Thursday, 11 April 2013

Leopards once roamed here

Just a century ago, this land was full of forests and the bustling locality that we see today was a small village. The village had a historic importance since ancient times and it was part of the kingdom of the Gangas, Cholas, Vijayanagar, Adil Shahis, Hyder and Tipu and finally the Wodeyars.
Though there is not much of history left in this place, the Eshwara Temple here has an inscription dating back to the period of the Cholas. It was at this temple that one of the greatest Chola Emperors, Rajendra Chola, erected a stone inscription in 1959 AD,  giving details of the grants that had been made over to the temple.
After the Cholas, this place and the surrounding provinces came under the control of Kings of Kukkalanadu, who had Kithnahally near Tavarekere as their capital.
The Kukkalnadu rulers lorded over Nelamangala, Ramanagaram, Bangalore south and Magadi taluks. Then came the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagar Empire. After the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1565, this area came under Kempe Gowda and later for a short period under the Adil Shahis.
Subsequently, the area was conquered by the Mughals and then came to the Wodeyars. Hyder seized control and till 1799, it remained with his son Tipu after which it was handed over to the Wodeyars.      
Tipu had taken shelter in the fort here during one of the wars with the British. However, there are no remains of the fort though one of the areas in the bustling locality here is called Kote.
When the British set up Cantonment in Bangalore, this area slowly began emerging from the shadows and it began gaining an identity of its own. Today, it is one of the important parts of Bangalore and a bustling locality. This is Kengeri, which is often labeled as the first satellite township of Karnataka.
Today, Kengeri has thrown away all the vestiges of its past. There are only small traces of the jungles that it was and even today old timers recall with a tinge of sadness the days of yore when panthers, leopards foxes, bears and other wildlife and plenty of birds and reptiles could be spotted in Kengeri.
 Even till the 1980s, residents of Kengeri could spot wildlife.      
Then this area was full of shrubs and bushes, thorns and patches of deciduous green.
For the Cholas and Kempe Gowda, the locality of Kengeri was an important outpost. The Adil Shahis had granted Kengeri as part of the Jagir of Bangalore that had given to Shahaji, the father of Chatrapathi Shivaji.
Tipu Sultan took shelter in the Kengeri Fort while at war with the British. When the English captured Bangalore in 1791, Tipu dismantled the fort at Kengeri to prevent the British from making use if it. By the way, Tipu had set up a silk centre in Kengeri.  
In the survey report prepared by Colonel McKenzie and Bakunin soon after the death of Tipu on May 4, 1799, there is mention about remains of Kengeri Fort. This is the very area that is now recognised as fort (Kengeri kote).
Unfortunately, both the jungles and the remnants of the fort have vanished. One of the eminent Kannada writers and Jnanapitha award winner Chandrashekara Kambar, who is settled in Kengeri can testify to the change that the area has undergone.
One of the early residents of Kengeri still recalls how a reporter affiliated to the Indian Express in the late 1980s helped catch two leopards.
Today, the park in the Kengeri township is the only remnant of the green that encircled the village. The lake adjacent to the busy
Bangalore-Mysore highway was once a host to a variety of birds and small wildlife. The lake today needs an immediate overhaul as ornithologists have identified 40 species of birds.
Once considered an outskirt of the city, Kengeri is now an important satellite town and today it is very much within city limits. There are several myths about the origin of the name Kengeri.
Kannada writer and critic Chidananda Murthy claims that Kengeri comes from  Kempu Neerina Kere or the Red Water Tank situated in the locality. Over time, Kempu Neerina Kere became Kemkere and finally Kengeri.
Others say that the abundance of coconut trees in the locality gave Kengeri its name. The name Kengeri comes from the words Tengu meaning coconut and Keri meaning place

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