He was born to Subbamma and Gopala Krishnaya, in a Niyogi Telugu Brahmin family, in the village of Vinodarayunipalem 26 km from Ongole in Madras Presidency (now Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh). When he was 11, his father died and his mother had to run a boarding house at Ongole, a profession that was looked down upon at the time.
When E. Hanumantha Rao Naidu, his teacher at school, moved to Rajahmundry, he took Prakasam along with him as that place had better opportunities for education. He acted in Gayopakhyanam by Chilakamarti Lakshmi Narasimham in 1890 along with his teacher. He was interested in becoming a lawyer since childhood, but Prakasam failed his matriculation examination. However, he managed to go to Madras and become a second-grade pleader. Returning to Rajahmundry, he eventually became a successful lawyer. He was elected as Municipal Chairman of Rajahmundry in 1904 when he was 31 years old. This election was a tough one at that point in time.
As long as the history of Indian National Struggle for Freedom exists, so long the late Tanguturi Prakasam Pantulu will be remembered as Andhra Kesari by one and all. He was the Chief Minister of separate Andhra State. When Sri Prakasam was rushing forward to attack the Simon Commission, a heartening incident occurred. To control Prakasam and his followers, the only recourse known to the police was to fire in the air to threaten the people, as a crisis-management technique, and they did the same.
Shri Prakasam retorted with a counter technique of crisis-management which nobody had ever thought of. He instantly tore his shirt exposing the chest, challenged the police to fire at him if they had the guts to do so and proceeded ahead with the slogan Simon Go back. It was a spontaneous act as he was fully prepared to sacrifice his life for freedom. The police and the British officials had to retreat as it was expedient at the moment. If they had hastily shot at him, the Britishers would have been burnt alive on the spot. The public were overwhelmed and touchy and hailed him as Andhra Kesari. Since then, he came to be referred to as Andhra Kesari Prakasam Pantulu the pride of Andhras.