Thursday 28 March 2013

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

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