Andhs appear to be the earliest civilised people living in the Deccan region, especially along the Godavari river, at least from the times of the Indus Valley civilisation (5,000 years ago).
One of the main characters of the Indus script was recently identified as Andh, whose symbol is like the capital letter ‘U’ with equal symbol ‘=’ (=U=). It means abode or ‘to come’, or ‘is’ and ‘has’. Another symbol related to the Andh is inverted capital letter ‘U’ with a pole like line in its back with X in its centre. It conveys the meaning of ‘naro’, i.e. man. These symbols, together with others, are found in rock paintings of Rachakonda, Aksharaala Loddi (Nallamoodi) etc caves which are datable to at least 3,000 BC. The scientific study of such letters and cave paintings will definitely unravel many interesting facts about the ancientness of Andhs.
Since the letter Andh conveys the meaning ‘to come’, the Aitareya Brahmana’s episode of the Rishi Vishvamitra’s curse of his sons ‘to go’ and mingle with Andhras may be interrelated. The age of the Aitareya Brahmana is said to be 800 BC.
By 6th century BC, a Brahman scholar, Bavari, is said to have stayed on the banks of River Godavari in the Assaka-Mulaka country which spread across Telangana and Maharashtra. As per the contents of Suttanipata, a Buddhist text ‘Assaka’ is treated by some scholars as derived from ‘Andhaka’, the place/abode of Andhs. By this time, they had been worshipping a mother deity who guided Bavari, the Arst propagator of Buddhism in South India. A series of such goddesses, with names of Kanakai, Kaako and Bangaramma are found on the left bank of Godavari in erstwhile Adilabad district in Telangana. It is interesting to note that even today, Andh’s chief deity is Aayi.
By the 4th century BC, Andhs are said to have had 30 fortified towns with huge armies in possession of the biggest kingdom (Andhakaratta) after the Mauryan dynasty in North India. A few years ago, the Archaeology Department of Andhra Pradesh identified 24 Andhra forts – 14 in Telangana, five in Andhra Pradesh, three in Maharashtra and one each in Karnataka and Odisha. Of these forts, Kotilingala in Jagityal district is compared to the Indus Valley civilisation fort of Dholavira spread over 120 acres abutting the river bank.
The last chieftain of Kotilingala – Samagopa – was replaced by Satavahana, which was revealed by the name ‘Satavahana’ on the coins of ‘Samagopa’ found in Kotilingala. Thus, Andhra Satavahana established the first ever empire in the entire Deccan and South India in 78 BC. He was succeeded by Satakarni, Srimukha and Krishna and then Satakarni-II and Hala. Satakarni appears to have shifted the capital from Telangana to Maharashtra (Paithan).
Kutuhala’s ‘Leelavati’ reveals that Hala Satavahana travelled from his old capital (Kotilingala) to his new capital Paithan through the river Godavari after marrying Leelavati, daughter of the island king near Kotilingala. A prakrit inscription found near Kotilingala confirmed that there were continuous ‘to-and-fro’ journeys in between Telangana and Maharashtra even after Hala Satavahana since the inscription mentioned the granddaughter of Hala and her donations to the Buddhists of the locality. The nearby caves (of Munulagutta) of the times of Satakarni-I and Karkonda caves of Khammam district preceded the Ajanta caves of Maharashtra – both excavated by Andhra Satavahanas for ‘Shramana’ monks.
With this, the political shift from Telangana to Maharashtra and the consequent intermingling of cultures can be found in Hala’s ‘Gatha Saptasati’ written in Marathi Prakrit and Telugu Prakrit. One such interesting example for the interchange of cultures is the Telugu word ‘Paita’ (sari pallu) which is derived from ‘Paithan’. In other words, Telugu women learnt to cover their upper bodies from Paithan women.
— Dr. Dyavanapalli Satyanarayana
(The author has studied Ph.D. in Telangana History and has written almost a dozen books on Telangana history and culture. He explored and published about 20 rock painting sites, 20 inscriptions and heritage tourist sites. He was president of AP History (Ancient) Congress and received State awards for Excellence in Writing apart from Keerti Puraskaram from Telugu University).