Southern part of India is dominated by long coastlines on both Eastern and Western fronts. Ports here have played a key role in export of spices and otton since centuries. Most of South India has retained its age-old traditional characteristic as it was far away from Delhi and Kolkata that were capitals of invading rulers. It’s influence of the colonialism is limited to English, which South Indian people have adopted as a common language in addition to their ancient Dravidian languages that are mostly derived from Sanskrit. Attractions are aplenty in south India’s six states that have also adopted modern technology.
Karnataka’s state’s capital Bengaluru is known as the IT (Information Technology) capital for its burgeoning electronic industry. The modern cosmopolitan city with simple, welcoming people enjoys highest per capita income among Indian cities. The city has many big gardens and actually has a national park with wild tigers and other animals in their natural habitats. Karnataka has highest number of tigers in its wild and government run jungle lodges and resorts at various places in the state are good places sight and experience wilderness. Vijayanagara Kingdom in historic Deccan region that covered most of today’s Southern India was the last Hindu Kingdom. The mighty empire’s ruins can be seen at its capital that is present day Hampi in Karnataka.. Mysore has some splendid palaces that are open to visitors. The city topped the recently published list of cleanest cities in India by Swach Bharat Mission. Other clean city Hassan is a gateway to Belur and Halebid that have heritage temples with a unique style of intricate stone carvings.
World heritage natural site of western ghats (long, lush green mountain range) is spread across Karnataka and Kerala. Beaches at Karwar, Gokarna and Mangalore are an extension of Goa’s coastline that continues further into Kerala. Hyderabad, the capital of the newly formed state of Telangana and the make-shift capital of Andhra Pradesh is also a heritage city known for adopting and developing information technology. Kerala’s tourism has gained popularity for its natural beauty and its wellness prodigy of ayurveda and yoga. Tamilnadu, incidentally the leading destination this year with highest number of international tourist arrivals, is a pious state with beautifully architectured grand temples. Puducherry is a small coastal state with a French influence. Flowers and garlands are another specialty of South India and it’s common to see ladies wearing jasmine strings on their heads.
Houseboat rides and onboard stay on backwaters of Kerala- from Kochi to Alappuzha, beautiful tea and spice gardens along meandering mountains of Munnar, wildlife sightings at Thekkady and beaches of Varkala and Kovalam can be enjoyed in Kerala. Homestays in Kerala are a good way to experience local lifestyle. These are available at simple homes to luxury villas and at farmhouses in plantations. Most of the resorts and hotels offer in-house ayurveda and yoga. Some resorts specialise as exclusive ayurvedic treatment centers a touch.
Tanjavur’s Brihadeeshwara temple is a World Heritage Site and is a marvel in stone architecture. Madurai Meenaskhi temple has a multi tiered colored depictions of God’s and goddesses on its gopuram(tower). There is Kamakshi temple at Kanchi near Chennai, Sriranga temple with a huge statue of God Vishnu in a reclined position, tall Hanuman temple at Sachindram- the list is very long and one can choose a pious destination close to preferred city of their stay. Major cities have well developed modern infrastructure. Pious coastal town of Rameshwaram has thousand pillared beautiful temple is where Sri Rama worshipped god Shiva. Remains of Rama Setu, the bridge built to reach Lanka are in the area. Capital Chennai has Asia’s longest beach.
In Hyderabad, a walk in the old town near beautiful Charminar, a peek into pearl and bangle stores of the bustling area, nearby Chowmohalla palace that depicts grand lifestyle of the Nawabs, reliving the city’s history through a sound and light show at Golconda fort, a sunset cruise on Hussainsagar Lake in the heart of the city, or a shopping spree at Shilparamam are some of the lively activities. Hyderabad is also known for its film making and several film sets and locations along with an insight into film making process can be witnessed at Ramoji Film City. 2000 acre integrated tourist resort has a new international standard adventure park, themed gardens and many other attractions.
Southern Indian breakfast dishes of idli , urad vada and variety doses with chutney and sambhar make a wholesome food to start the day. These can be cherished in all the six states. Even the smallest street- side restaurant churns out soft idlis and crispy doses. Nawabi city of Hyderabad has its legacy of biryani. Variety chutneys are the City’s specialties too. Local karimeen curry and red, boiled rice are tasty in Kerala so also appams and idiappams . Karnataka produces majority of India’s coffee and hot filter coffee at any restaurant or wayside shop is a refreshing activity at any time of the day. Tropical fruits are aplenty here with tens of varieties of bananas, pomegranates, custard apples, papaya, guavas and blue grapes and are available at nominal rates.
Bengaluru’s modern greenfield airport is a good gateway to visit South India that can enthrall a visitor in many ways.
Written by Anand & Madhura Katti