Andhra Pradesh is steeped with rich and multi-faceted cultural history. Interestingly, it is nicknamed ‘The Rice Bowl of India’ as it is the largest producer of rice in the country. The state can be traced back to the Rig Vedic ages with references to it in Sanskrit epic poetry, traditionally known as Kavya, entitled Aitareya Brahmana (800BCE).
In June 2014, Telangana emerged as India’s 29th state after being separated from Andhra Pradesh. Though this places parts of history of the state geographically in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh continues to be recognised as a vital force in India’s rich heritage. Hyderabad is, for the foreseeable future, the de jure capital of both states but the de facto capital of Andhra Pradesh is Vijayawada.
Apart from historical cultural prominence, the state is also key in religious and philosophical endeavours. Dharanikota and Nagarjunakonda monasteries in the Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh are testament to the state’s key role in the progression of Ashokan Buddhism. The state also contributed traditions to the religious Bhakti Movement during the medieval period, which inspired acclaimed modern-day philosophers such as Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Telugu, a Dravidian language predominantly spoken in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and its neighbouring states, became the preferred language for Carnatic music, owing to the greatest composers of the 15th and 18th century, Annamacharya and Tyagaraja. For this reason Andhra Pradesh is known as the mother of modern Indian music.
From the production of rich cottons, the state has also historically excelled at natural dye extraction, pearl harvesting and diamond mining. The ancient Golconda mine is, in fact, where the legendary Hope Diamond was mined. Until 1826, before the founding of Rhodesian diamond mines, Andhra Pradesh had a virtual monopoly in the global jewellery industry. Innovations in the textile and jewellery making industry enhanced the state’s repertoire of fashion and jewellery designs.
The state is home to the fashion and traditions of the finest cloth making and dyeing techniques. Today, skilled artisans in Venkatagiri, Pochampally and Gadwal (the latter two now in Telangana) continue to create fascinating traditional and contemporary pieces adorned with Kalamkari and ikat print, to name a couple. Kalamkari is a type of hand painted or block printed textile art that flourished vastly in Andhra Pradesh. It dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation and evolved during the Mughal Empire. Ikat is an age-old dyeing and weaving textile art of which there are many techniques.
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