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About South India and Goa

South India is first defined by its lushness. Green at the centre and edged with wonderful beaches, the South is also the land of spices - pepper, cinnamon, ginger, tea, tobacco… And besides, it is the India of large colourful temple cities where traditional Hinduism is still very alive.

The South will enthral both cultural and adventure travellers.

From the ruins of Hampi and Badami to the idyllic beaches of Kerala and Goa, from the immense spice plantations of the Ghats, South Indian mountains, to Portuguese and Dutch churches in Kochi and Panaji, from temple cities of Madurai and Trichy to the backwaters (canals and lagoons) of Allapuzha, from the bazaars of Mysore to the wildlife sanctuary of Chinnar, South India spills over with places as diverse as exceptional.

South India is first defined by its lushness. Green at the centre and edged with wonderful beaches, the South is also the land of spices - pepper, cinnamon, ginger, tea, tobacco… And besides, it is the India of large colourful temple cities where traditional Hinduism is still very alive.

The South will enthral both cultural and adventure travellers.

From the ruins of Hampi and Badami to the idyllic beaches of Kerala and Goa, from the immense spice plantations of the Ghats, South Indian mountains, to Portuguese and Dutch churches in Kochi and Panaji, from temple cities of Madurai and Trichy to the backwaters (canals and lagoons) of Allapuzha, from the bazaars of Mysore to the wildlife sanctuary of Chinnar, South India spills over with places as diverse as exceptional.

Population

Population

People

Home to more than 200 million people, South India is the smarter sibling of its Northern counterpart. The average literacy rate of South India is much higher than the national average and Kerala leads the country with a literacy rate of more than 90% as well as the most favourable gender ratio.

South India has large and distinct states under its umbrella. The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 distinguished states in India along linguistic lines. This led to the creation of separate states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in areas where Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil respectively were dominant. These four are the largest linguistic groups in South India, followed by Tuluvas and Kodavas.

South Indian culture is distinctively different from that of North India, whether its clothing, food, music, dance or architecture. This distinction largely stems from the divergent early inhabitants and historical rulers of both regions. South Indian culture focuses on the eternal universe through the celebration of the beauty of the body and motherhood. In fact some tribes and villages in South India still follow the matriarchal setup.
Goa has a little over 1 million residents, making it one of India’s lowest populated states. Konkani and Marathi are the prominent languages. The state has a strong Christian populace, owing to its European heritage.

Gastronomy

Gastronomy

Rice is the indispensable staple food across South India and fish is a pivotal companion in most coastal South Indian meals. This said, each state in South India harbours its own distinctive cooking style and signature dishes.

The cuisine in Andhra Pradesh is sought after for its mouth watering delicious pickles, spicy aromatic curries and copious amounts of chilli powder - not meant for the feeble stomached! Their meat preparations are one of the best; especially the Hyderabadi Biryani (flavoured rice cooked with spicy meats). Influenced by Mughlai cookery, it has become a signature dish of India.

Kerala is known as the land of spices, so you can envisage what the cuisine tastes like. Known for its seafood fare, fish, prawns, shrimp and crustacean dishes are popular in the state. Coconut is a vital ingredient in Kerala and coastal part of Karnataka.

It would be virtually impossible to travel South India and not get your hands dirty with the iconic dosa, idli, vada, uttapam and sambhar from Tamil Nadu. The sheer richness and variety of flavours will threaten to overwhelm your senses. This South Indian fare is extremely popular in North Indian cities as well. Another not-to-miss in South India is its hearty and bold coffee.

Rice and fish curry is the staple meal in Goa, and the state is famous for its exciting diversity of fish preparations. A must-have in Goa is their local alcoholic drink called Feni, made from fermented cashew tree fruits.

Festivals

Festivals

With so many religions and cultures pervading this region, a festival is always just around the corner. The Dravidian tradition underlines all festivities, whether religious or seasonal.

Commemorating the harvest season, Onam is the most important and widely celebrated festival in Kerala. Snake boat races mark the culmination of this ten day festival. The Pongal festival in South India is one of the biggest harvest festivals in the world, which celebrates the end of winter and beginning of spring. It is the main festival of Tamil Nadu and usually falls in the month of January.

Considered to be an extension of the Diwali Festival, Karthigai Deepam is celebrated with lights on a full moon day in the Tamil month of Karthigai, which falls in November or December.

Ugadi is the beginning of a new Hindu lunar calendar with a change in the moon’s orbit. This festival usually falls at the end of March or early April and is widely celebrated in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Alappuzha, tucked on the banks of Kerala backwaters, hosts the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race in August every year. Boasting of colourful snake boats and hundreds of oarsmen, it is a major tourist attraction.

During the Goan carnival and New Year celebrations, the streets and beaches of Goa come alive with food, music, dance and parades. Goa is one of the most popular New Years Eve destinations in India.

History

History

The South of India has seen the rise and fall of several dynasties and empires over the last four thousand years. The Iron Age period marked the rule of dynasties such as Chera, Chola, and Pandya that ruled the South Indian region until 14th century A.D. Several other powers including Satavahana, Chalukya, Pallava, Rashtrakuta, Kakatiya and Hoysala flourished thereafter, until the advent and rise of Muslim power in the late medieval period. Following Aurangzeb’s death, Mughal power weakened and South Indian rulers gained autonomy.

With the arrival of the European powers in the 16th century, the south Indian region shifted alliances between France and Britain, causing general anarchy. The British controlled most of India by the 1850s, and left possession of Pondicherry to France. The British created the Madras Presidency, encompassing most of British-controlled south India and divided the rest into a number of dependent princely states. After Indian independence, South India was linguistically divided into the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu according to the States Reorganisation Act (1956).

Old Goa was established as a permanent settlement area by the Portuguese in 1510. By the mid-18th century, the Portuguese had extended their rule to most of present-day Goa. Post India’s independence from Britain, the Portuguese denied transfer of their controlled enclaves to India, which led to the launch Operation Vijay by India. After more than 450 years of Portuguese rule, Goa was incorporated into free India in 1961. The Portuguese influence is infused in every aspect of Goan life and culture, giving the state a charismatic identity.

Climate

Climate

Climate

South India, also known as Dravida in India’s national anthem, encompasses the states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep, Pondicherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, occupying more than 20% of the country’s area.

Surrounded on three sides by the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, the peninsula enjoys a sultry tropical climate with the monsoons playing a pivotal role. The south-west monsoon commences in June and Kerala is the first state to receive rainfall in India. The moisture-laden winds travel upwards to northern India, bestowing rain on Konkan and Goa enroute. Tamil Nadu and southeast Andhra Pradesh receive most of their precipitation from the northeast monsoon, between November and February.

Summer is humid and hot from May to June and temperatures can reach up to 40°C during the daytime. The months of October till May are drier for most of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, when days are balmy and nights are relatively cooler.

Goa has a hot and humid climate for the most part of a year, with the heat peaking in May. The monsoon rains descend upon the former Portuguese colony from June, continuing till September. The raging sea, drenched beaches and overflowing verdancy make this season a unique time to visit. December and January are the most popular months to visit Goa, particularly the festive days nearing New Years day. Be sure to make reservations way in advance!

Geography

Geography

Geography

A peninsula contoured like an inverted triangle, South India melts into sea water on the east, west and south, while its north is lined with the Vindhya and Satpura ranges. These hill ranges are located in central India and are said to geographically divide the country into north and south. The Deccan Plateau is the heartland of the region and is bounded by the Western and Eastern Ghats, mountain ranges running along India’s west and east coast, respectively. The eastern coastal plains lie between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal, while the verdant Konkan region extending as far as Goa lies between the Western Ghats and Arabian Sea.

South India also comprises two magnificent archipelagos – Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar islands. The coral islands and islets of Lakshadweep float off the coast of south-western Kerala, while the famed Andaman and Nicobar islands lie in the Bay of Bengal off the eastern coast of India. The confluence of the Western Coastal Plains and Eastern Coastal Plains, Kanyakumari, is the southernmost tip of mainland India. The arterial rivers criss-crossing South India include the Godavari, Krishna, Tungabhadra and Kaveri.

Most of Goa is part of the Konkan region and the state has a coastline of 101km. With several pristine and well known beaches, Goa is considered as the ultimate seaside destination in the country, attracting thousands of foreign tourists every year.

South India is a heaving behemoth of landscapes and a sojourn in this part of the country will take you through white sand beaches and lazy backwaters, lush hills and bountiful national parks, ocean view cliffs and plummeting waterfalls.

Religion

Religion

Religion

South India is largely Hindu, with more than 80% of the population adhering to Hinduism. The region is throbbing with umpteen ornate temples and breathtaking rock sculptures that are so characteristic of South India. Renowned pilgrimage sites with conspicuously designed temples in South India include Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Guruvayoor, Kalpathy and Sabarimala temples (Kerala), Kanchipuram Kanyakumari and Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu), Mahabalipuram Temple (Chennai), Meenakshi Temple (Madurai), Tirupati Balaji (Tirumala), Thousand Pillar Temple (Warangal), and Udupi (Karnataka).

A large Muslim community inhabits South India, particularly in the Malabar Coast and also Andhra Pradesh. Christianity has flourished in coastal South India from the times of St. Thomas the Apostle, who came to Kerala in 52 A.D. Goa is home to Roman Catholics and is particularly known for its Christian populace and heritage. Scores of churches dot Goa’s languid landscape, including two World Heritage Sites - the Bom Jesus Basilica and the churches and convents of Old Goa. Hyderabad is a bustling multi-religious city with a unique culture, housing some iconic temples, churches and mosques. One of the oldest Jewish communities in the world today live in Kerala, supposedly having arrived in the Malabar Coast during the reign of King Solomon. One of the most ancient Jewish synagogues is the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi, Kerala.
Buddhism and Jain philosophies are also believed to have shaped the culture of South India. The city of Shravana Belgola in Karnataka is a popular pilgrimage centre for Jains.

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