Sunday, 31 March 2013

The band stand of music

The Band stand is one of the most attractive and  historical places of the Cubbon Park, the biggest green of Bangalore.
This band stand of Cubbon Park is perhaps the first of its kind in the entire country and it was initially set up in the Rose Garden before being shifted to its present location.
Located in front of teh High Court, this octagonal platform was constructed during the early part of this century. The band stand today is part of what is called the Ringwood Circle. It was a gift in 1917 to the music loving people of Bangalore by the then Wodeyar Emperor of Mysore,  Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
Every Wednesday and Saturday evenings, the Mysore Infantry Band held its performances at this Band Stand and this highly popular tradition continued for several decades till Independence.
On the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the reign of Krishnaraja Wodeyar on August 8, 1927, the Madras Pioneers Group presented a grand musical show which was attended by the British as well as by the locals in large numbers.
Since then the band group started giving regular programmes on the fourth Thursday evening of every month. People from far off places started to come, so it became difficult to provide accommodation to all of them. Thus in 1927 as per the suggestions of then Yuvaraj (who in 1940 went on to become the Maharaja) Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. the Bandstand was shifted to a vast space in between the High Court complex and Government Museum buildings.
The Band stand was set on a high platform to help the audience see the performers. After 1960, the then City Corporation of Bangalore started arranging performances during weekends. But, gradually they also became irregular and finally stopped. Thus, now the Band stand remains just for namesake.
This is a sad story for the bandstand which has always remained Bangalore’s favourite. A purely Western concept, it can trace its origin to the Brass Band movement of United Kingdom.
The Brass band movement owes much if its origin to valved brass instruments like the cornet and the tuba and the increasing need for entertainment among the working classes during the Industrial Revolution in England.
The working class wanted cheap but quality entertainment. They also wanted dance and music and what better way than such bands. This is how the brass bands came to be born. By 1800, they became the most popular form of entertainment for the working class and there were at least 40,000 of them, singing and entertaining the masses.
 Soon, concerts in parks became popular and regular. The first such bandstand to showcase brass bands were built in 1861 at the Royal Horticultural Gardens in Kensington near London.
Bangalore soon followed suit and the band stand at Lalbagh was built in 1863. The original band stand at Cubbon Park came up in 1870 and it was located near the petrol bunk adjacent to Bowring Institute.
This band stand does not in any way resemble today’s band stand that we know of.  The old band stand was double pillared and was almost at ground level. A map in ‘Mysore: A Gazetteer’ compiled for the then Mysore Government by Benjamin Lewis Rice and  published in 1897, shows the bandstand near Bowring Institute. Archival photographs also conform this fact and show that the first band was much closer to the St Mark’s Church on MG Road. It was in 1917 that this band stand was demolished and the present one constructed within the premises of the park.
Though the band stand was built several years after Queen Victoria died, it can still be categorised as a Victorian structure.
Most of the bandstands that were built during the Victorian era share a marked similarity. The bandstands have columns made of cast-iron, cast-iron railings and decorative roofs with octagonal designs and a raised plinth. A majority of the band stands were fitted with false roofs.
The band stand in Cubbon Park became so popular that even BL Rice, the India born gazetteer, linguist and grammarian and of course epigraphist, also wrote about the crowds.
After Indian gained Independence in 1947, concerts and music were still being played at the band stand but their frequency decreased and over tome they stropped altogether.
The band stand today needs physical and musical support. The time has come to refurbish the historic stand completely and also  infuse music.
 

Saturday, 30 March 2013

When a lake welcomed a Prince

Today, it is virtually impossible to step easily on drive in Majestic without getting into a scrap with some one or other. The construction of the Namma Metro and the shifting of the bus stand has thrown traffic out of gear and driving in the vicinity of the erstwhile bus stand is a nightmare.
However, the construction activity reminds us of the period when the then Chief Minister R Gundu Rao cleared the plan for the bus stand at Majestic which became the best terminus in India.
The bus stand had come up exactly where the once beautiful Dharmambudi tank or lake stood. This lake was one of the many water bodies designed by Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bangalore.
The waters of the Dharmambudi lake overflowed during rainy season to and through its many channels and kalyanis and it was connected to other lakes.
The lake was already in existence when the Mysore Government and the British planned the Railway Station. Bangalore was perhaps one of the very few cities in India which had the luxury of a park-Chikalalbagh and lake-Dharmambudi-adjacent to the newly built railway station.
Passengers who disembarked, could easily relax after spending what then was a frightening speed of 16 miles per hour from Mysore and Madras to Bangalore. There were many Indians who bravely sat in the locomotive and then wiped their sweat either in the park or the cool breeze of the lake.
Buses to different localities started near the railway station and there was no Majestic bus stand then.
The first evocative description of the lake and its shining waters came from none else but our own DVG or DV Gundappa, the redoubtable Kannada writer and the man who created the legendary character of Manku Thimma in Manku Thimmana Kagga.
Writing in one of his letters, DVG recalls the warm welcome Bangaloreans gave to Prince Albert Victor, son of Queen Victoria, when he came to Bangalore in 1889.
The Prince later ascended the English throne as King George. The Prince came by the Royal train and he was given a tumultuous welcome when he alighted at the Bangalore railway station.      
Albert Victor was struck by the beauty of the vast water body in front of the railway station. DVG says the Prince looked on in awe as a group of young Bharatanatyam dancers gave a lyrical welcome from a Theppa or float on the lake.
Barely had the Prince finished appreciating the dance, he was given another sonorous welcome and this time by the sweet melody of the Nadaswaram that wafted from the Chiklalbagh park.
The commissioning of the Dharmambudhi tank goes back to the founding of Bangalore by Kempe Gowda in 1537. For several decades after Bangalore was founded, the tank was the principal source from which the inhabitants of old petes derived their supply of drinking water.
According to historical records, water from the lake was led to the streets through channels and taken out by the people from square troughs of basins called karanjis whioch were located at junction points.  
Why the lake came to be called Dharmambudi is still a mystery. Was it called after the Dharmarayana temple which was just across the lake or was it named after Kempe Gowda. Since the ruler had donated the lake to his people, it was perhaps called Dharma and Budi means big people. Budi comes from the Kannada word Ambudi which means a place where water collects.
The Dharmambudi tank or lake continued to exists for centuries and it was a prominent place of Bangalore. In 1877 when famine struck Mysore Kingdom, the then Government initiated desilting of the lake as part of the employment programme.
Apart from desilting the lake, the many channels were repaired and water sources cleared of debris and encroachment. Within a few years, the lake regained its lost glory and it began supplying water to the petes.
By then, the Municipality of Bangalore had decided to convert a open ground adjacent to the lake as a park. The municipality named it as Chikalalbagh. When people and visitors once again began flocking to the lake, the municipality in 1878 decided to entertain the people by organizing nadaswaram music every Sunday evening between six to eight p.m., and English band music every Wednesday.
Every evening, residents of Balepet, which was the nearest to the tank, gathered on the footsteps leading to the tank, especially on the northern side, where there was not much water.
The residents sat and chatted away, eating hot pakodas, samosas, bondas and chakulis. Soon, the steps became the “Somari” Katte of Bangalore .
On the south-eastern side of the lake were several mathas, including the Poornaiah choultry, built by the legendary Dewan of both Tipu Sultan and the Mysore kings who succeeded him. The Poornaiah Choultry today is a school and of the other buildings there is little trace.
By the early 1930s, there was only a little water towards Chikalalbagh.  
Though the lake waster was being used for drinking purpose, increasing migration of people and  commercialization of Majestic area led to the tank or lake losing its hygiene. The lack of civic sense among the people also led to the water body becoming unfit for human consumption.
During the dry season, the channels by which water came into the tank, came to be used by people as open air toilets. As a result when rain came, filth deposited in the tank and soon the water became putrid and it emitted pungent smell.
Lack of maintenance in the subsequent years led to shrinking of water in the Dharmambudhi tank and during 1892-93 when monsoons failed Bangalore witnessed for the first time water shortage.
The Government then decided to go in for piped water supply and it took up a project for pumping water from the springs in the Jakkarayana tank valley the Dharmambudi tank. Besides,  23,20,000 gallons of water was pumped into the Dharmambudi tank from the Hebbal tank.
In 1896, Bangalore was supplied with piped water from the Hesaraghatta reservoir. The then municipality found it easy to pump water from pipes and it decided to slowly do away with the system of supplying water from lakes and tanks. By then, the  Dharmambudi tank became completely dry.
In 1905, the Mysore Government asked the Bangalore Municipality to convert the Dharmambudi tank into a children’s park. But the municipality felt that the tank should be maintained in the present condition and when funds are available, water from Sankey tank could be diverted to the Dharmambudi tank to fulfill the needs of the water of the people of pete or old locality. Unfortunately, this remained a pipe dream.
In 1925, the municipality decided to sink wells in the dry bed of Dharmambudi to supply water to Balepet and Manavarthpet areas.
By 1931, the municipality began letting out the dry bed for holding public meetings. In 1931 Jawaharlal Nehru addressed a meeting here and hoisted the tricolour flag.
The dry tank bed then came to be called Gandhi Sagar. This perhaps led to the beginning of Gandhinagar.  
In July 1931, the Bangalore City Congress Committee requested the municipality to lease the north western corner of Dharmambudi tank for five years at an annual rent of Rs six for holding public meetings and other related activities. However, the Government turned down the request.
Master Hiraniah commenced staging of his skits and plays here and they enjoyed wide patronage.
Later, the ground or dry bed of the lake came to be named as Subash Nagar and this was to honour  Subash Chandra Bose.
In 1963, the Government handed over 1,36,294 square yards of land of the Dharmambudi tank bed to KSRTC to construct a bus stand.
The busstand stood for nearly 50 years and it was demolished only recently for the Namma Metro project. The busstand will come back once the metro work is completed. But what about the lake. Except for a road named after it, the lake has vanished.

When Bangalore was known as Kalyani Nagara

Several centuries ago, a fairly vast body of water in present day Majestic area of Bangalore was part of the forests and it was called Doddakere or the Big Lake.
The lake and the forests around Majestic and present day Bangalore formed part of the Hoysala Empire. The Hoysalas had managed to wrestle control of Bangalore from the Cholas who in turn had taken it from the Gangas of Talakad.
The Gangas had considered Bangalore province to be important when they had their earlier capital at Kolar. They in turn had vanquished the Nolambas to win Kolar and Bangalore. Some of the temples constructed by the Nolambas still exists in Kolar and other places in south India. (Some of the Nolamba temples are Kalleshwara Temple at Aralaguppe in Tiptur taluk of Tumkur district, Narayaneshwara temple and Shankara Matha in Avani of Kolar district, Bhoga Nandishwara in Nandi Hills, Yoga Narasimha of Tondanur in Mandya district, Siddeswara (Henjerappa) and Doddeswara Temples in Hemavati, Anantapur district and Veeranjaneya Swamy Temple in  Aragonda, Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh).  
The forests of Bangalore did not last long. By the turn of the 14th century and early 15th century, the forests came to be cleared and a few small hamlets and villages sprang up. By then, Yelahanka was fairly a big settlement as was Domlur and Magadi. Of Bangalore, there is not much information but suffice it to say it was not a very important city.
However, things changed when the Vijayanagar Empire took form roots in south Karnataka. The local rulers or Nada Prabhus of Yelahanka also claimed Bangalore as their own and soon one of their earliest rulers, Kempe Gowda (1513-1569), managed to get Bangalore and several other villages as a gift from Achuta Deva Raya (1529-1542), the Vijayanagar Emperor.
Kempe Gowda then set about building and fortifying Bangalore. A far sighted man, he let the lakes and water bodies be and renovated and repaired them. He also built several lakes and Dharmambudi lake is assigned to him though there is evidence to suggest that this is the Dodda Kere that Hoysala inscriptions mention.
Kempe Gowda so planned the Dharmambudi lake that it supplied water to one end of the Bangalore fort. Another lake, Karanji in present day Gandhi Bazar, too supplied water to the moat. Kempe Gowda built several other lakes and all of them were interconnected with each other.
The lakes and the Kalyanis gave Bangalore its reputation as city of lakes and Kalyanis. The city soon came to be known as Kalyani pura or Kalyani nagara.
Kempe Gowda built several temples, including the Someshwara temple in Alasooru or Halasooru, now Ulsoor. The Kalyani of Someshwara Temple was discovered beneath a huge mound of debris and illegal constructions two years ago. Similarly, Kempe Gowda built the Gavi Gangadheswara Temple which had a Kalyani as did the Anjenaya temple near Bugle rock in Basavanagudi.
The 110-year-old Sampangiramnagar kalyani in the heart of the city, which was excavated and revived a few years ago, was nothing but an unused pit with overgrown weeds. And though it has no water, the kalyani makes for a beautiful lighting spot during Diwali and Dussera. Ancient carvings on its three sides add to the charm.
There is also a Kalyani near Urvashi cinema on Lalbagh road. Sadly, the history of Kalyanis and their numbers have not been documented. However, the names of Kalyana nagara or Kalyani pura disappeared as soon as the name of Bangalore became popular.
The lakes too died after piped water came to Bangalore and the utility of water bodies gradually lessened.
Thus, Bangalore not only lost its kalyanis but also water bodies. Today, there are massive efforts to revive both but at what cost.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

The hillock where Janamejaya meditated in Bangalore

This is believed to be the hillock where Janamejaya, the Kuru Emperor and the son of Parikshit and Madravati, performed penance.
The grandson of Abhimanyu and the great grandson of Arjuna the matchless warrior and bowman, Janamejaya ascended the Kuru throne following the death of his father by snake bite.
The hillock here in Bangalore is the place where Janamejaya, who performed the greatest snake sacrifice of all times, did tapas or sat in meditation.
A beautiful Swayambu or self originated idol of Anjaneya or Hanumanta marks this spot. Today, people know the spot better as one of the many temples dedicated to the monkey God but many seem to have forgotten the legend behind it.
The swayambu Anjaneya Swami - the presiding deity of the Karenji Anjaneya temple- depicts the avatar or swaroopa of Anjaneya who is returning to India to meet Rama after locating  Sita in the Ashoka Vana in Lanka.
The legend of the idol in this temple is a fascinating tale of  devotion, adventure and supreme sacrifice. Moreover, the temple of  Karenji Anjaneya is one of the landmark structures of Basavanagudi and it is as old as the founding of Bangalore.
Rama is deeply concerned about the well-being of Sita and he sends Anjaneya as his emissary to Lanka. Anjaneya meets Sita and carried back with him a message to Rama.
Sita gives him a chudamani to give back to Rama as a mark of her deep love and devotion. Anjaneya then goes to the court of Ravana and taunts him.
Anjaneya also submits himself to the Brahmastra cast by Ravana's son Indrajit. The demons bind Anjaneya with chains and ropes and this nullifies the effect of the Brahmastra. Thereafter, Anjaneya’s tale is bound in clothes and it is set on fire.
Anjaneya destroys or rather burns down Lanka, except the Ashoka Vana where Sita is sitting, and leaves for India.  
This legend is closely associated with the massive idol of Anjaneya. It faces north-towards Lanka.
The statue is twenty two feet in height and he is depicted as returning from Lanka. He holds the sacred Chudamani in both his hands.
Anjaneya here is shown barring his teeth in fury at Ravana and other demons. The teeth are protruding and it looks like the monkey God is snarling with rage. His tuft of hair appears to have loosened.
The broken chains and bangles on his arms show how he escaped from the demons by breaking loose of the Brahmastra.
When Kempe Gowda (1513-1569) was founding Bangalore, he came across this small shrine. He immediately ensured that a temple was built with the mandatory garbagriha. He also ensured that the structure stands on the banks of the Karanji lake which stretched from the Bugle rock area till the present National College.
The temple got the name Karenji Anjaneya. Kere in Kannada means lake and Enji means remains.
Kempe Gowda also built another temple adjacent to the Anjaneya temple. This was the temple of Rishaba or Basava and this is how Basavanagudi got its name. Though hundreds of people visit the Basavava temple every day, only a handful of them care to visit the nearby Anjaneya temple.
Interestingly, the Sri Rama Temple opposite the Anjaneya temple was built by the Marathas. It was the Maratha chieftain, Muthnjirao Scindia, who built the Rama temple facing Anjaneya as per the Agama shahtra.
Rama is seen with his consort Sita and his brother Lakshmana. There is a small opening in the northern wall of Anjaneya temple through which Anjaneya sees his Rama.

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.

A cardcop, not a Robocop

When you first come to Bangalore, two things strike you immediately. The first is the number of vehicles and the second is the bog, beautiful, sprawling and sometimes Gothic buildings.
As you begin to stay on in Bangalore, the first thought starts to bother you and whatever you do, wherever you go and whichever locality you are in, traffic in Bangalore becomes the first topic of conversation.
If you are late for work, traffic is blamed. If an event is delayed, traffic is to blame. Traffic thus has become an integral and everyday life of a Bangalorean. However, over the last few days, there has been a different kind of talk about motorists and residents.
This is about a traffic op who works 24/7 and who stands at a corner and looks on smilingly at violators. The result: Motorists, particularly, gingerly put on their helmets, slow down and suddenly show a road sense which we thought they never had.
When these violators near the policemen and look at him from the corner of their eye, they are in for a massive surprise. The traffic policemen is not human. He is only a perfect cardboard replica of a Bangalore traffic cop, complete with the brown and white uniform, booth and other paraphernalia associated with such a cop.
While a few motorists sheepishly move away, others go back to their traffic breaking spree-riding without a helmet, driving the wrong way, overspeeding, changing lanes, reckless and dangerous driving, taking on the mobile, drinking and driving and sometimes even shouting at the top of their lungs or hotting the horns continuously.
Most of these fake policemen have been stationed in central Bangalore and so far they have done a commending job of reminding motorists that they have to adhere to traffic rules. He is one policemen who never needs a break and he can stand even in the hottest summer and he can also freely inhale any amount of vehicular exhaust.
This policemen can also stand in for a real cop and make life for the regular cop much easier. This cardcop is the latest endeavour of the Bangalore City Traffic police to drive some sense into senseless drivers and give the much harassed traffic cops a slight break.
With 4.2 million registered vehicles on its roads, Bangalore is already choc-a-block with all categories of  vehicles and the Traffic police have been having a hard time in enforcing discipline. The fake cop are not gimmicks and they have successfully brought down violations. Their success has enthused the top brass of Traffic police to have more such policemen standing in for the real cops on other parts of Bangalore.    
As of now, there is a shortage of more than 500 traffic policemen in the city and the shortage seems to be growing when you look at the increasing number of vehicles.
By the way, Bangalore has already the dubious distinction of being one of the most accident prone cities in India and also the most indisciplined.
Unfortunately, Bangalore has been reporting a large number of traffic related accidents and pedestrians have had to bear the brunt of two-wheeler riders’ antics.
How many times have we seen drivers breaking traffic rules with impunity. Even at traffic signals, these carefree drivers disregard traffic lights, park right on zebra crossings, start sounding the horn even before the traffic light turns green and indulge in rash and negligent driving.
Only the presence of a traffic op drives some sense and where the traffic signals are not manned, it is a free for all. To that extent, the fake cops are driving some measure of discipline into the errant motorists. To ensure that the drivers do not take the cops casually, real cops stand at the points where their fake brothers once stood.
The traffic police want to equip the dummy cops with cameras so that the violators are easily caught.
The best way to “deceive” the traffic cop is by following rules. Do not give in to temptation and drive fast and dangerously. Stop chatting on the mobile while driving. If the call is so important, stop, get down, talk and then drive. Why risk your life and those of others by reckless driving.
  

The Cunninghams

He is called the father of  the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). By profession he was an archaeologist and an Army Engineer. He is Sir Alexander Cunningham (January 23, 1814- November 28, 1893). Both of Alexander’s brothers- Francis and Joseph were well-known for their work in India.
Joseph Davey Cunningham, (1812-1851) was the author of the book History of the Sikhs and an authority in Punjab history which was published in 1849. The contents so angered his political masters that he was dismissed from service.
Another of the Cunningham brother was Francis (1820-1872). Though he spent a substantial part of his life in Bangalore, he is little known in the City. What many do not  know is that the prestigious Cunningham Road in Bangalore is named after this man- Francis Cunningham.
Cunninghams’ father was the famous Scottish poet and author Allan Cunningham (December 7, 1784-October 30, 1842).
Francis initially joined  service in India as an officer in the Madras Army as an Ensign to the 23rd Madras Native Infantry.
He then became a member of the Mysore Commission and Literary Editor. He then became a deputy to Sir Mark Cubbon who was the then Chief Commissioner at Bangalore
In his army service, Francis distinguished himself as a field engineer with Robert Sale at Jalalabad during the First Afghan War. In 1850, he was posted as Secretary to the Mysore Commission which was headquartered at Bangalore. He then served as deputy to Sir Mark Cubbon.
Bangalore should always remember this Cunningham as Francis played an active role in developing Lalbagh. He took personal interest in nurturing Lalbagh and was also deeply involved in several constructions, including the building for Cubbon near Nandi Hills.
Another contribution of Francis is of personally supervising the building of Balabrooie in Bangalore where Cubbon stayed on for some time.  
When Cubbon retired and left Bangalore in 1861, Francis stayed back in a private capacity, lobbying on behalf of the deposed Wodeyar King, Krishna Rajendra Wodeyar III. He argued with his erstwhile masters that the Wodeyar Maharaja should be allowed to adopt an heir and that the kingdom too should be restored to him. Francis's was an excellent writer and a master of prose. His  writing skills caused endless headaches for Lewin Bentham Bowring, the next Chief Commissioner of Mysore.
Bowring did not know how to reply to the letters that Francis posted to him. The language of the letters was forceful and robust and the arguments logical. Bowring spent sleepless nights, thinking of a suitable reply.
Francis went back to England where he decided to peruse his literary activities. In 1870, he edited the works of Kit Marlowe and in 1872 edited the works of Philip Massinger and Ben Jonson.
He died on December 3, 1872.
Bangalore has remembered Francis Cunningham by naming a road after him. For a short while, the area was called Sampangi Ramaswamy Temple Road.
Cunningham Road today is one of the most happening places in Bangalore. It has malls, coffee shops, boutiques, business establishments, hospitals, hotels and restaurants

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The place from where Tagore wrote two of his landmark Bengali novels

It was once home to the legendary engineer-statesman Sir M. Visvesvaraiah. It was also the residences of former Chief Ministers S. Nijalingappa and D. Devaraj Urs.
A majestic building it has a history of its own. It is centrally located but unfortunately politicians have given it short shrift as they fear to stay here-they strongly believe that it is haunted and anyone who stays in the buildings would quickly lose power.
However, the imposing building shares an important link with the legendary poet-writer and Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. It was here that Tagore  began writing his famed Shesher Kobita and the instalments of Yogayog.
Yogayog is a work of fiction and it revolves around the life and times Ghoshal and Chatterjee families, who are neighbours and sworn competitors. The Chatterjees run up huge losses and fall into bad times, while the Ghoshals make a fortune. Many instalments of this gripping take were written here in room Number five.
Tagore’s visit has been commemorated in a plaque next to the room that says, Rabindranath Tagore visited here in 1919.
Similarly, the other work of Tagore-Shester Kobita-is a landmark in Bengali literature. This novel was serialised in 1928, from Bhadro to Choitro in the magazine Probashi and was subsequently published in book form in 1929. It has been translated into English as The Last Poem (translator Anandita Mukhopadhyay) and Farewell song (translator Radha Chakravarty). You can see a full radio play of Shesher Kabita on Youtube. It was performed at the lawn of Sir. P.C. Mitter's heritage house on Elgin Road on April 1, 2012.
Thus, Bangalore has the distinction of being the workplace for Tagore’s two works. Tagore came to stay in this building from Colombo. In May 1928 Tagore visited Colombo to regain his health. However, even after a ten day stay, his health did not improve.
The then Vice-Chancellor of Mysore University, Brajendranath Seal, invited Tagore to Bangalore who came here in June 1928. He stayed for nearly three weeks in Bangalore and it was here that he began writing Shesher Kobita and the instalments of Yogayog.
When it was first built, Sir Mark Cubbon stayed here. He soon left for England but died en route at Suez in Egypt. This is Balabrooie, a marvelous building in the city.
After Cubbon, it was occupied by Sir Mirza Ismail, the Dewan of Mysore, and his family members.
The sprawling expanse of manicured lawns and immaculately-maintained columns of the Gothic building are eye catching. However, for the most part, Balabrooie, which was the State guest house near Windsor Manor, lies empty and forlorn.
Balabrooie was once the home of  Sir M Visvesvaraya and later two  of Karnataka chief ministers Devaraj Urs, S Nijalingappa and B D Jatti. Another Chief Minister, S.R. Bommai, shifted into Balabrooie burt he lost power ten days later. Since then, few Chief Ministers have dared to enter the house and kept a safe distance from it.
The name Balabrooie is as romantic as the building. According to a book by former Chief Secretary, T P Issar, the guest house is styled on European classical lines and its name comes from the Isle of Man, located off the British coast in the Irish Sea.
A number of residences on the Isle bear the name Balabrooie which means ‘river bank farm. It was so named by Sir Mark Cubbon, the former chief commissioner of Bangalore, who hailed from the Isle of Man.
Balabrooie also served as the headquarters for the Justice Chandrasekhara Commission which enquired into the attacks on churches in Karnataka.
Once the nerve centre of political activities, Balabrooie is on Sankey Road and right opposite the High Grounds police station. The last long term occupant was Devaraj Urs.
Another important guest or rather the most important guest to have stayed on here was Mahatma Gandhi . Even his family members stayed on here during the freedom movement. Indira Gandhi also stayed here.

The museum of wood

Bangalore is home to some of the most unique museums in India and some of them cannot be found anywhere else.
The galleries of the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat, the exhibits of the Janapada Loka and the HAL aircraft and heritage centre are examples of such innovative museums.
Another such museum is the Woods Museum cum Interpretation Centre (WMIC) of the  Institute of Wood Science and Technology, which is located on 18th Cross in Malleswaram, Bangalore.
What sets this institution aside is that it not only has exhibits detailing the history of wood but it also is a centre that provides information to the people.
So this is a one stop wood centre where you can obtain  information and details of all aspects of wood as a material and importance of wood science and technology in the country.
This is one of the recent museums in Bangalore and it was inaugurated on January 4, 2012.
Popularly known as the WMIC, this is an unconventional knowledge house and this is what distinguishes the museum from being a mere storehouse of artifacts. One of the main aims of the institute was to set up such a centre to educate the common man on the science of wood. The institute holds that wood is not carpenter’s material and that it is man’s best friend and wood can be used to tide over the ecological crisis that is dogging the world today.
The wood museum gives us an insight from the origin of Earth to evolution of forests and trees to emergence of most recent trees.
The museum has several colorful panels and each of them takes the visitor into the fascinating world of wood.
The museum has several sections and each is devoted to different avatars of wood and wood making. A must see is the section on agencies causing biological degradation of wood.
The museum has a lot of information on wood preservation, processing and wood usage. There is information on how to arrive at the age of a tree by counting the rings.
Two large discs of teak in the museum are the museum’s USP.  One of the discs traces the time since British came to India till Indian Independence.  
The museum also gives us information on bamboo, its utilization and different forms. Among other interesting exhibits are a model showing how rural energy needs could be met by generating electricity from gasifying wood. There is also a large log eaten by many different kinds of insects.
There is a full section showing modern products of wood-Wood Polymer Composites, panel and engineered wood products.
Wood-polymer composite samples are also displayed.
Wood products made of plantation timber species- Acacia auriculaeformis and Acacia mangium like toys, artifacts and catamaran (Maesopsis eminii) are also attractively displayed in the museum.
The museum also has a section where spurious forms of wood are exhibited. The museum was set up at a modest cost of just Rs. 13 lakhs. Compare this cost to the crores that is spent on setting up other museums.
The museum hosts twenty varieties of trees in order of their weight. The lightest wood here is Balsa and the heaviest is Chundra. These are the woods that are used in construction business around the world.
The only other wood museum of note in India is in Dehradun.
Why travel all the way to Dehradun when you can see the wood museum in Bangalore itself.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Roerichs of Bangalore

Art and architecture or rather any fine art is bound to catch the attention of people and there are only a few who can resist from admiring works of art, be they literature, paintings, sculpture or even a building.
Bangalore has several buildings which in themselves are works of art and they also double up as storehouses of art. One such building is the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat.
The Parishat , which is better known as CKP in art circles, is one of the nest known institutions of its kind in the world. It has a history of its own and it is a rare repository of art.
Situated in the centre of Bangalore, the CKP has always been a favourite haunt of an art lover. A must see tourist spot in Bangalore, the institution has some outstanding galleries related to different forms of art.
One of the CKP’s matchless collections is  the 117 paintings of famed Russian artist Nicholas Roerich and his son Svetsolav Roerich.
The Roerichs were related to the Tzar of Russia and Svetsolav made Bangalore his home and stayed at his sprawling estate in Tataguni on Kanakapura Road near Bangalore along with his famous actress wife Devika Rani.
Both Nicholas and Svetsolav were excellent painters and Nicholas’  work ran parallel with the School of Bengal revivalism. It was Abanindranath Tagore who commenced this school which was distinctly nostalgic and romantic to start with. It held its forte in India for more than three decades as the Bengal School of Painting or Renaissance School( Revivalist School) as it was both. Despite its country-wide influence in the early years, its importance declined and by the 1940s it was almost dead.
The Bengal style synthesized the far eastern tradition of wash painting with traditions of Ajanta and Mughal painting. The medium used in these paintings is tempera. This gives all the paintings a chalky or pastel like quality. This is what Nicholas has used in his work.

The triangular hill is very prominent in his paintings and it is centrally located. It was his Shambala or the concept Himalaya is the link between the Earth and heaven.  
Dr. Svetoslav Roerich donated 117 paintings to the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath in 1990 and among them are many of his father.
The CKP decided to put paintings of both Prof. Nicholas Roerich and Svetoslav on permanent display in one of its galleries. The gallery holds 42 Himalayan paintings of Nicholas.
Svetoslav is represented with his landscapes, portraits and abstract works. Some of his miniatures which are now called Indian miniatures,  the canons of Tibetan Icon, ancient Russian painting, Muslim ornamentation and many more are all harmonized in his work.
Check put the paintings in which he has pictured the Kulu valley of Himachal and some works with biblical themes. His portraits of Devika Rani and Lakshmi are superb.  
If Nicholas was a mystic, Svetoslav was a romantic. If the father brought alive the Himalays, to the son goes the credit of romanticising the Kulu Valley.
What very few people know is that Svetoslav is the only artist whose three paintings adorn the central hall of Parliament in Delhi. The three paintings are of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Radhakrishnan.
Svetoslav was in love with Devika and this comes across in all his paintings of her. Many of the colours of Devika portraits are Svetoslav’s own. Many paintings have Devika with a flower in her hand.
Svetoslav prepared the colours for the paintings himself and many of them were based on his knowledge of Himalayana herbs and plants. He took up with enthusiasm the tradition of Indian miniatures to who different moods. He was particularly inspired by the Ragamaala style of paintings.
The Parishat’s permanent collection has Roerichs’ paintings. Two exclusive gallery floors have been set up in their memory.
The CKP is centrally located in Seshadripuram in Bangalore and buses and autos are easily accessible. It is  open to the public on all days between 10 am and 5 pm. However, the Parishat's personal collections, including the Roerich and Kejriwal Galleries are closed daily between 2 pm and 3 pm.

A beautiful statue of an ugly Queen

If Cubbon Park is named after a British officer who was never involved in its construction, one of the most beautiful statues is named after a person who never visited India, let alone Bangalore.
Sir Mark Cubbon never set his eyes on the park and he died a very ill man in the Suez in Egypt. Similarly, the statue of this individual still manages to draw “oohs” and “aahs” for its beauty but back in England, the person on whom the statue is modeled was considered to be fat and ugly.
The person who, the statue is modeled never set foot in India. Yet poets and writers eulogised the beauty and regal bearing and even wrote realms about the person.
The statue is that of  Queen Victoria who once ruled the world and she was the Empress of a Kingdom where the Sun never set or so the British thought and how wrong it proved to be. The Queen was also the Empress of India and she took this title very seriously.
She was the monarch of  the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from June 20, 1837 until her death on January 22, 1901. She was also the Empress of India from May 1, 1876, a title that Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) gave her to curry favour from the Empress.
Victoria became the Queen by chance. Her mother was a German and she inherited the English throne at the age of 18 after her father’s three elder brother died, leaving no legitimate heir.
Called Alexandrina Victoria, she married her cousin Price Albert of Saze-Coburg and Gotha in 1840.
The statue of Victoria in Cubbon Park was unveiled on February 5 1906 by George Frederick Ernest Albert, Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and York. He later became King George, the fifth.
The function to mark the unveiling was a fairly big one.
The statue today is more than 107 years old and this is one of the five remaining statues of the Empress in India. Before Independence in 1947, there were more than 50 statues of Victoria but many of them have vanished.
Strangely, the Victoria statue unveiled by George Frederick Albert was not his first. He had already unveiled several statues and memorials of the Empress not only in India but in several countries that were ruled by the British. The Prince left Bangalore for Karachi where he once again unveiled a huge statue of Victoria.
The Mysore Kingdom seem to have taken their fascination of Victoria to an unprecedented level. The diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria's coronation in 1897 was first celebrated in Bangalore and Mysore, four months ahead of the event back in England. The Wodeyars issued commemorative flags and the people of South India sent her pleasantries.
The Wodeyars always respected Queen Victoria as it was she who made Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar's mother the regent of Mysore for which the family was always grateful.
The Wodeyars also built the Victoria Hospital in Bangalore in memory of the Empress.
Coming back to the statue, it was constructed following a generous donation from the Wodeyars and  Frederick Ernest Albert alluded to it in the function.
There is a strange story about how the statue came up in Bangalore. Soon after her death on 1901, committees sprang up everywhere to discuss the most appropriate manner win which her memory could be commemorated. Bangalore set up a  Queen Victoria Memorial Fund  and it first met a little over a year after the Victoria died.
The committee decided to unveil her statue and it was funded by public subscription. But even six months after the fund raising activity wads commissioned, the public had only contributed Rs 10,000. In the end, the then Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, gave a generous grant but he died before the statue was unveiled.
It was Thomas Brock  of England who was given the task of  constructing the statue. Brock also built the magnificent Victoria Memorial in front of the Buckingham Palace in London.
Brock went to work in England and made an 11-foot-tall marble statue, which  along with its 13-foot granite pedestal then cost Rs 25,500. It was shipped from England and arrived in Bangalore on July 1905.
Brock also sculpted Victoria statues for Agra, Kanpur and Lucknow. He soon became a Victoria statue expert and he built 14 of them.
The Bangalore statue has Victoria dressed in flowing robes and with an orb and sceptre. However, the orb has lost its cross and the scepter is broken.
Today, the Empress who was widely known as ugly and fat in her home country, is widely admired for the beauty of her statue. You can see the beautiful Victoria from the MG road-Queens Road side of Cubbon Park

Monday, 25 March 2013

India's finest equestrian bronze

This is one of the finest bronze equestrian statues of India and it located in the Garden City of Bangalore.
It was entirely sculpted by one of the famous Italian artistes of his times. The bronze statue belongs to one of the many British military officers who made Bangalore their home and contributed immensely to the development of Bangalore and then Mysore State.
The statue today is a little out of public attention for the simple reason that it stands alone and isolated within the premises of one of the most beautiful buildings in Bangalore and entry to the building is restricted.
This is the statue of Sir Mark Cubbon (August 23, 1775 – April 23, 1861) the then Commissioner of Mysore State and a man who contributed immensely to the development of Bangalore.
The statue of Cubbon astride a horse is in front of the Karnataka High Court in Cubbon Park. Yes, the front of the High Court is the end which faces the Cubbon Park Band stand and not the structure that faces the Vidhana Soudha.
The bronze statue of Cubbon is on a pedestal a little away from the front portico of the High Court. You can see the statue from the small gate that is locked and which is situated on the fence that separates the High Court from the Cubbon Park.
This is the second oldest statue on Cubbon Park and was commissioned by Baron Carlo (Charles) Marochetti (January 4, 1805 – December 29, 1867) an Italian-born French sculptor.
Carlo Marochetti was born in Turin but brought up in Paris as a French citizen. His first teachers in art in Paris were Fran├žois Joseph Bosio and Antoine-Jean Gros.
When in Paris, he came up with the statue of  “A Young Girl playing with a Dog” in 1829 and this won him a medal. Since then, his career took off and he continued living in France till 1848. He then fled to England.
His first equestrian statue was that of Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, which today stands in the Piazza San Carlo in Turin. Italy.
He sculpted the equsterain statue of Richard the Lionheart in England.
Another statue of his, Robert Stephenson, which was installed in 1871 still stands in the forecourt of Euston Station. He made a bust of William Makepeace Thackeray for Westminster Abbey. He also created the marble recumbent effigies for the tomb of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore in Windsor Great Park and the statue on the Duke of Wellington Commemorative Column outside Stratfield Saye House.
From 1864 he collaborated with Sir Edwin Landseer on the four bronze lions to be placed around the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, and cast them at his foundry in London.
A favourite sculptor of Queen Victoria of England, he was commissioned to make the seated figure of Prince Albert for the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. However the first version was rejected by the architect of the monument, Sir George Gilbert Scott, and Marochetti died before a satisfactory second version could be completed.
Marochetti created the Cubbon bronze with great care. It is one of the most beautiful bronze statues in the country and the second oldest in Cubbon Park after that of Queen Victoria. The Cubbon statue was unveiled on March 16, 1866.
He also worked on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and the triumphal equestrian statues in Turin. However, much of his work is found in England.
His bronze equestrian of  Cubbon is one of the few equestrian statues in India. Some other equestrian statues are that of Chatrapathi Shivaji in Colaba in Mumbai, the statue of Rani Laxmi Bai, the equestrian statue of  Edward VII by Sir Bertram Mackennal close to Victoria Memorial and another statue of Bagha Jatin by the side of the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata.
Interestingly, the statue of Cubbon was moved a few feet after work commenced on the construction of  the new annexe of the High Court building

An oasis of green

This park, is the green lung of Bangalore and it is today nearly 150 years old. It is much bigger in area than the Lalbagh and it is ringed by a mass of concrete on all sides.
Though it is one of the finest parks of its kind, it is always accessible from its many entry points. Over the years, urbanization has eaten away at the park and it has been steadily reduced in extent.
However, the park has fought back the ravages of urbanization and its is today one of the best examples in India and even the world of a huge mass of green located and thriving right in a city centre.
Interestingly, the park is named after a person who never saw it in his lifetime. Infact, the very idea of the park germinated only nine years after the death of this person.
This park has been renamed thrice. It has been named twice after British officers and once after an Indian Maharaja. However, the first and third names have disappeared from public memory and the park is now better known from its second name.      
Sir Mark Cubbon was born on August 23, 1775 he joined as an officer of the East India Company. He became the British Commissioner of  Mysore State in 1834 and remained in this office till 1860. He was instrumental in moved the capital of Mysore State from Mysore to Bangalore and he also helped reform the finances of Mysore. He created a peaceful and prosperous Government.
Sir Cubbon is created with the construction of over one thousand miles of roads, hundreds of small dams and check dams, coffee production and improvement in the tax and revenue systems of Mysore State.
In 1859, when orders were issued to transfer the superintendence of Mysore affairs from the office of the Governor-General to the Government of Madras, Sir Cubbon resigned, saying that this was wrong and contrary to the declaration made by the Court of Directors in 1838. The order was withdrawn by the then Viceroy, Lord Canning 
Lord Cubbon died in Suez in Egypt on April 23, 1861 while returning to England in the company of his physician, Dr. Campbell.
Though the Cubbon Park is named after him, he never lived to either see it and plan it though the Internet has several articles attributing the development of the park to him.  
The man solely responsible to the laying out of the Cubbon Park is none other than Major Richard Sankey, the then Chef engineer of Mysore State.
The Cubbon Park was planned in 1870 and this was a good nine years after Sir Cubbon died. Initially, it covered an area of 100 acres (0.40 km2) and subsequent more areas were added to it and today its total extent is 300 acres (1.2 km2).
The park has a rich recorded history of flora and fauna and they merge aesthetically with the numerous impressive buildings in and around the park such as High Court, Vidhana Soudha, Government museum, Venkatappa Art Gallery, Seshadri Iyer Memorial Hall, Vikasa Soudha, General Post office, Raj Bhavan, KGID Building, Press Club of Bangalore and other buildings.
When this park was first commissioned, it was named as  “Meade’s Park” after Sir John Meade, the acting Commissioner of Mysore in 1870. It was only subsequently renamed as Cubbon Park after the longest serving commissioner of the time, Sir Cubbon.
In 1927, this park was once again renamed. This was to commemorate the silver jubilee of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar in 1927. It was then renamed as Sri Chamarajendra Park in memory of  Chamarajendra Wodeyar (1868 – 94), the ruler of Mysore, during whose rule the park came into existence.
Today, the park is still known by the name of Cubbon , while people have forgotten the other two names-Meade and Chamarajendra.
Like the Lalbagh, this park too is maintained by the Department of Horticulture. It has entrances from M G Road, Siddalingaiah Circle or Tiffany Circle, Hudson Circle, K R. Circle, Gopala Gowda Circle (in front of Vidhana Soudha) and Minsk Square.
Traffic is allowed on a few roads that crisscross the park and the lawn tennis building within the park, the High Court, GPO, Press Club, Horticulture Department offices hum with activity.
The landscaping in the park creatively integrates natural rock outcrops with thickets of trees, bamboo groves, grass and flowerbeds. The park has a joggers path, fountains, band stand, Bal Bhavan, children play area, amusement centre, museums and aquarium.
The park is home to 68 genres of botanical varieties, comprising d 96 species with 6000 plants, trees and shrubs. The indigenous species include artocarpus, cassia fistula, ficus and polyalthias  and exotic species such as araucaria, bamboo, castanospermum australe, grevillea robusta, millettia, peltophorum, schinus molle, swietenia mahagoni and tabebuia.
Several ornamental and flowering trees line the roads in the park such as Grevillea robusta (silver oak)—the first oaks introduced to Bangalore from Australia—and the delonix or the gulmohar tree (bright red flowers with long petals) along the Cubbon road in the park, which is a widely cultivated tropical ornamental tree around the world.
The avenue of araucarias along with Canna beds on either sides of the road from the public library to Hudson circle is a delight as is the  avenue of Swieteninas in the northern side of the park and  the Java fig avenue along the road leading to the Government Museum.
Polyalthia is planted along the avenue from Queen’s Statue to King Edward Statue and the chestnut tree avenue is from the statue of  Chamarajendra Wodeyar to Siddalingaiah Circle.
Other attractions include the Ringwood circle, lotus pond and bamboo grove nook. The High Court is one of the finest buildings in Bangalore and though admission is restricted, you can admire it from the park itself. You have to get a pass to High Court and Vidhana Soudha if you have to see the interiors