There are many cities in South India. Below is a list of the ten most notable. Other cities are listed on their specific regional page.
- Bengaluru — Garden City, Pub City and "Silicon Valley of India";
- Chennai (Madras) — Largest city in the region, city of temples and the base of Dravidian art and culture. "Detroit of India", a major Auto hub of Asia;
- Hyderabad — Pearl city of India and part of Silicon Plateau;
- Coimbatore — "Manchester of South India", a major textile, industrial and educational hub;
- Kochi (Cochin) — "Queen of the Arabian Sea", one of the largest port city with a strong air of colonial European cultures;
- Madurai — Historical city famous for its Meenakshi Amman Temple, the seat of Pandyas;
- Mysooru — Royal city with its palaces and gardens;
- Pondicherry — Former French enclave in India;
- Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) — Southern most city of India with large temples, palaces and beaches;
- Visakhapatnam — Coastal city famous for its beautiful beaches;
- Hampi, Kanyakumari, Mamallapuram, Poompuhar - Historical
- Chidambaram, Kanchipuram, Kumbakonam, Palani, Rameswaram, Sabarimala, Srikalahasti, Thanjavur, Thrissur, Tiruchirappalli, Tirupati, Tiruvannamalai - Temples
- Kodaikanal, Udagamandalam, Yercaud, Munnar, Coorg - Hill stations
- Alappuzha, Kozhikode, Kollam, Kumarakom - Backwaters
One typically can understand by simple sights and sounds, the big air of difference between Southern Indian with rest of the parts of the country. The basic culture of south is essentially Dravidian culture, quite different from North India's Indo - East European culture. The people of South would remain down to earth, calm in spite of talents and riches. They respect castes and religious sentiments unlike their Northern neighbors. Historians and Scholars across the world have always admired the culture and language of South India.
South India has a glorious history of more than 3000 years. With advent of Aryan civilization in early BC centuries, much of the Dravidian civilizations (said to be even base for Indus Valley civilization) resided to southern India, which soon became a major Dravidian bastion. Though Hinduism remained as the invisible thread that connected North and South, much of the culture and outlook remained entirely different with both parts of the country with the Vindhya mountains that successfully prevented Northern cultural dominance into south until Medieval periods.
The ancient history of South India was much attributed to large empires like the Hoysalas, Chalukyas, Gangas, Kadambas, Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas and Cheras, all hailing from similar roots. Cholas are famous for their cultural monuments and navy which brought much of South East Asia under its domination. Cheras ruled much of Kongu Nadu (western Tamil Nadu) and Kerala, had extensive trading relations with West, particularly Roman and Greek Empires as well as with Egyptians. Pandiyas were renowned for their cultural achievements, concentrated much of Southern Tamil Nadu. Several other Hindu Dynasties like Chalukyas and Pallavas also contributed to the cultural heritage of the region.
Towards Medieval periods, Vijayanagar Empire became one of the largest empires covering two thirds of South India, particularly Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh with its capital at Hampi. The frequent attacks of Sultans of Delhi and other Northern Muslim states, slowly weakened the great Vijayanagara Empire, disintegrating it, giving raise of several Muslim states modeled on Northern Mughal styles in south. The growth of Portuguese, Dutch and other European powers, made South India, one of the major bases for European powers to fight for its share, in which British emerged victorious. British started their expansion into India setting up its base in Madras and slowly growing into a major power all over India. Barring a few kingdoms which paid tribute to the Birtish like Travancore, Kochi, Mysore, Hyderabad and Coorg, most of the south Indian area came under British dominance by end of 19th century.
After Independence, South India remained one of the major economic powerhouses for the nation. South Indian cities are reputed for industrial growth and overall development. The growth of IT in cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, textiles in Coimbatore, auto-manufacturing in Chennai, tourism in Kerala, made South Indian states to race ahead of North, in terms of economic prosperity, urbanization, human resource, educational and overall social development.
- See also: Kannada phrasebook
- See also: Malayalam phrasebook
- See also: Tamil phrasebook
- See also: Telugu phrasebook
One of the major differences between the South and the rest of India are the languages spoken. The four major languages, Kannada (in Karnataka), Malayalam (in Kerala), Tamil (in Tamil Nadu) and Telugu (in Andhra Pradesh) are all Dravidian languages entirely unrelated to the Indo-Aryan languages, such as Hindi, spoken in the rest of the country, though they contain many loan words from Sanskrit. Even the scripts of all four languages has their own evolutions.
As a rule, throughout the South, English is better understood than Hindi. The Tamils, in particular, have resented Delhi's occasional attempts to impose Hindi on them, and many will find it offensive if you try to talk to them in Hindi. Learning a few words of the local lingo, on the other hand, will go down a treat. Outside Tamil Nadu, southern and coastal Andhra, Hindi is still usable in urban areas.
South India has more international airports than rest of India with regular connections to almost every corner of the world. Chennai is the main gateway into southern India, handling more than 50% of all flights across South Asia along with Mumbai and Delhi. Other international airports are located at Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kochi, Coimbatore, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Tiruchirappalli, which have regular connections from Middle East and South East Asia as well as popular tourist oriented charters. Other domestic options are Mangalore, Visakhapatnam, Madurai, Tirupati, Vijayawada and Tuticorin.
South India's Dravidian architecture is quite different from the rest of India. The most obvious, and often striking, feature is the gopuram perched on every temple entrance, a stepped, steeply rising pyramid carved with layer upon layer upon layer of fantastically detailed and brightly painted statues.
Important historical temples include Mamallapuram, Thanjavur and Hampi, Jewish syngagoue in Kochi, while the busiest active pilgrimage sites today are Tirupati, by some measures the entire world's busiest, Sabarimala, Palani and Madurai, which has been operating continually for over 2,500 years.
The vast tropical forests of south India are home to a variety of wild animals like the tiger and largest populations of India elephants. One can enjoy the natural beauty of these forests at places like Mudumalai, Bandipur and Periyar National Parks etc. Some parks arrange treks into the forest, and also camping inside the forest.
South Indian food is quite different from that elsewhere in the country, being mostly rice-based. They also make greater use of pulses. The typical meal is sambar or koottu (a watery curry) with rice, or avial (mixed vegetables) with rice. There are regional variations too — the coastal regions make greater use of coconut and fish. In the State of Kerala, it is common to use grated coconut in everything and coconut oil for cooking, while someone from the interior could be surprised to learn that coconut oil, can in fact, be used for cooking. Anyway, all kinds of dishes from all parts of the world can be found in cities across South India. A variety of sea food fresh from the sea can be found in cities like Kochi and Chennai.
A very incomplete list of typical standalone Southern dishes, all of which are commonly eaten for breakfast:
- idli, a spongy steamed cake made of lentils and rice
- dosa, a thin, crispy pancake again made of lentils and rice. A highly popular variant involves stuffing the dosa with spiced potato mash and rolling it up to make masala dosa.
- pongal, a sweetened rice dish with the consistency of firm porridge.
- sevai, rice noodles, thin as vermicelli.
- uttapam, fried pancake made from a lentil and rice batter, with onions and other vegetables mixed in.
- vada, fried Indian donut, but savoury and spiced.
All of these can be eaten with plain yogurt, and chutney, a condiment that can be made from practically anything. South Indian cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, though Chettinad, Andhra and Kerala cuisines use meat heavily and are a lot more spicier. Coffee (kaapi in Tamil) tends to replace tea in the south.
A South Indian speciality is the banana leaf meal. This consists of steamed rice served with about two to six vegetable dishes like sambhar, porial (a dry stir-fried dish), rasam (a thin, peppery soup), koottu along with curd and buttermilk, all spread out on a disposable and environmentally-friendly banana leaf. For a non-vegetarian meal, curries or dishes cooked with mutton, chicken or fish are included. Meals are often accompanied by crisp appalams. Refills of curry and rice are often free, with men with buckets walking around to serve you more. After a final round of rice and curds or buttermilk or both, a traditional meal is concluded with a small banana and a few betel leaves and nuts. If served on a metal tray instead of a banana leaf, a set meal like this is known as a thali instead.
Toddy (known as kallu in Kerala) obtained from coconut tree is freely available in Kerala and consumed after fermenting. Pal payasam famous in Tamil Nadu.
Being quite a conservative region, most of southern India shuts down as early as 9.00pm (This is of course not the case in metro cities like Bangalore). So, tourists are advised to plan their travel accordingly. One might find it difficult to find public transport or cabs after 9.00. Also, it is advisable to not carry valuables or cash while traveling late. The four states have relatively better policing, and one can contact the police in case of any emergency by dialing 100. Free ambulance service can be reached by dialing 108.