Telugu people
Telugu vāru
తెలుగు వారు
Telugu Thalli, the personification of Telugu language
Total population
c. 84.5 million[1][2]
(native speakers worldwide)
Regions with significant populations
Andhra Pradesh
 India81,127,740 (2011)[2]
 United States446,000[1][3]
 Saudi Arabia383,000[4]
 United Kingdom33,000[10]
 New Zealand5,754[13]
 South Africa5,000[14]
OtherSee Telugu diaspora
Christianity, Islam, Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Other Dravidian peoples:
CountryTelugu Nāḍu

Telugu people (Telugu: తెలుగువారు, romanizedTeluguvāru), also called Andhras, are an ethno-linguistic group who speak the Telugu language and are native to the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Yanam district of Puducherry. They are the most populous of the four major Dravidian groups. Telugu is the fourth most spoken language in India[15] and the 14th most spoken native language in the world.[16] A significant number of Telugus also reside in the Indian states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Maharashtra. Members of the Telugu diaspora are spread across countries like United States, Australia, Malaysia, Mauritius, UAE, and others.[17] Telugu is the fastest-growing language in the United States.[18] It is also a protected language in South Africa.[19]

Andhra is an ethnonym used for Telugu people since antiquity.[20] The earliest mention of the Andhras occurs in Aitareya Brahmana (c. 800 BCE) of the Rigveda.[21][22][23] They were also mentioned in the Mahabharata and Buddhist Jataka tales.[24] Megasthenes reported in his Indica (c. 310 BCE) that Andhras were living in the Godavari and Krishna river deltas and were famous for their military strength which was second only to Mauryans in all of India.[25] The first major Andhra polity was the Satavahana dynasty (2nd century BCE–2nd century CE) which ruled over the entire Deccan plateau and even distant areas of western and central India.[26][27][28] They established trade relations with the Roman Empire and their capital city, Amaravati was the most prosperous city in India in 2nd century CE.[29] Inscriptions in Old Telugu script (Vengi script) were found as far away as Indonesia and Myanmar.[30]

In the 13th century, Kakatiyas unified various Telugu-speaking areas under one realm.[31] Later, Telugu culture and literature flourished and reached its zenith during the late Vijayanagara Empire.[32] After the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire, various Telugu rulers called Nayakas established independent kingdoms across South India.[33][34] Kandyan Nayaks, the last dynasty to rule Sri Lanka were of Telugu descent.[35][36] In this era, Telugu became the language of high culture across Southern India.[37][38][39] Vijaya Ramaswamy compared it to the overwhelming dominance of French as the cultural language of modern Europe during roughly the same era.[39] Telugu also predominates in the evolution of Carnatic music, one of two main subgenres of Indian classical music.[39][40][41][42]

The architecture developed by Andhras in Krishna river valley in early first centuries CE, called the Amaravati School of Art, is regarded as one of the three major styles of ancient Indian art and had a great influence on art in South India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia.[43][44][45] Mahayana, the predominant Buddhist tradition in China, Japan, and Korea and the largest Buddhist denomination in the world, was developed among Telugus in Andhra.[46][47][48]

Telugu is one of six languages designated as a classical language by the Government of India. It has an inscriptional history dating back to c. 400 BCE.[49][50] It has an unbroken and diverse literary tradition of over a thousand years.[51][52] Telugu performing arts include the classical dance form Kuchipudi, as well as Perini Sivatandavam, Burra Katha. Tholu Bommalata, the Telugu shadow puppetry tradition dates back to 3rd century BCE.[53] It is the ancestor of Wayang, the popular Indonesian art form which has been a staple of Indonesian tourism.[54][55][56] Telugu cinema is the largest film industry in India in terms of box-office as well as admissions.[57][58] The industry has produced some of India's most expensive and highest-grossing films of all time.



Speakers of Telugu refer to it as simply Telugu or Telugoo.[59] Older forms of the name include Teluṅgu and Tenuṅgu.[60] Tenugu is derived from the Proto-Dravidian word *ten ("south")[61] to mean "the people who lived in the south/southern direction". The name Telugu, then, is a result of an "n" to "l" alternation established in Telugu.[62][63]

P. Chenchiah and Bhujanga Rao note that Atharvana Acharya in the 13th century wrote a grammar of Telugu, calling it the Trilinga Śabdānusāsana (or Trilinga Grammar).[64] However, most scholars note that Atharvana's grammar was titled Atharvana Karikavali.[65][66][67][68] Appa Kavi in the 17th century explicitly wrote that Telugu was derived from Trilinga. Scholar Charles P. Brown made a comment that it was a "strange notion" since the predecessors of Appa Kavi had no knowledge of such a derivation.[69]

George Abraham Grierson and other linguists doubt this derivation, holding rather that Telugu was the older term and Trilinga must be the later Sanskritisation of it.[70][71] If so the derivation itself must have been quite ancient because Triglyphum, Trilingum and Modogalingam are attested in ancient Greek sources, the last of which can be interpreted as a Telugu rendition of "Trilinga".[72]


Andhra is an ethnonym used for Telugu people since antiquity.[20] As per Iravatham Mahadevan, non-Aryan people living beyond the borders of the region inhabited by the Indo-Aryan speakers were known as the Andhras.[23] Mahadevan notes that since most Dravidian-speaking men had names ending with the suffIx -(a)nṟ, the Dravidian etymon -(a)nṟ was borrowed as a loanword into Indo-Aryan as andha and later as āndhra to denote the name of the neighbouring Dravidian-speaking people.[23]


Andhra (Telugu: ఆంధ్ర) was a kingdom mentioned in the epic Mahabharata.[24] It was a southern kingdom, currently identified as Indian state of Andhra Pradesh where it got its name from. Andhra communities are also mentioned in the Vayu and Matsya Purana. In the Mahabharata the infantry of Satyaki was composed by a tribe called Andhras, known for their long hair, tall stature, sweet language, and mighty prowess. They lived along the banks of the Godavari river. Andhras and Kalingas supported the Kauravas during the Mahabharata war. Sahadeva defeated the kingdoms of Pandya, Andhra, Kalinga, Dravida, Odra and Chera while performing the Rajasuya Yajna. Buddhist references to Andhras are also found.[73][74][75]

Andhra was mentioned in the Sanskrit sources such as Aitareya Brahmana (c. 800 BCE). According to Aitareya Brahmana of the Rigveda, the Andhras left North India from the banks of river Yamuna and migrated to South India.[76][77] They were also mentioned in the Mahabharata and Buddhist Jataka tales.[24] In the sixth century BCE, Asmaka was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas. Andhras were mentioned by Megasthenes in his Indica (c. 310 BCE) as being second only to Mauryans in military strength in the entire Indian subcontinent.[25] They are mentioned at the time of the death of the great Mauryan King Ashoka in 232 BCE.[78][79][80]

Approximate extent of the Satavahana Empire (Andhra Empire) in the late 1st century CE.[81]

The first major Andhra polity was the Satavahana dynasty (2nd century BCE–2nd century CE) which ruled over the entire Deccan plateau and established trade relations with the Roman Empire.[26][27][82] The kingdom reached its zenith under Gautamiputra Satakarni. Their capital city, Amaravati was the most prosperous city in India in 2nd century CE.[29] At the end of the Satavahana rule, the Telugu region was divided into Kingdoms ruled by lords. In the late second century CE, the Andhra Ikshvakus ruled the eastern region along the Krishna River. During the fourth century, the Pallava dynasty extended their rule from southern Andhra Pradesh to Tamilakam and established their capital at Kanchipuram. Their power increased during the reigns of Mahendravarman I (571–630) and Narasimhavarman I (630–668). The Pallavas dominated the southern Telugu-speaking region and northern Tamilakam until the end of the ninth century. Later, various dynasties have ruled the area, including the Salankayanas, Vishnukundinas and Eastern Chalukyas.[78]

Map of the Kakatiyas, circa 1150–1300 CE.[83]

Between 1163 and 1323 the Kakatiya dynasty emerged, bringing the distinct upland and lowland cultures of Telugu lands, which brought into being a feeling of cultural affinity between those who spoke the Telugu language.[31] Kakatiya era also saw the development of a distinct style of architecture which improved and innovated upon the existing modes.[84] Most notable examples are the Thousand Pillar Temple in Hanamkonda, Ramappa Temple in Palampet, Warangal Fort, Golconda Fort and Kota Gullu in Ghanpur.[85] During this period, the Telugu language emerged as a literary medium with the writings of Nannaya, Tikkana, Eranna, Pothana etc. are the translators and poets of the great Hindu epics like Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bhagavatha etc.

Telingana, a term referring to the land inhabited by Telugus, was first used during the 14th century CE.[86][87] In 1323 the sultan of Delhi, Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq, sent a large army commanded by Ulugh Khan (later, as Muhammad bin Tughluq, the Delhi sultan) to conquer the Telugu region and lay siege to Warangal. The fall of the Kakatiya dynasty led to an era with competing influences from the Turkic kingdoms of Delhi, the Chalukya Chola dynasty (1070–1279) in the south and the Persio-Tajik sultanate of central India. The struggle for Andhra ended with the victory of the Musunuri Nayaks over the Turkic Delhi Sultanate.

Extent of Vijayanagara Empire, around 1520 CE.

The Telugus achieved independence under Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire (1336–1646). The Qutb Shahi dynasty of the Bahmani Sultanate succeeded that empire. The Qutub Shahis were tolerant of Telugu culture from the early 16th to the end of the 17th centuries.[88]

The arrival of Europeans (the French under the Marquis de Bussy-Castelnau and the English under Robert Clive) altered polity of the region . In 1765, Clive and the chief and council at Visakhapatnam obtained the Northern Circars from Mughal emperor Shah Alam. The British achieved supremacy when they defeated Maharaja Vijaya Rama Gajapati Raju of Vizianagaram in 1792.

Andhra's modern foundation was laid in the struggle for Indian independence under Mohandas Gandhi. Potti Sreeramulu's campaign for a state independent of the Madras Presidency and Tanguturi Prakasam Panthulu and Kandukuri Veeresalingam's social-reform movements led to the formation of Andhra State, with Kurnool its capital and freedom-fighter Pantullu its first chief minister. A democratic society, with two stable political parties and a modern economy, emerged under the Chief Ministership of N. T. Rama Rao.

India became independent from the United Kingdom in 1947. Although the Muslim Nizam of Hyderabad wanted to retain independence from India, he was forced to cede his kingdom to the Dominion of India in 1948 to form Hyderabad State. Andhra, the first Indian state formed primarily on a linguistic basis, was carved from the Madras Presidency in 1953. In 1956, Andhra State was merged with the Telugu-speaking portion of Hyderabad State to create the state of Andhra Pradesh. The Lok Sabha approved the formation of Telangana from ten districts of Andhra Pradesh on 18 February 2014.[89]


Main articles: Culture of Andhra Pradesh and Culture of Telangana


Main article: Telugu language

Telugu is a South-Central Dravidian language primarily spoken in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where it is also the official language. The oldest inscriptions with Telugu words date to 400 BCE found at Bhattiprolu in Guntur district.[90] Other early inscriptions with more refined language were found in Kantamanenivarigudem, Guntupalli in West Godavari district and Gummadidurru and Ghantasala in Krishna district. The earliest inscription completely written in Telugu dates to 575 CE were found at Kalamalla village in Kadapa district.[90]


Main article: Telugu literature

Telugu has an unbroken and diverse literary tradition of over a thousand years.[51][52] The earliest Telugu literature dates to 11th century CE with Nannaya's Andhra Mahabharatam. The language experienced a golden age under the patronage of the Vijayanagara king-poet Krishnadevaraya.[32]

Performing arts

Two Kuchipudi dancers from Andhra Pradesh, 2011

Kuchipudi, originating from the eponymous village in Krishna district, is of the eight major Indian classical dances.[91][92] It is a dance-drama performance, with its roots in the ancient Hindu Sanskrit text of Natya Shastra.[93] It developed as a religious art linked to traveling bards, temples and spiritual beliefs, like all major classical dances of India.[94] Other Telugu performing arts include:


Amaravati School of Art

Amaravati Stupa relief at a museum (1st–2nd century CE)

Amaravati School of Art is an ancient Indian art style that evolved in the region of Amaravati (then known as Dhānyakaṭaka) from 2nd century BCE to the end of the 3rd century CE.[45][95][96] It is also called the Andhra School or Vengi School.[95] Art historians regard the art of Amaravati as one of the three major styles or schools of ancient Indian art, the other two being the Mathura style, and the Gandharan style.[43][97] Amaravati school flourished under the local Sada rulers, Satavahanas, and Andhra Ikshvakus till 325–340 CE. Amaravati Stupa is the most famous monument of this style, and it was for some time "the greatest monument in Buddhist Asia",[98] and "the jewel in the crown of early Indian art".[99] Apart from Amaravati, the style is also found in Nagarjunakonda and Chandavaram Buddhist site.

Largely because of the maritime trading links of the East Indian coast, the Amaravati school of sculpture had great influence on art in South India, Sri Lanka, and South-East Asia.[44][45][95][97][100] Buddha image in sculptures which later on became the prototype of images in different Buddhist countries was standardised here.[97][101] The Amaravati style of Buddha image retained its popularity in Sri Lanka till the 12th century.[101]

Kakatiya architecture

Main article: Kakatiya architecture

Ramappa temple (1213–1253 CE), a UNESCO World Heritage Site[102]

Kakatiya era also saw the development of a distinct style of architecture which improved and innovated upon the existing modes.[103] It is a fusion of Dravidian architecture and Nagara Bhumija styles in which sandbox technology is used to construct Vimana—horizontal stepped tower. Most notable examples are the Thousand Pillar Temple in Hanamkonda, Ramappa Temple in Palampet, and Kota Gullu in Ghanpur.[85] Ramappa Temple, also known as the Rudreswara temple, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Mulugu.[104]


Main article: Telugu cinema

Telugu cinema is the largest film industry in India in terms of box-office as well as admissions.[105][57][58] The industry has produced some of India's most expensive and highest-grossing films of all time over the years.


  1. Uttareeyam (Uttariya) or Pai Pancha (Angvastram or veil)
  2. Pancha (Dhoti)
  3. Jubba (Kurta) The top portion
  4. Lungi (Casual dress)
  1. Langa voni (Half sari)
  2. Pattu pavada
  3. Cheera (sari)


See also: List of festivals in Andhra Pradesh

Important festivals celebrated by Telugu people include:



Telugu is the fourth most spoken language after Hindi, Bengali and Marathi in India.[15] Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are the principal resident states for Telugu people. Telugu people form the majority speakers in South India with over 75 million speakers in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Outside Telugu states the largest number of Telugu speakers are found in Tamil Nadu (4.2 million) and Karnataka (3.7 million), making them the second largest language groups in those neighbouring states.[106] In Tamil Nadu, Telugu people who migrated during the Vijayanagara period have spread across several northern districts and constitute a significant percentage of the population in Chennai city. In Karnataka, Telugu people are predominantly found in the border districts with majority in Bengaluru city and Bellary city. In Maharashtra, the Telugu population is over 1.4 million, followed by 0.7 million in Orissa. Other states with significant populations include West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat with 200,000, 150,000 and 100,000 respectively.[106]

Members of the overseas Telugu diaspora are spread across countries like United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand in the Anglosphere; Malaysia, Myanmar, Mauritius, Fiji, South Africa; UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait in the Arabian Gulf.[17][107] Telugu speakers number more than 1,000,000 in the United States, with the highest concentration in Central New Jersey, Texas, and California.[108] There are around 300,000 Telugu people in Malaysia,[109] and 200,000 in Myanmar.[110]

Notable Telugu people

Main article: List of Telugu people

See also


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