Two millennia ago the Telugu country was a stronghold of Buddhism, a legacy of the empire of Asoka (ca. 250 B . C .). The Andhra Kingdom, with its capital in Paithan (now in Maharashtra), followed. Among the various dynasties that next held sway were the Pallavas, the Eastern Chalukyas, the Kalingas, the Kakatiyas, and the Cholas. The Muslim period saw the establishment of the Bahmani Kingdom and its successor, the sultanate of Golkonda. Hindu Vijayanagar in the southern part of the Telugu country was conquered by Muslims in 1565. European traders—Dutch, French, and English—attracted by textiles and spices began arriving on the scene in the sixteenth century. The British ultimately prevailed in the eighteenth century, acquiring control from the rulers of Golkonda over extensive tracts in the northeast coastal belt of the Telugu country. Later these territories were linked with those they acquired in the south and ruled from the city of Madras. The northwestern part of the Telugu-speaking lands remained in what became the state of the Nizam of Hyderabad, whose foreign affairs and defense came to be controlled by the British.
Political trends since Indian independence in 1947 include three decades of dominance by the Congress party. This was followed by the ascent of the regional Telugu Desam party, spearheaded by a former Telugu movie idol, N. T. Rama Rao.