Andhra-desa is a wonderful land of rivers such as the Godavari with its tributaries Manjira, Pranahita, Indravati and the Sabari; the Krishna with its tributaries the Bhimarathi, Tungabhadra, Dinidm Musi as well as Muni, Pinakini, Paleru, Manneru, Gundlakamma, the Sarada, Nagavali, Vamsadhara and the Rishikulya (Map I). Along the Andhra seacoast, which extends for about 400 miles, there existed sea-ports at the mouths of the large rivers. Navigation and commercial enterprises were very much encouraged and seafarers left the Andhra shores for colonization beyond the deep seas. The Godavari and the Krishna were navigable in ancient times.
The earliest mention of th eAndhras is in the Aitareya Brahmana as one of the tribes of South India. Andhra-desa was the original home of the Andhras in the earliest times as it is even today. After the fall of the Mauryan Empire the Satavahanas extended their dominion into the north, west and south until Andhra-desa embraced a great portion of the Indian Peninsula. Its early history is borne out by Buddhist and Brahmanical literature, by copper plates, inscriptions, coins, ancient structures such as stupas, chaityas and viharas, and by manuscripts and the writings of foreign travelers. Magasthenses (300 B.C.) and Pliny (77 A.D.) referred to the Andhras as a powerful tribe, who possessed numerous villages, 30 towns defended by high walls and towers and an immense army of one lakh infantry, 2000 cavalry and 1000 elephants. In the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea of the 1st century A.D., the ports of Barygaza and Vaijayanti are mentioned as places of export of onyx stones, porcelain, muslin, cotton, perfumes, gum and silk. Ptolemy locates Barygaza in Larike, a name evidently derived from a Prakrit form of Skt.Lata. He mentions a port Byzantion in the country of the Pirates. The name has been explained from Vejayanti, but this is more than doubtful. Ptolemy mentions a country under the name Ariake Sadenon, i.e., Ariake of the Sadenoi and we may safely assume that his Sadenoi is a Greek rendering of a Prakrit form of "Satavahana". In he mentions five ports and in eighteen inland towns belonging to that country. Recently at Kondapur, in Hyderabad (Deccan), where coins of the Andhra kings Gautamiputra and his son Pulumavi were discovered, pieces of porcelain were dug out as were also Buddhist figurines made of kaolin (a pure white prcelaneous clay). Ptolemy speaks of the Andhras, the trade on the East Coast, and the ports of Kontakossyla, Koddura and Allosygne. He also mentions Apheterion in Maisolia region (Krishna Delta). Apheterion is not a proper name as some writers have believed but a word meaning "a point of departure". The Puranas refer to the Andhrabhritya dynasty of kings also called Satakarnis and Satavahanas, who ruled from the middle of the 3rd century B.C. to the first quarter of the 3rd century A.D. Their territory extended from the east coast to the west coast; Mysore in the south and Avanti or modern Ujjain in the north were included in their kingdom. The Kondapur excavations by G. Yazdani and the recent excavations in Chittaldrug district, Mysore, have yielded valuable results and thrown further light on this Andhra period.
Ancient market towns were Dhannakataka (250 B.C.), Kevurura, Vijayapura and Narasala. Maritime traffic is attested to by the find of a large number of Roman coins on the Coromandel (Colamandala). Regarding the migration of Hindu colonists to the Far East in the 1st century A.D., the Andhra country in general and the Vengi kingdom in particular had a good share in it. Ptolemy's Apheterion to the north of Allosygne was the starting point of ships for Golden chryse, Farther India and the Archipalago. The coinage of the times reveals that lead and potin predominated over copper and the issues were large and varied such as would be the case with an empire from sea to sea. Sea bound trade was largely responsible for the flourishing state of Buddhism in Andhra desa for nearly six centuries (from 300 B.C. to 300 A.D.). Buddhists were largely recruited from the commercial classes whose wealth was utilized to raise Amaravati, Nagarjunakonda and other stupas. Buddhism spread like wild fire more quickly among non-Aryan tribes in the Andhra country than in Aryan Society.
The Buddhist sites in the Northern Districts of the Madras State, particularly in the Andhra country are vast as against a fraction in the Southern Districts. From Salihundam in the Visakhapatnam district in the North to Chinna Ganjam in the Guntur district in the south, and from Gooty in the Anantapur district in the west to Bhattiprolu in the east, the Andhra country witnessed in the three centuries preceding and following the birth of Christ a phenomenal growth of Buddhistic culture and art. Ramatirtham (Skt. Aramatirtham), Sankaram (Skt. Sandgharama), Salihundam, Kodavalli, Arugolanu, Guntupalle, Jaggayyapeta, Ramireddipalle, as well as Alluru, Bezwada (Vijayawada), Gudivada, Ghantasala (Kantakossyla), Garikapadu, Goli, Nagarjunakonda, Amarvati, Peddamaddur, Chinna Ganjam, Peddaganjam, Kanuparti and Bhattiprolu are a few places among the many that have yielded to the magic touch of the archaeologist, relies of a glorious civilization that flourished in the Andhra country in the early centuries. Stupas or sepulchral monuments, chaityas or chetiyagharas prayer chambers or halls and viharas or monasteries were found in large numbers, particularly in the Guntur and Krishna districts along the banks of the river Krishna which was known to the Greeks as Maisolos.
A study of the various Buddhist sites in South India proves the existence of five early roads which converged at Vengi in the center of the Andhra country. Almost all the Buddhist sites were located on these roads which lead to Kalinga, to Dravida, to Karnata, to Maharashtra, and to Kosala respectively (and Kosala includes Dakshina Kosala).
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