DISCOVER SOUTH INDIA
An Ancient Peninsula of Unique Cultures and Majestic Landscapes
In 1498, Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama had landed on the shores of Calicut, a small town by the coast of Kerala and became the first modern European to set foot on the Indian plains. He was so enchanted by South India that he never went back.
And just like Mr. Vasco, many travelers have come to fall in love with the rich culture of South India – its grand festivals, its warm and friendly people and the ancient history that you chance upon at almost every corner.
South India is a chance creation of geography. Green hills carpeted by tropical rainforests, clean and calm lakes, long and serene beaches, and a warm tropical climate attracts even the most distant of travelers from around the world.
With its majestic hills, luscious forests, and breathtaking beaches, South India offers a unique and enthralling landscape and a confluence of rich and diverse cultural traits that will transform your faculties to a whole new level.
SURROUNDED BY THE SEA ON ALL SIDES
India is surrounded by oceans on three of its sides. Only the Himalayas stand as the bridge that locks this entire peninsula to Asia. Needless to say, the Indian coastline, which draws a beautiful neckline around its seven southern states, is gemmed with spectacular beaches.
Situated in Kerala, or ‘God’s Own Country’, the Marari beach in Mararikulam is just 11 kilometers from the famous Alleppey backwaters. This beach is famous for its water sports options, including water skiing, sea surfing, parasailing, and deep-sea fishing.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ancient town of Mahabalipuram also boasts of having one of the most picturesque beaches in India. The Mahabalipuram beach is a mere one-hour drive (58km) from Chennai.
If you are more interested in adventure water sports such as wind surfing and parasailing, Varkala beach in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Kerala, is a adventure lover’s paradise. The town is also well-known for its Ayurveda resorts and massage centers.
Kovalam beach is another famous tourist destination in South India. Also known as the ‘Lighthouse beach’, the crescent-shaped beach is the cleanest in the state and is widely popular for its silver sands and calm sea waves.
Adored by travelers from around the world, the majestic sight of Gokarna beach is not something one forgets easily.
Located at the Konkan (western) coastline of India, Gokarna consists of five natural beaches that are secluded from the bustle of cities and tucked into the lap of Mother Nature. Just lay back and relax on these clean shores and enjoy spellbinding sunsets.
BEHOLD THE BEAUTY OF THE BEASTS
Dense tropical rainforests make the flora and fauna of South India diverse and rich. The forest cover in South India is spread mostly across the Western and Eastern Ghats mountain ranges.
A major part of India’s Nilgiri Biosphre Reserve, Bandipur National Park nurtures around 100 different mammals and over 350 bird species. Home to the famous four-horned antelope and Asiatic elephants, this national park is one of the largest in the country.
Known to be home to one of the largest number of tigers and elephants, the Periyar National Park boasts of being home to many endangered species. Set on the banks of rivers Periyar and Pamba, this national park is home to 300 mammal species, 40 reptile species, 160 insect species, 250 bird species, and 40 fish species.
A bird lover’s paradise, the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is set by the banks of river Kaveri and is home to over 170 species of birds, including common spoonbill, black-headed ibis, painted stork, and Asian open-bill stork.
Each winter, this sanctuary hosts migratory birds that fly from Siberia and Latin America! The boat rides on the river are simply bewildering.
ANCIENT TRADITIONS IN MODERN TIMES
With its majestic landscapes, grand rituals and roots in ancient mythology, South India has always been a unique yet diverse cultural pot-boiler. Among the most widely celebrated festivals are Onam, Pongal, and Thrissur Pooram.
The ethnic costumes of South Indian communities include traditional white saree with golden seams, colourful hand-drawn bindis, and gem-studded golden jewellery.
A lot of these festivals are dedicated to the arrival of new crops during the harvest season in the monsoons months of August and September. Onam, which marks the advent of the harvest season, is the most celebrated festival in the state of Kerala. People wear traditional dresses and paint colourful decorations called pokkalams in front of their houses.
Pongal, the most widely celebrated festival in the state of Tamil Nadu, takes place on Makar Sankranti (winter solstice). This day (14-15th January) is considered to be a propitious day across India. The word Pongal roughly translates to ‘boil over’, which implies the overflowing of boiling milk symbolizing prosperity and good fortune.
Kerala celebrates another grand festival, which is famous for its decorated elephants, fireworks, rhythmic music and gem-studded parasols. Thrissur Pooram takes place each year in the months of April and May.
One of its most enthralling attractions, Ilanjithara Melam is an enchanting performance of 250-300 percussionists playing Chenda, a rhythm instrument.
WELCOME TO THE ‘NOT-SO-HUMBLE’ ABODES OF GODS
India is a land of devout worshippers. The idea of God is perceived as a friend, a mentor, a source of immeasurable joy and strength by many Indians. South India is especially remembered for its grand architectures devoted to the Hindu deities.
India is famous for its divine abodes and what makes the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tiruchirappalli, dedicated to the reclining form of Lord Vishnu, so special is the fact that it’s the largest temple in the country.
Another spectacular feat of architecture in the form of chariot temples can be found in Thanjavur (Tanjore) in Tamil Nadu. In the eleventh century, the Tamil architecture was at its peak under the reign of the Chola dynasty.
Perhaps the most popular temple in India – and that’s a big compliment to receive – is the Lord Venkateswara Temple Complex in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. The wealthiest in the country, the Venkateswara temple is famous for its gold-plated dome.
If one has to visit only one temple in South India, it has to be the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. It is said that the entire city of Madurai was built around the Shiva Lingam that rests in the sanctum sanctorum.
One of the most interesting and unique temple in the world is the Chilkur Balaji Temple where the devotees come to pray for their visa applications. Popularly called as the ‘Visa Balaji Temple’, it sees the footfall of over 75,000 to 100,000 every week.
A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF YOUR MIND
A healer of hearts and minds, the majestic land of South India is that humble part of the world where spirituality is integrated into the lifestyle in many communities. Many saints, preachers, practitioners and pundits have traversed through the peninsula for enlightenment.
In order to spread the values of humanity and divine consciousness and the graceful words of Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, Auroville was founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa in the quaint little town of Pondicherry. Formerly colonized by the French, Puducherry or Pondicherry is a beautiful coastal town, perfect for re-energizing oneself with positivity and vitality.
The southern-most point of India is perhaps at the pinnacle when it comes to spiritual significance. Kanyakumari or ‘the virgin goddess’ is the place where the mythical battle between Goddess Kanya and demon king Vanasura took place.
This is also the place where the Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda performed Yoga and received enlightenment about his great purpose.
It’s been debated and talked about for decades whether the string of land that almost connects India to its neighbouring island nation Sri Lanka is actually manmade.
Rameswaram is the town where Lord Ram gathered his army before invading and rescuing his wife from the Lanka king Ravana.
WHERE ART MEETS HERITAGE AND HISTORY
Rich with grandeur, South India is an ensemble of various cultures and traditions that date back to ancient times and are revered to this date.
South India is renowned as the torchbearers of Indian classical music for generations. Carnatic music, south India’s most original style of music that dates back to the 15th century, originates from the state of Tamil Nadu – Chennai being its epicenter.
The grand celebration of carnatic music takes place at the Chennai Music Festival (also known as the Madras Music Season), which is organized each year from mid-December to mid-January.
One of the many things that is associated with South India is its bountiful history of classical dance forms. Bharatnatyam and Kathakali are two of the most famous classical dance forms that have been practiced for hundreds of years.
Bharatnatyam originated from the Tamil Nadu region in the 2nd century and it’s the oldest dance form of India that has sophisticated vocabulary of signs and gestures.
You may have seen Karate and Kung Fu or heard of Judo. But, did you know that India has also got its very own ancient form of martial arts that’s way older than its Chinese counterparts? Dating back over 2,000 years, Kalaripayattu originated from Kerala.
This technically challenging form of martial arts is practiced everyday at the Kadathanadan Kalari Center in Thekkady, Kerala.
Say ‘Namaste’ to the Hidden Gems of
South India with Vue India Tours – One of the Best Tour Operators in India
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