts for the tripper. These flaunt and parade several Buddhist and Hindu sculptures and other antiques of enormous interest to the backpacker.

Over the years Andhra Pradesh has emerged as a major educational hub, attracting students from various parts of the country. The most prominent, Andhra University was established in 1926 at Waltair (as the British had christened Visakhapatnam). It has been an epicentre and repository of knowledge for several decades. The Venkateswara University constituted in 1954 at Tirupati and the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University founded in 1964 at Guntur are some of the oldest and popular universities of this country which have chiselled and honed the skills of aspiring students.

Agriculture remains the pillar and cornerstone of the economy. Around seventy percent of the population is employed in agriculture. The state also takes credit for being India’s major rice producing region. Other than production of rice, crops such as sugarcane, oilseeds, beans, and pulses are also cultivated. Around 23% of the state is under the cover of forest. These thickets yield timber products such as teak, eucalyptus, cashew, casuarinas, sandal woods, and bamboo.

Andhra Pradesh is a wondrous and amazing tourist land with numerous exciting happenings. For those tippers hooked to nature, habitats like the Araku Valley and Horsley Hills are getaway points.

The early part of this century saw the discovery of amazing art objects that brought to light several Buddhist sites of interest. Random excavations resulted in mass collections of sculptures, inscribed blocks, coins, relic caskets and the like. In recent years, through planned excavations at Nagarjunakonda, Amaravati-Dharanikota, Salihundam, Dhulikatta, Kotilingala, Cudinallam, Chandavaram and Pedavegi, the state has been able to showcase constituents of early historical cultures of this geographical area.

There are around thirty thousand temples in Andhra Pradesh. The devout however throng the Tirumala Temple at Tirupati, Diguva Mangalagiri Temple, Bhadrachalam Temple, Srisailam Lord Shiva Temple, Kanaka Durga Temple and Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple. Other notable ones include the Mahanandi Temple, Lepakshi Temple, Yaganti Temple, Ahobilam Temple, Paritala Anjaneya and the Raghavendra Swamy Mutt at Mantralayam.

The spicy and bud tickling Andhra cuisine, with rice as a staple, requires a special mention and the food here is considered to be the spiciest in India. The ‘avakai’ or special Andhra style mango pickle and red chillies from Guntur region are not for the faint hearted!

Thus, Andhra Pradesh provides on the platter a variegated trip into the past, present and the future.

How does one describe Andhra Pradesh in a sentence? “If you are in a beautiful place where you can enjoy sunrise and sunset, then you are living like a Lord,” writes Nathan Phillip.

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