Andhra-desa is a wonderful land of rives such as the Godavari with its tributaries Manjira, Pranahita, Indravati and the Sabari ; the Krishna with its tributaries the Bhimrathi, Tungabhadra, Dindi, Musi as well as the Muni, Pinakini, Paleru, Manneru, Gundlakamma, the Sarada, Nagavali, Vamsadhara and the Rishikulya (Map 1). Along the Andhra sea-coast which extends for about 400 miles, there existed sea-ports at the mouths of the large rivers. Navigation and commercial enterprise were very much encouraged and seafarers left the Andhra shores for colonisation beyond the deep seas. The Godavari and the Krishna were navigable in ancient times.
The earliest mention of the Andhras is in the Aitareya Brahmana as one of the tribes of South India. Andhra-desa was the original home of the Andhras in the earliest times as it is even to-day. After the fall of the Mauryan Empire the Satavahanas extended their dominion into the north, west and south until Andhra-desa embraced a great portion of the Indian Peninsula. Its early history is borne out by Buddhist and Brahmanical literature, by copper plates, inscriptions, coins, ancient structures such as stupas, chaityas and viharas, and by manuscripts and the writings of foreign travellers. Megasthenes (300 B.C) and Pliny (77 A.D.) referred to the Andhras as a powerful tribe, who possessed numerous villages, 30 towns defended by high walls and towers, and an immense army of one lakh infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 1,000 elephants. In the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea of the Ist century A.D., the ports of Barygaza and Vaijayanti are mentioned as places of export of onyx stones, porcelain, muslin, cotton, perfumes, gum and silk. Ptolemy locates Barygaza in Larike, a name evidently derived from a Prakrit form of Skt. Lata. He mentions a port Byzantion in the country of the Pirates (7). The name has been explained from Vejayanti, but this is more than doubtful. Ptolemy mentions a country under the name Ariake Sadenon, i.e., Ariake of the Sadenoi, and we may safely assume that his Sadenoi is a Greck rendering of a Prakrit form of “ Satavahana”. In 6 he mentions five ports and in 82-83 eighteen inland towns belonging to that country. Recently at Kondapur, in Hyderabad (Deccan), where coins of the Andhra kings Gautamiputra and his son Pulumavi were discovered, pieces of porcelain were dug out as were also Buddhist figurines made of kaolin (a pure white porcelaneous clay). Ptolemy speaks of the Andhras, the trade on the East Coast, and the ports of Kontakossyla, Koddura and Allosygne. He also mentions Apheterion in Maisolia region (Krishna Delta). Apheterion is not a proper name as some writers have believed but a word meaning “a point of departure”. The Puranas refer to the Andhra-bhritya dynasty of kings also called Satakarnis and Satavahanas, who ruled from the middle of the 3rd century B.C. to the first quarter of the 3rd century A.D. Their territory extended from the east coast to the west coast ; Mysore in the south and Avanti or modern Ujjain in the north were included in their kingdom. The Kondapur excavations by G. Yazdani and the recent excavations in Chittaldrug district, Mysore, have yielded valuable results and thrown further light on this Andhra period.
Ancient market towns were Dhannakataka (250 B.C.), Kevurura, Vijayapura(i) and Narasala. Maritime traffic is attested to by the find of a large number of Roman coins on the Coromandel (Colamandala). Regarding the migration of Hindu colonists to the Far East in the 1st century A.D., the Andhra country in general and the Vengi kingdom in particular had a good share in it. Ptolemy’s Apheterion to the north of Allosygne was the starting point of ships for Golden Chryas, Farther India and the Archipelago. The coinage of the times reveals that lead and potin predominated over copper and the issues were large and varied such as would be the case with an empire from sea to sea. Sea-bound trade was largely responsible for the flourishing state of Buddhism in Andhra-desa for nearly six centuries (from 300 B.C. to A.D.). Buddhists were largely recruited from the commercial classes whose wealth was utilised to raise Amaravati, Nagarjunakonda and other stupas. Buddhism spread like wild fire more quickly among non-Aryan tribes in the Andhra country than in Aryan Society.
The Buddhist sites in the Northern Districts of the Madras State, particularly in the Andhra country are vast as against a fraction in the Southern Districts. From Salihundam in the Visakhpatnam district in the North to Chinna Ganjam in the Guntur district in the south, and from Gooty in the Anantapur district in the west to Bhattiprolu in the east, the Andhra country witnessed in the three centuries preceding and following the birth of Christ a phenomenal growth of Buddhistic culture and art. Ramatirtham (Skt. Aramatirtham), Sankaram(Skt. Sangharama), Salihundam, Kodavalli, Arugolanu, Guntupalle, Jaggayyapeta, Ramireddipalle, as well as Alluru, Bezwada (Vijayawada), Gudivada, Ghantasala (Kantakossyla), Garikapadu, Goli, Nagarjunakonda, Amaravati, Paddamaddur, Chinna Ganjam, Peddaganjam, Kanuparti and Bhattiprolu are a few places among the many that heve yielded to the magic touch of the archaeologist, relics of a glorious civilization that flourished in the Andhra country in the early centuries. Stupas or sepulchral monuments, chaityas or chetiyasgharas prayer chambers or halls, and viharas or monasteries were found in large numbers, particularly in the Guntur and Krishna districts along the banks to the river Krishna which was known to the Greeks as Maisolos.
A study of the various Buddhist sites in South India proves the existence of five early roads which converged at Vengi in the centre of the Andhra country. Almost all the Buddhist sites were located on these roads which lead to Kalinga, to Dravida, to Karnata, to Maharashtra, and to Kosala respectively (and Kosala includes Dakshina Kosala).
Nagarjunakonda, “the hill of Nagarjuna”, is the name of a large rocky hill on the right bank of the Krishna river in the palnad Taluk of the Guntur District of the Madras State, sixteen miles west of Macherla R.S. The scene of the Archaeological Department’s activities in excavation from 1926 onwards is a valley about three miles in width completely shut in by the surrounding hills which are off-shoots of the Nallamalai Range and the Krishna river on the west forming the boundary between the Guntur District and Hyderabad. The valley is dotted with numerous hillocks and mounds covered with jungle. These mounds represent the sites of former Buddhist monuments, mostly stupas, chaityas and viharas (fig. 1). A vast number of groups of standing limestone pillars are also met with in the valley. Each group marks the site of some monastery. Only one site was discovered right in the centre of the valley which represents the remains of a palace. The extent of the ruins is far greater than at Amaravati. Its strategical position protected on three sides by natural fortifications and the river on the fourth side together with two fortified hills defending the river front shows that the place was of considerable importance in early days. The Krishna river which is here about half a mile in width was probably a much larger river then then now affording easy navigation down to the sea thus making the place accessible and in easy communication with the other Buddhist settlements at Rentala, Goli, Amaravati, Jaggayyapeta, Chezarla, Ghantasala, Gummadidurru, Alluru, Vijayawada (Bezwada) and Bhattiprolu, all situated in the lower Krishna valley within easy reach of the river. As already remarked the Krishna was known to the Greeks as Maisolos and the Krishna delth as Maisolia.
This remarkable valley was discovered in March 1926. Mr. Longhurst’s excavations between 1926 and 1931 resulted in the discovery of a large stupa (Mahacetiya of the inscriptions) and several smaller stupas (eight in number), four viharas or monasteries, six chaityas or apsidal temples, four pavilions or mandapas, a palace site and stone- built wharf on the Krishna bank. They are built of large bricks, 20”x10”x3” on the average. The bricks were laid in mud mortar and the walls covered with plaster. The moulding and other ornamentations of these brick structures were usually executed in stucco and the buildings were white- washed from top to bottom “not only to protect the plaster but also as a suitable ground for colour work and gilding”, the pillars, floors and important sculptures were of white or grey limestone resembling marble and easy to work. No other stone was used and it was evidently brought to the site by means of the river and landed at a stone-built wharf, 250 feet long, 50 feet wide and 6 feet high along the water front. Three rows of stone pillars extend from end to end indicating that this long building perhaps served as a Customs House. In the decoration of several of the monuments here abundant use is made of richly sculptured slabs of limestone.
The discoveries made also included inscriptions, coins, relics of bones, pottery, statues and over 500 magnificent bas-reliefs in the style of the Amaravati reliefs, some of them bearing inscriptions of a dynasty of kings called Ikshvaku, all belonging to the same period (2nd -3rd centuries A.D.). These inscribed records are in Brahmi characters, the language being a standard Prakrit related to Pali which was used over a large territory. A similar language is also used in the Kharavela inscriptions at Khandagiri-Udayagiri, Orissa. The dialect of the inscriptions has been described as a normalized semi-literary Prakrit used by people whose home tongue was Dravidian, probably Kanarese. As the dialect shows a strong Kanarese substratum we may not be wringing in inferring that the Ikshvaku kings had come to the Krishna country from the west. The records afford us interesting information about the Southern Ikkhaku (Ikshvaku) dynasty settled in the Andhra country in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D., who claimed descent from Ikkhaku(Ikshavaku), the mythical progenitor of the Solar dynasty of Ayodhya. The Jaggayyapeta inscriptions which are executed exactly as in Nagarjunakonda are dated in the 20th regnal year of an Ikkhaku king, Madhariputta Siri Vira Purisadata. The Nagarjunakonda inscriptions acquaint us with the names of several more members, male and female, of the same royal house.
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