Tuesday 19 February 2013

Once upon a time..........Agaram

The name Agaram today is associated with a lake, British era cemeteries and nothing more. It is today a part of the Shantinagar constituency in Bangalore.
But did you know that several decades ago, Shantinagar did not exists and that Agaram was the hub of  the British presence in India.
Look up Agaram on the city map and you will be mostly directed to the lake or to the cemeteries which house several graves dating back to 200 years or more.
The cemetery here , which is now closed, was used by Protestants till 1870. Agaram was also a part of the earliest Cantonment base in the city.
While today’s Cantonment came up in 1809, Agaram too developed along the same lines a little later. It was ringed at one place by Bellandur lake where the seafaring Catalina planes would land during the period of the second World War. These planes would then be towed to the nearby HAL Airport where they would be kept under warps in hangers.
The original Agaram was a vast and extensive ground to the South-East which was accessible only by a single road passing through the Military establishments.
The plains were used in the 1920s as a practice ground for the Royal Artillery of the British Indian Army. A little further down was the Military Grass Farm. The farm exists even today as Military farm but it is being closed along with the farm at Hebbal.
A portion of the plain was used as an aerodrome for aeroplanes that frequently visited the Air Station. In the 1920s the Dutch fliers who came down to Bangalore gave the residents an air ride in return for small change.
The aerodrome was used till a decade back for motor sports and cars and two-wheelers went around the temporary circuit of the runaway. This was, however, discontinued.
Today all that remains of this exciting time is the road  which leads to several high rise apartments. The water that flows into the nearby Agaram lake is filthy with chemicals and biomedical waste.
Another feather in Agaram’s cap was that as early as in 1803, the British laid out a horse track for conducting racing in Bangalore. This track was on what is Hosur Road today.
The horse races continued here till 1863 when the land was exchanged for the present place on Race Course Road. The original race course on Hosur Road was then quickly handed over to the Military and to this day it remains with them.
The establishment of the Cantonment and Agaram led to the death of India sports and pastimes and at the same time popularised sports such golf, polo, cricket, horse riding. Indian sports such as Vajra Musti, Malla Yudha went into steady decline.    
The polo and golf clubs were started in 1855 and 1876.  respectively. In fact, the Bangalore Golf Club is the second oldest in India after the one at Kolkata. The Race Course too is one of the oldest as is the Race Club.
Racing, however, remained an aristocratic sport till the 1870s. The advent of  Book Mayer and Pari Mutual brought in the common man in droves.
Today, all that remains of Agaram are the cemeteries, military establishments and a lake and of course the postal address with the name of a road.   

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