Thursday, 28 March 2013

The lake of City Market

It is one of the most congested parts of Bangalore. It also has the maximum number of footfalls and it is surrounded by historical structures.
The locality boasts of  one of the oldest hospitals in the State and also one of the oldest markets. It was also home to one of the oldest cinema houses and several landmarks associated with Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan are located in the vicinity.
Just two centuries ago, this was the battlefield between Tipu Sultan and the British forces. It was also the place where the British forces camped in 1791 under Lord Cornwallis and took on Bahadur Khan, the Khiladar of Bangalore Fort.
This is also the place where Tipu’s artillery from within the fort rained rocket fire on the British who reported the first few such deaths in India. Cornwallis stormed the fort at midnight and this was against the rules of the war. Bahadur Khan was killed along with the other defenders.
Cornwallis was so impressed by the bravery of Bahadur Khan, he sent a message to Tipu asking for Khan’s body to be taken away with all honors due to a martyr. Tipu haughtily replied that the place where a martyr fell would be his final resting place. Cornwallis constructed a tomb in honour of Bahadur Khan. Today, the fort stands amid the ugly urban sprawl as do several localities that existed during the time of Tipu.
This is City Market, one of the most crowded localities of Bangalore and perhaps unfortunately labelled as the city’s dirtiest and most polluted place.
The market today is a urban planners nightmare. It has two busstands-one a Government bus stand and another a private one and both spill onto the adjoining roads. The KR Market is one of the busiest hubs of Bangalore and it is surrounded by wholesale dealers, markets and commercial complexes.
To add to the confusion, the Minot Eye Hospital, Victoria Hospital-which is one of the oldest in Bangalore-Vani Vilas Hospital–are located here.
But this urban nightmare is only a few decades old.
This place was once a vast plain with a small bur beautiful lake and it was sandwiched between two forts. Yes, Bangalore had two forts and today only one-the City Market fort exists. The vast expanse between the two forts was used as a market place and it was called Siddi Katte.
When Kempe Gowda built the Bangalore fort, he devised s series of tanks to supply water to his new city. One of the lakes he built at the present City Market-KR Market was called Siddikatte Lake. This lake was one of the many inner lakes that he had conceived to store and provide water to the several petes he founded such as Akki Pet, Bale Pet, Upparpet.
The tank owes its origin to Siddi, a member of Kempe Gowda family.
The tank was not very big but it was interconnected to other “inner” water bodies that Kempe Gowda built including the Karanji lake at Gandhi Bazar. The Karanji lake abutted the Bugle Rock area and it covered what is today’s National College.
Apart from these inner lakes, Kempe Gowda commissioned the lakes in outlying areas to “catch” the water and store it for his people.
However, once Bangalore was taken over by the Wodeyars, the inner lakes slowly fell into disuse. The Siddikatte lake became only a small water body by the time Hyder appeared on the scene. There are enough records to indicate that Hyder used water from the Siddikatte to rebuild the mud fort with bricks and stone at City Market.
When the British moved in on Bangalore in 1791 during the Third Mysore war, Cornwallis halted here. He then planned the midnight attack when he could not breach the defences of this fort for a fortnight.
Soon after Tipu and British ceased hostilities, Tipu dismantled much of the Bangalore fort and the water body fell into complete disuse.
The tank “withered” in the latter part of 19th century and it was then transformed into a well-organised market known locally as Siddikatte Santhe. The santhe drew a large number of farmers and growers and this is how it became a hub of business, which it is even today. Siddi Katte was once inhabited by many Brahmin officials. Slowly, the development of the area saw the death of the residences and one building after another came up, displacing people and generating more traffic.
Today, Bangalore fort is surrounded by hospitals and bus stands. The KR market stands nearby, a testimony to the farsightedness of the Wodeyars.
The lake is completely gone and there is not even a trace of it. Only a few oldtimers vaguely remember the name of Siddikatte. Otherwise, City market-KR Market is a much reviled name and few Bangaloreans would venture to go there.
However, the City Market-KR Market area even today is the place where much of Bangalore’s history was made. The area around the fort was the place where Tipu had his rocket laboratories and factories and it was called Taramandalpet.
To cannons were recovered a few months ago when Metro work was being taken up in the area.

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