Saturday 1 June 2013

The Mootocherry of Bangalore

Bangalore, as we know today, is a potpourri of different cultures, languages, castes and even communities. One of the many people, who over almost a thousand years, have made Bangalore their home and contributed to the city’s growth are Tamils.
Historians generally say that Hyder and Tipu invited Thigalas, the garden community of  Tamil Nadu, to settle down in Bangalore when they invaded Tamil Nadu.
The Thigalas were well-known for their gardening skills and both Hyder and Tipu ere found of gardens and parks. They invited a large number of Thigalas to settle down in Bangalore and thus they became the first outside settlers of Bangalore.
While it is true that Hyder and Tipu did invite Thigalas to settle down in Bangalore, this was not the first time that Bangalore saw a Tamil population migrate to the city. The first Tamil migration to Bangalore was under the Cholas and it occurred sometime in 1024 AD.
The Cholas had pushed back the Gangas and Chalukyas of Kalyan and managed to wrest Bangalore from them. The Cholas held on to Bangalore till 1117 AD when Veera Ballala of Hoysala dynasty ousted them.
So for about 93 years, the Cholas held sway over Bangalore and defended it against attacks by Gangas, Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas. It was during this period that thousands of Tamils came to Bangalore, attracted by its salubrious climate, strategic location as a trading post and a fairly big town in the area.
Thus, Tamils first came to Bangalore in the period of the Cholas followed by the Thigalas. The third massive influx came when the British set up Cantonment near Ulsoor in 1806.
The then Maharaja of Mysore, Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, unwillingly gave away 9000 acres near Ulsoor for the Cantonment to come up. He also unwillingly agreed to the proposal of having the Cantonment administered directly by the British-the Madras Presidency-while the old City with its petes would come under the Mysore Durbar.
The Cantonment quickly grew in importance and soon overtook Bangalore city in trade, commerce and population. Thus, for a few decades Bangalore had two distinct cities-pete and Cantonment which was called the Civil and Military Station.
When the Cantonment began to come up, the British saw to it that a large number of Tamils, mostly engaged in menial, domestic and house work, would migrate to Bangalore. These Tamils settled near the Cantonment and this area, which today houses the St. John’s Road and St. John’s Church, was initially called Mootocherry.               
A majority of these Tamil settlers were either directly attached to the military or garrison or they supplied goods and rendered services to the officers and their families. When textiles came to Bangalore in the early part of the 20th century, more Tamilians poured into Bangalore and they too settled near Cantonment. The Cantonment and Mootocherry was administered directly by the Madras Presidency, and was handed over to Independent India (the Mysore State) only in 1949.
This is the reason why even today Cantonment, Ulsoor, Shivajinagar (Blackpally), Murphy Town, Richards Town, Benson Town, Frazer Town (Pulakeshinagar), Austin Town, Richmond Town, Cox Town and surrounding areas still boast of a fairly large Tamil population.
Coming back to Mootocherry, it was located on the edge of Cantonment and the name of the locality changed when Rev. R. Posnett, who joined St. Mark’s as an assistant to the Chaplin, decided to build a new church.
Then, the Cantonment had the churches of  St. Mark's, Holy Trinity, the European Barracks and the Parade Ground all situated on a ridge from East to West.
To the North of this ridge, and running parallel to it was a much smaller ridge with a low lying land in between. On the slopes of both these ridges and facing the depressed land was built many small bungalows and houses for pensioners and other connected with the Cantonment. The settlement on the side of the Northern ridge was known as Mootocherry. The settlement around the southern ridge was called St. Mark's district.
Posnett convinced the British about the need for a separate parish on the opposite ridge of Mootocherry. He conceived the parish as having a church, school, reading room and library for the pensioned soldiers of the Company who had settled in Bangalore. The parish was also meant for Eurasians and their children who were not welcomed in Cantonment Schools.
Thus in 1853, Posnett constructed a small one-room chapel measuring near Haines Road and this was a school in the morning, a library for the pensioners in the afternoon and on Sundays a place of worship. This was the beginning of the present St. John’s Church.
A new site was earmarked for the church and Posnett put up an enclosure around it in October 1853 to build the new Mootocherry Church of the High Anglican Order with a School and Library.
This is the St. John’s Church. Once this came about, Mootocherry lost its name and the place came to be known as St John’s Hill. Thus the settlements adjacent to the South Parade or M.G Road today  was known as Mootocherry and they were mainly habitated by Tamils from south and north Arcot districts o Tamil Nadu.
When the St. John’s Church was completed in 1858, the name of Mootocherry was changed to “St. John’s Hill” and the road south of the Church was named “St. John’s Church Road” leading to the St. John’s Road near Ulsoor Lake.
Tamilians, however, called the church, “Sigapoo Oosimatha Koil” meaning the “Red Church”.  Today, the names Mootocherry has vanished into pages of history and very few are aware of it. Today, St John’s Church is a landmark in Cleveland Town.

No comments:

Post a Comment