Culture in India’s Islands & Beaches
From their cuisine to art, architecture and festivals, beach and island destinations are a fusion of Eastern and Western influences. Close to the city of Chennai, Mamallapuram is home to historic monuments dating far back in time. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, once used as penal colonies far from the mainland, offer a laid back vibe of their own.
While Mamallapuram and Trivandrum are part of the state of Tamil Nadu. Goa is a Union Territory of the country just as the Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands – all of these regions are directly ruled by the central government.
Portuguese colonial influence is evident everywhere in Goa – from the cuisine – a fusion of Eastern and Western flavors and ingredients, and the clothing, to local culture. Home to a large number of Christians and Hindus, Goa also has many minority communities. Christmas, Diwali, Easter are major religious festivals in Goa and the Goan Carnival attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Goa is known for its vibrant beach parties and nightlife, especially in the northern beaches of Baga and Calangute, while the quieter beaches of the south are a favorite with hippies and backpackers.
The riverine Divar Island near Panaji offers a slice of pristine, offbeat Goa with its lush greenery, picturesque villages, churches, temples and laidback life.
One of Kerala’s major artistic and cultural centers, the city is well-known for its beautiful paintings and sculptures – from the cave shrines of southern Travancore and paintings and murals, to the paintings of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal which adorn the city’s art museum. The Malayalam film industry is based out Trivandrum and the city also hosts an international film festival every year.
The city is home to a large number of Hindus. Almost everyone speaks Malayalam, but a number of people are also well-versed in English, Hindi and Tamil.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Mamallapuram by the Bay of Bengal is known for its many architectural splendors and was once nicknamed the Land of the Seven Pagodas by European seamen. Just a little distance from Chennai city, the small town stands as testimony to some of the earliest examples of Dravidian architecture and Buddhist influence in South India. As of 2004, when a tsunami hit the region, many more sites were discovered buried underground.
Often referred to as Mahabs, the town is popular with local and international tourists alike and is equipped with several hotels, eateries, and curio shops.
Andaman and Nicobar Island
These Indian Islands are an amalgam of indigenous tribes and settled migrants. The aboriginal population of the islands have no rules when it comes to clothing, and some still prefer not to be clothed. A majority of the population are Hindus with a smattering of Christians, Muslims and Sikhs. Away from the main city of Port Blair, the sparsely-populated smaller islands are home to many an indigenous tribe such as the Sentinelese.
The many islands of Andaman and Nicobar have steadily become a popular hub for visitors since Indian Independence in 1947 and our private beach vacations offer you many opportunities for water sports as well. For popular Andaman packages, must-visits include the popular Cellular Jail in Port Blair, Cove Beach nearby, North Bay Island, the incredible Radhanagar Beach or Kalapathar Beach on Havelock Island, rocky Neil Island and Ross Island.
Five ‘particularly vulnerable’ Andaman tribes reside in islands that are deemed restricted areas by the government. These include the Jarawas, North Sentinelese, Great Andamanese, Onge and Shompen.
Top India Beach Vacation Tips – Culture:
- The northern beaches of Goa, including Baga and Calangute are famous for their vibrant nightlife while the quieter southern beaches are described as a backpackers’ paradise.
- Trivandrum is home to India’s only magic school – The Magic Academy Research Centre, run by Merlin Award winner Gopinath Muthukad.
- Crocodile Bank near Mamallapuram is home to over 5,000 crocodiles!
Cuisine in India’s Islands & Beaches
On your India beach vacation, prepare to feast on meat, which is readily available everywhere. Thousands of restaurants cater to every palate at India’s Islands & Beaches – from the gourmet to the streetside.
Goan cuisine is a heady mixture of local ingredients and international influence – seafood rules the roost and tropical fruits are an important part of the local diet.
Trivandrum has plenty of restaurants that serve South Indian fare although North Indian, Chinese and American cuisine are also popular. Much of the food served is vegetarian although most resorts come with chefs who serve you some authentic Kerala-style dishes. The small town of Mamallapuram has plenty to offer the gastro-enthusiast. A haven for vegetarians, the coastal town is also popular for its delicious seafood. Mamallapuram has several eateries that serve international cuisine.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ cuisine is difficult to define – the isolated indigenous people have had very little influence on the cuisine and South Indian and North Indian styles of food dominate. Rice is a staple and seafood and meat are aplenty.
Try these authentic dishes for a delicious dose of flavor:
- Xacuti: Goanese lamb or chicken curry made with roasted coconut
- Balchão: shrimp curry popular in Goa
- Vindaloo: meat curried in a spicy garlic and wine marinade, a Portuguese-influenced Goan delicacy
- Malabar Biryani: the Kerala version of the famous Mughal dish
- Paal Payasam: a sweet treat made with rice, milk and jaggery
- Mamallapuram Thali: an unlimited rice and a chapati served with vegetables and papad (poppadoms)
- Grilled jumbo prawns: a favorite in Mamallapuram
Top India Beach Vacation Tips – Cuisine:
On one of our private India beach vacations, see the cooking ritual at the Attukal Temple premises – millions of women gather with their utensils on the day of Pongal (a Hindu religious festival), cook their food, and take home the offerings.
See a slice of paradise during one of our private and tailor-made India beach vacations with Enchanting Travels.
History of India’s Islands & Beaches
Apart from their pristine natural beauty, India’s island and beach destinations boast centuries old history and myriad influences. From Portuguese colonial heritage in Goa to Megalithic Era ruins in Mamallapuram and untouched, indigenous tribal communities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, there is much to be discovered.
Goa’s history dates back almost 30,000 years and some rock carvings suggest that some the earliest humans of India lived in Goa! Early Goan culture is a mix of Indo-Aryans and Dravidians and the region has seen the rise and fall of many dynasties, including the Mauryans in 3rd century BC and the Vijayanagar Empire in 14th century CE.
From the 16th century onwards, Goa was firmly under Portuguese rule for almost 500 years! After a successful military operation in 1961, Goa came under Indian control. On one of our tailor-made India beach vacations, the healthy mix of Portuguese heritage and Indian culture in Goa is sure to enchant you!
Legend has it that King Solomon sent his ships to the port city of Trivandrum, which has been a flourishing center for trade and commerce ever since! Trivandrum’s early history is nothing like the rest of India. Until the 18th century, the city was ruled by the feudal kingdoms, following which it became a center of art and architecture under the rulers of Travancore. Two years after Indian independence in 1947, the city became the capital of Kerala.
Once a center for global trade, the town of Mamallapuram is famous for its many burial urns and jars from the Megalithic Age. It was the center of the Pallava kingdom as early as the 3rd century CE and found mention as a wealthy settlement in 8th century Tamil texts.
The temples in this town depict many major scenes from the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata. The famous Shore Temples, one of seven from Marco Polo’s time, stand even today. See various shrines dedicated to several different deities to this two thousand year old historic town – now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The quiet Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to several tribes and served as a strategic naval base. From 1858 until Japan occupied the Andaman during World War II, the British were used to keeping political prisoners in the infamous Cellular Jail of Port Blair.
In 2004, these Indian Islands suffered through a devastating tsunami but have recovered remarkably well.
You will not be disappointed with the unique history and culture that the islands have preserved for centuries during one of our private India beach vacations to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
As of 2018, foreign travelers no longer need a restricted area permit to visit the islands.
Top India Beach Vacation Tips – History:
- The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa is home to the remains of the revered St. Francis Xavier – the patron saint of the region. Once every ten years, his body is revealed to the public.
- The famous Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple of Trivandrum reportedly has more than USD 20 million of gold and jewels in its vaults, which explains why custodianship of the temple has been hotly contested in court.
- The Five Rathas of Mamallapuram, five detailed temple structures, are believed to have been carved from a single rock!
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands once a penal colony still has abandoned gaol houses in Port Blair.
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Port Blair is the administrative nerve centre of the islands, the largest town in the Andamans and the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
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