As the rest of the constituents of the Indian Union, Andhra Pradesh too, in its own inimitable way, contributed its own part to the common cultural heritage of India, maintaining at the same time its own individuality. Though, throughout the ages, owing to many historical reasons, many races, peoples and religious groups contributed in their own way to the cultural development of Andhras, the keynote of that growth has always been a synthesis on the basis of eternal values. The Andhra cultural wealth developed in such a way is reflected to-day in feasts and festivals; literature, music, dance, drama, arts and crafts, attitude and actions, educational pattern and mode of life of the Andhras. Here only a thumbnail sketch of those various facets of Andhra Culture is attempted to be given under appropriate heads.
The Dwaita, the Visishtadwaita, the Advaita, and Saivite faiths coexist in Andhra Pradesh among Hindus, while Muslims and Christians also live side by side with tolerance. The Sakti, in her finer and cruder manifestations is also worshipped. In the better and richer type of villages, the temples of Vishnu, Siva and Sakti prevail. Vighneswara, Srirama and Hanuman are also provided in these shrines. Religious or sectarian fanaticism in general does not exist in the State of Andhra Pradesh.
Some of the famous temples in Andhra Pradesh are at Simahachalam, Sun temple in Arasavalli in Srikakulam District), Draksharama, Bhadrachalam in Khammam District, Annavaram and Antarvedi in the East Godavari District, Mangalagiri in Guntur District, Achanta, Palakol, Dwaraka Tirumala in West Godavari, Tirupati and Kalahasti in Chittoor, Kanaka Durga at Vijayawada in Krishna and Ahobilam in Kurnool District. The other famous temples are in Srikakulam, Mukhalingam. Kotappakonda, Srisailam and Mahanandi. All of them are structures of great antiquity and possess rare architectural values. Christian churches in places like Medak and mosques in Hyderabad are noteworthy. In addition to these, local deities called Gramadevatas are held in reverence. Jataras are celebrated. They do not belong to any particular denomination. The Hindu priest would officiate at their ceremonies; nevertheless the villager regards them with awe and never fails to do obeisance before them. These are located generally on the village outskirts, the idol consisting of a stone smeared liberally with oil, saffron, kumkum and turmeric. The Gramadevatas, one comes across in rural Andhra are innumerable and are given local names such as Gangamma, Gogulamma, Nukalamma, Vellamma, Chinnamma, Muthyalammma, Bangaramma, Ankalamma, Pyditalli, Perantalamma and Poturaju. If disregarded for too long, people believe they cause diseases and disasters in the village. Animal or fowl sacrifice is practiced to appease them. The religion of the hill tribes is based largely on superstition and animism. Witchcraft and animal sacrifice are also widely believed, though they are becoming things of the past by the spread of modern education. The most terrible visitation in the eyes of the Koya tribe in Godavari Valley are eclipses of the sun and the moon for they believe that the devil in the shape of a serpent or a tiger is thereby trying to swallow the earth. They ward it off by beating drums all the time the eclipse lasts.
Andhras observe many feasts and festivals. Most of them have some religious significance; but they are notable mainly for the occasion for gaiety and merry making they provide. On such days every household is decorated with floral and green leaf torana hung across the windows and doors. The courtyard is decorated tastefully with designs of muggu powder (rangoli) and the doorsteps are painted with daubs of turmeric and kumkum pastes. Dhoop sticks and dhup, sambrani are burnt in all the homes and the air is filled with aromatic smell. People wear new clothes; the lady of the house cooks special dishes and generally some community function is held near the village temple or at a common place. There are nine major festivals observed by Andhras; seven of them religious and two agricultural.
Ugadi: Ugadi is Telugu New Year Festival usually comes in March/April. This is regarded auspicious for the peace, prosperity and happiness of the family in the ensuing year. The family members wear new clothes on this occasion and the entire day is spent in feasting out the forecast for the following year from Hindu almanac at a ceremony called ‘Panchanga Shravanam’.
Srirama Navami: It is the celebration of the birth of Sri Rama usually celebrated in April. It is observed with devotion and prayers. The Ramayana is read out before huge gatherings and at the end of which panakam, a drink made out of jaggery and vadapappu a preparation with green gram dhal are distributed.
Vinayaka Chaturthi: Vinayaka is god of success. This festival too is observed in August/September with great devotion to ensure success for all the family’s undertakings in the ensuing year.
Dasara: This festival falls about September/October and is celebrated for ten days as ‘Dasara Navaratri’. On the ninth day craftsmen and artisans worship their tools as ‘Ayudhapooja’. The tenth day Vijayadashami is celebrated with gaiety.
Deepavali: The Festival of lights which falls weeks after Dasara is celebrated as victory of good over evil for the slaying of the mythological tyrant Narakasura by Lord Krishna and his consort Satyabhama. End of Narakasura resulted in freedom to 16,000 maidens whom the tyrant had kept in captivity. Wearing new clothes, Children celebrate the festivals by lighting fire works.
Sankaranti: The festival falls on 13/14th of January every year, when the farmer expresses his gratitude to nature after a good harvest. It is an important festival for Andhras.
Mahasivarathi: The festival February/March, is celebrated in honour of Lord Siva who constitutes the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva.
Panduga, Eruvaaka are celebrated by Andhra farmers. The housewives celebrate vratams and nomus. Shravana mangala varamu, Kartika somavaramu are typical examples. The hill tribes celebrate the Chaitra festival when the harvest is gathered and there is a whole month before them to dance and make merry.