The region was called ‘Ceded districts’ during the British era and was named Rayalaseema at the Andhra Mahasabha and Ceded Districts Conference in 1928
The term “Rayalaseema” was coined during freedom movement out of aversion to being referred as “ceded districts” in the British administrative terminology.
According to research reports, a high-level meeting of Andhra leaders under the banner Andhra Mahasabha and Andhra Provincial Conference or Ceded Districts Conference was held at Nandyal on November 17 and 18 of 1928 where the issue figured and debated extensively among other things.
Chilukuri Narayana Rao, a Telugu lecturer and activist from Anantapur, moved the resolution saying that the term “ceded” was derogatory and amounted to slavery and hence the region comprising Bellary, Anantapur, Chittoor, Cadapah and Kurnool be referred to as “Rayalaseema”.
The proposal was seconded by stalwarts like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Gadicharla Harisarvotha Rao, Kadapa Koti Reddy, Kalluri Subba Rao and Pappuri Ramacharyulu. Luminaries like Annie Besant, Prakasam Panthulu, Kasinathuni Nageswara Rao, C. Doraiswamy Iyengar, Konda Venkatappaiah, Duvvuri Subbamma and others were also present at the historic meeting.
The British referred to the districts as ‘Ceded’ because Nizam of Hyderabad Ali Khan ceded the places to the empire as part of subsidiary alliance. After Mysore wars, the Nizam got the Rayalaseema districts to its share which he did not want to administer immediately but create a buffer with the help of the British. The British agreed to the proposal to meet the cost of the subsidiary force out of the revenue from the territory.
According to historians, the territory did not exactly match with the empire of Sri Krishnadevaraya as he ruled considerable areas of Karnataka, Goa and Tamil Nadu but the boundaries matched more or less with the territory of Araveeti Dynasty which ruled the place after fall of Vijayanagara Empire.
However, at the time of cessation, the Nizam placed a condition that the places under Kurnool and Banaganapalli Nawabs, who are related to him, should be kept independent. The Kurnool Nawab was thrown out in 1839 on the charge of being disloyal to the British while Banganapalli Nawab was allowed to rule till 1948.