South India Travel Guide

South India

Southern Part of India has witnessed many Dynasties and thus represents different Cultures. It is still untouched, green and pure. The delightful south; almost untouched by invasions throughout its history, the Indian heritage is more intact here than in other regions of the country. South India is the area encompassing the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as well as the union territories of Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep and Puducherry,

This is a land of temples, a land of the devout where new wonders await – the profusion of orange flowers, the shade of the banyan tree, and the soft beat of distant drums as yet another festival starts… A Myriad of Temples.

The geography of the region is diverse with two mountain ranges – the Western and Eastern Ghats, bordering the plateau heartland. Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Tungabhadra and Vaigai rivers are important non-perennial sources of water. Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Coimbatore, Mysore and Thiruvananthapuram are the largest urban areas.

The devout Dravidian people of the south live and breathe their ancient religion. Nothing, however, can really prepare a visitor for the temples, where images of the quiet bustle of the vast halls, the huge gopurams completely covered by coloured sculptures of gods and goddesses, the sight of bare feet walking across cool slabs, the heady smell of incense and the chime of the temple bell rung by priests and the faithful leave entrancing impressions. Rustic carts drawn by oxen with their brightly coloured painted horns, smiling villagers harvesting the hay at the side of the road – these will be some of the memorable features of the short journey from Madras to the famous temple town of Mahabalipuram.

A swim off the glorious beach will refresh you after absorbing the wonders of the romantic shore temples and of Arjuna’s Penance, the huge rock carvings of animals and gods.

There are so many impressive temple towns in South India – nearby Kanchipuram with its spectacular gopurams visible from miles away, or other magical sounding places – Chidambaram, Tanjore, Tiruchirapalli, and, most of all, the pilgrim centre of Madurai – one of the oldest cities in Southern India – with its dramatic and lively Meenakshi temple, dedicated to the fish-eyed goddess. The major languages spoken include Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam. Tulu is spoken by about 1.5 million people in coastal Kerala and Karnataka and Konkani, an Indo-Aryan language, is spoken by half a million people in the Konkan coast. English is also widely spoken in urban areas of South India. Urdu is spoken by around 12 million Muslims in southern India.Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Urdu and Konkani are listed amongst the 22 official languages of India as per the Official Languages Act (1963).

Alternatively, for a different style of relaxation, visit the attractive French-style coastal town of Pondicherry, south of Madras. In the neighbouring state of Karnataka lie the stone-carved temples of Belur and Halebid. Relive the exciting era of the Hoysalas, who flourished around the 12th century, by examining the endless stories which the sculptural detail portrays the war, the hunt, the animals, the dancing girls and, of course, the gods.

Rice is the staple diet, while fish is an integral component of coastal South Indian meals. Coconut and spices are used extensively in South Indian cuisine. The region has a rich cuisine involving both traditional non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes comprising rice, legumes and lentils. Its distinct aroma and flavour is achieved by the blending of flavourings and spices including curry leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut and rosewater. Idli, dosa, uttapam, appam, pongal and paniyaram are popular dishes for breakfast. Rice is served with sambar, rasam and poriyal for lunch.

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