South India

South India
Map of states and union territories in South India
Map of states and union territories in South India
Country  India
States and union territories
Most populous cities (2020)
 • Total 635,780 km2 (245,480 sq mi)
 • Total 253,051,953
 • Density 400/km2 (1,000/sq mi)
Demonym(s) South Indian
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Official languages
Minority languages

South India is a region consisting of the southern part of India, which encompasses the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana, as well as the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry, comprising 19.31% of India's area (635,780 km2 or 245,480 sq mi) and 20% of India's population. Covering the southern part of the peninsular Deccan Plateau, South India is bounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west and the Indian Ocean in the south. The geography of the region is diverse with two mountain ranges – the Western and Eastern Ghats – bordering the plateau heartland. The Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Tungabhadra, Periyar River, Bharathappuzha River, and Vaigai rivers are important non-perennial sources of water.

The majority of the people in South India speak at least one of the four major Dravidian languages: Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam. Some states and union territories also recognize a minority language: such as Urdu in Telangana,[2] and French in Puducherry. Tulu is the next most spoken Dravidian language. Tulu speakers are mostly concentrated in Dakshina Kannada (48%) and in some parts of Udupi District (31%) of Karnataka, along with a portion of the Kasaragod District of Kerala. Besides these languages, English is used by both the central and state governments for official communications and is used on all public signboards.

During its history, a number of dynastic kingdoms ruled over parts of South India; and the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent across southern and southeastern Asia impacted the history and culture in those regions. Major dynasties established in South India include the Cheras, Cholas, Pandyas, Pallavas, Satavahanas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Bahmani, Deccan Sultanates, Kakatiyas, Kadambas, Hoysalas, Zamorin, Vijayanagara, Maratha Empire, Travancore, Arakkal, and Mysore. Europeans entered India through Kerala. South India was colonized under Portuguese India and the British Raj. The Hyderabad State ruled by the Nizams was the last princely state of India.

South India witnessed sustained growth in per-capita income and population, structural changes in the economy, an increased pace of technological innovation.[3] After experiencing fluctuations in the decades immediately after Indian independence, the economies of South Indian states have registered a higher-than-national-average growth over the past three decades. While South Indian states have improved in some socio-economic metrics, poverty continues to affect the region, much like the rest of the country, although it has considerably decreased over the years. The HDI in the southern states is high and the economy has undergone growth at a faster rate than in most northern states. Literacy rates in the southern states is higher than the national average, with approximately 81% of the population capable of reading and writing. The fertility rate in South India is 1.9, the lowest of all regions in India.


South India

South India, also known as Peninsular India, has been known by several other names. The term "Deccan", referring to the area covered by the Deccan Plateau that covers most of peninsular India excluding the coastal areas, is an anglicised form of the Prakrit word dakkhin derived from the Sanskrit word dakshina meaning south.[4] Carnatic, derived from "Karnād" or "Karunād" meaning high country, has also been associated with South India.[5]


Historical references

Historical South India has been referred to as Deccan, a prakritic derivative of an ancient term 'Dakshin' or Dakshinapatha. The term had geographical as well as geopolitical meaning and mentioned as early as Panini (500 BCE).

Ancient era

The Chola Empire during Rajendra Chola I, c. 1030

Carbon dating shows that ash mounds associated with Neolithic cultures in South India date back to 8000 BCE. Artifacts such as ground stone axes and minor copper objects have been found in the Odisha 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.[6] The region was in the middle of a trade route that extended from Muziris to Arikamedu linking the Mediterranean to East Asia.[7][8] Trade with Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Syrians, Jews, and Chinese began during the Sangam period (c. 3rd century BCE to c. 4th century CE).[9] The region was part of the ancient Silk Road connecting the East with the West.[10]

Several dynasties – such as the Cheras of Karuvur, the Pandyas of Madurai, the Cholas of Thanjavur, the Satavahanas of Amaravati, the Pallavas of Kanchi, the Kadambas of Banavasi, the Western Gangas of Kolar, the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta, the Chalukyas of Badami, the Hoysalas of Belur, and the Kakatiyas of Orugallu – ruled over the region from the 6th century BCE to the 14th century CE. The Vijayanagara Empire, founded in the 14th century CE. was the last Indian dynasty to rule over the region. After repeated invasions from the Sultanate of Delhi and the fall of Vijayanagara empire in 1646, the region was ruled by Deccan Sultanates, the Maratha Empire, and polygars and Nayak governors of the Vijayanagara empire who declared their independence.[11]

Colonial era

The Europeans arrived in the 15th century; and by the middle of the 18th century, the French and the British were involved in a protracted struggle for military control over South India. After the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799 and the end of the Vellore Mutiny in 1806, the British consolidated their power over much of present-day South India, with the exception of French Pondichéry. The British Empire took control of the region from the British East India Company in 1857.[12] During the British colonial rule, the region was divided into the Madras Presidency, Hyderabad State, Mysore, Travancore, Kochi, Jeypore, and a number of other minor princely states. The region played a major role in the Indian independence movement: of the 72 delegates who participated in the first session of the Indian National Congress at Bombay in December 1885, 22 hailed from South India.[13]


Map of South India (1953–1956) before the States Reorganisation Act of 1956

After the independence of India in 1947, the region was organised into four states: Madras State, Mysore State, Hyderabad State and Travancore–Cochin.[14] The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 reorganized the states on linguistic lines, resulting in the creation of the new states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.[15][16] As a result of this Act, Madras State retained its name and Kanyakumari district was added to it from the state of Travancore-Cochin.[17] The state was subsequently renamed Tamil Nadu in 1968.[17] Andhra Pradesh was created through the merger of Andhra State with the Telugu-speaking districts of Hyderabad State in 1956.[17] Kerala emerged from the merger of Malabar district and the Kasaragod taluk of South Canara districts of Madras State with Travancore–Cochin.[17] Mysore State was re-organised with the addition of the districts of Bellary and South Canara (excluding Kasaragod taluk[note 1]) and the Kollegal taluk of Coimbatore district from Madras State; the districts of Belgaum, Bijapur, North Canara, and Dharwad from Bombay State; the Kannada-majority districts of Bidar, Raichur, and Gulbarga from the Hyderabad State; and the province of Coorg.[17] Mysore State was renamed as Karnataka in 1973. The Union territory of Puducherry was created in 1954, comprising the previous French enclaves of Pondichérry, Karaikal, Yanam, and Mahé.[18] The Laccadive Islands, which were divided between South Canara and the Malabar districts of Madras State, were united and organised into the union territory of Lakshadweep. Goa was created as a union territory by taking military actions against the Portuguese by the government of India, later it has been declared as a state due to its drastic growth.[19] Telangana was created on 2 June 2014 by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh; and it comprises ten districts of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh.[20][21]


Satellite image of South India

South India is a peninsula in the shape of an inverted triangle bound by the Arabian Sea on the west, by the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Vindhya and Satpura ranges on the north.[22] The Narmada river flows westwards in the depression between the Vindhya and Satpura ranges, which define the northern spur of the Deccan plateau.[23] The Western Ghats run parallel to the Arabian Sea along the western coast and the narrow strip of land between the mountains and the sea forms the Konkan region. The Western Ghats continue south until Kanyakumari.[24][25] The Eastern Ghats run parallel to the Bay of Bengal along the eastern coast and the strip of land between them forms the Coromandel region.[26] Both mountain ranges meet at the Nilgiri mountains. 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 Sathyamangalam ranges, extending to the relatively low-lying hills of the Eastern Ghats on the western portion of the Tamil Nadu–Andhra Pradesh border, forming the Tirupati and Annamalai hills.[27]

The low-lying coral islands of Lakshadweep are situated off the southwestern coast of India. The Andaman and Nicobar islands lie far off the eastern coast. The Palk Strait and the chain of low sandbars and islands known as Rama's Bridge separate the region from Sri Lanka, which lies off the southeastern coast.[28][29] The southernmost tip of mainland India is at Kanyakumari where the Indian Ocean meets the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.[30]

The Deccan plateau is the elevated region bound by the mountain ranges.[31] The plateau rises to 100 metres (330 ft) in the north and to more than 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) in the south, forming a raised triangle within the downward-pointing triangle of the Indian subcontinent's coastline.[32] It also slopes gently from West to East resulting in major rivers arising in the Western Ghats and flowing east into the Bay of Bengal.[33] The volcanic basalt beds of the Deccan were laid down in the massive Deccan Traps eruption, which occurred towards the end of the Cretaceous period, between 67 and 66 million years ago.[34] Layer after layer was formed by the volcanic activity that lasted 30,000 years;[35] and when the volcanoes became extinct, they left a region of highlands with typically vast stretches of flat areas on top like a table.[36] The plateau is watered by the east-flowing Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, and Vaigai rivers. The major tributaries include the Pennar, Tungabhadra, Bhavani, and Thamirabarani rivers.[37]


Climatic zones
Southwest monsoon currents

The region has a tropical climate and depends on monsoons for rainfall. According to the Köppen climate classification, it has a non-arid climate with minimum mean temperatures of 18 °C (64 °F).[38] The most humid is the tropical monsoon climate characterized by moderate to high year-round temperatures and seasonally heavy rainfall above 2,000 mm (79 in) per year. The tropical climate is experienced in a strip of south-western lowlands abutting the Malabar Coast, the Western Ghats; the islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar are also subject to this climate.[39]

A tropical wet and dry climate, drier than areas with a tropical monsoon climate, prevails over most of the inland peninsular region except for a semi-arid rain shadow east of the Western Ghats. Winter and early summer are long dry periods with temperatures averaging above 18 °C (64 °F); summer is exceedingly hot with temperatures in low-lying areas exceeding 50 °C (122 °F); and the rainy season lasts from June to September, with annual rainfall averaging between 750 and 1,500 mm (30 and 59 in) across the region. Once the dry northeast monsoon begins in September, most precipitation in India falls in Tamil Nadu, leaving other states comparatively dry.[40] A hot semi-arid climate predominates in the land east of the Western Ghats and the Cardamom Hills. The region – which includes Karnataka, inland Tamil Nadu and western Andhra Pradesh – gets between 400 and 750 millimetres (15.7 and 29.5 in) of rainfall annually, with hot summers and dry winters with temperatures around 20–24 °C (68–75 °F). The months between March and May are hot and dry, with mean monthly temperatures hovering around 32 °C (90 °F), with 320 millimetres (13 in) precipitation. Without artificial irrigation, this region is not suitable for agriculture.[41]

The southwest monsoon from June to September accounts for most of the rainfall in the region. The Arabian Sea branch of the southwest monsoon hits the Western Ghats along the coastal state of Kerala and moves northward along the Konkan coast, with precipitation on coastal areas west of the Western Ghats. The lofty Western Ghats prevent the winds from reaching the Deccan Plateau; hence, the leeward region (the region deprived of winds) receives very little rainfall.[42][43] The Bay of Bengal branch of the southwest monsoon heads toward northeast India, picking up moisture from the Bay of Bengal. The Coramandel coast does not receive much rainfall from the southwest monsoon, due to the shape of the land. Tamil Nadu and southeast Andhra Pradesh receive rains from the northeast monsoon.[44] The northeast monsoon takes place from November to early March, when the surface high-pressure system is strongest.[45] The North Indian Ocean tropical cyclones occur throughout the year in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, bringing devastating winds and heavy rainfall.[46][47][48]

Flora and fauna

South India has the largest elephant population.

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 are common in the interior Deccan plateau. The southern Western Ghats have rain forests located at high altitudes called the South Western Ghats montane rain forests, and the Malabar Coast moist forests are found on the coastal plains.[49] The Western Ghats is one of the eight hottest biodiversity hotspots in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[50][51]

Important ecological regions of South India are the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve – located at the conjunction of Karnataka, Kerala and, Tamil Nadu in the Nilgiri Hills – and the Anamalai Hills in the Western Ghats. Bird sanctuaries – including Vedanthangal, Ranganathittu, Kumarakom, Neelapattu, and Pulicat – are home to numerous migratory and local birds.[52][53] Lakshadweep has been declared a bird sanctuary by the Wildlife Institute of India.[54] Other protected ecological sites include the mangrove forests of Pichavaram, and the backwaters of Pulicat lake, in Tamil Nadu; and Vembanad, Ashtamudi, Paravur, and Kayamkulam lakes in Kerala. The Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve covers an area of 10,500 km2 of ocean, islands and the adjoining coastline including coral reefs, salt marshes and mangroves. It is home to endangered aquatic species, including dolphins, dugongs, whales and sea cucumbers.[55][56]

South India is home to one of the largest populations of endangered Bengal tigers and Indian elephants in India, being home to one-third of the tiger population and more than half of the elephant population,[57][58] with 14 Project Tiger reserves and 11 Project Elephant reserves.[59][60] Elephant populations are found in eight fragmented sites in the region: in northern Karnataka, along the Western Ghats, in BhadraMalnad, in BrahmagiriNilgirisEastern Ghats, in NilamburSilent ValleyCoimbatore, in AnamalaiParambikulam, in PeriyarSrivilliputhur, and in Agasthyamalai[61] Other threatened and endangered species found in the region include the grizzled giant squirrel,[62] grey slender loris,[63] sloth bear,[64] Nilgiri tahr,[65] Nilgiri langur,[66] lion-tailed macaque,[67] and the Indian leopard.[68]

Symbols of states of South India
Name Animal Bird Tree Fruit Flower
Andaman and Nicobar Islands[69] Dugong (Dugong dugon) Andaman wood pigeon (Columba palumboides) Andaman padauk (Pterocarpus dalbergioides) Andaman crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia hypoleuca)
Andhra Pradesh[70] Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) Rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri) Neem (Azadirachta indica) Mango (Mangifera indica) Common jasmine (Jasminum officinale)
Karnataka[71] Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) Indian roller (Coracias indica) Sandalwood (Santalum album) Mango (Mangifera indica) Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
Kerala[72][73] Indian elephant (Elephas maximus) Great hornbill (Buceros bicornis) Coconut (Cocos nucifera) Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) Cana fistula (Cassia fistula)
Lakshadweep[74][75] Butterfly fish (Chaetodon falcula) Noddy tern (Anous stolidus) Bread fruit (Artocarpus incisa)
Puducherry[76] Indian palm squirrel (Funambulus palmarum) Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) Bael fruit (Aegle marmelos) Cannonball (Couroupita guianensis)
Tamil Nadu[77][78] Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) Emerald dove (Chalcophaps indica) Palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer) Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) Glory lily (Gloriosa superba)
Telangana[79] Chital deer (Axis axis) Indian roller (Coracias indica) Khejri (Prosopis cineraria) Mango (Mangifera indica) Tanner's cassia (Senna auriculata)


Map showing highway distribution with population density


South India has an extensive road network with 20,573 km (12,783 mi) of National Highways and 46,813 km (29,088 mi) of State Highways. The Golden Quadrilateral connects Chennai with Mumbai via Bangalore, and with Kolkata via Visakhapatnam.[80][81] Bus services are provided by state-run transport corporations, namely the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation,[82] Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation,[83] Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation,[84] Telangana State Road Transport Corporation,[85] Kerala State Road Transport Corporation,[86] and Puducherry Road Transport Corporation.[87]

State National Highway[88] State Highway[89] Motor vehicles per 1000 pop.[90]
Andhra Pradesh 7,356 km (4,571 mi) 10,650 km (6,620 mi) 145
Karnataka 6,432 km (3,997 mi) 20,774 km (12,908 mi) 182
Tamil Nadu 5,006 km (3,111 mi) 10,764 km (6,688 mi) 257
Telangana 2,635 km (1,637 mi) 3,152 km (1,959 mi) N/A
Kerala 1,811 km (1,125 mi) 4,341 km (2,697 mi) 198
Andaman and Nicobar 330 km (210 mi) 38 km (24 mi) 152
Puducherry 64 km (40 mi) 246 km (153 mi) 521
Total 22,635 km (14,065 mi) 49,965 km (31,047 mi)


The Great Southern of India Railway Company was founded in England in 1853 and registered in 1859.[91] Construction of track in the Madras Presidency began in 1859 and the 80 miles (130 km) link from Trichinopoly to Negapatam was opened in 1861. The Carnatic Railway Company was founded in 1864 and opened a Madras–ArakkonamConjeevaram–Katpadi junction line in 1865. These two companies subsequently merged in 1874 to form the South Indian Railway Company.[92] In 1880, the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, established by the British, built a railway network radiating from Madras.[93] In 1879, the Madras Railway constructed a line from Royapuram to Bangalore; and the Maharaja of Mysore established the Mysore State Railway to build an extension from Bangalore to Mysore.[94] In order to get access to the west coast, Malabar region of the country through Port of Quilon, Maharajah Uthram Thirunal of Travancore built the Quilon-Madras rail line jointly with the South Indian Railway Company and the Madras Presidency.[95] The Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway was founded on 1 January 1908 by merging the Madras Railway and the Southern Mahratta Railway.[96][97]

On 14 April 1951, the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, the South Indian Railway, and the Mysore State Railway were merged to form the Southern Railway, in the first zone of Indian Railways.[98] The South Central zone was created on 2 October 1966 as the ninth zone of Indian Railways and the South Western zone was created on 1 April 2003.[99] Most of the region is covered by the three zones, with small portions of the coasts covered by East Coast Railway and Konkan Railway, In 2019, the Government of India announced the formation of the South Coast Railway zone in the southeast, with headquarters at Visakhapatnam.[100]

Metro rail is operated by Namma Metro in Bangalore, Chennai Metro in Chennai, Kochi Metro in Kochi and Hyderabad Metro in Hyderabad. Chennai MRTS provides suburban rail services in Chennai and was the first elevated railway line in India.[101] Hyderabad MMTS provides the suburban rail services in the city of Hyderabad.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage site.[102]


In March 1930, a discussion initiated by pilot G. Vlasto led to the founding of the Madras Flying Club, which became a pioneer in pilot training in South India.[115] On 15 October 1932, Indian aviator J. R. D. Tata flew a Puss Moth aircraft carrying mail from Karachi to Juhu aerodrome, Bombay; and the aircraft continued to Madras, piloted by Neville Vincent, a former Royal Air Force pilot and friend of Tata.[116]

There are 9 international airports, 2 customs airports, 15 domestic airports, and 11 air bases in South India. Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Kochi international airports are amongst the 10 busiest in the country.[117][118][119] Chennai International Airport serves as the Southern Regional Headquarters of the Airports Authority of India, the Southern Region comprising the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana, and the union territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep.[120]

The Southern Air Command of the Indian Air Force is headquartered at Thiruvananthapuram, and the Training Command is headquartered at Bengaluru. The Air Force operates eleven air bases in Southern India including two in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.[121] In the region, the Indian Navy operates airbases at Kochi, Arakkonam, Uchipuli, Vizag, Campbell Bay, and Diglipur.[122][123]

State/UT International CustomsNote 1 Domestic Military
Andaman and Nicobar 1 0 0 4
Andhra Pradesh 2 0 4 1
Karnataka 2 0 6 3
Kerala 4 0 0 1
Lakshadweep 0 0 1 0
Puducherry 0 0 1 0
Tamil Nadu 4 1 2 6
Telangana 1 0 3 2
Total 12 1 14 16

^Note 1 Restricted international airport


A total of 89 ports are situated along the southern seacoast: Tamil Nadu (15), Kerala (17), Andhra Pradesh (12), Karanataka(10), Lakshadweep (10), Pondicherry (2), and Andaman and Nicobar (23).[124] Major ports include those at Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Mangalore, Tuticorin, Ennore, Kakinada, and Kochi.[125]

Name City State Cargo Handled
Million tonnes % Change
(over previous FY)
Visakhapatnam Port Visakhapatnam Andhra Pradesh 63.54 4.12% ↑
Chennai Port Chennai Tamil Nadu 51.88 3.32% ↑
New Mangalore Port Mangalore Karnataka 42.05 5.28% ↑
V.O. Chidambaranar Port Thoothukudi Tamil Nadu 36.57 -4.91% ↓
Kamarajar Port Chennai Tamil Nadu 30.45 1.42% ↑
Cochin Port Kochi Kerala 29.14 16.52% ↑
Gangavaram Port Visakhapatnam Andhra Pradesh 20.54 5.12% ↑
Kakinada Port Kakinada Andhra Pradesh 15.12 1.1 ↑

The Kerala backwaters are a network of interconnected canals, rivers, lakes, and inlets, a labyrinthine system formed by more than 900 km of waterways. In the midst of this landscape, there are a number of towns and cities, which serve as the starting and endpoints of transportation services and backwater cruises.[127] Vizhinjam International Seaport also called The Port of Trivandrum is a mother port under construction on the Arabian Sea at Vizhinjam in Trivandrum, India. Once completed, it is estimated that this port will handle over 40% of India's transshipments, thereby reducing the country's reliance on ports at Dubai, Colombo, and Singapore.

The Eastern Naval Command and Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy are headquartered at Visakhapatnam and Kochi, respectively.[128][129] In the region, the Indian Navy has its major operational bases at Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Kochi, Karwar, and Kavaratti.[130][131][132]


Major crop areas
Technopark, Trivandrum
The growth of information technology hubs in the region have spurred economic growth. Pictured is Tidel Park in Chennai

After independence, the economy of South India conformed to a socialist framework, with strict governmental control over private sector participation, foreign trade, and foreign direct investment. From 1960 to 1990, the South Indian economies experienced mixed economic growth. In the 1960s, Kerala achieved above-average growth while Andhra Pradesh's economy declined. Kerala experienced an economic decline in the 1970s while the economies of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh consistently exceeded national average growth rates, due to reform-oriented economic policies.[133] As of March 2015, there are 109 operational Special Economic Zones in South India, which is about 60% of the country's total.[134] As of 2019–20, the total gross domestic product of the region is ₹67 trillion (US$946 billion). Tamil Nadu has the second-highest GDP and is the second-most industrialised state in the country after Maharashtra.[135]

Over 48% of South India's population is engaged in agriculture, which is largely dependent on seasonal monsoons. Frequent droughts have left farmers debt-ridden, forcing them to sell their livestock and sometimes to commit suicide.[136] Some of the main crops cultivated in South India include paddy, sorghum, pearl millet, pulses, ragi, sugarcane, mangoes, chilli, and cotton. The staple food is rice; the delta regions of Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri are among the top rice producing areas in the country.[134][137] Areca nut, coffee, tea, turmeric and other spices, and rubber are cultivated in the hills, the region accounting for 92% of the total coffee production in India.[134][138][139][140][141] Other major agricultural products include poultry and silk.[142][143]

Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Visakhapatnam, and Thiruvananthapuram are amongst the major information technology (IT) hubs of India, with Bengaluru known as the Silicon Valley of India. The presence of these hubs has spurred economic growth and attracted foreign investments and job seekers from other parts of the country.[144] Software exports from South India grossed over 640 billion (US$9.0 billion) in fiscal 2005–06.[145]

Chennai, known as the "Detroit of Asia", accounts for about 35% of India's overall automotive components and automobile output.[146] Coimbatore supplies two-thirds of India's requirements of motors and pumps, and is one of the largest exporters of wet grinders and auto components, as well as jewellery.[147] Andhra Pradesh is emerging as another automobile manufacturing hub.[148]

Another major industry is textiles[149] with the region being home to nearly 60% of the fiber textile mills in India.[150]

Tourism contributes significantly to the GDP of the region, with three states – Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana – among the top 10 states for tourist arrivals, accounting for more than 50% of domestic tourist visits.[151]

Economic and demographic indicators[152]
Parameter South India National
Gross domestic product (GDP) ₹67 trillion (US$946 billion) ₹209.19 trillion (US$2.9 trillion)
Net state domestic product (SDP) 29,027 (US$410) 23,222 (US$330)
Population below the poverty line 15.41% 26.1%
Urban population 32.8% 27.8%
Households with electricity 98.91% 88.2%
Literacy rate 81.09% 74%[153]


Population Pyramid in South India

As per the 2011 census of India, the estimated population of South India is 252 million, around one fifth of the total population of India. The region's total fertility rate (TFR) was less than the population replacement level of 2.1 for all states, with Kerala and Tamil Nadu having the lowest TFRs in India at 1.7.[154][155] As a result, from 1981 to 2011 the proportion of the population of South India to India's total population has declined.[156][157] The population density of the region is approximately 463 per square kilometer.[citation needed] Scheduled Castes and Tribes form 18% of the population of the region. Agriculture is the major employer in the region, with 47.5% of the population being involved in agrarian activities.[158] About 60% of the population lives in permanent housing structures.[159] 67.8% of South India has access to tap water, with wells and springs being major sources of water supply.[160]

After experiencing fluctuations in the decades immediately after the independence of India, the economies of South Indian states have, over the past three decades, registered growth higher than the national average. While South Indian states have improved in some of the socio-economic metrics,[152][161] poverty continues to affect the region as it does the rest of the country, although it has considerably decreased over the years. Based on the 2011 census, the HDI in the southern states is high, and the economy has grown at a faster rate than those of most northern states.[162]

As per the 2011 census, the average literacy rate in South India is approximately 80%, considerably higher than the Indian national average of 74%, with Kerala having the highest literacy rate of 93.91%.[163] South India has the highest sex ratio with Kerala and Tamil Nadu being the top two states.[164] The South Indian states rank amongst the top 10 in economic freedom, life expectancy, access to drinking water, house ownership, and TV ownership.[165][166][167][168][169] The poverty rate is at 19% while that in the other Indian states is at 38%. The per capita income is 19,531 (US$270), which is more than double of the other Indian states (8,951 (US$130)).[170][171] Of the three demographically related targets of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations and expected to be achieved by 2015, Kerala and Tamil Nadu achieved the goals related to improvement of maternal health and of reducing infant mortality and child mortality by 2009.[172][173]


Dravidian language tree

The largest linguistic group in South India is the Dravidian family of languages, of approximately 73 languages.[174] The major languages spoken include Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam.[175] Tulu is spoken by about 1.5 million people in coastal Kerala and Karnataka; Konkani, an Indo-Aryan language, is spoken by around 0.8 million people in the Konkan coast (Canara) and Kerala; Kodava Takk is spoken by more than half a million people in Kodagu, Mysore, and Bangalore. English is also widely spoken in urban areas of South India.[176] Urdu is spoken by around 12 million Muslims in southern India.[177][178][179] Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Konkani, and Urdu are listed among the 22 official languages of India as per the Official Languages Act (1963). Tamil was the first language to be granted classical language status by the Government of India in 2004.[180][181] Other major languages declared classical are Kannada (in 2008), Telugu (in 2008), and Malayalam (in 2013)[182][183] These four languages have literary outputs larger than other literary languages of India.[184]

S.No. Language Number of speakers[185] States and union territories where official
1 Telugu 74,002,856 Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Puducherry
2 Tamil 60,793,814 Tamil Nadu, Puducherry
3 Kannada 43,706,512 Karnataka
4 Malayalam 34,838,319 Kerala, Lakshadweep, Mahé, Puducherry
5 Urdu 12 – 13 million Telangana
6 Tulu 1,846,427 Dakshina Kannada, Udupi district, Kasargod district
7 Konkani 800,000+ Uttara Kannada (Karnataka), Dakshina Kannada (Karnataka), Udupi Karnataka, Goa.
8 Kodava Takk Kodagu district (Karnataka)


Evidence of prehistoric religion in South India comes from scattered Mesolithic rock paintings depicting dances and rituals, such as the Kupgal petroglyphs of eastern Karnataka, at Stone Age sites.[186]

Hinduism is the major religion today in South India, with about 84% of the population adhering to it, which is often regarded as the oldest religion in the world, tracing its roots to prehistoric times in India.[187] Its spiritual traditions include both the Shaivite and Vaishnavite branches of Hinduism, although Buddhist and Jain philosophies were influential several centuries earlier.[188] Ayyavazhi has spread significantly across the southern parts of South India.[189][190]Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy is prominent among many communities.[191]

Shaivism developed as an amalgam of pre-Vedic religions and traditions derived from the southern Tamil Dravidian Shaiva Siddhanta traditions and philosophies, which were assimilated in the non-Vedic Shiva-tradition. The religious history of South India is influenced by Hinduism quite notably during the medieval century. The twelve Azhwars (saint poets of Vaishnavite tradition) and sixty-three Nayanars (saint poets of Shaivite tradition) are regarded as exponents of the bhakti tradition of Hinduism in South India. Most of them came from the Tamil region and the last of them lived in the 9th century CE.

About 11% of the population follow Islam, which was introduced to South India in the early 7th century by Arab traders on the Malabar Coast, and spread during the rule of the Deccan Sultanates, from the 17th to 18th centuries. Muslims of Arab descent in Kerala are called Jonaka Mappila.[192]

About 4% follow Christianity.[193] According to tradition, Christianity was introduced to South India by Thomas the Apostle, who visited Muziris in Kerala in 52 CE and proselytized natives, who are called Nazrani Mappila.[194][195]

Kerala is also home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, who are supposed to have arrived on the Malabar coast during the reign of King Solomon.[196][197]


South India consists of the five southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, as well as the union territories of Puducherry, and Lakshadweep.[198] Puducherry and the five states each have an elected state government, while Lakshadweep is centrally administered by the President of India.[199][200] Each state is headed by a Governor who is appointed by the President of India and who names the leader of the state legislature's ruling party or coalition as Chief Minister, who is the head of the state government.[201][202]

Each state or territory is further divided into districts, which are further subdivided into revenue divisions and taluks / Mandals or tehsils.[203][204] Local bodies govern respective cities, towns, and villages, along with an elected mayor, municipal chairman, or panchayat chairman, respectively.[204]


S. No. Name ISO 3166-2 code[205][206] Date of formation[17] Population Area
Capital Population density
(per km2)[207]
Sex Ratio[207] Literacy Rate (%)[163] % of urban population[209]
1 Andhra Pradesh AP 1 Nov 1956 49,506,799[210] 162,968[210] Telugu, English Amaravati, Kurnool, Visakapatnam 308[210] 996[210] 67.41[211] 29.4[210]
2 Karnataka KA 1 Nov 1956 61,095,297 191,791 Kannada, English Bengaluru 319 973 75.60 38.67
3 Kerala KL 1 Nov 1956 33,406,061 38,863 Malayalam, English Thiruvananthapuram 860 1084 94.00 47.72
4 Tamil Nadu TN 26 Jan 1950 72,147,030 130,058 Tamil, English Chennai 555 996 80.33 48.40
5 Telangana TG 2 Jun 2014[212] 35,193,978[212] 112,077[212] Telugu, Urdu Hyderabad 307[213] 988[212] 66.50[213] 38.7[212]
  • ^Note 1 Andhra Pradesh was divided into two states, Telangana and a residual Andhra Pradesh on 2 June 2014.[214][215][216] Hyderabad, located entirely within the borders of Telangana, is to serve as joint capital for both states for a period of time not exceeding ten years.[217]

Union territories

S.No. Name ISO 3166-2 code[205][206] Population Area
Capital Population density
(per km2)[207]
Sex Ratio[207] Literacy Rate(%)[163] % of urban population[209]
1 Lakshadweep LD 64,473 30 English, Malayalam Kavaratti 2,013 946 92.28 78.07
2 Puducherry PY 1,247,953 490 Tamil, English Puducherry 2,598 1037 86.55 68.33

Legislative representation

Legislative assemblies of states
Fort St. George (Tamil Nadu)
Shasana Sabha (Telangana)
Vidhan Soudha (Karnataka)

South India elects 132 members to the Lok Sabha, accounting for roughly one-fourth of the total strength.[218] The region is allocated 58 seats in the Rajya Sabha, out of the total of 245.[219]

The state legislatures of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry are unicameral, while Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Telangana have bicameral legislatures.[220][221] States with bicameral legislatures have an upper house (Legislative Council) with members not more than one-third the size of the Assembly. State legislatures elect members for terms of five years.[204] Governors may suspend or dissolve assemblies and can administer when no party is able to form a government.[204]


Politics in South India is characterized by a mix of regional and national political parties. The Justice Party and Swaraj Party were the two major parties in the erstwhile Madras Presidency.[222] The Justice Party eventually lost the 1937 elections to the Indian National Congress, and Chakravarti Rajagopalachari became the Chief Minister of the Madras Presidency.[222]

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Self-Respect Movement, spearheaded by Theagaroya Chetty and E. V. Ramaswamy (commonly known as Periyar), emerged in the Madras Presidency.[223] In 1944, Periyar transformed the party into a social organisation, renaming the party Dravidar Kazhagam, and withdrew from electoral politics. The initial aim was the secession of Dravida Nadu from the rest of India upon Indian independence. After independence, C. N. Annadurai, a follower of Periyar, formed the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1948. The Anti-Hindi agitations of Tamil Nadu led to the rise of Dravidian parties that formed Tamil Nadu's first government, in 1967. In 1972, a split in the DMK resulted in the formation of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) led by M. G. Ramachandran. Dravidian parties continue to dominate Tamil Nadu electoral politics, the national parties usually aligning as junior partners to the major Dravidian parties, AIADMK and DMK.[224][225]

Indian National Congress dominated the political scene in Tamil Nadu in the 1950s and 1960s under the leadership of K. Kamaraj, who led the party after the death of Jawaharlal Nehru and ensured the selection of Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi.[226] Congress continues to be a major party in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala. The party ruled with minimal opposition for 30 years in Andhra Pradesh, before the formation of the Telugu Desam Party by Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao in 1982.[227] Two prominent coalitions in Kerala are the United Democratic Front, led by the Indian National Congress, and the Left Democratic Front, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist). For the past fifty years, these two coalitions have been alternately in power; and E. M. S. Namboodiripad, the first elected chief minister of Kerala in 1957, is credited as the leader of the first democratically elected communist government in the world.[228][229] The Bharatiya Janata Party and Janata Dal (Secular) are significant parties in Karnataka.[230]

C. Rajagopalachari, the first Indian Governor General of India post independence, was from South India. The region has produced six Indian presidents, namely, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan,[231] V. V. Giri,[232] Neelam Sanjiva Reddy,[233] R. Venkataraman,[234] K. R. Narayanan,[235] and APJ Abdul Kalam.[236] Prime ministers P. V. Narasimha Rao and H. D. Deve Gowda were from the region.[237]

Culture and heritage


South Indian women traditionally wear a sari, a garment that consists of a drape varying from 5 yards (4.6 m) to 9 yards (8.2 m) in length and 2 feet (0.61 m) to 4 feet (1.2 m) in breadth that is typically wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder, baring the midriff, as according to Indian philosophy, the navel is considered as the source of life and creativity.[238][239] Ancient Tamil poetry, such as the Silappadhikaram, describes women in exquisite drapery or sari.[240] Madisar is a typical style worn by Brahmin women from Tamil Nadu.[citation needed] Women wear colourful silk sarees on special occasions such as marriages.[241]

The men wear a dhoti, a 4.5 metres (15 ft) long, white rectangular piece of non-stitched cloth often bordered in brightly coloured stripes. It is usually wrapped around the waist and the legs and knotted at the waist.[242] A colourful lungi with typical batik patterns is the most common form of male attire in the countryside.[243]

People in urban areas generally wear tailored clothing, and western dress is popular. Western-style school uniforms are worn by both boys and girls in schools, even in rural areas.[243]


A traditional meal served on a banana leaf

Rice is the diet staple, while fish is an integral component of coastal South Indian meals.[244] Coconut and spices are used extensively in South Indian cuisine. The region has a rich cuisine involving both traditional non-vegetarian and vegetarian dishes comprising rice, legumes, and lentils. Its distinct aroma and flavour is achieved by the blending of flavourings and spices, including curry leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, ginger, garlic, chili, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, cumin, nutmeg, coconut, and rosewater.[245][246]

The traditional way of eating a meal involves being seated on the floor, having the food served on a banana leaf,[247] and using clean fingers of the right hand to take the food into the mouth.[248] After the meal, the fingers are washed; the easily degradable banana leaf is discarded or becomes fodder for cattle.[249] Eating on banana leaves is a custom thousands of years old, imparts a unique flavor to the food, and is considered healthy.[250]

Idli, dosa, uthappam, Pesarattu, appam, pongal, and paniyaram are popular breakfast dishes in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala.[251][252] Rice is served with sambar, rasam, and poriyal for lunch. Andhra cuisine is characterised by pickles and spicy curries.[253] Famous dishes are Pesarattu, Ulava charu, Bobbatlu, Pootharekulu, and Gongura. Chettinad cuisine is famous for its non-vegetarian items, and Hyderabadi cuisine is popular for its biryani.[254] Neer dosa, Chitranna, Ragi mudde, Maddur vada, Mysore pak, Obbattu, Bisi Bele Bath, Mangalore buns, Kesari bat, Akki rotti and Dharwad pedha are famous cuisines of Karnataka.[255] Udupi Cuisine, which originates from Udupi located in the Coastal Kanara region of Karnataka is famous for its vegetarian dishes.[256]

Music and dance

South Indian dance forms
Bharatanatyam (Tamil Nadu)
Kathakali (Kerala)
Kuchipudi (Andhra Pradesh)
Yakshagana (Karnataka)

The traditional music of South India is known as Carnatic music, which includes rhythmic and structured music by composers such as Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa, Tyagayya, Annamacharya, Baktha Ramadasu, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Shyama Shastri, Kshetrayya, Mysore Vasudevachar, and Swathi Thirunal.[257] The main instrument that is used in South Indian Hindu temples is the nadaswaram, a reed instrument that is often accompanied by the thavil, a type of drum instrument.[258]

South India is home to several distinct dance forms such as Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Andhra Natyam, Kathakali, Kerala Natanam, Koodiyattam, Margamkali, Mohiniaattam, Oppana, Ottamthullal, Theyyam, Vilasini Natyam, and Yakshagana.[259][260][261][262][263] The dance, clothing, and sculptures of South India exemplify the beauty of the body and motherhood.[238][264][265][266][267]


Films done in regional languages are prevalent in South India, with several regional cinemas being recognized: Kannada cinema (Karnataka), Malayalam cinema (Kerala), Tamil cinema (Tamil Nadu), and Telugu cinema (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana). The first silent film in South India, Keechaka Vadham, was made by R. Nataraja Mudaliar in 1916.[268] Mudaliar also established Madras's first film studio.[269] The first Tamil talkie, Kalidas, was released on 31 October 1931, barely seven months after India's first talking picture, Alam Ara.[270]

Swamikannu Vincent built the first cinema studio of South India, at Coimbatore, introducing the "tent cinema", which he first established in Madras and which was known as "Edison's Grand Cinemamegaphone".[271] Filmmakers K Balachandar, Balu Mahendra, Bharathiraaja, and Mani Ratnam in Tamil cinema; Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Shaji N. Karun, John Abraham, and G. Aravindan in Malayalam cinema; Girish Kasaravalli , Girish Karnad and P. Sheshadri in Kannada cinema; and K. N. T. Sastry and B. Narsing Rao in Telugu cinema produced realistic cinema in parallel with each other throughout the 1970s.[272]

South Indian cinema has also had an influence on politics of Tamil Nadu.[273] Prominent film personalities such as C N Annadurai, M G Ramachandran, M Karunanidhi, N. T. Rama Rao, and Jayalalithaa have become chief ministers of South Indian states.[274] As of 2014, South Indian film industries contribute to 53% of the total films produced in India.[275]

Feature films certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (2019)[276]
Language No. of films
Telugu 281
Tamil 254
Malayalam 219
Kannada 336
Tulu 16
Konkani 10
Total 1116


The large gopuram is a hallmark of Dravidian architecture.

South India has an independent literary tradition dating back over 2500 years. The first known literature of South India is the poetic Sangam literature, which was written in Tamil 2500 to 2100 years ago. Tamil literature was composed in three successive poetic assemblies known as Tamil Sangams, the earliest of which, according to ancient tradition, were held on a now vanished continent far to the south of India.[277] This Tamil literature includes the oldest grammatical treatise, Tholkappiyam, and the epics Silappatikaram and Manimekalai.[278] References to Kannada literature appear from the fourth century CE.[279][280] Telugu literature inscriptions. Poets such as Annamacharya made many contributions to this literature.[281] A distinct Malayalam literature came about in the 13th century.[282]


South India has two distinct styles of rock architecture, the Dravidian style of Tamil Nadu and the Vesara style of Karnataka.[283]

Koil, Hindu temples of the Dravidian style, consist of porches or mantapas preceding the door leading to the sanctum; monumental, ornate gate-pyramids, or gopurams – each topped by a kalasam, or stone finial – which are the principal features in the quadrangular enclosures that surround the more notable temples;[284][285] and pillared halls used for many purposes and are the invariable accompaniments of these temples. Besides these, a South Indian temple typically has a water reservoir called the Kalyani or Pushkarni.[286]

The origins of the gopuram can be traced back to early structures of the Pallavas; and by the twelfth century, under the Pandya rulers, these gateways had become the dominant feature of a temple's outer appearance, eventually overshadowing the inner sanctuary which became obscured from view by the gopuram's colossal size.[287][288]