This is the third in the eight-volume series, ‘Comprehensive History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh’, being brought out by the Andhra Pradesh History Congress in association with the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University.
As the general editor, V. Ramakrishna, puts it in his preface it covers a period of “transition, distributive economics and regional cultures”. Remarkably, identity and status were provided to Telugu, the language of the land, and also to various communities in the varna structure. Landed intermediaries and the different religious sects played a significant role.
The book starts with “Transition”, wherein B. Rajendra Prasad delineates how in the middle of the seventh century, amid political turmoil, Andhra Desa rose to prominence in the geopolitics of south India with the emergence of Vengi-Chalukyan kingdom.
S. S. Ramachandra Murthy delves deep into the debate on the origin of the Vatapi and Vengi Chalukyas, who ruled Telangana/Rayalaseema and Andhra regions respectively, and their links with places as far away as Ayodhya. K. Suryanarayana scans the conflicting historical interpretations of identity, location, and extent of Sapadalaksha country, ruled by the celebrated Vemulavada Chalukyan Vinayaditya Yuddhamalla-I. He accords King Baddega a prime place, hailing him as “a hero who won 42 battles in his rule of 45 years”.
In the chapter on “Vaishnavism”, O. Sambaiah traces the antiquity of the world renowned hill temple of Lord Venkateswara on Tirumala, Tirupati. While exploring the settlement pattern of dominant communities, I. Lakshmi and Santisree Banerjee question the efficacy of using the dynastic line as a tool to study the socio-political history, as it often clouded the dominant processes of change and progress in political formations at regional and sub-regional levels.
The third chapter, by J. Durga Prasad, is devoted to the Vengi Chalukyas and their rule for six long centuries, a rare phenomenon in the history of India. There are informative papers on the reigns of Rashtrakutas, the early Gangas of Kalinga, the Renadu the Cholas, the Banas, the Vaidumbas, and the Nolambas.
Quite a few of the articles exploring historical geography, art, and architecture of the period are fascinating. P. Aruna focusses on the status of various social groups and their interaction with political and ideological structures. The economy was dominated by the land grant system.
D. Kiran Kranth Choudary captures, rather evocatively, the sculptural styles of the period with a number of examples and photographs. B. Rajendra Prasad and A. Gurumurthi, describe, in arresting detail, the temple forms of Nagara, Dravida, Phamsana, and Vesara based on Vastu texts.
If the idea of the authors was to dispassionately capture the multidimensional and often tumultuous changes of an arguably epoch-making slice of Andhra Pradesh history, they have more than succeeded. But better coordination would have avoided overlapping and saved the reader of back-and-forth jerks. These deficiencies notwithstanding, the effort that has gone into the publication, which has an array of genealogical tables, maps, and photographs, is commendable.
EARLY MEDIEVAL ANDHRA PRADESH (AD 624-1000): Edited by B. Rajendra Prasad; Tulika Books, 35 A/1 (3rd Floor), Shahpur Jat, New Delhi-110049. Rs. 695.