A broad definition of the south of India includes the area of the Indian peninsula south of the Vindhya hill ranges, together with the coastal strips on the East and West. In this sense, the South would cover seven states in modern India: Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa and Orissa.
As a peninsula, the South is known for its maritime trade links. Historically the region also has had strong political links with South East Asia, and has also seen extensive migration to South East Asia, Sri Lanka and the Middle East. Ties of culture, ethnicity and tradition with these regions are readily apparent. This tends to set it apart from North India where influences and migrations have traditionally occurred along the land routes with China and Central Asia.
Historically the kingdoms of the South have traditionally enjoyed greater political autonomy. Indeed, many of the great kingdoms of the South, particularly in Tamil Nadu, from the Pandya and Chera dynasties (c. 1st century BC to 3rd century AD), and later of the Pallava (8th century) and Chola dynasties (10th-11th centuries), were strikingly autonomous. Indeed the Chola kingdom was a naval power in its own right.
Other powerful and independent kingdoms of note include the Vijaynagar empire (14th to 16th century AD), Bijapur, and Mysore under Tipu Sultan and his father Haider Ali. Indeed, such was the strength of Tipu Sultan's kingdom in the 18th century that it took three British military campaigns to subdue him.
Even under the British, the princely states of Mysore and Hyderabad were amongst the largest and most influential, and were renowned for their wealth and influence.
Under the current constitutional arrangement in India, all princely states have been abolished and have been either absorbed into the states mentioned above, or divided (as with Hyderabad) amongst two or more states.
South India's natural resources and cultural heritage are diverse; it is rich in rivers, forests and wildlife and home to numerous peoples and faiths. It still remains the centre for cash crops and spices in the sub-continent.