Inside Andhra Pradesh
Ancient & Aesthetic
Geography, it is said, is always instrumental in shaping the history and culture of a land and Andhra Pradesh is no exception to this. Strategically placed in the heartland of the ancient Deccan, Andhra Pradesh has absorbed the traditions of both north and the south - Once a part of the Mauryan Empire during the reign of Ashoka, it became an important Buddhist centre. One can still see evidences of the early Buddhist influence in Amaravathi and at Nagarjunakonda, one of the greatest archaeological sites in the country. Later it carne under the hegemony of the Chalukyas and in the 10th century was engulfed by the Chola kingdom. These reigns naturally accounted for the Hindu school of thought. Subsequently, it witnessed the sway of the Muslim rulers and in 1713 A.D. it passed into the hands of a commander of the Mughal army under Aurangzeb. Finally, it succumbed to the rule of the hereditary monarchs known as the Nizams of Hyderabad and remained with them till India attained independence.
The fifth largest state of India, Andhra Pradesh is irrigated by the mighty Krishna and the Godavari rivers and is aptly termed as the 'Rice Granary of India'. Telugu is the main language of communication though the Muslim rule has paved the way of Urdu also.
Andhra Pradesh is the home of rich cultural heritage and handicrafts. Kuchipudi, the classical dance form originating from the state has vigorous choreography and is somewhat akin to Bharatanatyam. The crafts- men of Andhra have given to India their unique creations - Kalamkari vegetable dyed textiles, lacquer paintings from Nirmal, woodcraft, Pochampalli silks, Hyderabad pearls and an extremely attractive and glittering array of glass bangles. Andhra Pradesh is also the home of the colourful Lambanis and Banjaras - Nomadic tribes - and some of them turn up as pavement sellers offering their highly ornate long skirts and silver jewellery.
Andhra Pradesh also offers a rich palate to the gourmet. Hyderabadi Muslims, fastidious in their culinary art, turn out some very authentic age old recipes. Their biryanis, kababs, chicken delicacies top a long list of their cuisine.
Government of India Tourist Office 3-6-369 / A / 30, Sandoz Building, 2nd Floor, 26, Himayatnagar, Hyderabad - 500 029.
Hussain Sagar lake separates Hyderabad from Secunderabad. Most historical monuments, hotels, restaurants, the city bus station, Salar Jang Museum and the Zoo are in the old city.
It is the capital of Andhra Pradesh and is the fifth largest city in India, being the former seat of one of the world's richest monarchs namely the Nizams. It is a major centre of Islamic culture and is a harmonious amalgam of the South and the North.
Hyderabad became famous when the fourth Qutb Shahi ruler, Quli Qutb Shah created this new capital and named it after his Begum - Hyder Mahal. Before the founding of Hyderabad, the Qutb Shahi kings ruled from the fortress of Golconda - 11 kms to the west. Today, the extensive ruins of the fort, with Qutb Shahi's tomb, have become principal attractions for tourists.
The twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad are separated by the Hussain Sagar lake.
Sightseeing in Hyderabad:
The Charminar: Situated in the heart of the old walled city, this edifice is the best known land mark with bustling bazaars all round, where a variety of articles like pearl jewellery, bangles, chandeliers, silks are displayed. It was built in 1591 AD., by Quli Shah, as a form of talisman to ward off the dreaded epidemic that was ravaging the city. As the name suggests, Charminar has four minarets rising 49 metres high, typical of Qutb Shahi architecture.
Mecca Masjid: It is the largest mosque situated close to Charminar. It was begun by Qutb Shah in 1614 AD., but was completed only in 1687 AD by the Moghul Emperor - Aurangazeb. Granite has been used in the construction of columnades and door arches.
Golconda Fort Eleven kilometers from the city, this fort was originally built by the Kakatiya rulers of Warangal in the 13th century. It became the capital of Qutb Shahi rulers from 1518 AD. to 1687 AD. They laid out splendid monuments and parks and designed wonderful acoustical systems. Such is the ingenuity of the system that a clapping of the hand sounded at the entrance gate is echoed in the Durbar hall of the citadel at the very top of the hill! The tombs of Qutb Shahi kings are nearby.
Golconda was once famous for its flourishing trade in diamonds, which has now be- come a legend of the past. The world-famous Koh-i-noor diamond is believed to have been found in Golconda. Today tourists visit this place only to see the ruins.
The Salar Jung Museum:
This treasure house of art is located on the bank of the river Musa. Acclaimed as one of the finest one-man collections in the world, this museum is named after Mir Yusuf Ali Khan - Salar Jung III - the prime minister of the Nizam, who was a great connoisseur of art. It houses 35,000 exhibits collected from all comers of the world including illuminated manuscripts, bejewelled armouries, wood carvings, exquisite cutglass collections etc. Of the many artifacts, some of the sculptures in marble like the "Veiled Rebecca", "Mephistopheles" and the "Lady with the lamp" are some irresistible objects d' art with classic workmanship. The oil paintings acquired from France, an array of vases and pewters, numerous watches and clocks, rich Persian silks and wall hangings, floor coverings, and Chinese tapestry are some of the prize exhibits.
Visiting hours 10.00 AM. - 5.00 P.M. Fridays Holidays.
Government Archaeological Museum: This Government museum has a small collection of archaeological finds which include ancient coins, arms, illuminated manuscripts, an Egyptian Mummy and copies of Ajanta Frescoes. This museum is open on all days except Mondays from 10.30 AM. to 5.00 P.M.
Naubat Parbhat: Popularly called Birla Mandir this temple built of pure white marble atop a hill and dedicated to Lord Balaji is a very popular tourist attraction. One can get an excellent view of the twin cities and the lake joining them.
Open from 8.00 AM. - 12 Noon and 4.00 P.M. to 8.00 P.M.
Nehru Zoological Park:
Located near the Mir Alam Tank it is one of the largest parks in India. Spread over 120 hectares of landscaped garden, it houses about 250 species of animals.
Open from 9.00 AM. - 6.00 P.M. Weekly holiday - Mon- day.
The Osman Sagar and Himayat Sagar: These are ideal picnic spots with well laid out gardens. Osman Sagar is 29 kms and Hirnayat Sagar 20 kms from Hyderabad.
Nagarjuna Konda and Nagarjuna Sagar: Nagar- junakonda which is 149 kms south east of Hyderabad, has a history dating back as early as the 2nd century B.C. to 3rd century AD. It is named after Sage Nagarjuna Acharya - an exponent of Mahayana form of Buddhism. Known as "Vijayapuri" in the early days, it was one of the important Buddhist centres of South India. Today only the ruins of the lost city lie in the shadow of the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam. Some outstanding remains of Stupas, marble carvings, sculptures are excavated and preserved in a museum in the nearby island which can be reached by a boat. The site on which Nagarjunakonda stands was excavated in 1926. Also worth visiting are the sites of Ashwamedha Yaga, Queen's bathing ghat and the Buddhist monasteries.
Nagarjuna Sagar: Is an artificial lake created by a dam across the river Krishna. This dam is one of the largest masonry dams in the world with a height of 124 metres. The lake has an area of 380 sq. metres.
How to get there:
APSTDC operates deluxe tourist buses to Nagarjunakonda & Nagarjunasagar daily, from Hyderabad.
The APSTDC offers daily tours of city of Hyderabad.
Things to buy:
Glass bangles and pearls.
How to get there:
Air: Hyderabad is connected by air with major cities like Bombay, Bangalore, Calcutta, Delhi, Madras, Bhubaneshwar, Nagpur, Vishakapatnam, etc.
Bus: Hyderabad is well connected with important towns and cities like Amaravathi, Aurangabad, Bangalore, Bidar, Bombay, Gulbarga, Kurnool, Madras, Nagpur, Nizamabad, Tirupati, Vijayawada, etc.
Train: Trains connect Hyderabad with important cities and towns like New Delhi, Bangalore, Madras, Aurangabad, Manmad, Ajmer, etc.
Warangal: One hundred kilometres from Hyderabad is the historical city of Warangal, which was once the capital of the Kakatiya dynasty. The Kakatiyas were the Hindu kings who were patrons of art and architecture. Warangal is described as the "Metropolis of the Kakatiya Dynasty", and the temples built during their reign are fine examples of the Chalukyan style of architecture. The best known among them is the 1000 pillared temple on the slopes of the Hanumakonda hill and the Bhadrakali temple.
Another important monument in Warangal is the fort built by the Kakatiyas. It has four decorative gateways of remarkable beauty. The outer walls are built of mud bricks, and the inside is fortified by stone walls in which many carved stones are found. These carved stones are believed to have been taken out of the destroyed Chalukyan temples.
Warangal is also well known for its engraved brass ware which is in great demand abroad.
How to get there:
Bus: Warangal is well connected with cities and towns like Hyderabad, Nizamabad, kazipet, Hamamkonda, etc.
Train: Warangal is connected with important cities of Hyderabad, Vijayawada etc.
Excursions from Warangal:
The Ramappa Temple :
This temple situated at Palampet 77 kms from Warangal is a splendid fusion of the Chalukyan and Hoysala architectures.
Wildlife Sanctuary at Pakhala : 64 kms from Warangal. Buses are avail- able from Warangal to this place.
Srisailam : 230 kms from Hyderabad is the famous piligrimage centre of Srisailam dedicated to Lord Shiva. The presiding deity Lord Mallikarjuna is believed to be one of the 12jyotirlingas of the country. Goddess Bhramaramba is one of the Ashtadasa Mahasakthis. The main temple with four lofty towers built by the Vijayanagar king Harihara Raya (1404-1405 A.D.) has a beautifully carved mandapa and a huge monolithic bull (Nandi).
An unique feature of this Shiva temple is that any devotee irrespective of caste or creed can touch the Lord and worship him. A Veerashaiva priest performs the daily pooja to the Lord, whereas the Devi's pooja is done by a Brahmin.
Also, at Srisailam is the Sikharan peak at an altitude of 2835 ft. Srisailam is in Kurnool district.
Kurnool: To the south of Hyderbad, 240 kms away, is the town of Kurnool. It has the ruins and remnants of old muslim fortresses, mausoleums and mosques.
Amaravathi : About 148 kms from Nagarjuna Sagar is Amaravathi the old capital of the Andhra Sathavahana kings who ruled 2000 years ago. It was another Buddhist centre of ancient times which flourished during the 3rd century A.D. This place is well known for its marble Stupa which is exquisitely carved with lamps decorated all round.
Most of the other stupas were largely destroyed at the end of the 18th century by vagrants and whatever remained has been housed in the archaeological museum. Admission to this museum is free and is open from 9.00 A.M. - 5.30 P.M.
Tirupati town is quite far away from Hyderabad (704 kms) but nearer to Madras and Bangalore. It is 150 kms from Madras via Kalahasti and 250 kms from Bangalore. Tourists can either fly to Tirupati from Madras, Bangalore and Hyderabad or go by road as it has a good network of surface transport facilities. There are also certain places of interest to the pilgrims in and around Tirupati. Sri Govindaraja Perumal Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is right in the middle of the town. There is also a Shiva temple at the foot of the hill going to Thirumala, and a pool called Kapila Theertham which is 3 kms from Tirupati. There are also shrines of Kothandarama Swamy built by Rainanujacharya in the 12th century and a temple for Pad- mavatiamman (Consort of Lord Venkatesh-wara) - about 5 kms from the city at Tiruchanur.
Besides these temples, Tirupati is the seat of the University of Venkateshwara.
Thirumala: The Sri Venkateshwara temple atop the Thirumala Hills is one of the biggest pilgrim centres of the country. Situated at an altitude of 2800 ft. among 7 hills covered with abundant greenery in the Eastern Ghats, this temple is believed to be in existence for over 2000 years. The particular hill on which the Balaji temple stands, is referred to, in the Puranas as the glorious mythical Mount Meru and is said to represent seven peaks. Here, Lord Vishnu is worshipped as the Lord of seven hills.. Also reference about this ancient temple is made in the Tamil epic "Silap-padikaram" .
The main temple facing the east, is a masterpiece of Dravidian architecture and the Vimana and Dwajastamba are fully gold plated. This is the third richest pilgrimage centre in the world after the Vatican and Mecca. Lakhs of devotees throng to the temple throughout the year and their belief and faith in this god are stupendous. The annual collections from the votive offerings run into severallakhs and this money is ploughed back into various welfare measures. The specially constituted Devasthanam Board carries out the entire administration including maintenance of roads from Thirumala to Tirupati, guest houses, cottages, etc.
In the Garba Griha, the idol of the Lord is 7 ft high and is made of granite stone standing majestically on a high lotus pedestal. The crown is 20 ft high and the Shanka and Chakra studded with diamonds on both hands dazzle the eye Many devotees tonsure their hair and hence wig industry flourishes in this area.
One can also visit the Varahaswamy temple, Akasha-ganga Falls (6 kms) and the Papanasham Falls (9 km). Even from the wee hours of the morning, people form exceedingly long queues for darshan of the Lord. A provision has been made for special darshan on payment of entrance fee. The Dharma (free) darshan goes on throughout the day, but in between people who do sevas like Kalyanotsavam, Thomalaseva and many other sevas are given preference.
The APSTDC runs week end tours to Tirupati from Hyderabad TIDC and ITDC operate daily tours to Tirupati from Madras.
Kalahasti: 38 kms to the South of Tirupati is another important pilgrimage centre dedicated to Lord Shiva. Here the Ling is "Swayambhu" and considered to be in form of Vayu (wind), because in this temple, the lamp inside the sanctum keeps flickering inspite of lack of any air inside. Nearby is the temple dedicated to Kannappa - a great devotee of Lord Shiva.
Konai Water Falls: On the Tirupati - Uthukollai - Madras road is the Konai Waterfalls which is a calm peaceful picnic spot. It is about 90 kms from Madras.
Vishakapatnam: Vishakapatnam popularly known as Vizag is a natural harbour 640 kms from Hyderabad. From Tirupati it is 746 kms. It is also a naval base and has a modem ship building yard. It has some excellent beaches.
How to get there:
Air: Indian Airlines flies between Vishakapatnam and Hyderabad daily.
Train: Trains connect Vishakapatnam with all major cities of India.
Bus: Buses connect Vishakapatnam with most parts of AP.
Simhachalam: About 20 kms north of Vizag is the ancient Vishnu temple of the 11th century built in the Chalukyan and Orissa style. This Varahanarasimha (The 6th in- carnation of Lord Vishnu) temple has as many as 525 inscriptions. The earliest epigraph is dated back to 1087 A.D. The deity here is the combination of Varaha and Narasimha, who appeared before his devotee Prahalada. It is also called "Ahobilam". The deity here is always covered with sandal paste to pacify as it is supposed to be "Ugra Mur- thy". (The ferocious one).
Arakku Valley: 74 kms from Vishakapatnam is the beautiful Arakku valley. Its scenic beauty, wooded forests and the tribal people fascinate the visitors.
Vijayawada: About 270 kms from Hyderabad, this town is situated on the banks of the river Krishna. 2000 years ago, it was an important Buddhist centre and the remains of the Stupas can be seen even today. It is an important rail- way junction of the South Central Railways. Being a major town of Coastal Andhra, it is well connected by air, rail and road.
The museum here which houses the black granite statue of Buddha is worth visiting. The Kanakadurga temple on the top of the hill, Hazrat Bal mosque and the Prakasam barrage attract tourists.
From Vijayawada, there are many interesting places within short distances where excursions can be taken:-
The Mogalarajapuram (3 kms. East of Vijayawada) has some interesting cave temples of the 5th century. Also the Ardhanareeshwara idol found here is only one of its kinds in South India.
Also nearby is the town of Undevilli in Guntur district, where some beautiful cave temples are located. The idol of Vishnu in a reclining form is found in one of the temples.
Mangalagiri: This place of pilgrimage which is 12 kms south of Vijayawada is famous for Narasimha (Vishnu) temple. Hindus who visit this temple believe that the Lord accepts only half of the Paanaka (Jaggery water) offered to him.
Kolleru Lake: This vast fresh water lake is the refuge for hundreds of Pelicans and other birds. This sanctuary is 95 kms from Vijayawada. In a place called Aredu these pelicans make their nests and offer a wondrous sight.
Kondapalli: 15 kms away from Vijayawada this place has been famous for its traditional wooden toys. Attractive toys are made here based on mythology. Also figures of animals, birds and vegetables are dexterously lacquered.
Manginipudi: From Vijaya- wada this is 83 kms away and is a beautiful beach resort.
Chilakalapudi: Quite near to Manginipudi and about 71 kms from Vijayawada, is this small town which is well known for its temple of Pan- durangaswamy(Vishnu).
Kuchipudi: 60 kms away from Vijayawada, Kuchipudi is known as the birth place of the pure classical dance form of "Kuchipudi" which has now become quite popular. Siddendra Yogi the creator of this dance form was born here. A school of dancing of this style is run here in memory of this great teacher and is called the "Siddendrakala Kshetram".
Bhadrachalam: On the banks of the river Godavari 181 kms away from Vijayawada, stands this famous temple dedicated to Lord Rama. Well- known musicians like An- namacharya have sung in praise and glory of this Lord. This temple is associated with the name of Bhakta Ramdas. As' the legend goes, he was employed as the Tahshildar of Golconda Durbar, but being a great devotee of Rama, he spent all the revenue collections on renovating the temple. Angered by this, the Tansha of Golconda imprisoned him for twelve years but motivated by a divine vision of Rama and Lakshmana, the Tansha released Ramdas and gave him all the help to further improve the temple.
Other interesting tourist spots near Vijayawada are Movva (55 kms), Draksharama and Satyanarayana temples.
Machilipatnam: This coastal town of Andhra Pradesh is 80 kms from Vijayawada and is well known for its "Kalamkari" textiles and paintings from the vegetable dyes. As a Kalam (pen) is used in the technique of painting, it came to be called "Kalamkari Painting". During the 17th century western traders were attracted by this art and came to do a lot of trading here.
Around Machilipatnam, there are a few places of interest to tourists such as:-
Ghantasala: 21 kms from Machilipatnam, it has the remains of an old Buddhist stupa.
Gudivada: Is another town north west of Machilipatnam which attracts some visitors to the old ruins of the stupas.
Further up the coast of Machilipatnam there are five temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. These ancient temples are located at Amravati, Samalkot, Bhimavaram, Drak- sharama and Chebrolu.
Tour of Andhra Pradesh is not complete without visiting Lepakshi, Puttaparthi and Mantralaya.
Lepakshi: About 95 kms from Bangalore (Karnataka), is the popular pilgrim centre of Lepakshi with its Veerab- hadraswami temple built in the Vijayanagar style. This temple with its innumerable paintings and the colossal monolithic Nandi (the Celestial Bull) is very impressive. The handicrafts emporia of Andhra Pradesh situated all over the country bear their name as Lepakshi. Tourists can also reach this place from Hindupur which is only 16 kms. away.
Puttaparthi: The ashram of Sri Sathya Sai Baba is located here and thousands of devotees flock here to have darshan of the Baba who is claimed to be the incarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba. Puttaparthi is 250 kms from Bangalore and 30 kms from Dharmavaram. Sathya Sai Baba is a good orator and has also written a large number of books on Hindu philosophy, and religion. He is also credited with powers to per- form miracles. He is a living legend and has followers not only from India, but also from western countries.
Manthralaya: On the banks of the river Tungabhadra stands the temple of Sri Raghavendra Swamy. 60 kms from Kurnool and part of the Kurnool District it has good road connections from Andhra and Karnataka.
The Hindu Saint Raghavendra Swamy, who lived here 300 years ago, attained samadhi in the "Brindavan" (sacred tomb). Hundreds of devotees visit this Brindavan even today and have great faith in this saint. A large number of journals and books have been published by the devotees about their amazing experiences.