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Southern India

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Southern India

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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.

  • Chennai (Madras) — the largest city of South India, referred as Gateway of South India. Chennai is the City of Temples and the Dravidian art & culture. It is a major Auto hub of Asia producing 2 cars every minute and the second IT capital. It is also the home of famous Marina Beach. Welcome to the King maker city of Indian politics.
  • Bangalore — the Garden City, Pub City, Silicon Valley of India, Land of Silk, Gold, Sandal, Incense etc.
  • Kochi (Cochin) — the Queen of the Arabian Sea, one of the largest port city with a strong air of colonial European cultures and unlimited shopping
  • Coimbatore — Known as the Manchester of South India for its Textile capabilities, it is one of the premium educational hub of South Asia. The hill station Ooty is near by this city and you could enjoy the oldest steam engine train to up the hill (Chill! Chill!).
  • 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. The capital of 3000 years old Pandyan Empire which nourished Tamil language via Tamil Sangam.
  • Mysore — twin city of Bangalore. Famous for the Royal Palace, Brindavan Gardens
  • Pondicherry — French Enclave in India. Commonly known as "Peaceful Pondicherry"
  • Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) — The evergreen city of India with greenery everywhere,it is the capital of Kerala State and famous for various large monuments, palaces and beaches

Other destinations

  • Alappuzha — the gateway of Kerala Backwaters with amazing maze of backwaters, lagoons, rivers, canals. Known as Venice of East.
  • Kalahasti
  • Kumarakom— the celebrated backwater retreat of India famous for its vast lagoons, bird sanctuaries and holiday houses.
  • Tirupati


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 inspite of excellent talents. They respect every other's religion and sentiments unlike their Northern neighbours. Historians and Scholars across the world have always admired the culture and language of South India.

The South India has a glorious history of more than 3000 years 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, thanks the mighty Vindhya Ranges that could successfully prevent Northern cultural dominance into south untill Medieval periods.

The ancient history of South India was much attributed to 3 large empires, namely Chola, Pandya and Chera, all hailing from same roots. Whereas Cholas were more famous through its large empires, cultural monuments and navy which brought much of South East Asia under its domination, the popularity of other houses, Chera and Pandiyas were nevertheless. Cheras ruled much of the modern Kerala and Karnataka was extremely popular through its extensive trading relations with West, particularly Roman and Greek Empires as well as with Egyptians. Pandiyas were renowned for their cultural achievements, concenrated much of Southern Tamil Nadu. Towards early AD Centuries, several other Hindu Dynasties like Chalukyas, Vijayanagar, Pallavas etc scrambled much of the Southern peninsula barring Kerala, which remained under Cheras.

Towards Medieval periods, Vijayanagar Empire became one of the largest empires covering two thirds of South India, particularly Karnataka and Andhara 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 modelled 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 (Chennai) and slowly grew into a major power all over India. Barring a few Kingdoms 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 powerhouse for the nation. Most of the south Indian cities are reputed for various industrial bases. The growth of IT in Bangalore and Hyderabad, Textiles in Coimbatore, Auto-manufacturing in Chennai, Tourism in Kerala, makes South Indian states to race much ahead than North, in terms of economic prosperity and overall social development.


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, though they contain many loan words from Sanskrit. 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 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, Hindi is still usable as all educated people will have learnt Hindi in school, though it is not widely spoken in rural areas.

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

South India has more international airports than rest of India with regular connections to almost every corner of the world. Chennai is the main air gateway into southern India, fielding flights from all over the world.Bangalore International Airport is one of the largest airport after Chennai alongwith Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and Kochi.Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and Kochi has regular connections from Middle East and South East Asia as well as popular tourist oriented charters. Recently with opening of new Terminal Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, air connections to almost every part of the world is ensured. Other popular options are Kozhikode Airport, Trichy Airport, Mangalore Airport and Coimbatore Airport.

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),Jewish syngagoue in Kochi, 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 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.

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.

Lunch on a banana leaf (no rice added yet)

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.

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