It is unclear how the name ‘Visakhapatnam’ came into being. Some believe that the region got its name from its first ruler- King Visakha Varma while some opine that the city was named after the second son of Lord Shiva. There are several adaptations forwarded by the historians about the early history of Visakhapatnam, each narrating an intriguing tale of the city’s past. Several Hindu kingdoms such as the Vengi, Chalukyas, Pallavas and Cholas held their dominance over the land. However, with the fall of the Cholas, Visakhapatnam fell under the supremacy of the Mughal Empire. During the Mughal diktat, the province was a part of the Nizam Empire in Hyderabad. During the 18th century, the city became an important trading centre for the European merchants especially for the French and the English traders before the East Indian Company annexed it. Trail this article to explore the historical past of Visakhapatnam and delve deep into its glorious past.
Early Historical References
The early reference of Visakhapatnam can be trailed down to the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata. As per the mythological evidences, both Rama and Lakshmana wandered through the forest in this region in search of Sita. Again, there are legends, which suggest that this was the place where Rama formed his army of monkeys. Visakhapatnam has also been mentioned in a few Buddhist texts, which states that a section of Visakhapatnam was a part of the Kalinga kingdom during the 5th century.
Rule Of Hindu Kingdoms
Visakhapatnam has been under the supremacy of several Hindu kingdoms, the oldest kingdom being the Vengi Empire. With the overthrow of Vengi Empire, the dominance of Kalinga dynasty came to the fore before the land was passed on to the Mauryan Empire and then later to the Chalukyas. Several years later, with the fall of the Chalukya Empire, Chola dynasty ascended to the throne. Visakhapatnam also witnessed a brief rule of the Pallava dynasty. During the 10th and 16th century, the city, however, was torn between the power struggle of Surya Vamsi Gajapati kings of Odisha and the Chola emperors. Towards the end of the 15th century, the Mughal dominance in northern India extended its wings to the southern parts of the country. The city was conquered by the Nizam of Hyderabad and remained under it until the early 1600’s.
French And British India
After the decline of Muslim rule in the country, French merchants took over the land. Apart from being an important naval base, Visakhapatnam also served as a well placed trading seaport for tobacco, ivory, muslin and other goods. When the East Indian Company entered the continent, they wanted absolute monopoly over the Coromandel Coast, which led to several combats in this region. The Battle of Vizagapatam in 1804 demolished the French rule in this region. Later under the Madras Presidency, Visakhapatnam merged as a part of the Northern Circars that also included parts of coastal Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. The place was renamed and came to be known as Waltair by British India. It was only after independence that the town got back its former name. During the Second World War, Visakhapatnam was the only region in the continent that was attacked by Japanese fighter planes.
After 1947, independent India went through several changes with regard to its territories. The former region comprising of Visakhapatnam was considered one of the largest territories in India and was thus broken down into three separate territories. Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam were the three separate regions that came into being. The effects of the World War II, Indo-Park War in 1971, and Bangladesh Liberation War were also seen in Visakhapatnam after which India understood Visakhapatnam’s importance and decided to set up an Eastern Naval Command in this region. Since 1949, Visakhapatnam has served as a dockyard for several torpedoes and other heavy vessels as well as has been accountable for research and development activity of many warship equipments, advance military technology and nuclear weaponry.