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Tanuku is a town in India that is located in the district of West Godavari, some 60 kilometers from Narsapur. It belongs to the state of Andhra Pradesh. It is currently the political capital of the district, and is one of the few places in the country that produces and supplies UDMH-MMH (monomethylhydrazine), an important liquid rocket fuel very commonly used especially in the orbital maneuvering system (OMS) engines of NASA’s Space Shuttle. As a result, the town holds an important part in the country’s economy.
Geographically, the place has an average elevation of about 13 meters (14 feet). The Gosthani River flows along three of the town’s sides so when looked from above, it looks very much like a peninsula. The 2001 Indian census puts the town’s population at 87,779. This is also the first town in Andhra Pradesh to achieve total literacy; this is evidenced by the fact that Tanuku has one of the highest literacy rates in the country at 91.4%, very much higher than the national average of 59.5%. In Tanuku, the Mullapudi and Chitturi families have been prominent for many generations. Tanuku is also popularly known as Taraka Pura.
Some accounts have said that Tanuku was originally the capital of Tarakapuri, the kingdom of Tarakasura who, according to Hindu myth, was the king of Asuras or demons. The story goes that Tarakasura, who is also referred to as Tarakasena, was made a demon after his defeat by Lord Kumaraswamy, the son of Lord Shiva and Parvathi. This war happened because Tarakasura invaded Indra, the son-in-law of Tarakasena, over an insult the latter meted out to the former. It was this war that also gave names to various villages. For example, the place where Lord Kuramaswamy landed on Earth is now called Komaravaram. The place where Uraga Raju resided is now known as Undrajavaram. The place where the holy priests lived is called Vipparu today. So, it has been established that Tanuku’s history goes back to the ancient Vedic period.
Tanuku is also the birthplace of one of the very first – and greatest – Telugu poets of all time, Adikavi Nannayya. Some have said that he conducted a large sacrifice or Yagna under a jammi tree, and that he also translated the first three cantos (called Parvas) of the Hindu epic the Mahabharata from Sanskrit to Telugu.
Since Tanuku is part of the Godavari River basin, the soil is very fertile, making Tanuku essentially an agricultural town. The entire region actually forms India’s rice bowl. It also produces other major crops, such as bananas, sugar cane, coconuts and several varieties of vegetables. In addition, Andhra Sugars Company’s success in producing the liquid rocket fuel have added to the achievements of the town; India is the fifth country in the world to have developed this fuel, cutting the dependency on foreign sources. Aside from this, Tanuku is also a major textile hub.
The town is accessible either by train or by bus, with frequent buses coming from Narsapur, Eluru, Tadepalligudem and Palakol. Trains come from major cities such as Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore. National Highway 5, part of the Golden Quadrilateral, also passes through Tanuku.