Monday 31 December 2012

The Mahatma in Bangalore

Mahatma Gandhi has a special attachment to Bangalore where he stayed during his visits to Karnataka, particularly to recuperate at Nandi Hills.
Old-timers still recall the 45 days that a frail and ailing Gandhi stayed at Nandi Hills during 1936 when he had very high blood pressure. The doctors had advised him complete rest and he chose Nandi Hills to recuperate.
Gandhi stayed at the present Gandhi Bhavan. The bhavan is being renovated. The building was earlier under the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms (DPAR), but now the State Government has transferred its management to the Department of Tourism.
The Tourism Department has taken up work on expansion and renovation of Gandhi Bhavan at a cost of Rs. 25 lakh. The garden, which has a statute of Mahatma Gandhi, is also being improved.
When he left Nandi Hills on May 31, his secretary, Mahadeva Joshi, wrote in the visitor’s book: “Many thanks for all the kindness extended during Gandhiji's stay on the hill.”
Gandhi stayed on in Bangalore from May 31 to June 10, 1936. He went to Kengeri and from there went to Madras.
When in Nandi Hills, Gandhi was a frequent visitor to Madaku Hosahalli village at the foothills and conducted bhajans. A large number of local people participated in the bhajans and the people later renamed the village as Gandhipura.
Vemagal Somashekar, a writer, has written about Gandhi’s stay in Nandi Hills and the village in his book, “Nandi Giridhamadalli Mahatma Gandhi.”
Rudrapatnam Shamasastry (1868–1944), Sanskrit scholar and librarian at the Oriental Research Institute Mysore, who discovered the Arthashastra in the institute and translated it, met Gandhi in 1927 at Nandi Hills where he was camping and presented him with his translated copy of  the Arthashastra.
Shamashastry had discovered the Arthashastra in 1925. Gandhi appreciated the book aswell as the efforts of the Sanskrit scholar in bringing to light one of the foremost books of ancient India.
Gandhi also visited Bangalore in 1934 to collect funds for the “Harijan Fund”.  He held a series of meetings at a place in Malleswaram where a club stands today. He also visited Malleswaram Ladies Club in 1934 where ladies donated their jewellery for the national cause.
The club has preserved this visit pictorially
Gandhi visited Karnataka eigthteen times and he was in Bangalore fourteen times.
Apart from Gandhi Sahitya Sangha, the present day Gandhi Bhavan and his homestay on Nandi Hills are the only places that has been preserved.
The Mahatma also stayed at Kumara Krupa Guest House for a month. When Gandhi came to Bangalore in 1927, there was a big reception for him organised at several places. His first public meeting then was at the Yeshwanthpur railway station when the train halted.
The then Maharaja of Mysore, gave Gandhi the status of a State guest and put him up along with his followers at Kumara Krupa guest house. Rajaji stayed here along with Gandhi. As Rajaji and others were fond of coffee, a temporary kitchen where coffee was available at all times was set up. Gandhi, however, preferred his cup of tea or milk. He is believed not have tasted the coffee. 
The Maharaja also ensured that Gandhi and his followers had simple vegetarian food. He also arranged for other simple facilities, including medicines. However, there is no signboard or memorial about this stay at the guest house.
The other places in Bangalore associated with Gandhiji’s visit have been forgotten and converted into commercial places.
The place where Gandhi held prayer meetings, Kumara Park, is a five-star swimming pool. However, there is a board saying “this was the place where Gandhiji used to hold prayers’.
Gandhi also visited the Mahila Seva Samaja and during his first visit at the request of D V Gundappa (DVG) attended a prayer meeting to mark the death of Gopala Krishna Gokhale in Basavanagudi locality of Bangalore.
Of all Gandhi’s  visit to Bangalore, his third stay was the longest. It lasted from April 20, 1927  to August 30, 1927-a total of 87 days.
Today, we have Gandhinagar and MG Road in remembrance to the Mahatma. Both these places are unGandhian in the sense that they are not what the great man stands for.

Saturday 29 December 2012

The Narasimha in Bangalore that rids you of Kuja Dosha

In the Hindu pantheon, Narasimha is considered to be one of the Dashavatars of Hari or Vishnu.
There are many famous Narasimha temples in India and Bangalore too has its share of them. Unfortunately, the Narasimha Temple in Bangalore is not well-known as others.
The Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy Temple at Roopena Agrahara is one of its kind in India. Located on Hosur Main Road, this is the only temple of Narasimha in India with the “Narasimha Meru.” The Meru belongs to an ancient period. It is a hill shaped chakra made specifically for Narasimha.
It is believed that a pradakshana around this Chakra will clear kuja dosha.
The place where this temple is situated is also called Hari Vaikunta Kshetra. The Temple is believed to be 400 yrs old. Nowhere in India is Narasimha Meru to be seen except here.
 Devotees perform pooja and then give  Tur Dal to the meru to help them get rid of  Kuja Dosha and many related problems like infertility, financial problem, delay in Marriage.
The meru is considered very holy as it holds all the mantras (Bejakshra) related to Narasimha. It is therefore considered to be very powerful and is rarely found.
The Meru has Adhi Kurma, Adhi Varaha, Adhi Vasuki and Adhi Manduka inside it. At the base of the Meru,  you can see Chethur Yalli and Asta Gaga. At the top of the charka, you can see Shreekara and Omkara.
The priest here told me that you have to perform 48 pradakshanas to Narasimah and thes Meru carrying tur dal in the palm. The tur dal will be used during anna dana on Swathi Nakshatra of every month.
The Narasimha here is in a sitting posture. He is surrounded by idols of Adi Lakshmi, Santhana Lakshmi, Gaja Lakshmi, Dhana Lakshmi, Dhanya Lakshmi, Vijaya Lakshimi, Veera Lakshmi and Aishwarya Lakshmi (Asta Lakshmis).
Vishnu took the avatar of  Narasimha during Vaishaka Masa on Swathi Nakshatra to kill Hiranya Kasipu. Hence every Swathi Nakshatra sees special poojas to the deity here.
Roopena Agrahara is on Hosur Main Road and the temple is well-known in the area. For details you can contact 91– 080 –25732289: 91 – 080 – 25732289.
There are some other Narasimha temples in Bangalore such as the one at Kammasandra and at Balepet near the Majestic Busstand.
However, the most well-known temple of Narasimha around Bangalore is in Seebi near Sira, Tumkur district, the Narasimha temples of Devarayanadurga and at Savandurga, all in Tumkur district.

The angler's delight near Bangalore

I have often heard people complaining that there is not much to see in and around Bangalore. They forget that Bangalore itself is a hill station with a salubrious climate. The summers here are much cooler than many parts of India.
The rainy season is a pleasure but not if you are on the road. The other months-October to May-is a pleasure. Bangalore offers you a host of activities.
If you are interested in fishing, water sports and of course wildlife nothing like Bheemeshwari, which is just two hours away from Bangalore. This is also the nearest forest cover from Bangalore.
The Bheemeshwari is on the banks of  Cauvery which meanders through undulating hills and thick woods which are host to a number of wildlife.
Bheemeshwari is easily approachable from Kanakapura which is 56 kms from Bangalore. The river here is an adventurer’s delight. Soak in the pristine Nature at its best here.
Remember that the Masher fishing in these waters is world famous and Angler Magazine has featured it among the nest of its kind.
Check out the Bheemeshwari Fishing and Nature Camp which offers a host of activities, including a day’s trip.
The forests around Bheemeshwari are host to more than 200 species of birds, like Grey headed fish eagle, Pied crested cuckoo, darter. Get into the forests of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and you will be sure to spot sambar, spotted deer, jackals, grizzled giant squirrel, leopard.Marsh crocodiles, wild pig, fresh water turtles and even elephants.
However, for years, the mighty Mahseer has been a major draw for visitors here. You can only angle the Masheer, weigh it and then let it back into the river. This is an angler’s oath. Fishing techniques that are popular here are  Bait fishing, Fly fishing and Spinning. For anglers, the fishing season is from November to  February.
If you are not comfortable angling, go in a coracle and lazy in it as the forests pass by. Go river rafting which is available from mid-June to mid- September.
The fishing hours at the Bheemeshwari camp commences at 6:30 a.m., and lasts till 10:30 a.m., and again from 4 p.m., to 7 p.m. 
The camp also gives you a chance to trek around the Basavana Betta. The six-hour trek will give you a panoramic view of the Cauvery flowing through the valley below. Treks of a shorter duration are undertaken in the early mornings. The Shiva temple nearby the camp is worth a look and it is worshipped by locals.
If you want to see the river in spate, go during June to August.
 Day visit costs upwards of Rs. 1,500. The camp is operated by Jungle Lodges and Resorts which has an office in Shrungar Complex on MG Road or at Khanija Bhavan on Race Course Road. You can access their website for more information or telephone 91-80-4055405591: 80- 25597944 / 25584111 / 25559261 for more information.
The road upto Kanakapura is good and from there to the camp is just okay. You can either hire a private four-wheeler or if you like biking, arrange for a ride. Let me tell you once you cross Bangalore, the ride is worth a tale.

The cave for a trekker

Darkness has always fascinated man. It is in the dark that a man’s real test of character is put to test. If darkness holds no terror, then motor down to the cave temple in Chandravalli in Chitradurga district for a vacation.
The cave is one of the oldest structures of its kind and it has a small temple within. The cave is called Chandravalli and it is just three kms away from Chitradurga.
What makes this cave unique is that it is located in the vicinity of three hills- Chitradurga, Cholagudda and Kirubana­kallu. The way to the cave is to ask for the Ankali Matha. This is a popular matha and many will be able to easily guide you to the place.
When you approach the hills, you can see a lake. Just across the lake is the cave temple.
The approach to the cave is between two huge boulders. This is the beginning of the Matha. The cave shaft is well over 75 feet in depth. You can walk upright for most part of the walk into the cave. The cool breeze will surely make you feel better.
When you enter into the cave, you can see a linga. There are rooms for praying, meditation and shelves for saints and holy men to keep their belongings, library and bathrooms. You can also spot some carvings and paintings.
Better not venture without a guide as you can easily get lost. The cave has a different exit route. The cave is believed to have many secret hiding places and doors.
The end point of the cave is called Rahasya Sthala or secret point. This is believed to have been the last place of refuge by Kings from their enemies.
If you are a history buff, explore the many rock inscriptions and artifacts dating back from the Iron Age. There is also a rock inscription belonging to Mayura Sharma, the founder of the Kadamba Kingdom of Banavasi. This inscription is believed to be dated about 450 AD.
Check out the rock inscription and stone carvings in the Bhairaweshwara temple. The paintings here have been drawn by using vegetable colours.
Chitradurga is 198 kms from Bangalore and Chandravalli is just a few kms away from here. There are a number of buses and you can visit Chandravalli in a day and come back to Bangalore. The national highway to Chitradurga is a motorists’ delight. Plenty of food and even accommodation is sailable in Chitradurga.    
If you have time, go around the Yelu Suttina Kote or Chitradurga fort and the several temples that dot the city.

A rustic resort amidst teeming millions

The stretch of the Cauvery from Sangam, downstream to Bheemeshwari near Bangalore offers a variety of  activities.
If Bheemeshwari lures you with Masheer angling, then surely Doddamakali is the right place for bird watchers.
The Doddamakali camp which operated by Jungle Lodges and Resorts is located 6 km upstream from Bheemeshwari.
The camp has a rustic atmosphere and is bang on the riverside. The Cauvery flows serenely by and the first things that greets you is the chirping of birds and the lack of crowds.
There are more than 200 varieties of birds here including water bird avian such as Pied kingfisher, Spot Billed duck, Black-bellied river tern, Osprey and the grey-headed fish eagle. When you trek into the forests you can spot  honey buzzard, pied crested cuckoo and several other species. 
Go deep into the forests and try you luck at spotting the elusive leopard, jackals, wild boar, elephant, sambar, spotted deer and giant squirrels.
If you still have time, take a coracle ride down the Cauvery or just sit down near the river and bird watch. You can also go for a trek.
The best time to visit Doddamakili is during and just after the monsoon- between July, August and February- when the forest and its surroundings are lush green.
The camp offers eight twin-bedded, spacious tented cottages with attached bath. However, there is no electricity here. A few hurricane/ solar lamps are provided which add to the natural ambience of the place.
Doddamakali thus is an oasis of peace and calm. The reats for a day’s starts at Rs. 1,300.
To reach Doddamakali, you have to go past Halagur just off Kanakapura and drive through a metalled road and reach Shimshapura village.
Halgur is a small town past Kanakpura on the Bangalore-Kanakapura road. From Shimshapura, you have to either walk down or negotiate through winding road in a  jeep. You can stay at Doddamakali, if you are interested in real wilderness and are prepared to rough it out. For more details contact the Jungle Lodges and Resorts offices either at MG Road or Race Course Road.

Sunday 23 December 2012

The cake story

Talk about cakes and your mouth starts watering. Cakes are meant to be relished and there are only a few who can resist a cake. However, every December, Bangalore hosts an event where the cakes are meant only to be stared at and enjoyed minus tasting. This is the famous annual cake show of the Nilgiris.
The cake has been on map of Bangalore just before Christmas and it draws thousands of visitors every day. For the last few years the cake exhibition is being organised  at the sprawling playgrounds of the St. Joseph’s Indian Composite High School on Vittal Mallya Road, adjacent to the Mallya Hospital.
Apart from the many cakes that are exhibited, the event also features several products which are put up for show in the form of an exhibition or fair. This year around, the cake exhibition was part of the consumer fair and it drew huge crowds. 
Every year, the Nilgiris prepare a huge cake which takes the pride of place. If it was Gol Gumbaz last year (2011), it was a huge complex called Pentagon of communal harmony where the major faiths or religions of India-temple (Hindu), Mosque (Muslim) and Church (Christian), Stupa (Buddhists) and Gurudwara (Sikhs)  was displayed.
There were also cakes representing a grandfather clock, a Barbie doll and a train with a station and shoe.     
The 2011 cake show featured an almost perfect replica of the famous Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur. Of course this was a sweeter Gol Gumbaz as it was made of pastries and sweets. The detail in the monument was unbelievable.
This year too the eye for details was amazing. No wonder, the cake exhibition is an eagerly awaited event which is held towards the second part of December.
The Pentagon cake is mammoth in proportion. It is a  yummy  22 feet by 22 feet (width) by 16 feet (height) delicacy. The exhibition opened on December 14.
C Ramachandran, 73, the former director of Nilgiris, has been the brain behind the annual cake exhibition.
Other cakes which were a huge draw this year were the Pagoda , Spiderman, Cake city, a red motor cycle, wedding bride and Simba the lion. There are money others that are spread over 10,000 sq feet of place.
The erstwhile owner of Nilgiris, Ramchandran, sold Nilgiris in 2006 and he is now the Chairman of the  Blue Hills Group which now organises the exhibition.
But people of Bangalore are so used to calling it Nilgiris, that the name has struck. It is no easy task making an exhibition of cakes click. This was the 38th exhibition of cakes.
The first cake show by Nilgiris was held in 1969 and the venue was St. Joseph’s College of Commerce. The first year itself drew large crowd and they stretched upto the Nilgiri stores on Brigade Road.    
The cakes are not for sale but if any visitor is interested, he can order any particular cake he likes and it will be delivered to him.   
Some of the “monumental” cakes that have draw hordes of visitors every day are Vidhana Soudha, Seven wonders of the World, TaJ Mahal. Bangalore and Mysore Palace. 

Tuesday 18 December 2012

The renaming spree

A few days ago, when I inquired from an autorickshaw driver where the Chamarajendra park was in Bangalore, he looked totally perplexed.
He had always prided himself  on keeping abreast of the development of Bangalore City and his boast was that he knew almost every nook and corner of Bangalore.
My question put him in an embarrassing position and he murmured that he did not know. I told him I would show him the park and took him to Cubbn Park.
This is the park that has been renamed as Chamarajendra Park, I said. The autorickshaw driver stoutly denied it and said it is known only as Cubbon Park and so shall it remain.
His disbelief evaporated when I showed him a stone tablet renaming the park. He was angry at the manner in which the park had been renamed. Why do such places need to be renamed, he asked.
Having lost face once, he once again challenged me to show him one more area or road that had been renamed. I promptly asked him to take me to Field Marshal Cariappa Road. This time around he made no pretence of scratching his head or muttering aloud.
He gave up and asked me where this road is. I told him Residency Road on which we were travelling now had been renamed as Cariappa Road several decades ago.
The conversation with the autorickshaw driver then centered on the renaming of roads and localities in Bangalore.
The renaming spree started when India gained Independence in 1947. The then civic corporation decided to rename roads and intersections after freedom fighters.
The first road to be renamed after Independence was South Parade Road. It had been aptly named by the British as the British troops marched on this road to the nearby Parade Grounds. It was named Mahatma Gandhi (MG) Road.
When Bangalore passed into the hands of the Wadiyars after the death of Tipu Sultan on May 1799, they had renamed the Fort Main Road as Krishna Rajendra Wadiyar. Now, it is better known as K.R.Road.
Residency Road was used by the British Resident to commute to and from his house-the headquarters of the SBI. The road was renamed as Field Marshal Cariappa Road. However, the old name is still popular and it still stands the test of time. As afar as the name name goes, none seems to have heard of it.
Another British sounding name-Mission Road has been named after the well-known singer, Kalinga Rao. The new name continues to elude the memory of Bangaloreans who prefer the older name.  
The Grant Road has been renamed as Vittal Mallya Road and this new name seems to have struck. Similarly, the Sampangiramnagar Main Road has been renamed as Raja Ram Mohan Roy Road.
Another road which has lost its original name is Kasturba Road. During earlier days it was known as Sidney Road.
The Albert Victor Road, which starts near City Market,  was renamed as Alur Venkata Rao Road. Even today, the road bears the shortened form of the name AV Road- none knowing the real name.
Another landmark road-Cavalry Road has been renamed as Kamaraja Road and the Madras Bank Road, which stretched from Airlines Hotel to the State Bank of India (SBI) headquarters on St. Marks Road, has also been renamed.
The Ashoka Pillar Road was once Kanakanapalya Main Road. Kanakanapalya was a small village several decades ago. Both the village and its name have vanished without a trace.
The Cubbonpet Main Road is now T M Naganna Road but this is still popular by its old name. The East End Road from Minerva Circle in Mavalli to the beginning of Jayanagar has been renamed as R.V.Road, while a part of Sankey Road has been named after T.Chowdaiah.
Apart from roads, even localities have been renamed but in some cases the old names are still struck in memory of the people. Frazer Town has been renamed as Pulakeshi Nagar but people know it by its older name. MacIver Town has become Shantala Nagar, and Cox Town is Jeevanahalli.
Similarly, several other localities in and around Cantonment have been renamed. Benson Town is Kadamba Nagar but who knows the new name. Doddakunte is now Sarvagna Nagar, and part of Thomas Town is B.L. Rice Nagar, Murphy Town is  Hoysala Nagar and Williams Town is K.C. Reddy Nagar.
One of the oldest localities of Bangalore -Tasker Town –has been renamed as Swami Shivanandapuram, and Richmond Town as Sir Ismail Mirza Nagar. Neither of the two names are familiar to Bangaloreans.
Even the intersections and traffic circles have been renamed. The Oriental Circle has been renamed as Anil Kumble Circle, while Ringwood Circle is now known as Kantharaj Urs Circle. The Irwin Circle, at the junction of K.R. Road and Lalbagh Fort Road, is Professor Shivashankar Circle.
Among other roads and localities that have been renamed are Austin Town as F.Kittel Nagar, Suddaguntepalya Road (part of Bannerghatta Road) as Christ School Road, Anepalya as Gajendranagar and  Miller's Road is Basaveshwara Road.
However, some roads that have been renamed have become popular by their new names. The Cenotaph Road was renamed as Nruputunga Road and it is the new name that has struck. Parts of  Palace Orchards has been ranamed as Vyalikaval, Sadashivanagar and they have remained so. The old name also exists but it is only for a small locality.  
Nobody knows  how the renaming has helped Bangalore. The roads and localities were named for a particular reason. For example, Kurmbeigal Road adjoining Lalbagh was so named to honour a great German botanist who contributed immensely to the development of Lalbagh.
Similarly, Cubbon and Sankey were among the host of British officers who strove hard for the development of Bangalore. Why should their names be erased. Can history be erased ?
As it is developmental activities and unchecked urbanization have sufficiently destroyed the heritage of Bangalore. Do we need the needless renaming to erase what little is left of our history.       

Saturday 15 December 2012

When Elgin passed into oblivion

Almost an year ago, that is on December 29, 2011, a little bit of Bangalore’s heritage passed into the realms of history. The reel life merged into the real life, finally showing that the reel could only imitate real for some time and not for all times.
The reel of  Elgin Talkies, one of South India’s oldest theatre, finally stopped, albeit permanently.
An iconic theatre, the Elgin situated in the erstwhile Blackpalli area which subsequently became Shivajinagar, was a reminder of the once glorious past of Bangalore. But not anymore. The theatre finally shut shop in 2011 after several decades of showing reel life to people.
Apart from being one of the oldest theatre in south India, Elgin has also the distinction of  being run by the same family for the entire duration of its operation.
The Mudaliar family built the theatre in 1896 and remember this was the year that Luminere brothers came to Bombay (now Mumbai) and demonstrated a reel of silent cinema. Since then, Elgin had remained a part of Bangalore’s priceless heritage, adored by the family that built it, revered by the knowledgble film buffs and cheered on by the audiences that came to feel the first hand experience of one of the oldest buildings of Bangalore.
Four generations of the Mudaliar family took care of the Elgin right from its inception by Veerabhadra Mudaliar. The Elgin remained the same till 1996 when it came to be first renovated. Till then, nothing had changed at Elgin and even time had stood still.
Though the viewers came in droves, the seating arrangement which was put in place in 1896 remained the same for exactly one hundred years. It was only in 1996, that new seating made its presence felt.
However, many other things in the Elgin remained the same. The Simplex manual Projector, which is unique because it has an inbuilt audio system, was still being used. It was installed first in Elgin sometime in 1931. The projector needed constant care and spares were available in Bangalore itself.
When the Elgin closed down after one last hurrah at the box office, the projector was still in running condition.
Like its building, the projector too passed into history. And very much like the Elgin, the projector too had its share of  limelight.    
To Elgin goes the credit of being part of Indian film history when it screened the first Hindi  movie ever made-Alam Ara-in 1932.
The projector has screened itself into celluloid history-showing silent films from 1907 to 1932 and later Hindi classics and potboilers.
Unlike the modern projectors, the Simplex manual needs two men to operate. While one person operates the machine for the show, the other has to roll out the used reels back for the next show.
Even today, residents of  Shivajinagar and scores of old-timers recollect how they paid just 60 paise for a ticket at the stalls and Rs 1.95 for the balcony. The balcony was closed a few years ago but the ticket costed about Rs. 25.
When it closed down, Elgin had four shows.
In 1939, the Elgin was transformed into a cinema theatre from earlier being a talkies. Till them it had catered to audiences for plays and dramas.  It was a real treat to watch a movie here as the many small eateries around the theatre had mouth watering food.
Though away from the Gandhinagar crowd, Elgin managed to make a name for itself.      

Blaming Nilgiris for reduced water inflow

Eucalyptus is one of the most common trees found in India, This tree is so widespread that it can be seen in states from Jammu Kashmir to Tamil Nadu.
However, this is not a native tree of India and it was first imported into India by Tipu Sultan in the later years of the 18th century from Australia.
The first eucalyptus trees were planted at the base of the Nandi Hills. The trees adapted so quickly to Indian conditions that they became very popular and farmers began planting them in large numbers.
Over the centuries,  eucalyptus or Nilgiri plantations have come up in large areas in Bangalore, Chikaballapur and Kolar districts. The social forestry schemes involved large-scale planting of Nilgiris.
Even Lalbagh in Bangalore had many Nilgiri trees. These trees were used to extract Nilgiri oil and they did not require much water to survive. However, this view has been hotly debated by biologists and geological experts who put forwards conflicting views.
While one section of the scientific community say that Nilgiri trees lead to decreased ground water, others say that there is no such thing and that Nilgiris can survive in little water. Whatever be the outcome of the debate, the Government of Karnataka seems to have decided that further planting of Nilgiris is harmful to water table.
The Government has even gone to the extent of blaming the Nilgiri trees for reduced inflow of water into Bangalore through the Arkavathy and other rivers that originate in and around Nandi Hills.
Nandi Hills is home to several rivers and the Arkavathy and Kumudavathi feed the growing  thirst of Bangalore. These two rivers empty into the TG Halli and Hesarghatta reservoirs but over the last few years the huge reservoirs have never filled up.
Studies by the State Government, Karnataka Neeravari Nigam and BWSSB have blamed Nilgiri trees for reduced inflow of water in the rivers and also into the reservoirs.
The BWSSB study has blamed widespread Nilgiri plantations in and around Nandi Hills and Hulukudi Hills for low ground water table in these areas. The study says as the Nilgiri tree has deep roots, they search water from deeper sources.
The Nilgiri trees cannot retain water like other trees. They, therefore, keep on sucking water. They also come in the way of recharging ground water.
Even as the debate on whether or not to permit Nilgiri trees continues, the bigger issue of encroachment of hills and places near water sources and in and around Nandi Hills seems to have been put on the back burner.
Growing urbanisation, greed for land, felling trees in the name of development  and unchecked construction activities have dried up water sources and also led to reduced inflow into rivers, lakes and dams.
Bangalore once had so many lakes that they the city looked like an island. Today, the lakes are all gone and the green cover in and around Bangalore has been substantially reduced. The city planners still seem to be in a slumber where protecting the environment is concerned.  
The storm water drains in Bangalore have been encroached upon and a majority of the lakes have been breached in the name of development. What is the result? Even today, Bangalore’s thirst for  waters has remained unquenched.   

Friday 14 December 2012

The Kempe Gowdas of Bangalore

Bangalore is so very well known that it is difficult to find any person not aware of the city., Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about its founder Kempe Gowda.
Not much is known about Kempe Gowda except that he founded the city of Bangalore. Worse, there seems to be no unanimity about the period and life of Kempe Gowda. Wile some historians say there were several Kempe Gowdas, others say there were only two.
Whatever the controversy, there seems to be practically no information about the ancestry of the Kempe Gowda.
This post here is an attempt to  throw light on the ancestors of Kempe Gowda.
One of the direct ancestors of Kempe Gowda was Ranabaire Gowda. He lived near Alur in Kanchi with his family and a large number of friends and supporters. He was supposed to be a wealthy man.
He was a Morasu Vokkaliga. He was the eldest of a family of  seven brothers. He had three sons and a beautiful daughter called Doddamma.
The beauty of Doddamma attracted the attention of the local chieftain of the area and he sent a marriage proposal. He sent emissaries seeking immediately the hand of  Doiddamma. Ranabaire Gowda refused.
However, he realised that the refusal could cost him his life. At the dead of night he confabulated with his brothers, friends and supporters and set out of the country with his money and wealth. He reached the Palar river which was swollen with floods.
Meanwhile, the local chieftain had not taken kindly to the refusal of his marriage proposal. He had decided to take revenge but when he came to Alur he found that the Gowda and his family had escaped. He set out in persuit and noticed the camp  on the banks of Palar.
Doddamma realized the danger from the local chieftain and she prayed to God to allow them to pass. The flood waters receded , permitting Ranabaire Gowda and his family to cros the river. However, the river flooded once again. leaving the chieftain on the other bank-angry and unable to do anything.
The Gowda clan escaped to safety and they came upon an isolated place  which today is the small town of Awati. When they were camping here, Rana Baire Gowda noticed a broom sticking up from the earth. When he tried to pullout out, it did not come up. He caked his servants but even they failed to lift the broom.
Finally, he asked a group to dig and found copper vessels placed one on the other . These vessel were full of jewels and treasures. Since he area was controlled by the Vijayanagar empire, Gowda sought permission of the monarch for establishing a city. The permission was given and thus was born the principality of Awati.
His son, Jaye Gowda, was the youngest and it was his ambition to set up a separate kingdom. He came to Bangalore region and conquered Yelahanka in 1418, thus founding the Kempe Gowda line that ruled over Bangalore for more than a century. He died in 1433.
He had two sons-Gidde Gowda and Mache Gowda. Gidde Gowda became the ruler in 1433 and continued till 1443.
His son, Kempenanje Gowda ruled for 70 years, he died in 1513 and he was followed by the most famous of the clan-Kempe Gowda.
 It s this Kempe Gowda that built Bangalore and the Bangalore fort. The city of Bangalore had nine tanks, nine temples and nine gates. He is considered to be the first builder of Bangalore, He built the Kempambudhi Tank, Bull Temple and temples of Vinayaka, Hanuman and Veerabhadra.
Another temple ascribed to him is the Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple in Gavipuram. Under Kempe Gowda, Bangalore prospered. Rama Raya became angry when Kempe Gowda minted coins in his name. He called Kempe Goiwda to Vijayanagar (Hampi) where he was imprisoned for five years.
Kempe Gowda managed to free himself after paying a hefty ransom. After his release, he came to Shivaganga and renovated the temples of Gangadhara and Swarnambika there. He stayed at the place for several years in a hall which exists even today. It is called the Kempe Gowda Hall.
He was succeeded by Kempe Gowda the second. He added extensively to the Somashwara Temple in Ulsoor built by Jaye Gowda. He moved his capital from Bangalore to Magadi. He went into war against the Adil Shah General Ranadullah Khan. He was defeated and Bangalore taken away from him and given to Shahaji, father of Shivaji, as a jagir.
He was succeeded by Mummadi Kempe Gowda. He ruled from 1658 to 1678.  His subjects affectionately called him the Rain maker. Once when there was severe drought, his subjects appealed to him for help. Mummadi prayed and the very next day saw Magadi and Bangalore enjoying bountiful rains.
He was succeeded by Dodda Veerappa who ruled from 1678 to  1705. Kempe Gowda the third was the last king. He was also called Kempa Veerapa Gowda. He was defeated by the Wodeyar kings and Magadi came under Wodeyar rule.
An account of  Kempe Gowda and his rule is contained in a book called Veerabhadra Vijaya written by Ekambara Dixit. Some details about this last ruler, who was imprisoned in Srirangapatna, is also available from six palm leaves belonging to the Hulikal branch of Kempe Gowdas near Bangalore.  
After his death, the Kempe Gowda line became extinct and Bangalore fell into the hands of  Adil Shahs, Maratthas, Mughals, Hyder-Tipu, British and finally Wodeyars.    

The many Dewans

When Tipu was killed in May 1799 by the British in Srirangapatna, the Mysore Kingdom once again passed into the hands of the Wodeyars.
The Wodeyars transferred the capital from Srirangapatna to Mysore. Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the third, had ascended the throne in 1799. His rule was cut short when the British in 1831 decided to take over the governance of Mysore State on the saw the pretext of maladministration.
It was during this period that Bangalore saw the rule of the Mysore Kingdom by two Commissioners, Cubbonn and Bowring, who improved Bangalore and contributed to its growth and development.
Krishnaraja Wodeyar passed away in 1868 and he was succeeded by Chamarajendra Wodeyar. Yet, it was only in 1881 that the British decided to hand over the Mysore kingdom back to the Wodeyars. Chamarajendra Wodeyar (1868-1894), Vani Vilas Sannidhana (Regent from 1894-1902), Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1894-1940), the fourth, and Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar (1940-1950) set the Mysore State on the path of development and progress..
The Wodeyars were helped in the administration of the State by the Diwans who weilded enormous power. Almost all the Dewans did their best to help make Mysore State one of the most progressive in India.
Mysore State had thirteen Dewans from 1881 to 1947.
The first Dewan was  C. Rangacharlu (1881-82). He was followed by K. Seshadri Iyer (1883-1901). The others Dewans are: T.R.V. Thambuchetty (1901), P.N. Krishnamurthy (1901-06), V.P. Madhava Rao (1906-09), T. Ananda Rao (1909-1912), M. Visvesvaraya (1912-19), M. Kantha Raje Urs (1919-22), Sir Albion Banerjee (1922-26), Sir Mirza Ismail (1926-41), Incharge Diwan Sir M.N. Krishna Rao, N. Madhava Rao (1941-46), and Arcot Ramaswamy Mudaliar (1946-47).
After Mudaliar, the post of Dewan was abolished. Mysore had joined the Indian union and the post of the Maharaja also lapsed after the death of Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar.
Many of the Dewans had a direct role in the emergence of Bangalore as one of the foremost cities of India. Let me start with Dewan Rangacharlu.
He was instrumental in setting up Whitefield as a colony for Anglo-Indians. It was during his tenure that the Bangalore-Mysore railway line was completed and work commenced on the Bangalore-Tiptur line. He also set up a committee of people which could bring to the Government’s notice views of the people on the functioning and policy of the State.
It was under Seshadri Iyer that Asia’s first hydro-electric generating unit was set up in  Shivasamudra (1900). The Kolar Gold Fields was made functional and the Mysore railway netwrosk extended by 170 miles.
This Dewan had a special love for Bangalore. It was he who planned the new extensions of Basavanagudi and Malleswaram (1898), the Glass House in Lalbagh (1889), Victoria Hospital (1900), Hesaraghatta Water Supply Scheme (1896).
He also encouraged the establishment of  the Indian Institute of Science (1911).
Bangalore today remembers him in a variety of ways. The  Seshadripuram locality, Seshadri Road, Seshadri Memorial Library and his statue in the Cubbon Park are all examples of affection that Bangaloreans had for him.
Sir M. Visvesvaraya was one of the most famous Dewans. To him goes the credit of setting up the Mechanical Engineering School (1913), Agricultural School (1913), Hebbal Agricultural Training School (1912), Mysore University (1916) and Kannada Sahitya Parishat (1915).
He also started the Bhadravati Iron and Steel factory, Sandal Oil and Soap Factories (1916), and Tata Silk Farm Laboratory (1913) in Bangalore. The lab has disappeared but the name remains.
We also owe him the credit for commencing work on  Krishnaraja Sagar Dam near Mysore. Not many know that this statesman engineer took keen interest in  the beautification of Bangalore.
Another Dewan, Sir Mirza Ismail also took up works to beautify Bangalore. He worked on setting up the Tippegondanahalli project for supplying water to Bangalore and was instrumental in setting up Mandya Sugar Factory, ITL, the Porcelain Factory, Hindustan Aircraft.
He conceived the Silver Jubilee Park and  Kalasipalyam Bus Stand in Bangalore and okayed beautification of circles and intersections in Bangalore.
The Dewans cooperated closely and advised the Mysore Maharajas in taking up developmental works. Our political masters today can lo ear a lesson from the way the Dewans worked.
Even today, the buildings, factories, roads, extensions and connectivity thought about and implemented by the Dewans under the benevolent Wodeyar rulers stand up to the best of scrutiny. Unfortunately, succeeding generations of rulers have failed to cash in on the bedrock of development initiated by the Dewans.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Once upon a time.......

A few days ago, I was strolling across MG Road when I happened to pass near the MG Road metro Station.
The Metro station looked neat and clean. The interiors are done up well and there are sufficient facilities for passengers, including physically challenged.
While I was admiring the new technology that makes commuting easier, I happened to glance across the road and found that where the once beautiful Plaza Theatre stood, there was only a mass of construction materials.
I boarded the Metro, remembering the many English cinemas hat were screened at Plaza. When the metro reached the Trinity station, I happened to look out and once again I was transported decades back to an age when the Lido theatre screened movies.
Both the Plaza and Galaxy are gone, victims of growing urbanization as are several other theatres in the area-Blue Moon and Blue Diamond on MG Road and near Plaza, Opera at the junction of  Brigade Road and Residency Road and in front of Rex.
Even as the Metro was moving smoothly, memories of Bangalore and its theatres came back.
Bangalore has the distinction of having the first ever theatre in south India-Elgin in Shivajinagar.  The theatre boom in the 1950s and 1960s was similar to the boom in malls that we see today. Wherever we went in Bangalore those days, we saw posters of Raj Kumar, Shivaji Ganeshan, NTR peering from huge cutouts that adorned theatres on Kempe Gowda Road, Malleswaram and  MG Road.
Till the 1990s, cinema goers in Bangalore were spoilt for their choice. Films in several languages including Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and even Bengali, apart from English were regularly screened.
While viewers in other cities had to depend on film festivals to see films from other languages, Bangalore had no such problem. Films of all genre ranging from the regular potboiler Sholay to the intense Deewar and subtle Moondram Pillai were screened for several weeks, drawing huge crowds.
Raj Kumar was as much of a draw as was Rajanikanth,  Kamalhassan in Tamil, NTR and Nageshwar Rao in Telugu, Mohanlal and Mamothy in Malayalam.
The Kempe Gowda Road from Mysore Bank Circle had the highest number of theatres in a square area in the world. The theatres here were chock-a-block with eateries besides them and they drew a large number of floating population that descended into Majestic from all over India.
At one time, this area called Gandhinagar had 24 theatres and it, therefore, emerged as the capital of the Kannada celluloid world. Gandhinagar and its lanes were well-known as the lifeline of the Kannada film industry. The locality became so famous that a film with Rakjkumar called Gandhinagar was made in 1962.      
Generally, the morning shows in theatres on Kempe Gowda Road and BVK Iyengar Road screened Malayalam and Bengali movies. Some of the theatres that I remember on the this road were Prabhat (at the beginning of KG Road coming from Mysore Bank Square), States (opposite to Prabhat), Santosh, Kailash, Aparna, Sagar, Kempe Gowda, Himalaya, Tribhuvan, Geeta, Triveni and  Majestic. Movieland was a little further away. (This area is loosely termed Sandalwood as it has many film production, distribution, finance companies)
The first theatre with sophisticated equipments and seating was the Alankar which came up in the late 1950s on Kempe Gowda Road. Soon others followed suit like Kalpana, Menaka, Abhinay, Kapali and Tribhuvan.
By the early 1970s, there were 14 theatres in and around Majestic area. Today, only two of them- States and Sagar, apart from Nartaki are holding fort.
The Shivaji theatre on JC Road showed Tamil films. The Minerva, also on JC Road had a circle named after it. Today, the circle survives but not the theatre.
The theatres then were broadly divided into those in the civil area and those in the Cantonment. Theatres in the Cantonment –MG Road, Brigade Road, Residency Road, Ulsoor and even Shivajinagar-generally catered to English and Tamil speaking audiences. Even in this island  of little England, New Opera and Empire showed regional language films.
Liberty (earlier called Globe), Plaza, Rex, Lido and Imperial screened English classics and new English films, while Vijayalakshmi in Chickpet and Bharat on JC Road showed old films and reruns of  hits.
BVR on Cubbon Road and Central Street Junction had stopped screening films and it made way for the Defence canteen. A little down the road (Central Street) is Sangeeth which screened Tamil and Kannada films.  The twin theatres of Bluemoon and Blue Diamond on MG Road was a favourite as it was located amidst shops. 
Vijayalakshmi was well-known among the student community as they gave a discount of 50 paise to students, seating them at the back.
The busy City Market had three theatres including Parmount.  Jayanagar had theatres like Nanda near South End-this has vanished- and Swagath which has made way for Swagath Mall and Puttanna which has been demolished. Shanti was another theatre off South End and this has disappeared in history but the name still stands.
Chamarajpet, the bastion of the Kannada movement, had Uma and Apsara theatres which came up in the 70s. The Sampige theatre in Malleswaram, Swastik in Seshadripuram and Navarang in Rajajinagar were big draws because of the closeness of the bus stops near them.      
Bangalore had once so many theatres that it was called the world capital of theatres. The highest number of theatres in the world was in Bangalore. However, with growing urbanisation, the theatres have made way for malls, commercial and business establishments.
Malls and multiplexes have replaced theatres and eve the audience seems to be more inclined towards them than theatres.
High taxes, tight Government control and archaic rules and regulations have driven theatres into a corner. The stiff competition from multiplexes have driven theaters to the wall. Yet, many in Bangalore survive, showcasing the majesty of the reel over the real.
There are about 140 theatres in Bangalore today.

Monday 10 December 2012

The memorial that has been forgotten

Koramangala in Bangalore is one of the most happening localities of Bangalore. It is also the nucleus of the IT and BT industry and its proximity to Electronics City and Hosur Road have made it a favourite hub for professionals.
Koramangala has also one of the best malls of Bangalore-Forum-which is a huge draw for the youth. The many malls, pubs, restaurants, business and shopping complexes give Koramangala an urban look.
 However, what many do not know is that the locality has a long forgotten link with the City’s founding and that this link goes back to the time when Kempe Gowda was busy in the early years of the 16th century founding Bangalore.
It was more than 485years ago that a pregnant woman gave up her life so that Kempe Gowda could construct the mud fort of Bangalore.
One of the gates the mud fort never held and it kept falling away every time it was constructed. The year was 1537 and Kempe Gowda had been permitted by the Vijayanagar Emperor, Achuta Deve Raya to construct a fort in Bangalore.
The area around Bangalore was under the control of the Vijayanagar Kingdom and Kempe Gowda was a local feudatory of the Vijayanagars. He had been granted permission to build a mud fort.
Kempe Gowda had chosen his spot well. The mud fort was coming up at what is today called City Market. He had seen a hound chasing a hare at the spot. After some running, the hare turned back and stood its ground. The hound stopped in its tracks. Encouraged by this, the hare ran towards the hound which then bolted.
Kempe Gowda then though this was the appropriate place to build a fort. He set about constructing the fort. Much of the structure had completed and only the Anekal Gate at the southern point of the structure remained to be completed. However, as many times as the Gate was constructed, they were washed away the next day.
The founder of Bangalore, called in soothsayers and astrologers, they told him that the fort desired a human sacrifice.
They then shocked Kempe Gowda out of his wits when they said the human sacrifice would have to be voluntary and that it would have to be of a pregnant woman.
A pensive Kempe Gowda walked back to his palace. He did not want to ask anybody to sacrifice their lives. He returned to the gates the next morning and was surprised to see that the gate had held up.
He was later told that his pregnant daughter-in-law, Lakshmamma, had killed herself before the gate. She had obviously overheard the soothasayers talking to her father-in-law and she had decided to sacrifice her life for the good of the kingdom.
She had made her way to the Anekal Gate during the dead of night when everyone was asleep. She had prayed at a nearby temple and then sacrificed her life. A grateful Kempe Gowda constructed a memorial for his daughter-in-law in the midst of a beautiful green lawn, which later along with surrounding areas came to be called the locality of Koramangala.
Kempe Gowda died and his dynasty folded up after a few years. The Adil Shahi Emperors of Bijapur took Bangalore and later gave it as a Jagir to Shahji, the father of Shiaji. Bangalore later passed into the hands of the Mughals before being sold to the Wodeyars.
It was then the turn of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan to rule over Bangalore and from 1799 it was the British. However, all through these events, the memorial to Lakshmamma seems to have been forgotten.
It was only after India gained Independence that the first few voice were raised to protect the memorial. The chorus was heard only a few years ago when the city corporation took charge of the memorial and the park surrounding it.
By the time the corporation had woken up form its slumber, the park around the memorial had long been gone and buildings had come up on all sides of the memorial. Only a small patch of green had remained and the area around the memorial was being used to bury bodies.
Today, the structure can be approached through the small  bylanes amidst a cluster of concrete. Locals say that the structure has undergone some modifications. A stone tablet here says the memorial belongs to the wife of Immadi Kempe Gowda.
The memorial is now located in a small park called Lakshmama Park.
There are practically no sings to lead a visitor to the memorial. The surroundings today need to be spruced up. There are heaps of garbage and debris nearby which deter a visitor from coming here.
There is a temple nearby which is called the Lakshmamam Temple. This structure has undergone many modifications and extensive renovations. A gopura was added to the memorial in 1970.  It opens only on Friday mornings.
However, historians such as S,K Aruni, the head of the Southern Regional Centre for the Indian Council of Historical Research and Dr. Suryanath Kamath do not believe the story of Lakshmamam to be true. Dr. Aruni, in his book Yelehanka Nada Prabhus, says there is no historical basis to support the story of  Lakshmamma and her memorial.
Whatever it may be, there is no denying that the memorial goes back to several centuries. The garage around it is perhaps a reflection of the garbage city that Bangalore has today become