Surrounded by the seas on three sides, peninsular India is also known as south India comprising the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry, Goa and Karnataka. Here we have included the islands of Lakshadweep and Andamans to the region. Lakshadweep is of coral origin with smaller islands making the archipelago. Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the east are of volcanic origin and still have indigenuous tribes like Onge, Shompen etc on some of the islands. Mainland south India has a distinct culture when compared to northern India. However, Goa and Pondicherry have a distinct colonial heritage and culture. While Goa has the Portugese effect, Pondycherry has the French influence.
The Dravidian culture as it is called is believed to be the culture of the original inhabitants of India who were pushed south to the Deccan Plateau by invading armies of Aryans and others. The Deccan Plateau lies to the south of the Vindhya and Satpura ranges and extends upto the Cauvery basin. The region boasts highly developed skills in architecture, astronomy, sea faring and systems of medicine.
Since ancient times, the ports of these states maintained trading relations to far off lands like Arabs, Chinese and south east Asians. Even today, we see the cultural effect of these trade ties on entire south east Asia. Each state has long coastline with some of the best beaches, natural harbours and ports. The topography consists of the semi arid Deccan plateau and the mountains of Western and Eastern Ghats on either side with dense forests and beaches of every sort on the coast. The forest cover on Ghats is home to many exotic species of birds and animals. It also has most beautiful gorges and waterfalls resplendent in their glory in the months soon after monsoons.
The temples of Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka have distinctive styles. Hewn out of granite, these are imposing structures carved with a finesse that one can but marvel at. The Cholas and Pallavas were some of the greatest temple builders. The mammoth temples of Madurai, Tanjore, Chidambaram etc were built in an era when only manual and animal power was available. Temple architecture in Kerala is a mix of this style and its own style of wood carvings and murals. After the fall of Kakatiyas of Warangal, the south too came under influence of Muslim rulers who brought with them distinctive architecture and culture. Of note is the heritage of towns like Bijapur and Hyderabad. The Qutb shahi rulers built the timeless monuments like Charminar. The Kingdom of Vijayanagara further south also had the influence of Islam, though a Hindu state. Its chieftains, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan were great warriors who kept the colonial powers at bay for long.
The south also has one of the finest traditions in silk. Handwoven by expert weavers, they come from different region, each with a distinctive style. Bronze, brass and bell metal statues and vessels are other superlative products of the region. Sandalwood and spices are some of the other attractions of the region.
The temples have also been the birthplace of classical music and dance forms. Kuchipudi from Andhra, Bharatanatyam from Tamil Nadu and Mohini Attom from Kerala are few examples. For an art buff, there are many festivals held across south India which showcase the performing arts, classical music and dance.
Temples, palaces, backwaters, houseboat cruises, ayurveda, delectable cuisine, arts and crafts, wildlife, beaches and natural beauty- south has it all to be on your tour itinerary.