|Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (R)|
Early kingdoms: The district, like the rest of the Deccan, was under the Nandas and Mauryas in its early history. After the fall of the Mauryan Empire, the district was under the Satavahanas until the 3rd century under the famous poet king Haala. Coins found during excavations have revealed the rule of Gautamiputra Satakarni, Vaasisthi-puttra Pulumaavi and Yajna Sri Satakarni. Gupta emperor Samudragupta invaded during the rule of both Pishtapura and Avamukta in the district in 350 AD Samudragupta's invasion was followed by the rule of the Mathara dynasty from 375 to 500. The earliest known ruler of the dynasty was Saktivarman.
The district passed into the hands of Vishnukundinas during the rule of Vikramendra Varma I during the 5th century. The records indicate that their domain extended over Visakhapatnam, West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur Districts in addition to East Godavari. Indra Bhattaraka defeated the rulers of Vasistha Kula and re-established Vihsnukundina authority, but was shortly defeated by Kalinga armies. Indra Bhattaraka was followed to the throne by a few others, including Madhava Varma III and Manchana Bhattaraka, who tried to restore their kingdom. Madhava Varma III was the last important ruler of this family.
Chalukyas and Cholas: The Pulakesi II of Badami Chalukyas and his brother Kubja Vishnu Vardhana acquired Pishtapura in the 7th century. The Eastern Chalukya dynasty, founded by Kubja Vishnu Vardhana, ruled at first form Pishtapura, then from Vengi, and later from Rajamahendravaram. Many rulers held sway over the kingdom and their history is at times largely a record of disputes over succession. Chalukya Bhima I of this dynasty built a Shiva temple at Draksha Ramam. Jata Choda Bhima of PedaKallu (Kurnool District) killed Daanaarnava of this dynasty and occupied Vengi in 973 AD Daanaarnava's two sons, Sakti Varma I and Vimala Aditya, fled from the kingdom and took refuge in the court of the Chola king Rajaraja Chola I. Rajaraja invaded Vengi on behalf of the sons of Daanaarnava and killed Jata Choda Bhima. Satya Raya of the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani did not like the Chola influence in Vengi and the area witnessed many wars between the Cholas and Chalukyas. After the death of Vijaya Aditya VII in 175 AD, the Eastern Chalukya dynasty came to an end.
Kulottunga Chola I (Rajendra Chalukya), a rival of Vijay Aditya VII, fought along the sides of Cholas and established the Chalukya Cholas province. The district along with the rest of the Vengi kingdom became part of their empire. Major portions of the district were under Velanati Chodas, trustworthy chieftains to his. Rulers of this dynasty included Gonka I, Rajendra Choda I, Gonka II and Rajendra Choda II. Vikram Aditya vii of Western Chalukyas occupied this region for a short period, but it was recovered by Chalukya Cholas and Velanati Chodas. Velanati chiefs also suppressed rebellions from Haihayas of Kona, Gonka II and Rudra of the Kakatiya dynasty.
Kakatiyas and Delhi Sultanate: Inscriptions at this region including the ones at Draksha Ramam in 13th-century throw light on their history. Prola II of the Kakatiya dynasty declared independence from the western Chalukyas and became a subject of Chalukya Cholas. His son Rudra obtained the Godavari delta as a gift from the Rajaraja II of Chalukya Cholas. Rudra's authority over the Godavari delta was challenged by the Velanadu Chodas. The Velanati king Rajendra Choda II sent an army under his minister Davana Preggada against Rudra. Rudra was succeeded by his younger brother Mahadeva who died in a conflict with the Yadavas of Devagiri. His son Ganapati succeeded to the Kakatiya throne. Ganapati defeated Kalinga armies on the north, Pandyas of Madura and Cholas with the help of Nellooru Chodas. The Kakatiya power remained undisturbed in the Godavari region throughout the reign of Ganapati and her daughter Rudrama devi. Pratapa Rudra ascended the throne in 1295 and faced many attacks from Sultans of Delhi. After his defeat by Muhammad-bin-Tughluq in 1323, the district came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate. Muhammad-bin-Tughluq divided South India into five provinces and appointed governors.
Nayakas, Reddi, Telagas (Kapus) and other kingdoms: Delhi sultans faced rebellions from the confederacy of local chiefs under the authority of Prolaya of the Musunuri Nayaks clan. The Reddis of Addanki, Koppula Telagas of Pithapuram and the Recharla Velamas of Rachakonda actively helped him. Warangal was liberated and Telugu land enjoyed freedom for fifty years. Musunuri Kapaya Nayaka appointed his relatives Toyyeti Anavota Nayaka and Mummadi Nayaka (Korukonda) as governors in Godavari region. Mummadi Nayaka married the niece of Kapaya Nayaka. Mummadi Nayaka lived till 1388. He had three sons who ruled for a period of 40 years and later they were reduced to submission by the Reddis of Kondaveedu and their principality was merged in the kingdom of Kondaveedu. Subsequently, Narasimha Deva IV of Kalinga succeeded in conquering this region, but was repulsed by Anavota Reddi of Rajahmundry. He was succeeded by Anavema Reddi and Kumaragiri of the same dynasty.
Kumaragiri fought many wars with the Recharlas of Rachakonda and the Kalinga rulers. He sent his general Kataya Vema along with Prince Anavota to conquer the eastern region. This resulted in the annexation of a large tract in the north as far as Simhachalam. The newly acquired territory was annexed to the Reddi Kingdom and constituted into a separate province called the eastern kingdom. Prince Anavota ruled this province with Raja-Mahendra-Varam as his capital. He died a premature death around 1395 and Kataya Vema, the general and brother-in-law of Kumara Giri, was given Raja Mahendra Rajya in appreciation of the services rendered by him to the State. Kataya Vema's departure to Raja Mahendra Varam led to the seizure of the throne of Kondaveedu by force by Peda Komati Vema.
Peda Komati Vema's authority was defined by Kataya Vema. Kataya Vema was also involved in a conflict with Eruva chief Annadeva Choda, who managed to occupy a large portion of the Raja Mahendra Rajya. He was, however, defeated and driven back by Kataya Vema. Later, Kataya Vema died in a battle with Anna Deva Choda. After his death, Allada Reddi placed Kataya Vemas' son Komaragiri on the throne of Rajamahendravaram and ruled the kingdom as his regent. Komarigiri died a premature death. Allada Reddi ruled this region till his death in 1420. About 1423, the Vijayanagara ruler Deva Raya II defeated Veera Bhadra, who was then ruling this kingdom and reduced it to subjection.
After the death of Kapilendra Deva Gajapati in 1466, there was a fight between his sons Hamveera Deva and Purushottama Deva for succession. Hamveera succeeded in occupying the throne with the help of Bahmanis but he could not retain it for long. Purushottama overthrew Hamveera and tried to reconquer Rajamahendravaram and other places. But Muhammad Shah III led the forces to Rajahmundry. This battle, however, ended with the conclusion of a peace treaty. After the death of Muhammad Shah III, Purushottama Gajapati overran the whole of the Godavari-Krishna do-ab and drove the Bahmani forces as far south as Kondaveedu. Purushottama was succeeded by his son Pratapa Rudra. The Vijayanagar monarch Krishna Deva Raya invaded his kingdom and brought Rajahmundry under subjugation. However, a treaty was concluded wherein Pratapa Rudra agreed to give his daughter in marriage to Krishna Deva Raya in return of the territory north of the Krishna conquered by Krishna Deva Raya.
Muslim kingdoms: Taking advantage of the disturbed conditions, the Qutab Shahi ruler of Golkonda, Sultan Quli Qutab Shah, invaded the coastal region and took possession of Rajahmundry and the neighboring kingdoms. Sultan Quli was murdered and he was succeeded to the throne by his son Jamshid Qutab Shah and then by his grandson Subhan Qutab Shah. During his reign, Ibrahim Qutab Shah had to ward off challenges from Shitab Khan and Vidyadhar. The last ruler of this dynasty was Abdul Hasan Tana Shah, who ruled from 1672 to 1687.
Aurangzeb conquered the sultanate of Golaconda in 1687, and Golaconda, including East Godavari, became one of the twenty-two provinces of the Mughal Empire. The Nizam-ul-Mulk (viceroy of Golaconda) looked after the administration through military officers called Fauzdars. Pusapati Ananda Gajapati Raju, the new Raja of Vizianagaram, invited the French to occupy the Northern Circars. The tussle that ensued between the French and the English ended with the French losing all possessions in Northern Circars except Yanam.
Salabat Jung was subsequently deposed by his brother Nizam Ali Khan, who leased out Rajahmundry and Chicacole to Hasan Ali Khan. Lord Robert Clive, entered into negotiations with the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam and obtained a firmana ceding the Northern Circars to the British East India Company in August 1765, but it was kept a secret until March 1766. The fort of Kondapalli was seized by the British, and General Cillaud was sent to Machilipatnam to undertake military operations, if necessary. The Nizam also made brisk preparations for war. War was prevented by the signing of a treaty on 12 November 1766 by which the Company, in return for occupying the Circars, undertook to maintain troops for the Nizam's assistance.
British rule (1768–1947): By a second treaty, signed on 1 March 1768 the Nizam acknowledged the validity of Shah Alam's grant and resigned the Circars to the Company, receiving as a mark of friendship an annuity of 50,000. Finally, in 1823, the claims of the Nizam over the Northern Circars were bought outright by the Company, and they became a British possession. The Circars were incorporated into Madras Presidency, and the Godavari district was constituted, which included the present-day East Godavari and West Godavari districts.