South India includes five major states in peninsular India and the two island groups of Lakshadweep located in the Arabian Sea on the West Coast of India and Andaman and Nicobar located in the Bay Of Bengal on the East Coast of India.
Southern India has five states on the mainland:
Coastal state with fiery food
Spun off from Andhra Pradesh in 2014, centred around Hyderabad
"God's own country", famous for spices, Ayurveda and the Malabar coast
India's fiercely independent southern tip, famous for its temples and capital of Chennai (Madras)
Kannada homeland, the capital Bangalore (Bengaluru) is also home to India's IT hub
There are also three Union territories:
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands — located on the Eastern Coast of India, a remote group of gorgeous tropical islands closer to Thailand than mainland India, almost equidistant from the city of Chennai, Kolkata and Vizag.
- Lakshadweep Islands — located on the West Coast of India, the rarely visited northern end of the Maldives chain.
- Pondicherry — located in the Three states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh
There are many cities in South India. Below is a list of the nine most notable. Other cities are listed on their specific regional page.
- Bangalore (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
- 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 the 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 and simple in spite of talents and riches. South Indians respect castes and religious sentiments quite unlike their brash Northern neighbors. Historians and Scholars across the world have always admired the culture and language of South India for its depth and history.
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 in 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 successfully preventing Northern cultural dominance into Southern India until the 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, with the final invasion in 1565 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. The Mysore kingdom from early 1400 AD with its capital at Mysore, ruled for the most part by the Wodeyar dynasty greatly expanded after the fall of the Vijayanagara Kingdom in 1565 and ruled over much of what is present day Karnataka. The British started their expansion into India setting up its base in Madras and slowly growing into a major power all over India. Barring some kingdoms which paid tribute to the British like Travancore, Kochi, Mysore, Hyderabad and Coorg, most of South Indian came under British dominance by end of 19th century till Indian Independence in 1947.
After Independence, South India remained one of the major economic powerhouses for the new 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 race ahead of North India, 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 Telangana and 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 have 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 well with the locals and help your interaction. Outside Tamil Nadu, southern and coastal Andhra, Hindi is still usable mainly in the urban areas. Rural areas across South India tend to favor the regional language.
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 is well connected by the national and state highways connecting the state capitals as well as other important cities. The newer national highways and state highways are tolled.
The state-owned bus operators in all the southern states provide excellent interstate and intrastate connections, and some service providers connect with Maharashtra and Goa as well. The government-owned bus operators feature dedicated websites and smartphone apps to provide services online. Private operators also provide interstate and intrastate service across Southern India via online websites and smartphone apps - Makemytrip, Redbus.
Private bus operator schedules differ from government operators based on routes taken, passenger stops along the way and adherence to the posted departure and arrival timings. Private bus operators have a tendency to transport freight, delay departure if some seats are not occupied, and pick up additional passengers along the route to maximize their revenue per trip. This is not the case with government bus operators.
The various divisions of the state-owned Indian Railways - Southern Railway headquartered in Chennai, South Western Railway headquartered in Hubli, Konkan Railway headquartered in Ratnagiri and Mumbai connect the various states in Southern India with the rest of India.
Rajdhani trains are fully air-conditioned long distance trains that connect state capitals with India's capital (Rajdhani) at New Delhi.
Shatabdi trains are fully air-conditioned intercity day trains connecting the state capitals as well as important cities en-route and return to the originating station the same day.
The Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains are among the fastest trains in India.
South India's long history and religious tolerance is manifested in numerous examples of architectural wonders pertaining to the various communities of Hinduism , Islam, Christianity, Jain , Buddhist and Jews resident here.
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 and flora. The largest populations of Tigers and Elephants in India are found in the jungles of South India. One can enjoy the natural beauty of these forests at places like Mudumalai, Bandipur , Periyar National Parks etc. Some parks arrange treks into the forest, and also provide camping inside the forest. Private facilities are also available and are located close by and in some cases right outside the front gate or down the road from the park.
In Kerala travelling on the backwaters (brackish lagoons and lakes) that run parallel to the Arabian Sea is an excellent way to enjoy the Kerala scenery - the houseboats are available with generators, air conditioning for the bedrooms, authentic food is prepared by on board staff for the complete Kerala experience. The boats are at standstill at night for Food or for the night. The Boats are motorised but proceed at a leisurely pace for smooth travel. The Houseboats are available as per budget.
scuba diving at
- Andaman and Nicobar
- Netrani Island in the Arabian Sea just off the coast of Karnataka near the town of Murudeshwara. Easily accessible from Bangalore, Mangalore, Mumbai and Goa
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 seafood. In the State of Kerala, it is common to use grated coconut in everything and coconut oil for cooking, while someone from elsewhere would 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, Mangalore, Vizag.
Here is a very incomplete list of typical standalone Southern dishes, available at economical rates, which constitute local fast food. Most of these dishes 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 Masala Dosa involves stuffing the dosa with potato mash and coating the inside of the Dosa with Red Chutney powder (masala) and serving it rolled up twice. The variations in Dosa preparation differ by regions across Southern India.
- 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.
- bhat, rice based dishes prepared in various combinations and served hot across Karnataka, Accompanied by raitha.
All of these can be eaten with plain yogurt(curd), chutney a popular condiment made from practically anything or a raitha a small bowl of chopped cucumber, onion, tomatoes and salt mixed with yogurt (curd) and served cold for 'bhat'.
South Indian cuisine is predominantly vegetarian, though Chettinad, Andhra, Karavali and Kerala cuisines use meat and seafood and spicy as per regional taste buds. The varieties of preparation differ by state and region as well. Each area has its variation of preparation commonly known as "special" to distinguish from the rest.
Coffee (kaapi in Tamil) tends to replace tea in the south.
A South Indian specialty 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 (papad). Refills of curry and rice and vegetables are often free (don't hesitate to ask for more), with men carrying 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 (helps digestion) and a few betel leaves and nuts. If the meal is 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 visitors 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 good policing, and one can contact the police in case of any emergency by dialing 100. Free ambulance service can be reached by dialing 108.