LOCATION: India (Andhra Pradesh State)

POPULATION: 66 million


RELIGION: Hinduism


The Andhras are also known as Telugu. Their traditional home is the land between the Godavari and Kistna (Krishna) rivers in southeastern India. Today, Andhras are the dominant group in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

In the first century BC , the earliest Andhra dynasties emerged. When Europeans arrived in India (1498), the northern areas of Andhra country were in the Muslim state of Golkonda, while southern areas lay in Hindu Vijayanagara. The British administered the Andhra region as part of their Madras Presidency. Northwestern areas remained under the Muslim princely state of Hyderabad. The Nizam of Hyderabad—ruler of the largest Muslim princely state in India—refused to join India when it became an independent nation in 1947. The Indian army invaded Hyderabad and integrated it into the Indian Republic in 1949. Andhra pressure for a Telugu-speaking state resulted in the creation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.


The population of Andhra Pradesh is over 66 million. Telegu-speaking peoples also live in surrounding states and in the state of Tamil Nadu. Telugu-speakers are also found in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Andhra Pradesh has three geographic regions: the coastal plains, mountains, and interior plateaus. The coastal areas run for about 500 miles (800 kilometers) along the Bay of Bengal, and include the area formed by the deltas of the Godavari and Kistna rivers. This area receives a great deal of rainfall during the summer monsoon and is farmed heavily. The mountain region is formed by hills known as the Eastern Ghats. These mark the edge of the Deccan Plateau. They reach an elevation of 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) in the south and of 5,513 feet (1,680 meters) in the north. Numerous rivers break up the Eastern Ghats east to the ocean. The interior plateaus lie west of the Ghats. Most of this area is drier and supports only scrub vegetation. Summers in the coastal areas are hot, and temperatures exceed 104° F (40° C ). Winters in the plateau region are mild, as temperatures fall only as low as 50° F (10° C ).


Telugu, the official language of Andhra Pradesh, is a Dravidian language. Regional Telegu dialects include Andhra (spoken in the delta), Telingana (the dialect of the northwestern region), and Rayalasima (spoken in southern areas). Literary Telugu is quite distinct from spoken forms of the language. Telegu is one of the regional languages recognized by the Indian constitution.


Hero worship is important in Andhra culture. Andhra warriors who died on the battlefield or who sacrificed their lives for great or pious causes were worshiped as gods. Stone pillars called Viragallulu honor their bravery and are found all over Andhra country. The Katamaraju Kathala, one of the oldest ballads in Telugu, celebrates the twelfth-century warrior Katamaraju.


Andhras are mostly Hindus. The Brahman castes (priests and scholars) have the highest social status, and Brahmans serve as priests in temples. Andhras worship Shiva, Vishnu, Hanuman, and other Hindu gods. Andhras also worship ammas or village goddesses. Durgamma presides over the welfare of the village, Maisamma protects the village boundaries, and Balamma is a goddess of fertility. These deities are all forms of the Mother Goddess and play a big role in daily life. These deities often have priests drawn from the lower castes, and low castes may use their own priests rather than Brahmans.


Important Andhra festivals include Ugadi (beginning of the new year), Shivaratri (honoring Shiva), Chauti (Ganesha's birthday), Holi (the end of the lunar year, in February or March), Dasahara (the festival of the goddess Durga), and Divali (the Festival of Lights). Preparations for Ugadi begin with a thorough washing of one's home, inside and out. On the actual day, everyone gets up before dawn to decorate the entrance to his or her home with fresh mango leaves. They also splash the ground outside the front door with water into which a little cow dung has been dissolved. This represents a wish that God bless the new year ahead. Ugadi food features raw mango. On Holi, people throw colorful liquids at each other—from rooftops, or with squirt guns and balloons filled with colored water. Beautiful floral designs are drawn on the ground outside each person's house, and groups of people playfully cover each other with color while singing and dancing.

Different castes also have separate festivals. For example, Brahmans (priests and scholars) observe Rath Saptami, a worship of the Sun. In the northwestern Telingana region, the annual worship of Pochamma, the goddess of smallpox, is an important village festival. On the day before the festival, drummers go around the village, members of the potter caste clean shrines of village goddesses, and those of the washer-man caste paint them white. Village youths build small sheds in front of the shrines, and women of the sweeper caste smear the ground with red earth. On the day of the festival, every household prepares rice in a pot called bonam . The drummers lead the village in procession to the Pochamma shrine, where a member of the potter caste acts as priest. Every family offers rice to the goddess. Goats, sheep, and fowl are offered too. Then, families return to their houses for a feast.


When a child is born, the mother and other family members are considered impure. Rituals are performed to remove this perceived impurity. The period of impurity lasts up to thirty days for the mother. A Brahman (member of the highest social class) may be consulted to cast the infant's horoscope. A name-giving ceremony is held within three to four weeks. As children grow up, they help their parents with daily tasks. Higher castes (social clases) often perform a special ceremony for males before puberty is reached. A girl's first menstruation is accompanied by elaborate rituals, including a period of seclusion, worship of household gods, and a gathering of village women for singing and dancing.

The higher Hindu castes usually cremate their dead. Children are normally buried. Burial also is common among low-caste and Untouchable groups (people who are not members of any of India's four castes). The corpse is bathed, dressed, and carried to the cremation ground or graveyard. On the third day after death, the house is cleaned, all the linens are washed and earthen pots used for cooking and for storing water are discarded. On the eleventh or thirteenth day, family members undergo other rites. The head and face are shaved if the deceased was one's father or mother. Food and water are offered to the soul of the deceased, and a feast is given. The higher castes collect bones and ashes from the funeral pyre and immerse them in a river.


Andhras enjoy arguing and gossiping. They also are known for being generous.


In northern Andhra Pradesh, villages are usually built along a strip. Settlements in southern parts of the state are either built along a strip or are square-shaped, but they also may have adjoining villages. A typical house is square in shape and is built around a courtyard. The walls are made of stone, the floor is made of mud, and the roof is tiled. There are two or three rooms, used for living, sleeping, and housing livestock. One room is used for the family shrine and to keep valuables. The doors are often carved, and designs are painted on the walls. Most houses lack toilets, the inhabitants using the fields for their natural functions. There may be a backyard used for growing vegetables and keeping chickens. Furnishings consist of beds, wooden stools, and chairs. Kitchen utensils are usually of earthenware and are made by the village potters.


Andhras must marry within their caste or subcaste but outside their clan. Marriages are often arranged. Newlyweds usually move into the household of the groom's father. The extended family is regarded as ideal, although the nuclear family is also found.

Women are responsible for household chores and raising children. Among the cultivating castes, women also do farm work. Divorce and widow remarriage are permitted by lower castes. Property is divided among sons.


Men typically wear the dhoti (loincloth) with a kurta. The dhoti is a long piece of white cotton wrapped around the waist and then drawn between the legs and tucked into the waist. The kurta is a tunic-like shirt that comes down to the knees. Women wear the sari (a length of fabric wrapped around the waist, with one end thrown over the right shoulder) and choli (tight-fitting, cropped blouse). Saris traditionally are dark blue, parrot green, red, or purple.

12 • FOOD

The basic diet of Andhras consists of rice, millets, pulses (legumes), and vegetables. Nonvegetarians eat meat or fish. Brahmans (priests and scholars) and other high castes avoid meat, fish, and eggs. The well-to-do eat three meals a day. A typical meal would be rice or khichri (rice cooked with lentils and spices) or paratha (an unleavened bread made from wheat flour and fried in oil). This is taken with curried meat or vegetables (such as eggplant or okra), hot pickles, and tea. Coffee is a popular drink in coastal areas. Betel leaves, twisted into rolls and filled with nuts, are served after a meal. In a poor household, a meal might consist of millet bread, eaten with boiled vegetables, chili powder, and salt. Rice would be eaten, and meat would only rarely be consumed. Men dine first and the women eat after the men have finished. Children are served as soon as the food is ready.


The literacy rate (percentage of the population who can read and write) for Andhra Pradesh is well under 50 percent. Even though this figure can be expected to rise, it compares unfavorably with many other Indian peoples. Still, the city of Hyderabad is an important center of learning, where several universities are located.


The Andhra people have made major contributions to art, architecture, literature, music, and dance. The early Andhra rulers were great builders and patrons of religion and the arts. From the first century BC on, they developed a style of architecture that led to the creation of some of the greatest Buddhist monuments of central India. The stupa (a monument built to hold a relic of Buddha) at Sanchi is one of these. Some paintings in the famous Buddhist caves at Ajanta are ascribed to Andhra artists.

The Andhras perform kuchipudi, a dance-drama. The Andhra people also have contributed greatly to south Indian classical music. Tabla, the predecessor of the timapni or kettle drum, is a small drum. The drummer sits on the floor with a ring-shaped cloth pillow on the floor in front of him. The tabla rests on the pillow, and is drummed with the fingers and palms.

South Indian compositions are mostly written in Telugu because of the smooth, rich, sound of the language. Telugu literature dates to the eleventh century AD .


Over three-quarters (77 percent) of Andhras make their living from agriculture. Rice is the dominant food grain. Sugarcane, tobacco, and cotton are grown as cash crops, in addition to chilies, oilseeds, and pulses (legumes). Today, Andhra Pradesh also is one of the most industrialized states in India. Industries such as aeronautics, light engineering, chemicals, and textiles are found in the Hyderabad and Guntur-Vijayawada areas. India's largest shipbuilding yard is in Andhra Pradesh.


Children play with dolls and enjoy ball-games, tag, and hide-and-seek. Playing with dice is common among men and women. Cockfighting and shadow plays are popular in rural areas. Modern sports such as cricket, soccer, and field hockey are played in schools.


Wandering entertainers put on puppet shows for villagers. Professional ballad singers recount the exploits of past heroes, or tell stories. Radio is used by many, and Andhra Pradesh has its own movie industry. Sometimes, film stars become political heroes. The late N. T. Rama Rao, for instance, starred in more than 300 Telugu films, then went on to serve as a chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.


Andhras are known for their carvings of wooden birds, animals, human beings, and deities. Other crafts include lacquerware, handwoven carpets, handprinted textiles, and tie-dyed fabrics. Metalware, silverwork, embroidery, painting on ivory, basketry, and lace work are also products of the region. The making of leather puppets was developed in the sixteenth century.


Rural areas face problems of high population, poverty, illiteracy, and lack of social infrastructure. Drinking of arrack or country liquor has been such a problem that pressure from women in recent years has led to its prohibition. Economic problems are worsened by destructive cyclones that sweep in from the Bay of Bengal. Currently, Andhra Pradesh State is involved in a longstanding dispute with Karnataka over the use of the waters of the Kistna River. Through all of this, however, Andhras retain pride in their heritage.


Ardley, Bridget. India. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Silver Burdett Press, 1989.

Barker, Amanda. India. Crystal Lake, Ill.: Ribgy Interactive Library, 1996.

Cumming, David. India. New York: Bookwright, 1991.

Das, Prodeepta. Inside India. New York: F. Watts, 1990.

Dolcini, Donatella. India in the Islamic Era and Southeast Asia (8th to 19th century). Austin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1997.

Furer-Haimendorf, Christoph von. The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh: Tradition and Change in an Indian Tribe. London, England: Allen & Unwin, 1979.

Kalman, Bobbie. India: The Culture. Toronto: Crabtree Publishing Co., 1990.

Pandian, Jacob. The Making of India and Indian Traditions. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1995.

Shalant, Phyllis. Look What We've Brought You from India: Crafts, Games, Recipes, Stories, and Other Cultural Activities from Indian Americans. Parsippany, N.J.: Julian Messner, 1998.


Consulate General of India in New York. [Online] Available , 1998.

Embassy of India, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available , 1998.

Interknowledge Corporation. [Online] Available , 1998.

World Travel Guide. India. [Online] Available , 1998.

User Contributions:

The summary is very true, however, it explains in a very general format, that applies to all other Indian states as well. Need to add more basic and unique to information on Andhra peoples.
thanks it helped alot in making my project work. Truely it was very helpful...

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: