Tuesday 6 August 2013

Honoring a battle

Bangalore has a road network exceeding 3000 kilometres and they consist of main and cross roads, ring roads, arterial and sub-arterial roads.
A majority of the roads and streets are named after personalities such as Kempe Gowda Mahatma Gandhi, Rajaram Mohan Roy, Dr. Raj Kumar. Kasturba or they are named after institutions such as RV Road (Rashtriya Vidyalaya), CMH (Chinmaya) and Race Course Road. A few roads are named after the lakes adjacent to them like Dharmambudhi Road, Sankey Road.
However, there are only two roads in Bangalore which are named after famous wars that took place in British India. Interestingly, neither of the wars took place in Bangalore or even Karnataka.
One of the wars involved Major General Arthur Wellesley, who just four years earlier, had killed Tipu Sultan in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war in Srirangapatna near Mysore. The other battle took place almost forty years later.
Though the theatre of  war in both the battles was thousands of kilometers away from Bangalore, the city had a close link with the events. Men and materials of the Madras Engineering Group (MEG) had participated in both the battles and won laurels. No wonder, both the roads are close to the MEG and training centre in Ulsoor.
These are the Assaye Road and Meanee Avenue Road. Both these roads meet near the Ulsoor Lake and both these events shaped Indian history and gave the British the upper hand.
Assaye Road, which is the longer of the two roads, begins at the junction of Wheeler Road, Robertson Road and Buddha Vihar Road at Cox Town.
Assay today is a small village in Jalna district of Maharashtra. On September 23, 1803, the village was the location where the British took on the Maratha confederacy during the Second Anglo-Maratha War.
The East India Company was led by Major General Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, and he defeated a combined army of  Daulat Rao Scindia of Gwalior and the Raja of Berar. The battle established British influence and power in Central India and also added to Wellesley’s reputation. The battle was so fierce that “The Iron Duke” as Wellesley was called, said that of all his battles Assaye was “the bloodiest for the numbers that I ever saw”.
The battle lasted three hours and it was won by Wellesley’s coolness and inspiring leadership. The Thambis or MEG personnel played a vital role in the battle. A road was named in their honor near Ulsoor and this is today the Assay Road.
The other road in Bangalore named after a battlefield is Meanee Avenue. This is named after the Battle of Meanee (also spelt Miani). The Battle of Meanee took place on February 17, 1843 between British forces under Sir Charles Napier and the Talpur Amirs of Sindh, Pakistan.
Sir Charles defeated the Baluchi army and this led to the British annexation of Sindh, now in Pakistan. Here too, the MEG played an important role. 
The MEG centre or Madras Sappers as they are popularly known, has its headquarters near to these two roads. Today, the roads have changed and there is very little to remind us about their history. 

Apart from these two roads, there are others such as Infantry Road, Artillery Road, Brigade Road, Main Guard Cross Road which have a close connection to the military history of Bangalore. In fact, the erstwhile Cantonment area, which was conceived in 1806, was the place where the British billeted their troops and this was the second largest Cantonment in India

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