Historians claim that Neolithic cultures of South India date back to 8,000 BCE and evidence of trade with the Romans, Greeks, Syrians, Chinese and Jews is aplenty.
In the 4th century BCE, the South was divided into the kingdoms of the Cholas, Cheras and the Pandyas, and the kingdoms maintained cordial relations with the Mauryan empire up north. The entire area was referred to as Tamilakam, meaning Land of the Tamils. Over the next few centuries, several dynasties rose and fell in South India.
In the 14th century, the Islamic Delhi Sultanate conquered most of South India and established the Deccan Sultanates. For a period of the time, the Vijayanagara Kingdom controlled all of South India. However, in the 16th century, the Vijayanagara king was captured during battle and the kingdom was reduced to ruins.
The British were allowed to set up Madras, (today known as Chennai) around this time. The kingdom broke up into several small feudal states controlled by Nayaks and the Kingdom of Mysore, controlled by legendary Tipu Sultan, prospered. With the rise of French and British colonial powers, much chaos ensued in South India. Eventually, after the Anglo-Mysore and Anglo-Maratha wars, the British prevailed, and twin centers of power in Madras and Hyderabad, were established.
A few years after the Indian independence, Andhra Pradesh, the first linguistic state was created for the Telugu people. Southern states were reorganised into Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, based on the language spoken in each area. Goa, the Portuguese settlement, was incorporated into India and the French settlement of Pondicherry, or Puducherry as it is now called, became a Union Territory under the direct rule of the central government.
Hampi, the seat of Vijayanagara power, was reduced to ruins when the kingdom collapsed and never rebuilt again. Event today, the beautiful and deserted ruins stand and are worth a visit. Kerala is famous for its backwaters, which haven’t changed much over the centuries.