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

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