The Politics on Telangana – I
by Krishnarjun on 05 Dec 2013 8 Comments

Telugus are at a cross roads: the division of the first linguistic state is staring them in the face. What could be the consequences of a separate Telangana on the Telugu people and India at large? To understand, we must look at the history of Telugus and the politics in present Andhra Pradesh.


The Andhras were mentioned in Mahabharata, Aitareya Brahmana, Puranas, Bauddha and Jaina works. The colonial-inspired official history interprets these literary references as the Aryanisation of Andhra country with people from the north migrating to the south and mixing with natives. The Aitareya Brahmana considers the Andhras, Pundras, Sabaras, and Mutibas as descendants of Vishwamitra’s fifty sons, condemned by his curse. The Mahabharata considers them as created by Vasista from his divine cow to fight Vishwamitra. Not much is recorded about Andhra country prior to the Mauryan Empire. During the Mauryan period, the Andhras and Kalingas were considered powerful regional forces. According to Megasthenes, Andhras possessed numerous villages, thirty fortified towns, an army of 100000 infantry, 2000 cavalry and 1000 elephants.


The edicts of Ashoka in Brahmi script at Erragudi, Rajulamandagiri, Amravati and Kottam,  reveal Mauryan administration in Andhra. The Bhattiprolu inscription proves the big influence of Buddhism in the area around 200 BC. After Mauryan influence weakened, the Satvahanas with their capital at Dharanikota (modern Amravati) in the present coastal district of Guntur ruled the whole of the Deccan. The empire of the great Gautamiputra Satakarni extended from Rajasthan to Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu and from Rishikulya in Orissa to Vaijayanthi in Karnataka. The Satvahanas ruled close to 450 years (271 BC – 174 AD).


After the mighty Satavahanas, parts of Andhra country were ruled by Ikshvakus, Pallavas, Vishnukundins; the Chalukyas of Badami under Pulakesin II captured the Deccan. A separate eastern Chalukyan line was established with his brother, Kubja Vishnuvardhana, as Viceroy to Vengi. The eastern Chalukyas ruled coastal Andhra from Vengi in present West Godavari district for 500 years, starting from first quarter of the seventh century.


The western Chalukyas from Badami were succeeded by the Rashtrakutas in 8th century, who in turn were replaced by the western Chalukyas of Kalyani who ruled between the 10th and 12th centuries. The Andhra country was shared between western Chalukyas, eastern Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and Cholas between the 7th and 11th centuries. The eastern Chalukyan king from Vengi Rajendra Chalukya, related to Cholas by marital alliance, assumed the title of Kulatunga Chola and ruled from Kanchi following the death of Adhirajendra. Thus the eastern Chalukyas became Chalukya-Cholas.


After the decline of the eastern Chalukya-Cholas and western Chalukyas, the whole Andhra country was ruled by local mandalika chiefs. From this confusion emerged the Kakatiyas in the western part and Velanati Chodas in the eastern part of Andhra country. With the decline of Velanati Chodas, the Kakatiyas with their capital from Orugallu (Warangal in present Telangana region) united the entire Andhra country; they ruled between 1083 to 1323 AD; their capital was referred as “Andhra nagari”, city of Andhras.


In 1303 AD, during the reign of Kakatiya king Prataparudra, Alauddin Khilji invaded the realm but was defeated. In 1309 AD he sent his notorious general Malik Kafur; a fierce battle raged for months and ultimately Prataparudra had to surrender to prevent atrocities on the citizens in the outer fort. Prataparudra again declared his independence in 1320 AD. The Kakatiya Empire was invaded again, this time by Muhammad Bin Tughlak; after several months of fierce fighting, Tughlaq’s army ravaged Warangal and captured Prataparudra. The booty included Samanthaka Mani, better known as the Kohinoor diamond. Prataparudra died on the banks of Narmada while being taken to Delhi.


After Prataparudra’s death, the atrocities by Tughlak’s army prompted two chieftains from coastal Andhra, Musunuri Prolaya nayaka and Musunuri Kapaya nayaka, to lead a confederation of local chiefs to liberate Andhra country. The copper plate grant of Musunuri Prolaya Nayaka describes the atrocities of the invading armies: “In a hundred sinful ways the rich were tortured for the sake of money… temples were destroyed and idols were desecrated…. Merely on beholding the Parasikars (Muslims) some abandoned their lives…. in that great calamity people could not regard their money, wives and other earthly belongings as their own… the wretched Yavanas reveled in drinking wine, eating cow’s flesh… the land of Telinga, tormented by those Yavana warriors who were exactly like Rakshasas, was in flames like a forest surrounded by wild fire”. Under the Kakatiyas, the entire Andhra country was referred as Telangana, not just the present day Telangana region.


The rule of the Musunuris was short and the unity of Telugu chiefs fizzled out with the death of Kapaya nayaka. The Velama chiefs ruled eastern Telangana, the Reddy kingdom came up in coastal Andhra, and subsequently the eastern Telangana became part of the Bahamani kingdom.


Harihara and Bukka, who were guards of the Kakatiya Prataparudra treasury, founded the Vijayanagar Empire. The Andhras contributed immensely for the growth of the empire. Many Andhra nayaks were in the front ranks of the Vijayanagar army; they became governors of Vijayanagar provinces. Though there are different claims on the origins of the Vijayanagar founders, it is beyond contention that Telugu culture and literature was heavily patronized in Vijayanagar.


The scholar king Krishnadevaraya himself authored literary works in Telugu and in many ways professed his love for Telugu language. Vijayanagar (1336 to 1646 AD) not only stopped the march of Islamic armies in the south for over three centuries, it also revived Hindu culture in all its glory. In the battle of Tallikota, the 96-year-old Vijayanagar ruler, Aliya Rama Raya was killed, sabotaged at a crucial moment in the war by Muslim generals in his army. The capital of Vijayanagar, Vidyanagar, was ravaged and savagely looted.


Parts of Andhra country were under Vijayanagar, while present day Telangana region was part of the Bahamani Kingdom. After the fall of Vijayanagar, the whole Andhra country was taken over by Qutub Shahs, who lost to Aurangzeb. But following the death of the Mughal Emperor, Nizam Asaf Jahi declared independence in 1720. The whole Andhra country came under the Nizam until he ceded the coastal districts to the French and later to the British (1766). Rayalaseema districts were ceded to the British in 1800. The present Telangana region remained under the Nizam and coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema districts eventually became part of the Madras presidency.


There is no historical or literary evidence to suggest that Telangana was ever a distinct entity. The whole Andhra was part of the great Satavahana empire. The Kakatiyas with with roots in present Telangana region united the whole Andhra region. The Kakatiya empire, including current coastal Andhra, was referred as “land of telinga” or Telangana, as mentioned in the copper plate grant of Musunuri Prolaya nayaka. The inscription from Bhatiprolu with Telugu words dates back to 400 BC. Telugu literature developed under the Chalukyas, Kakatiyas and Vijayanagar. In the Nizam state, Telugu region was called “Telangana” to distinguish the region and people from the Kannada and Marathi speaking areas. Though present Telangana region was part of different empires in history, it was never an entity by itself.


To be continued…                                                                

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