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South India, also known as the Dravida in the Indian anthem, is the area encompassing India's states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Pondicherry, occupying 19.31% of area. South India lies in the peninsular Deccan Plateau and is bounded by the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal in the west, south and east respectively. The geography of the region is diverse, encompassing two mountain ranges — the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats and a plateau heartland. Godavari, Krishna, Tungabhadra and Kaveri rivers are important non-perennial sources of water. Inhabitants of South India are referred to as South Indians. A majority of South Indians speak one of the five Dravidian languages — Telugu, Tulu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam,. During its history, a number of dynastic kingdoms ruled over parts of South India whose invasions across southern and southeastern Asia impacted the history and cultures of modern nation-states such as Sri Lanka, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. The region was colonized by Britain and gradually incorporated into the British Empire.

After experiencing fluctuations in the decades immediately after Indian independence, the economies of South Indian states have registered higher than national average decadal growth over the past three decades. While South Indian states have improved in some socio-economic metrices, economic disparity, illiteracy and poverty continue to affect the region much like the rest of the country. Agriculture is the single largest contributor to the regional net domestic product, while Information technology (IT) is a rapidly growing industry. Literary and architectural styles, evolved over two thousand years, differ from other parts of the country. Politics in South India is dominated by smaller regional political parties rather than by national political parties.

South India ranks the highest in terms of social and economic development in areas such as fertility rate and infrastructure; the fertility rate of South India is 1.9, the lowest of all regions in India.


Apart from the English language terms South India and Peninsular India, southern India has been known by several other historic names. Adi Shankara coined the name Dravida in the 8th century as he called himself Dravida Shishu, meaning a child from South India (see etymology of Dravida). The term Deccan, an Anglicized form of the word "Dakhhin" which is a derived from the word dakshina meaning south, refers only to the area covered by the Deccan Plateau, a volcanic plateau that covers most of peninsular India excluding the coastal areas. The Carnatic is an English term derived from "Karnad" or "Karunad", meaning high country. The terms Karnad and Carnatic have long overgrown particular association with the plateau and refer to all of South India, including the coasts, the western of which is named the Carnatic coast. The name Karnataka is derived from the same root.


Carbon dating on ash mounds associated with neolithic cultures in Southern India date back to 8000 BCE. Artifacts such as ground stone axes, and minor copper objects have been found in the region. Towards the beginning of 1000 BCE, iron technology spread through the region; however, there does not appear to be a fully developed Bronze Age preceding the Iron Age in South India. South India was a crossroads of the ancient world, linking the Mediterranean and the Far East. The southern coastline from Karwar to Kodungallur was the most important trading shore in the Indian subcontinent resulting in intermingling between locals and traders. The South Indian coast of Malabar and the Tamil people of the Sangam age traded with the Graeco-Roman world. They were in contact with the Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, Jews, and Chinese.

There were several significant rulers and dynasties in southern Indian history. Dynasties such as the Satavahanas of Amaravati, Kadambas of Banavasi, Western Ganga Dynasty, Chalukya dynasty of Badami, Western Chalukyas, Eastern Chalukya, Cheras, Cholas, Hoysalas, Kakatiya dynasty, Pallavas, Pandyas, and Rashtrakutas of Manyaketha have ruled over South India. The late medieval period saw the rise of Muslim power in South India. The defeat of the Kakatiya dynasty of Warangal by Tughlaq forces of the Delhi Sultanate in 1323 CE heralded a new chapter in South Indian history. The struggle of the period was between the Bahmani Sultanate based in Gulbarga (and later, Bidar) and the Vijayanagara Empire with its capital in Vijayanagara in modern Hampi.

With the fall of Vijayanagara and the break-up of the Bahmani sultanate, the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda and Hyderabad became the dominant power in the region. Qutb Shahi dominance of the region continued until the middle of the seventeenth century, when the Mughals under Aurangzeb made determined inroads into the Deccan. Following Aurangzeb’s death, Mughal power weakened, and South Indian rulers gained autonomy from Delhi. The Wodeyar kingdom of Mysore, the Asaf Jahis of Hyderabad, and Marathas all gained power.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, the French and the British initiated a protracted struggle for military control of South India. Shifting alliances between the two European powers and the local powers marked the period with mercenary armies being employed by all sides causing general anarchy in South India. As the British consolidated power over much of India in the late 1850s, they allowed the French to retain their possessions over Pondicherry. The four Anglo-Mysore wars and the three Anglo-Maratha Wars saw Mysore, Pune and Hyderabad allying themselves with the British or the French. South India during the British colonial rule was divided into the Madras Presidency and Hyderabad, Mysore, Thiruvithamcoore (also known as Travancore), Kochi (also known as Cochin or Perumpadapu Swaroopam), Vizianagaram and a number of other minor princely states. British Residents were stationed in the capitals of the important states to supervise and report on the activities of the rulers.

The States Reorganisation Act (1956) created new states (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala) and reorganised modern-day Tamil Nadu along linguistic lines. Additionally, the enclaves of French India, which were ceded to India in the 1950s, were constituted into the union territory of Pondicherry.


South India is a peninsula in the shape of a vast inverted triangle, bounded on the west by the Arabian Sea, on the east by the Bay of Bengal and on the north by the Vindhya and Satpura ranges. The Narmada flows westwards in the depression between the Vindhya and Satpura ranges. The Satpura ranges define the northern spur of the Deccan plateau. The Western Ghats, along the western coast, mark another boundary of the plateau. The narrow strip of verdant land between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea is the Konkan region. The Western Ghats continue south, forming the Malenadu (Canara) region along the Karnataka coast, and terminate at the Nilgiri mountains, an inward (easterly) extension of the Western Ghats. The Nilgiris run in a crescent approximately along the borders of Tamil Nadu with northern Kerala and Karnataka, encompassing the Palakkad and Wayanad hills, and the Satyamangalam ranges, and extending on to the relatively low-lying hills of the Eastern Ghats, on the western portion of the Tamil Nadu - Andhra Pradesh border. The Tirupati and Annamalai hills form part of this range. The low lying coral islands of Lakshadweep are off the south-western coast of India. Sri Lanka lies off the south-eastern coast, separated from India by the Palk Strait and the chain of low sandbars and islands known as Rama's Bridge. The Andaman and Nicobar islands lie far off the eastern coast of India, near the Tenasserim coast of Burma. The southernmost tip of mainland India is at Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin) on the Indian Ocean.

The Deccan plateau is the vast elevated region bound by the C-shape defined by all these mountain ranges. No major elevations border the plateau to the east, and it slopes gently from the Western Ghats to the eastern coast. The plateau is watered by the east flowing Godavari and Krishna rivers. The other major rivers of the Deccan plateau are the Pennar and the Tungabhadra, a major tributary of the Krishna. The three major river deltas of South India, the Kaveri, the Godavari and the Krishna, are located along the Bay of Bengal. These areas constitute the rice bowls of South India.

The region has a very tropical climate with the monsoons playing a major part. The South - West Monsoon accounts for most of the rainfall in the region and much of it falls from about June to October. The south-west monsoon starts from Kerala during June and moves up towards the northern parts of India. Tamil Nadu and southeast Andhra Pradesh receive rains from the North - East Monsoon from about November to February. Much of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have a distinct dry season from about October - May when there is not much rainfall. This region also experiences cooler nights from October to March while the days are pleasantly warm. In the northern parts of the region temperatures can fall below 10 degrees Celsius on occasions at night during this time. Days are very hot from March to June when temps can go over 40 degrees. The southern coastal region has an average minimum temperature of 20 degrees and maximum of 35 degrees.

Flora and fauna

There is a wide diversity of plants and animals in South India, resulting from its varied climates and geography. Deciduous forests are found along the Western Ghats while tropical dry forests and scrub lands Deccan thorn scrub forests are common in the interior Deccan plateau. The southern Western Ghats have high altitude rain forests called the South Western Ghats montane rain forests. The Malabar Coast moist forests are found on the coastal plains.[10] The Western Ghats itself is a biodiversity hotspot.

Some of India's famous protected areas are found in South India. These include Project Tiger reserves Periyar National Park, Kalakad - Mundanthurai and Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve. Important ecological regions of South India are the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, located at the conjunction of the borders of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the Nilgiri Hills including Mudumalai National Park, Bandipur National Park, Nagarhole National Park Silent Valley National Park, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Nugu Wildlife Sanctuary and the Anamalai Hills including the Eravikulam National Park, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjacentThe Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park of the Western Ghats. Important bird sanctuaries including Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, Neelapattu Sanctuary and Pulicat Sanctuary are home to numerous migratory and local birds. Other protected ecological sites include the backwaters like the Pulicut Lake in Andhra Pradesh, Pitchavarum in Tamil Nadu and the famed backwaters of Kerala formed by the Vembanad Lake, the Ashtamudi Lake and the Kayamkulam Lake.

Banana, Musaparadisiaca and Moringa oleifera are found extensively in Lakshadweep while coconut plantations provide economic support to the islands. Lashadweep has been declared a bird sanctuary by the Wildlife Institute of India.[12] Crabs, chiefly hermit crabs, parrot fish and butterfly fish are also found on the islands.