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Southern India

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Revision as of 09:02, 10 June 2009

South India includes major states in peninsular India and the two island groups of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar.



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 - The Garden City, Pub City, Silicon Valley of India, Land of Silk, Gold, Sandal, Incense etc.
  • Chennai (Madras) -The largest city of South India,The City of Temples, Home of famous Marina Beach, Automobile Capital of India
  • Kochi (Cochin) - The Queen of the Arabian Sea
  • Coimbatore - Manchester of South India
  • Hyderabad - Pearl city of India, and part of Silicon Plateau with Bangalore
  • Madurai - City famous for its Meenakshi Amman Temple. It was among the nominees for the new list of 7 wonders of the world for its architecture.
  • Mysore - Twin city of Bangalore. Famous for the Royal Palace, Brindavan Gardens.
  • Pondicherry - French Enclave in India. Commonly known as "Peaceful Pondicherry"
  • Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) - Padmanabhaswami temple. It is the capital of Kerala State.

Other destinations



Barbershop sign in Tamil

       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. Even the scripts of all four languages, while originally Indic, have diverged quite radically from Devanagari.

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 a few may actually 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.

In addition to the big four above, there are also plenty of other languages. Karnataka, in particular, has Coorgi speakers in Kodagu district plus Tulu and Konkani speakers along the coast near Goa.

Get in

By plane

Chennai is the main air gateway into southern India, fielding flights from all over the world. However, regional flights connect most southern Indian cities directly to the Middle East (Dubai) and South-East Asia (Singapore, Kuala Lumpur).

Get around


The gopuram of Kapaleeswarar temple, Chennai
The Shore Temple at Mamallapuram, a 7th-century Pallava masterpiece

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 (7-9th century) and Hampi (14-16th century), while the busiest active pilgrimage sites today are Tirupati, by some measures the entire world's busiest, and Madurai, which has been operating continually for over 2,500 years.



India's best scuba diving can be found in Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep.


A selection of south Indian dishes

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 sambhar 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 coast, it is common to use grated coconut in everything and use coconut oil for cooking, while someone from the interior could be surprised to learn that coconut oil, can in fact, be used for cooking.

A very incomplete list of typical standalone Southern dishes, all of which are commonly eaten for breakfast:

  • idli, a bland steamed cake of lentils and rice
  • dosa, a thin, crispy pancake often stuffed with spiced potatoes to make masala dosa
  • pongal, a rice dish the consistency of firm porridge
  • sevai, rice noodles
  • uttapam, fried idli with onions and other vegetables mixed in
  • vada, a savoury Indian donut

All of these can be eaten with dahi, 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.

Lunch on a banana leaf (no rice added yet)

A South Indian speciality is the banana leaf meal, served on, you guessed it, a banana leaf. This consists of steamed rice served with about two to six vegetable dishes like sambhar, dry curry, rasam (a thin, peppery soup), koottu along with curd and buttermilk. 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.

Stay safe

Get out

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