The history of East Godavari district like the rest of Andhra, may be traced to the period of the Nandas. Mahapadma Nanda, the founder of the nanda dynasty, led expeditions and defeated several monarchs of a large portion of the Deccan The subsequent history of Nanda dynast is not known, except that, the last ruler Dhana Nanda was overthrown by Chandraguptha Maurya in 322 B.C.
Thus, Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya dynasty assumed control over the empire which included a large portion of the Deccan. He was succeeded by his son, Bindusara (297-272 B.C.). Bindusara was succeeded to the throne by Ashoka.
After the Mauryas,the district passed under the sway of the Satavahanas. The access of Hala in about 6 or 7 A.D lasted for only one year.Though there were no events of political importance during his reign, he won for himself a niche among the great poets of all time. The rule of Gautamiputra Satakarni(A.D. 62-86), Vasisthiputra Pulumayi( A.D. 86-114) and Yajna Sri Satavahanas (A.D.128-157) is evident from the coins found during excavations. The satavahanas appeared to have ruled till the first quarter of the third century A.D.
Samudragupta, the Gupta ruler, who invaded this district in A.D.350 came into conflict with the rulers of both Pishtapura and Avamukta. The local rulers joined the rulers of neighbouring principalities to resist the onslaughts of the Gupta ruler. However, the outcome of this united opposition is not known.
Samudra Gupta’s invasion was followed by the rule of a line of kings belonging to Matharakula. Their rule extended roughly from 375 A.D to 500 A.D. The earliest known ruler of the dynasty was Maharaja Sakthivarman.The district passed into the hands of Vishnukundin during the rule of Vikramendravarma I. They ruled for over two centuries from the first quarter of the 5th Century A.D. or a little earlier. The records discovered indicate that their domain extended over Visakhapatnam, West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur, besides the present East Godavari district. Ranadurjaya, a member of the Durjaya family,ruled Pistapuram or Pithapuram as a vassal of Vikramendravarma in recognition of his services to the state. Another Vishnukundin,ruler of lndrabhattaraka, defeated the rulers of Vasisthakula and re established his authority over this region.
His success was,however, short lived. The early reigns of kalinga with the support of some petty rulers, completely routed Indrabhattaraka’s army. This resulted in the Vishnukundin’s power suffering a severe setback. Indrabhattaraka was followed to the throne by a few others belonging to the same family. Madhavarama III was the last important ruler of this family. Madhavarama III was, however, killed in a battle. He was succeeded by his son, Manchannabhattaraka who strove hard to maintain his hold over the ancestral dominion without much success.
Later, the western Chalukya ruler of Badami Pulakesin II, with the help of his brother Kubjavishnu, attacked Pistapura and emerged victorious. Kubjavishnu was given the newly acquired territories in the east in token of appreciation of the service rendered by him.
The rulers of eastern Chalukya dynasty founded by Kubjavishnu, ruled at first form Pistapura, then from Vengi and later from Rajamahendri(Rajahmundry). Many rulers held sway over the kingdom and their history is, at times largely a record of disputes about succession.
Chalukya Bhima I, who ruled during A.D.892-921,built a temple in honor of Siva at Draksharama. In the subsequent period which marked a civil war for power, Amma 1, son of Vijayaditya 1V, came out victorious and ruled the kingdom for seven years. He was succeeded by his son Vijayaditya V, who was ousted from power within a fortnight of his accession. He was compelled to take refuge in the fort of Pithapuram, where he founded a dynasty.
In 973 A.D. the eastern Chalukya ruler, Danarnava, was killed and Vengi was occupied by Jata Choda Bhima of Pedakallu in Kurnool district who ruled for 27 years. The two sons of Danarnava, Saktivarman I and Vimaladitya fled from the kingdom and took refuge in the court of the Chola king Rajaraja I. (A.D.985-1016). Kundavai, the daughter of Rajaraja was married to Vimaladitya, the younger of the two princes. Rajaraja invaded Vengi on behalf of the sons of Danarnava. In this war, Jata Choda Bhima was killed and Vengi passed into the hands of Rajaraja. This was not liked by Satyasraya, an early ruler of the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani. As a result of this, Vengi became the bone of contention between the Cholas and Chalukyas of Kalyani to the West. The rule of Vijayaditya VII lost his kingdom and whith his death in A.D.1075. Vijayaditya VII lost his kingdom and with his death in A.D 1075 the eastern Chalukya dynasty came to and end.
With the accession of Rajendra under the title of Kulottunga I, an eastern Chalukyan prince and a rival of Vijayaditya VII, to the Chola throne, this district along with the rest of the Vengi kingdom became a province of the Chola empire. These rulers were known as Chalukya-Cholas. Kulottunga I appointed his sons Rajaraja Mummadi Choda, Vira Choda, Rajaraja Choda Ganga and Vikrama Chola as his viceroys in Vengi. Vikrama Chola was called back to the south in the same year as the administration of the major portion of this district by Velanadu chiefswas not effective. This gave an opportunity to the Western Chalukya ruler, Vikramaditya VI to reduce the Velanadu chief to subjection. Someswara III succeeded Vikramaditya VI. On the Chola throne, Vikrama Chola was followed by Kulottunga II and Rajaraja II and Rajadhiraja in succession. During the reign of Rajadhiraja II, the velanadu rulers became more independent and entertained plans of aggrandisement. A major portion of the district was also ruled by a local dynasty known as Velanati Cholas. The other rulers of this dynasty were Gonka I, Gonka II, Kulottunga Rajendra Chola I and Kulottunga Rajendra Chola-II(A.D. 1108-1181).
The sudden demise of Kulottunga Rajendra Chola II in A.D.1181 led to the outbreak of civil war among the heirs of Kulottunga Rajendra Chola for the possession of the throne. With this, the rule of Velanati Chola over this district ended.
An early ruler of Kakatiya dynasty Prola II threw off the Imperial Yoke of the western Chalukyas of Kalyani and asserted his independence. During his reign, he was opposed by the Haihayas of Knoa. Prola II was succeeded by his son Rudra(A.D.1150-1195), who obtained the Godavari delta as a bief from the Chalukya Chola emperor Rajaraja II and attempted to avenge the defeat of his father at the hands of Haihayas of Kona. The epigraph at Draksharama dated A.D.1158 is an evidence of this. Rudra’s authority over the Godavari delta was challenged by the Velanadu Cholas. The Velanati Chief, Julottunga Rajendra Chola II sent an army against Rudra. The Minister of Rajendra Chola-II, Devana Preggada is said to have first reduced the territory bordering the sea and established him self at Draksharama in A.D.1163 and then advanced on the Haihayas of Kona and having defeated them, he compelled them to acknowledge the supremacy of his sovereign. However, Rudra does not seem to have left them in peaceful possession of this area.
On the death of the Chalukya Chola emperor Rajaraja II in A.D.1172, Kulottunga Rajendra Chola II took advantage of the breakdown of the imperial power and made himself the master of the whole of the maritime region. He, however, died unexpectedly and the power of the Velanadu Cholas suffered a set back.
Rudra was succeeded by his younger brother Mahadeva who died in a conflict with the Yadavas of Devagiri. His son Ganapathi succeeded to the Kakatiya throne. He conquered Divi in Krishna district. Ganapathi successfully sent an army to Kalinga to reduce it to subjection. The eastern Ganga ruler Amiyanka Bhima III and his son Narasimha I were continuously in conflict with Ganapathi. Ganapathi sent an army across northern side of Godavari, where a great battle was fought and the enemy was forced to a hasty retreat. In a conflict with the Pandyas of Madura, Ganapathi inflicted a crushing defeat on them and compelled their ally Kopperunjinga to acknowledge his suzeraintly. As a result of this victory, the kakatiya power remained undisturbed in the Godavari valley until the end of the reign of Ganapathi.
Ganapathi was succeeded by his daughter Rudramba (A.D.1259-95). During the latter part of her reign, the whole of Godavari valley appears to have come in full under her sway and remained under her control till the end of her reign. Prataparudra ascended, the throne in A.D.1295. His reign faced many invasions by the Sultans of Delhi. In A.D.1323, he was defeated by Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq and was sent as a prisoner to Delhi. With this, the district along with the remaining Kakatiya dominion passed into the hands of the Delhi Sultans.
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq divided the Deccan and the South India into five provinces and entrusted the job of administering them to the governors. The rule of the governors, however, became unpopular. All the Nayakas living therein formed a confederacy and Prolaya Nayaka of Musunuri family, was chosen leader of the confederates. As a result of these rebellions, Kingdoms of the Reddis of Kondaveedu, the Rayas of Vijayanagara, the Recherlas of Rachakonda, the Bahmanis of Gulbarga and that of the Musunuri chief of Warangal came to be established and Prolaya Nayaka became the undisupted leader of Costal Andhra. After his death Kapaya Nayaka, a cousin of Prolaya Nayaka, Succeeded him as the leaser of the chief of the coastal tract.
Kapaya Nayaka’s leadership was not able to inculcate a sense of oneness amongst the chiefs, who started acting in an independent manner. Therefore, Kapaya Nayaka entrusted the administration of this region to Toyyeti Anavota Nayaka who ruled over it with Rajahmundry as his headquarters. For sometime, after the death of Anavota Nayaka in A.D.1364, Rajahmundry and the region on the Eastern bank of the Godavari was without a ruler. The Manchikonda Chief, Mummadi Nayaka of Korukonda and Narasimhadeva IV of Kalinga tried to take advantage of the disturbed political situation. Though, they succeeded in conquering this region, it did not remain in their hold for long, as the Reddy ruler, Anavota succeeded in capturing the throne. He was succeeded by Anavema Reddi(A.D.1364-86), who in turn was succeeded by Kumaragiri (A.D.1386).
Kumaragiri fought many wars with the Racherlas 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 or the Rajamahendra Rajya. Prince Anavota ruled this province with Rajamahendravaram as his capital. He died a premature death around A.D.1395 and Kataya Vema, the general and brother-in-law of Kumaragiri was given Rajamahendra Rajya, in appreciation of the services rendered by him to the State. Kataya Vema’s departure to Rajamahendravaram 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 conflict with Eruva Chief, Annadeva Choda who managed to occupy a large portion of the Rajamahendra Rajya. He was, however, defeated and driven back by Kataya Vema. Later, Kataya Vema died in a battle with Annadeva 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 A.D.1420. About 1423 A.D., the Vijayanagar ruler Devaraya-II defeated Virabhadra, who was then ruling this kingdom and reduced it to subjection.
About this period, a dynasty of feudatory chiefs known as Virasamantas of Koppula chiefs, came into prominence. After the downfall of the Kakatiyas of Warangal, a minor dynasty known as of the chiefs of Korukonda rose to power. The historical origin of this family is not known. These chiefs became strong in due course and entered into matrimonial alliance with their powerful neighbours. Mummadi Nayaka of this family was thus married to the niece of the Musunuri chief, Kapaya Nayaka. He conquered the coastal region held earlier by Toyyeti Anavota Nayaka. He is believed to have further brought under subjection the kingdoms of Panara, Kona, Kuravata and others lying on either side of the Godavari. Mummadi Nayaka lived till 1388 A.D. He had three sons who ruled for a period of 40 years and later they were reduced to submission by the Reddies of Kondaveedu and their principality was merged in the kingdom of Kondaveedu.
After the death of Kapileswara Gajapati in A.D.1470, there was a fight between his sons Hamvira and Purushottma for succession. Hamvira succeeded in occupying the throne with the help of Bahmanis but he could not retain it for long. Purushottama overthrew Hamvira and tried to reconquer Rajahmundry and other places. But Muhammad Shah III lead the forces to Rajahmundry. This battle, However, ended with the conclusion of peace treaty. But after the death of Muhammad Shah III Purushottama Gajapathi overran the whole of the Godavari Krishna doab and drove away the Bahmani forces as far south as Kondaveedu. Purushottama was succeeded by his son Prataparudra. The Vijayanagar monarch Krishnadevaraya invaded his kingdom and brought Rajahmundry under subjection. However, atreaty was concluded wherein Prataparudra agreed to give his daughter in marriage to Krishnadevaraya in return of the territory north of the Krishna conquered by Krishnadevaraya.
Taking advantage of the disturbed conditions, the Qutb Shahi ruler, Sultan Quli Qutb Shah, invaded the coastal region and took possession of Rajahmundry and the neighbouring kingdoms. Sultan Quli was murdered and he was succeeded to the throne by his son Jamshid Qutb Shah and then by his grand sun Subhan Qutb Shah. During his reign Ibrahim Qutb Shah had to ward off challenges from Shitab Khan and Vidyadhar. The last ruler of this dynasty was Abdual Hasan Tana Shas who ruled during 1672-87 A.D.
About this period, the Mughal power started spreading to the south. The district of East Godavari was then included in Golconda, which had become one of the twenty-two provinces of the Mughal Empire. The Mughal emperor Aurangazeb appointed viceroys to carry out the administration of these provinces. The viceroy of Golconda looked after the administration through military officers called Fauzdars. The Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar appointed Nizam-ul-Mulk as the viceroys of the Deccan. He was, however, replaced by Husian Ali Khan, and during the time of Muhammad Shah, Nizam-ul-Mulk invaded the Deccan, defeated and killed Mubariz khan in the battle of Shakar Khera in 1724 and ruled the Deccan in an autonomous capacity.
Nizam-ul-Mulk’s death in 1748 A.D. led to a war of succession between his son Nasir Jung and his grandson Muzaffar Jung. The French and the English took different sides each. The dispute ended with the accession of Salbat Jung, with the help of the French General Bussy. General Bussy was, however, summoned to the south by Lally, the new Governor-General of the French possessions in India. As soon as he left, Anandra Raju, the new Raja of Vizianagaram, invited the English to come and occupy the Northern Circars. The tussle that ensued between the French and the English ended with the French loosing all possessions in Northern Circars.
Salabat Jung was subsequently deposed by his brother Nizam Ali Khan who leased out Rajahmundry and Chicacole to Hasan Ali Khan. Lord Clive, entered into negotiations for the ceding of the Northern Circars and obtained a Firman to that effect in August 1765, but it was kept a secret till March, 1766. General Cillaud was sent to Mchilipatnam to undertake military operations, if necessary. The Nizam also made brisk preparations for war. It was, however, prevented with the conclusion of a treaty where by English agreed to hold the Northern Circars on payment of a tribute, accepting at the same time to furnish the Nizam with some troops. This treaty was confirmed by another treaty in 1768. Hasan Ali Khan’s lease expired in AD 1769 and Rajahmundry and Eluru came under the control of the newly constituted chief and council at Machilipatnam.
The Zamindars came into prominence during the period preceding the transfer of the district to the English. The Zamindars of Rampa, Peddapuram, Pithapuram, Kota and Ramchandrapuram were the important Zamindars of this region.