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ANDHRA PRADESH

Situated on the Deccan plateau, Andhra Pradesh is the home of a rich cultural heritage. The state has absorbed the traditions of both the north and the south. A Hindu state with a largely Muslim capital and ancient Buddhist ruins, Andhra Pradesh presents yet another perspective on modern and ancient India.

Andhra Pradesh is recognized variously for its legendary dynasties; for its most revered temple, Tirupati; for its beautiful language, Telugu; for its lacquer toys and beautiful weaves; rich literature and the vibrant Kuchipudi classical dance. The state is known for the famous Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirupati, Charminar, Salar Jung Museum, Golconda Fort in Hyderabad, Buddhist viharas at Nagarjunasagar and the Sai Baba Ashram at Puttaparthi. Andhra has a nearly 1000 km. coastline with eight of its 23 districts having direct access to the sea with azure water caressing golden sands. Starting from Bheemunipattnam near Visakhapatnam down to Mypad in Nellore district, the coastline of Andhra Pradesh offers unalloyed joy to the sun worshippers and sea bathers. Apart from the Ramakrishna beach, Lawson's bay and Rishikonda beach at Visakhapatnam and Bheemunipattnam beaches are other famous beaches such as Manginapudi, near Machilipattnam, Kakinada, Chirala, Kalingapatnam and Mypad. There are waterfalls at Ettipothala, Kuntala, and Gandipet. The caves at Undavalli and Borra are also major tourist attractions.

The Satvahana Empire, which followed the Mauryas, covered the entire Deccan plateau by the 1st century AD. The Salivahanas, who were Buddhists by religion, followed the Satvahana dynasty. Several Buddhist stupas and viharas were built during their reign, and Buddhist centers flourished at Nagarjunakonda, Amravati, Sankara, Bhattiprolu, Guntupalli, Gantasala, Salihunda, Panigiri, Nelakondapalli, and Bahvikonda. From the 7th to the 10th centuries, the Chalukyas ruled the state. This was followed by the rule of the Cholas, Kakatiyas, and the powerful Vijayanagar Empire. By the 16th century, the Islamic Qutab Shahi dynasty established its firm foothold in and around Hyderabad. The rulers known as Nizams retained the control throughout the 17th and 18th centuries even during the advent of the French and British. The region became the part of independent India in 1947. In 1956, the Nizam's state of Hyderabad was amalgamated to the state of Andhra Pradesh.


HYDERABAD & SECUNDERABAD

Char MinarThe twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad linked by the Hussain Sagar is the capital of Andhra Pradesh. City of Pearls, once seat of the mighty Vijayanagar Empire and the birth place of the famous Kohinoor diamond has a natural and sophisticated blend of old and new - an old 'Nawabi' culture with a new pro-active approach and hospitality. What leads romance to the city of Hyderabad, is the love story of a young prince Muhammad Quli and a village belle that resulted in its very foundations being laid.

The teeming bazaars of the old city, in the midst of which stands the 400 years old Charminar, the modern shopping complexes and ultra-modern malls in the newer areas of the city add to the charm of Hyderabad. The Golconda fort, capital of the kingdom by that name, is today very much part of the city, as is Cyberabd, a new local area created to keep pace with the zooming Information Technology sector. Pearls, bangles, silks, handicrafts, computer software and above all a delectable cuisine add to the splendour of this great city.

Charminar: The Charminar is as much the signature of Hyderabad as the Taj Mahal is of Agra. It is a magnificent square edifice of granite, built upon four grand arches facing four directions. These arches support two floors of rooms and gallery of archways. At each corner of the square structure is a minaret rising to a height of 24m, making the building nearly 54m tall. It is these four (char) minarets (minar) that give the building, its name Charminar. Each minar stands on a lotus-leaf base, a special recurrent motif in Qutub Shahi buildings. This grand structure, now the hub of the city, was built by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah at the site of the village of his beloved who he fell passionately in love with. The city was then called Bhagnagar to appease his beloved, Bhagmati. Later on it was called Hyderabad.

Mecca Masjid: Adjacent to the Charminar is the Mecca Masjid, one of the world’s largest mosques. It was begun by Muhammad Qutb Shah in 1617 and completed by Aurangzeb in 1693. It is a grand edifice with a huge courtyard that can accommodate nearly ten thousand worshippers. A particular stone brick in the ‘mihrab’ is believed to have been brought from Mecca to build the central arch. Towards the southern end of the mosque lie the marble graves of Nizam Ali Khan and the families of Asaf Jahi dynasty.

Golconda Fort: Golconda, the name originates from the Telugu words "Golla Konda" meaning "Shepherd's Hill". The origins of the fort can be traced back to the Kakatiyas period Golconda was originally a mud fort, which passed to the Bahmani dynasty and later to the Qutb Shahis, who held it from 1518 to 1687 AD. The first three Qutb Shahi kings rebuilt Golconda, over a span of 62 years. The glorious past of Golconda Fort is narrated effectively with matchless Sound and Light effects. It is one of the famous forts of India.

Buddha statue & Husain Sagar Lake: This large artificial lake lying between Hyderabad and Secunderaad was built by Ibrahim Qutb Shah in 1562 AD, in gratitude to Husain Shah Wali, who had cured him of a disease. One of the World's tallest monolithic statues of Buddha (17.5 m) stands on the 'Rock of Gibraltar', in the middle of the lake. Boating and water sports facilities are a regular feature in the Hussain Sagar.

Birla Temple: Birla Temple built entirely out of marble from Rajasthan, stands atop the Kala Pahad, the twin hillock of the Naubat Pahad. It combines the architectural styles of the Southern and Northern Indian temples. The inner shrine of the temple is a replica of the Venkateswara temple at Tirupati. The enchanting temple also affords lovely views of the city especially at sunset.

Nehru Zoological Park: Spanning 300 lush green acres, it is one of the largest zoos in India and is a must for nature lovers. It has over 250 species of animals and birds, like the Indian Rhino, Asian Lion, Tiger, Panther, Giraffe, Gaur, Zebra, Himalayan black bear, African chimpanzee, Mandrill, South Amarican Squirrel monkeys and Capuchin etc; most of which are kept in conditions as close to their natural habitats as possible. The Lion Safari Park, Natural History Museum and Children's Train are the added attractions.


NAGARJUNAKONDA

Lying south-east of Hyderabad, Nagarjunakonda has been under strong Buddhist influence. Archaeologically, Nagarjunkonda is considered to be very important as nowhere else in India can one find such a vast expanse of Buddhist ruins - a complete metropolis of a well developed civilization that had continuous human habitation. Nagarjunkonda may be named after the noted Buddhist scholar and philosopher - Acharya Nagarjuna who is said to have founded the school of Mahayana Buddhism which greatly influenced the masses in Andhra Pradesh of those days.

The ancient site of the metropolis - Sriparvata Vijayapuri, the bustling capital of the Ikshvaku dynasty flourished at the foot of Nagarjunkonda during the third and fourth centuries. They were great builders and patrons of art. During their time Buddhism flourished along with Brahmanism. A huge statue of Buddha dominates the crest of Nagarjunakonda. It is the old forgotten Vijaipuri of the lkshvakus which has been resurrected on the hill.

Nagarjunakonda Museum: This famous museum has been constructed in the shape of a Buddhist vihara and houses a stupendous collection of relics of Buddha, Buddhist art and culture. It has various figures of the Buddha and panels displaying a few photographs of archaeological importance. It has the most impressive special pale green sandstone sculptures, which include finely carved Jataka stories on disc slabs, dome slabs, vertical columns and horizontal friezes. Several episodes from the life of the Buddha are also deftly portrayed and each episode is alternated with some figures of mithuna couples in varying moods.


WARANGAL

Situated north-east of Hyderabad, Warangal is famous for its thousand pillar temple - a specimen of the Chalukya architecture. Warangal was the capital of the glorious Kakatiya dynasty. The first sovereign ruler of the dynasty, King Rudra Deva, built the exquisite thousand carved pillar Temple at Hanamankonda in thanksgiving for victory in the battle with the Yadavas of Devagiri and dedicated the triple shrine or ‘trikuta’ to Shiva, Vishnu, and the Sun God. The monolithic Nandi sits on guard at the entrance which also has rock cut statues of elephants on either side. Five kilometers south of Warangal lay the historic fort of the Kakatiyas and the ruins of the citadel. Located near the Ekashila hill rock, the fort has an embattlement of a very deep and high mud wall fortified inside with massive blocks of stone joined together. Today, the widely scattered ruins of the once magnificent Warangal Fort is an open-air museum of Kakatiya art and architecture that reached its zenith during the reign of King Ganapati Deva.


TIRUMALA & TIRUPATHI

Holy hill of Tirumala is one of the most ancient and sacred pilgrimage centres in India. Tirupati is the town and the transport hub at the bottom of the hill. Famous for Venkateshwara Temple, the region is a treasure-house of ancient Temples, Tirthams, waterfalls etc; Tirumala comprises seven peaks, representing the seven hoods of Adisesha, thus earning the name Seshachalam. The seven peaks are called Seshadri, Neeladri, Garudadri, Anjanadri, Vrishabhadri, Narayanadri and Venkatachala. Venkateswara Temple is located on the seventh peak, Venkatachala. Lord Venkateswara, popularly known as Balaji is also called the Lord of the seven hills. The benefits acquired by a pilgrimage to Venkatachala are mentioned in Rig Veda and Asthadasa Puranas. Venkateswara Temple is said to be the busiest in the world, eclipsing even Rome, Jerusalem and Mecca in the number of pilgrims visiting it. There are never fewer than 5,000 pilgrims here at any one time. Temple staff alone number over 18,000. Swami Pushkarini, believed to be a pleasure tank of Lord Vishnu in Vaikuntham, is adjacent to the Venkateswara temple. A bath in the Swami Pushkarini is believed to cleanse pilgrims of their sins and bestow temporal prosperity. Pilgrims bathe here before entering the main temple. Other pilgrimages include; Akasaganga Teertham, Papavinasanam Teertham, Pandava Teertham, Kumaradhara Teertham, Tumbhuru Teertham, Ramakrishna Teertham, Chakra Teertham, Vaikuntha Teertham, Sesha Teertham, Sitamma Teertham, Pasupu Teertham, Japali Teertham, and Sanaka Sanandana Teertham.

Famous temples in this region are Varahaswami Temple located north of the Venkateswara Temple, Anjaneyaswami Temple located opposite the Varahaswami Temple, Kodandaramaswami Temple located in the centre of Tirupati town, Kapileswaraswami Temple the only temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Prasanna Venkateswaraswami Temple located in Appalayagunta, Annapurna Sameta Kasi Visweswaraswami Temple located in the Bugga Agraharam village etc;


VISAKHAPATNAM

VisakhapatnamFormerly known as Vizag, Visakhapatnam was developed by the British and opened to sea-going vessels in 1933. The city is surrounded by three hills, each of which has a shrine dedicated to a different religion - Venkateswara temple on Venkateswara Konda, Baba Ishaq Madina Dargah on Dargah Konda and Church of the Virgin Mary on Rose hill. The city was named after the god of 'Valor - Visakha'. In the 15th century, Visakhapatnam became a part of the Vijayanagar Empire. The Europeans, the Dutch, the French and the English established themselves from the 17th century onwards and used this as a major trading center.

Visakhapatnam is the true spot where one can find the beauty of Andhra. From lakes to cool beaches, from beautiful hill ranges to caves and valley enclosures, Visakhapatnam has them all. Ramakrishna Beach and Rishikonda Beach are among the loveliest beaches. Kali Temple is beautifully constructed situated near Rama Krishna Beach. Indira Gandhi Zoological Park is situated amidst the scenic eastern ghats of India, flanked by hills on either sides and Bay of Bengal on the east. Visakha museum situated on the shores of the Rishikonda beach gives historic insights of the past. Another attraction to Vizag is the submarine museum, the only museum of its kind.

Kailasagiri is located on a hilltop and is a must visit place for all people visiting Visakhapatnam. The charming hill on the seafront affords a breath taking scenic view, especially towards Bheemunipatnam. A visit to Visakhapatnam will definitely be exciting, enriching and refreshing experience with all its sun kissed beaches, caves and temples.


PUTTAPARTHI

Sai BabaPuttaparthi, once a sparsely populated village, has shot into national and international fame as the abode of Sri Satya Sai Baba. It is another highly visited pilgrimage site in India. Located in the South-Western corner of Andhra Pradesh, Puttaparthi is surrounded by the arid and rocky hills bordering Karnataka.

Innumerable devotees of Sri Satya Sai Baba from all over the world flock at Prasanthi Nilayam (meaning the abode of peace), the ashram of Sai Baba every year to have a glimpse of the seer and be touched by his divine presence. Sri Sai Baba resides here from July to March. Rest of the years he moves to Whitefields Ashram near Banglore or to Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu.

One of the often-visited locations in the ashram is the museum, perched on a nearby hillock. The museum contains models of various temple structures including the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the Mecca mosque, etc. The museum also depicts the story of Sri Satya Sai Baba right from his birth to the time he attained Nirvana in the form of pictures. It contains a detailed, fascinating display on the major faiths with illustrations and quotations from the sacred texts, punctuated by Sai Baba's comments.

Satyanarayana Raju (original name of Sai Baba) was born on November 23, 1926 in Puttaparthi. He started showing unusual talents and purity and compassion from an early age. Baba’s supernatural abilities caused some concern to his family and he was taken to Vedic doctors eventually to be exorcised. Having been pronounced to be possessed by the divine rather than the diabolical, at the age of fourteen he calmly announced that he was the new incarnation of Sai Baba, a saint from Shirdi in Maharashtra who died eight years before Satya was born. Gradually his fame spread and a large group of followers grew. In 1950, the ashram was inaugurated and a decade later Sai Baba was attracting international attention.

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