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ANDHRA PRADESH / TELANGANA

Andhra Pradesh and Telegana are the 2 Telugu speaking states of India, situated on the southeastern coast of the country.

Hyderabad - The History of a Capital Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah founded the city of Hyderabad in 1591 AD, and for almost a hundred years, the Qutb Shahi dynasty dominated the region before it eventually fell to the Mughals. In 1724, the erstwhile Mughal Viceroy of the Deccan and tributary Asif Jah I declared his independence when the Mughal Empire in Delhi was weakened.  Historically, his line was believed to belong to Samarkand in modern day Uzbekistan.  With this unchallenged declaration, Asif Jah founded the fabulously wealthy Turkic dynasty of the Nizams of Hyderabad, ruling from 1724 to 1748. Asif Jah I went by many names, including Mir Qamar ud din Khan Siddiqi, and was also known as Chin Qilich Khan, a title awarded by Aurangzeb. The word "Nizam" is shortened from "Nizam ul Mulk" translating to "Administrator of the Realm". The Nizam's dominions were consolidated into a princely state under the patronage of the British.  The dynasty ruled for 150 years, with Hyderabad as its capital - a status it continued to enjoy even after the state merged with the Indian Union in 1948 and became Andhra Pradesh. In 2014, a new region called Telangana was formed when it split from Andhra Pradesh, and Hyderabad was mandated to continue as the joint capital of both states until the year 2025. Hyderabad displays its signature royal pageantry with pride.  The last cultural and architectural vestiges of the Qutb Shahi are visible all over the city and even in the courtly local mannerisms and customs of the people.  The distinctive aromas of the city's iconic cuisine, known as Mughlai, or "that of the Mughals," have reached all corners of the sophisticated, civilized world, and their famous kebabs, biryani, and haleem are served at the tables of the rich and famous and less fortunate alike. The Qutb Shahis and Nizams carefully nurtured Hyderabad as a refined, cultural universe, attracting scholars of distinction from all over the globe.  The cultural shift happened after the decline of Delhi's emperors, and the population swung towards the music, dance, poetry, theatre and beauty that have come to characterize Hyderabad today.  This is a fairy tale city enriched by its trade in pearls and diamonds from legendary mines like the Golkonda, from where the Koh-i-noor was first taken.  Hyderabad continues to be distinguished by its moniker: the City of Pearls, and visitors rarely leave without indulging in pearl shopping.
Charminar The Charminar was built in 1591 AD on the eastern bank of the River Musi by the erstwhile ruler Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah to mark the end of the plague. The west side of one of the four minarets turns its face to Mecca, and it houses the oldest surviving functioning mosque in the city.   Like its historical counterpart the Purana Pul, the oldest bridge in the city that defied the flooding of the Musi in 1908 and is now a busy market place, the Charminar marks the events and histories of bygone times.  Both the Charminar and Purana Pul are beloved landmarks of the city. The Archaeological Society of India (ASI) has placed the Charminar on its precious monuments list.  It's historic antique markets, food stalls, crowds, and special bazaar culture has fused it inseparably with Hyderabad's skyline.  The Charminar, or Four Minarets, with 149 winding steps that lead into each tower, actually predates the old city itself. It was built 400 years ago at the centre of the trading hub dominated by the powerful merchants of Golkonda for the purpose of creating a link with the old trading port of Masulipatnam, or Masula, which is modern day Machilipatnam. This smart trade design facilitated the ease of doing business in terms of transport, unloading of merchandise, and swift financial dealings with the merchants before the goods were sent on their way. It was only later that the old capital of Hyderabad was built - and it was designed to encircle the Charminar, making it the crown jewel of the city. The predominantly Indo-Islamic architecture style, constructed with the materials of the day (a fine compound of granite, limestone, mortar and crushed marble) was pleasantly embellished with a flourish of Persian architectural sensibilities which bestowed balustrades, balconies and stucco art on the two storied structure.
Golconda Fort Golconda Fort was built towards the end of the 10th century, perhaps in 1143 AD, before the rulers of the ancient kingdom of Golconda, who called themselves the Kakatiya, rose to any significant regional prominence.  Legend has it that a shepherd boy discovered an idol in the area and reported it to his king who subsequently had a mud fort built around the idol in deference. He named it Golla Konda, or Shepherd's Hill, and it protected his western borders.  Pratapa Rudra, a descendant to the old king, later strengthened it. The Kakatiyas, however, lost the fort to the Musunuri Nayaks who later ceded it to the Bahmani Sultanate as part of a peace treaty in 1364. After the victory of the Bahmani Sultanate, the fort became an important capital and provincial seat of administration and power.  However, it was destined to be a battleground once again, and the Qutb Shahi rulers wrested it from the Bahmani Kingdom. Constantly strengthened between the 14th and 16th centuries, the fort, under three Qutb Shahi rulers, finally transformed into a towering, solid and impregnable structure that encompassed four distinct forts and dominated a 120 metre granite hill, and it was defined by enormous ramparts.  Inspired by the Kondapalli Fortress, the 10-foot high granite walls were elevated to a height of 34 feet with 87 bastions girding the walls.  The outer wall was the first defence against attack, and it measures 7 kilometres and is mounted with cannons.  There were 8 gateways, 4 drawbridges, and there were a number of military fortifications and royal residences, stables, magazines, temples, mosques, stores, and a water supply system. The Golconda Fort alongside the might of the Qutb Shahi proved too formidable to ignore for Emperor Aurangzeb, and he became determined lay siege to the fort - finally winning the battle in 1687 AD.  With no interest in consolidating his hard won and expensive victories in the Deccan, Aurangzeb turned back to Delhi and the once majestic Golconda Fort fell into ruins, only watched over by the tombs of seven Qutub Shahi rulers nearby. At the Fateh Darwaza, or the Gate of Victory, it is possible to experience the sentry's warning signal of an imminent attack.  A single clap of the hands at a particular point at the entrance below the dome, can be heard with startling clarity at the highest point of the fort which is a kilometre away.
Laad Bazaar Laad Bazaar crafts the famous Hyderabadi bangles with lacquer - or laad - which are inlaid with artificial stones. Standing just off the crossroads of the iconic Charminar, the bazaar specializes in the sale of bangles, saris and imitation jewelry.  It recalls the once fabled city that Hyderabadis nostalgically yearn for and try to imitate during the more difficult modern times. It is recorded that during the time of the Qutb Shahis and the Nizams, the bazaar was a riot of semi-precious gems, pearls, gold and diamond jewellery, silverware, Kalamkari paintings, brocades, velvets, black Bidriware dramatically inlaid with silver wires from the town of Bidri, lacquer bangles studded with precious gems, rich saris embroidered with gold and silver zari, perfumes, hand woven long silk scarves, turbans, and the finest linen and cotton fabrics.
Begum Bazaar The Qutb Shahi Empire prospered due to brisk trade in the Old City, and these seeds were sown by markets like the Begum Bazaar. In later times a Nizam's wife, Humda Begum, gifted some land to the city merchants for the setting up of organized trade and commerce.  As markets have a way of doing, the area blossomed into a retail and wholesale market, popularly known as Begum Bazaar, in the lady's honour.
The Salar Jung Museum This world-renowned museum is housed within an equally outstanding palace as it mostly exhibits the private collection of Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan, or Salar Jung III, a work of labour and love spanning forty years.  The collection includes an incredible assortment of the most exquisite and expensive jade, a variety of antique clocks, crystal and china tableware, and delicate chandeliers from all over the world.  In 1914 Salar Jung III relinquished the post of Prime Minister of  Hyderabad and turned his passion for art and literature into a connoisseur's delight.
Hussain Sagar Lake Named after Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali – the man responsible for designing and building this lake in 1562 during the rule of Ibrahim Quli Qutb Shah, this artificial body of water is fed by channels from the river Musi.  The historic lake and its surroundings are constantly improved for the edification of the citizens of Hyderabad. The state takes its cue from its former 1940’s Prime Minister Sir Mirza Ismail, who with great seriousness, attended to the task of broadening roads around the lake and overseeing its safety.  Today, fountains and coloured lights illuminate the water, and multiple bronze statues have added to the glamour of the lake.  It is further enriched by the presence of a large white granite monolithic statue of Gautama Buddha, which took two years to sculpt, and which stands on an island in the centre of the lake. It must be added that Hyderabad, despite its strong Nawabi culture, also celebrates the diversity of other faiths and cultures in the greater region - Islamic, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Christian.
Wild Life Andhra Pradesh / Telengana is a perfect destination if you’re passionate about wildlife. This is your chance to see the Indian star tortoise, grey slender loris, blackbuck, leopard, elephant, peafowl, wolf, golden jackal, mongoose, in addition to many more species who appear to be straight out of Kipling’s India. The breathtaking diversity of fauna and flora of the twin states wildlife draws scientists, conservationists, environmentalists, students, and wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world to research, document, or simply enjoy the twin state region’s natural beauty. A bird’s eye view of the region would begin in the non-contiguous mountain ranges of the Eastern Ghats and Nallamala, and continue over the flatlands that are rife with jade green rice fields, coal-rich forests, and prosperous bauxite and mica mines. This flight of the imagination would then fly over the semi arid Rayalaseema region densely populated with historical towns such as Chittoor, Kadapa, Kurnool and Anantapur, before finally bending towards the mighty Bay of Bengal.  Of the six rivers that water these lands, two are perennial – the Godavari and the Krishna. Their estuaries are teeming with migratory birds that regularly nest in these river basins, alongside other splendid creatures like the Estuarine crocodile, the increasingly rare fishing cat, and the playful river otter. Closer to the coastline, sea turtles are a regular sight, as grey pelicans and flamingoes dot the backwaters, revelling in the incredibly beautiful and plentiful feeding grounds of the Kolleru and Pulicat Lakes, as well as the Tatipudi Reservoir. It is said that the massive, forbidding Western and Eastern Ghats are a microcosm of the vast natural world of India, and that its Eastern heart beats with the sounds and footfalls of the great beasts that inhabit it. Stunning creatures like tigers, panthers, wolves, wild dogs, sloth bears, hyenas, black bucks, chinkara, nilgai, cheetal and sambar all call these lands their home. A large number of wildlife sanctuaries and national parks have been created to protect the diverse ecosystems of the Eastern Ghats, which has proven to be a critical development in light the growing number of endangered species like the Great Indian Bustard or the fringe lipped carp.
Indira Gandhi Zoological Park Within the Kambalakonda Reserve Forest on the National Highway, spanning about 250 hectares, the scenic Indira Gandhi Zoological Park near Visakhapatnam is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal and the Eastern Ghats.  With over 400 varieties of flora and 80 species of animals on the premises, visitors are able to see monkeys, lions, tigers (including a white tiger!), and much more. Guests will also get to experience deer safaris, as well as a variety of exotic species imported from Australia.
Kolleru Lake Bird Sanctuary Kolleru Bird Sanctuary near Eluru is a large freshwater sanctuary that sustains 63 species of fish, crustaceans, and molluscs and is fed by two seasonal streams – the Budameru and Tammileru.  It is linked to both the Krishna and Godavari rivers, serving as their natural flooding reservoir. Ages ago, a diverse population of birds including Siberian cranes, Asian openbills, pied avocets, black headed ibis, spot billed pelicans, migratory ducks, and painted storks discovered this lake hidden in the deep forest, and they’ve staked their claim here ever since.  Seasonally, they are joined by other migratory birds such as pintails, herons, egrets, pelicans, red crested pod chards, and teals – it totals to an estimated 20 million birds that are either native or migratory.  Winter sees migratory birds fly in from as far away as Siberia, Egypt, the Philippines and Australia to nest in the marshy area.
Pulicat Sanctuary Nellore in Chittoor District, at the border between Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, is famous for its medical facility, its golden temple more recently, but the highlight is the Pulicat Sanctuary.  This 500 square kilometres brackish water lagoon, the second largest in India, stretches along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.  Plentifully supplied with fish, prawn, and molluscs, it is an ideal feeding and nesting ground for both native and migratory aquatic and terrestrial birds. The dry evergreen forest sanctuary, sheltering monitor lizards, kraits, cobras, and Russell’s vipers, provides the perfect environment for flamingos, sandpipers pelicans, storks, ibises, cormorants, grey herons, egrets, ducks, pintails and  terns.
Sri Venkateswara Zoological Park Spanning the districts of Kadapa and Chittoor, Venkateshwara National Park is comprised of 353 square kilometres.  The park, which is flanked by the sacred hills of Tirumala and Seshachalam, expresses itself in the typical extravagance of the region - lush verdant valleys,  plunging gorges, and high plateaus attended by spectacular waterfalls. More than 1,500 species of flora nestle within both wet and dry spaces of these deciduous forests. Visitors are routinely graced by the sight of its diverse and beautiful wildlife such as the golden gecko, Indian giant squirrel, wild boar, nilgai, leopard, flying lizard, hyena, mongoose, fox, civet, bear, sambar, spotted deer, sloth bear, blackbuck, and the rare slender loris in addition to a variety of other mammals, birds and reptiles that grace these lands.
Flora The vegetation in hilly regions is typically made up of dry deciduous plants – mainly teak and a mix of species categorized as Dalbergia and Pterocarpus.  There are 4 mountainous provinces that support forest life - the Eastern Highlands, the Eastern Coastal Plains, the Central Plateau, and the Deccan Plateau. Plants like the Acacia, Ficus, Albizia Amara, Lagerstroemia, and bamboo are native tree species here.  Herbs, climbers, and shrubs employed in indigenous medicine are widely spread over the region, especially within the Tirumala ranges. The hugely diverse flora reflects the topography of the region, and so visitors become charmed by the rich mangrove forests supported by the Krishna and Godavari estuaries, as well as the teak forests of the hilly ranges, before being captivated by the extremely rich aquatic vegetation of the backwaters.  Biologists have identified more than 59 species of aquatic vegetation within the Pulicat Sanctuary alone.
Heritage-Kurnool Kurnool city is the headquarters of Kurnool district and is recognized as the Gateway to Rayalaseema.  It was the capital of the undivided state of Andhra Pradesh from 1953 to 1956. To explore the Rayalaseema district is to be awed by the history of the splendid Vijayanagara Empire. The Vijayanagara Empire was renowned in both ancient Rome and Greece for its vast extent and fabled wealth, and it was praised so for its administration and unique culture of human equality, as they despised the practice of slavery and bonded servitude of one man to another. In more modern times, the district was ceded to the British in 1802 AD by a descendant of the Asif Jah of the last Turkic dynasty - the Nizam of Hyderabad. He did so in gratitude for their help during a series of wars and skirmishes. Kethavaram in Kurnool district has been made famous by the discovery of fabulous Palaeolithic rock paintings and is only a short distance from Kurnool city. The district has other significant spaces where similar rock paintings, estimated to be around 35,000 to 40,000 years old, draw a steady stream of visitors and archeologists. These places include Yaganti, Katavani Kunta, and the Jurreru Valley.  There is also the Belum Caves, which were probably inhabited by Buddhist and Jain monks judging from the wealth of Buddhist relics unearthed during archaeological excavations.  These relics are currently housed in a museum in Anantapur.
Lepakshi The village of Lepakshi’s magnitude of sculptures and temples beckon to the gods of the Vedas in their sonorous native language. Travellers who stand among the iconic and immense Lepakshi Nandi bull, the vehicle of the god Shiva; or the Naga, the divine Serpent, which is believed to have been executed in a single sitting by the sculptor with its immense hood spread protectively over a Shivalinga; or the single unsupported hanging temple pillar all take part in Hindu stories that involuntarily halt the march of time, intuitively linking the observer with more wondrous eras. The 16th century Veerabhadra temple in Lepakshi was built by two brothers – Viranna and Virupanna - in the Vijayanagar architectural style, and it is stamped with the distinctive hallmark of intricate sculptures and murals. All of the inscriptions on the walls are written in “halle Kannada,” or old Kannada, a shared script with kingdoms further south, mainly encompassing the region of Mysore.
Prakasam Restoration work on the ancient and magnificent 2nd century BC Buddhist stupa in the village of Chandravaram in Prakasam district is due to be completed this year, in a serious attempt to develop religious tourism. The great stupa exquisitely looms over the Gundlakamma River as it incorporates a three-winged vihara, or hall, and rest rooms. It is triumphantly crowned with a 30 feet tall dome, boasting a circumference of 120 ft. Special bricks in unique dimensions of 52 cm x 26 cm x 7.5 cm had been originally used in the construction of the stupa.  A meditating marble Buddha was installed to welcome his congregation at the entrance.  It is no wonder that ancient and medieval Buddhist pilgrims journeyed here from distant parts of the country to reverently admire and worship.  Contemporary Buddhist pilgrims who visit the stupa will also be invited to visit Amaravati, Anantapur, and Nagarjunakonda to complete their pilgrimage. Prakasam is stamped with the history of many great powers as it passed through the hands of the Mauryas to the Satavahanas, thence to the ambitious Ikshvaku clan and finally to the last powerful Hindu rulers of the Vijayanagara dynasty – before falling to the Qutub Shahi dynasty and finally, to the Mughals. There are other towns close by that are worth a visit.  The city of Ongole breeds champion bulls – the Bos Indicus.  Locally known as Ongole Gitta, they are purchased for bullfights in Mexico and in some parts of East Africa, and are also crossbred in many countries.  The American Brahmana Bull is a descendant of the Ongole, as is the famous Santa Gertrudis of Texas.  Ongoles have been exported all over the world and Ongole Island in Malaysia was named after them. In an endless list of fascinating historical towns in the district, the quarries of Chimakurthy stand out for their international quality black granite.
Singarakonda Singarakonda stands in the shadow of a 15th century temple dedicated to the lion faced Vishnu incarnation, Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy. The generous and famous monarch Krishnadevaraya donated five villages to the temple to support its maintenance in the 16th century. Its continued prominence is demonstrated through the grand Brahmotsavalu celebrations held every year in June. Yoga Narasimha, Ayyappa, and Prasannanjaneya, or Hanuman as he is known in North India, are also very popular deities and they each have individual temples dedicated to their worship.
Bhairavakona The Bhairavakona caves near Ongole date back to the 7th century AD. They are rock cut cave temples that are specifically visited by Hindu pilgrims during the sacred month of Kartik every year.  On the Kartika Pournami, the full moon of said month, the moonlight directly lights the face of the goddess in the sanctum sanctorum, which also houses a Lingam.  To view this event is believed to be a special honour and blessing.
Tirupathi People of all faiths in India are familiar with Tirupathi, which is visited by tens of millions of Indians for its famous Venkateswara Swamy temple, dedicated to the Lord of the Seven Hills of Tirumala. Jains believe that the temple was built to honour a Jain saint, one of the 24 Tirthankaras, who constantly meditated in the hills. Muslims, too, believe that the temple is sacred and visit it when they can.  The Tamil Alvars, Vaishnava saints of the 5th century, sang devotional hymns to the god of this temple, and as a powerful Vaishnavite centre, it became the protector of the precious idol of Sri Ranganathaswamy, which was secretly brought to the temple when Srirangam was invaded. There is no single explanation for the genesis of this temple - but it is agreed that Hindu dynasties and modern state governments from the 9th century onwards, maintained it for the longest contiguous period - from the Pallavas, Cholas, and the Vijayanagara kings, to current times in the Republic of India.
Beach, Museums, Aquarium, Food, Temple and Leisure in Visakhapatnam Rama Krishna Mission Beach in Visakhapatnam is known for its INS Kurusura Submarine Museum, which displays a retired Indian Navy Kalvari class submarine.  The Visakha Museum is popular with history buffs who are curious about the region.  People also enjoy the usual beach activities of swimming, sunbathing and volleyball, with additional leisure time spent at an aquarium or sampling the deliciously spicy coastal cuisine at roadside restaurants.  Those who are interested are also welcome to visit the Kali Temple.
Diamonds The mines around the Golconda Fort have possibly produced the most famous and historically disputed diamond in the world - the Koh-i-Noor. It once adorned a temple goddess, but then changed hands over the concurrent centuries, with each owner taking it away by guile or conquest from the other.  Other famous diamonds originating from here are the Hope and the Nassak diamonds.

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