Friday 5 September 2014

The story of the toy tiger

Among the many legendary treasures of Tipu Sultan is the toy tiger mauling a British soldier.
Tipu Sultan (1782-1799), the rules of Mysore, had a visceral hatred of he British. He did everything he could from building an army, seeking French assistance to trying to stitch an anti-British alliance.
Tipu was continuously at war with the British and nothing gave him more happiness than having them at his mercy. His dungeons in his capital of Srirangapatna were filled up with British prisoners of war.
After Tipu was killed in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war in Srirangapatna on May 4, 1799, many of his treasures and fabulous wealth fell into the hands of the British who lost no time in plundering them. Contemporary accounts of the day after Tipu was killed tell us how mercilessly the British behaved with the residents of Srirangapatna and how they pillaged the city, stripping it of every conceivable article.
Of course, the first structure to bear the brunt of the greedy British army and its hired mercenaries was Lal Mahal, the magnificent palace of Tipu which today is in ruins, his store room, armoury, library and private quarters.
One of the innumerable articles that the British shipped back home from Srirangapatna was Tipu’s Tiger.
The Tipu Tiger is a toy that Tipu specifically had it built. It is a wooden tiger mauling a British soldier. The toy has a miniature mechanical organ and when pressed, it begins to emit the roar of the tiger, punctuated with the  groans of a Britisher being killed.
The road comes from the body of the tiger and a row of keys of natural notes are embedded within the British soldier.  The sounds produced by the organ  resemble the cries of a person in distress which is juxtaposed with the roar of a tiger.  The machinery is so contrived, that while the organ is playing, the head of the European is often lifted up, to express his helpless and deplorable condition. 
There is a story that Tipu Sultan had this toy made after the death of Lieutenant Munro — the son of General Sir Hector Munro, who had defeated Tipu in many battles. The idea of making such a tiger took shape when one of Tipu’s courtiers told how Munro’s son had been killed by a tiger in the Sundarbans (Bengal).
Tipu discussed the idea of a mechanical toy of a Tiger mauling a British soldier with his French engineers working in his munition factory in  Srirangapatna.
The organs which can reproduce the roars of a tiger and shrieks of human beings were made in France. Tipu kept the toy in his Rag Mahal or room for music.
After Tipu dies, the British came across the toy and informed the Board of Directors of East Indian Company who then asked for it to be sent to their head office in London.
The tiger elicited lot of interest and curiosity among the British and the famous romantic British poet John Keats has made a reference to Tippoo’s Tiger in one of his poems.

Initially, the Directors of the East India Company kept the toy  in the company museum in the East India House, but, when the company was wound up and political power transferred to the Government in 1858, it was shifted to the new India office where it remained until 1874. Later, the tiger was stationed at what later came to be known as the Indian section of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The toy is at present a prized exhibit of the museum and lakhs who visit the museum cannot help but admire the spirit and determination of the Tiger of Mysore, as Tipu was known .

Thursday 28 August 2014

Filing up a City's hopes

It was more two decades ago that this vast reservoir filled up. Built by the Wodeyars, it last filled up in 1992. It almost reached full capacity in 1999. But since then, this water body, once the lifeline of Bangalore, has only been able to hold varying levels of water but it has never been able to supply water regularly.
This is the Tippegondanahalli reservoir across river Arkavathy, which was built in 1933 after the Hesarghata reservoir dried up. For the last few years, the TG Halli, as it also called, has never had enough water.
TG Halli has been in the news in the last few days as  the water level in it has been steadily going up, thanks to copious rains in the catchment areas.
The TG Halli once supplied drinking water to areas in the west of the city, but encroachment of lakes, growing urbanisation and rapid expansion of the city have seen storage levels plummet.
The last time the reservoir was filled was in 1992 and after that the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB), which operates the TG Halli, gave up pumping water and shifted focus entirely on Cauvery water supply to Bangalore.
BWSSB officials are hoping that the water level in TG Halli rises further. Last Monday, saw TG Halli hold 26 feet of water and this is encouraging as last year at the same time, the water level stood at 17 feet.
Since Karnataka received good rains in September and October, the BWSSB hopes that the water level would go up further.
Constructed at the confluence of the Arkavathi and the Kumudvati rivers, TG Halli has a depth of 74 ft and its total storage capacity is 3 tmc ft. Officials say heavy rain in catchment areas like Doddaballapur (which recently recorded 11 cm of rainfall) has seen the water levels in the reservoir rise.
The BWSSB is not pumping any water from TG Halli though if need be it can pump about  350 mld. However, the water board wants to keep TG Halli supply as stand by.
If it was the then Dewan of Mysore, K Seshadri Iyer, who conceived of Hesarghatta reservoir, it was another Dewan-Sir M. Visvesvaraiah- who recommend TG Halli as a means to ease Bangalore’s growing thirst for water.
When Hesarghatta proved insufficient to meet the water needs and it went dry 1925, TG Halli was commissioned in 1933.
The first stage of TG Halli was designed to provide a daily supply of 27mld of water for a city's population of 3 lakh, but this too soon proved inadequate. The reservoir was once again deepened and the water works modified to cater to the population of one million in 1956..

However, with the city's population growing by leaps and bounds and the water proving inadequate, the State Government decided to supply water from the Cauvery. In 1964, the Government approved the first stage of the Cauvery Water Supply Scheme (CWSS). Five stages of CWSS have proved insufficient and the government is now looking at alternatives to boost daily water supply as the City currently faces a shortage of 225 million litres of water per day (mld).
This shortage is expected to go up by 1030 mld in 2036. BWSSB is thinking of supplying water from the Krishna and it has drawn up several other schemes but the best bet would be to revive the Hesarghatta and TG Halli reservoirs.
If the TG Halli lake has to be revived, the catchment areas of Devanahalli, Doddaballapur, Magadi and Nelamangala in Bangalore Rural and Ramanagra districts have to be cleared of encroachments and the lakes and tanks restored as they form a vital part of the regeneration programme. Fortunately, all thee areas have so far received good rainfall and the inflow to TG halli has been steadily rising. Usually, the reservoir starts filling up in September, October and November.
 In the last seven years, the water level had not gone up beyond 43 ft. If it fills up, Bangalore can get at least 135 million litres of drinking water every day.
Not many remember that till 1980, TG Halli  was one of the main sources of drinking water to the city and it supplied water to Bangalore West including the localities of Rajajinagar, Sunkadakatte and Vijayanagar. It was in 2012 that the BWSSB finally gave up on TG Halli and discontinued supply of water from it.
One of the many options that the BWSSB is now planning for TG Halli is to recharge the reservoir and the Arkavathy surface water source, by using treated sewage from the  Koramangala and Challaghatta valley (K&C) waste water treatment plant.
The project proposes to divert the treated water to Nandi Hills which would flow into various lakes located downstream and ultimately to the TG Halli reservoir.
It involves construction of  four centrifugal pumps from K&C Valley till Nandi Hills and construction of a ground-level reservoir (GLR) at the foot of the hills. The proposed plan is to pump 200 mld of treated sewage using the centrifugal pumps, each having 50 mld capacity to an elevation of 980 metres into the proposed ground level reservoir.
The treated water would then be pumped using booster pumps to the identified hill surface facing the TG Halli catchment area. The water would be sent to tanks and lakes along TG Halli which would ultimately get filled.

The cost was estimated in 2005 at Rs 415 crore. Today, it needs at least a hundred crores more to take up this project, which also requires an annual  operation and maintenance cost of Rs 80 crore.
Apart from this step, the State and the BWSSB have to tackle the issue of   unplanned development, encroachment of catchment areas, altered drainage system, quarrying, denudation of forests and other related urban issues.

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Older than the temple

Srirangapatna, the erstwhile capital of Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan, has a history dating back to the New Stone Age. But very few of the thousands of visitors and pilgrims who come to this island town are aware of this fact.
The New Stone Age is also called the Neolithic Age and it was a period of human development and technology.
It began sometime in 10,200 BC and ended between 4500 BC and 2000 BC. In south India, the Neolithic period began in 3000 BC and continued till about 1400 BC. The age in Karnataka is characterised by ashmounds.
Robert Bruce Foot (1834 -1912), a British geologist and archaeologist, discovered the first conclusive Paleolitic stone tool (a hand axe) in Pallavaram near Madras. He then along with William King went on to discover more such tools and settlements in South and West India, including Srirangapatna. He is, therefore, often considered as the Father of Indian prehistory.
In 1884 he discovered the 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) long Belum caves, the second largest cave in the Indian subcontinent. Foote spent 33 years, starting as a youth at the age of 24, working for the geological survey.
Foote's father-in-law was the Rev. Peter Percival, missionary, linguist and a pioneering educator of Sri Lanka and South India. Foot’s grandson, Major General Henry Robert Bowreman Foote, was awarded the Victoria Cross during the second Word war.
Coming back to Srirangapatna, other archaeologists have discovered some stone tools such as an axe, hammer and other antiquities of the new stone age culture.
In 1984, Dr C. Mahadeva discovered stone tools such as bone, Ardha chandra and a chopping splinter belonging to the microlithic age. It is significant that these tools are made out of jasper, chert and other stone materials.
The discovery of many microlithic weapons in the area has led archaeologists and historians to believe that this must have been a factory site. Historians have discovered stone age settlements in Pandavapura, Kuntibetta and Srirangapatna. Some remnants of the stone age culture have been found at Hangarahalli
and Ranganathittu on the banks of Cauvery, (Srirangapatna taluk); Maralahalli, Belakawadi, Muttatti, Halagur (Malavalli taluk) Kuntibetta, near Pandavapura and Sanabakoppalu in Pandavapura taluk.
The findings suggest that the population density in this part was very thin. The stone age man who lived around thick forests, river valleys.
Srirangapatna was originally built by Udayaditya, the brother of Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana, in 1120 AD. It soon became an important agrahara during the Hoysala period. In 1454, Timmana Dannayaka, a local chief of Nagamangala, obtained permission from the Vijayanagara king Praudadeva Raya, and built a fort at Srirangapatna. Soon, the Vijaayanagar rulers mde Srirangapatna their provincial capital. 
This fort was captured by Raja Wodeyars from the Vijayanagar Viceroy, Tirumala, in 1610 and it later fell into the hands of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
The fort was destroyed in May 1799 in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war. After the death of Tipu in 1799 A.D., Srirangapatna lost its glory as the Wodeyars shifted the capital to Mysore.
Since the island is home to the first of the three Ranganatha shrines on the banks of the river Cauvery, it is also known as Adi Ranga. As it is located to the west of Srirangam (in Tamil Nadu), it is also called as Paschima Ranganatha Kshetra.
Several inscriptions belonging to the Gangas (2), Hoysalas (2), Vijayanagars (12), Wodeyars of Mysore (15) Hyder-Tipu (14) and others (22) have been found here. Among them, four are in Tamil, 36 in Kannada, eight in Sanskrit, 14 in Persian and two each in Telugu and English.

Thus we see that Srirangapatna has much more to offer than the Ranganatha Swamy Temple and the monuments belonging to the Hyder Ali-Tipu era. A student of  history and archaeology would be interested in the ancient history of the island which is older than the ancient and hoary temple of Ranganatha.

Sunday 24 August 2014

A forgotten philanthropist

What does a maternity hospital, a road, temple structure and a lake have in common. Of course, all but one of them are in Bangalore but that is not the point of similarity.
All these structures were built by one person more than a hundred years ago. But today, neither the man nor his contribution to the then small village of Bangalore is even remembered. If the road after which bears his name is a busy thoroughfare in a small town  seventy kilometers away from Bangalore, the lake which is part of the City is a cesspool of sewage and untreated water. People living around the lake tend to curse it more than seeing it as a lifeline.
Once home to hundreds of migratory birds and also small wildlife, it is now one of the most encroached water bodies in Bangalore. And to think it once supplied water to the parched residents of Bangalore.
The temple structure that he built still stands. Though the temple is one of the landmarks of Bangalore, he is rarely, if ever, remembered for it. The maternity hospital he built so that poor and needy residents to get modern care is better known by its initials and even doctors and patients rarely pause to spare a thought for the man who so generously donated money for the construction of the building.
The man who built all these is none other than Yele Mallappa Shetty, a rich merchant of Bangalore who lived in the 19th century. A philanthropist, he is entirely responsible for constructing the Elemarappakere which is also known as Yele Mallappa Shetty Kere or lake.
This water body is near KR Puram or Krishnarajapuram on Hoskote Road. It was entirely built by Shetty in 1890 and the  entire money for the project came from his own funds.
Bangalore in 1890 was in the grip of a severe water scarcity. The existing lakes and ponds had dried up and the British Government and the Mysore Kingdom were making all out efforts to meet the challenge of providing water to the parched residents.
While Sankey conceived what  is now called the Sankey lake in Bangalore, Shetty too hit upon the idea of providing a water body in K.R. Puram. He saw people suffering due to lack of water and choose the spot after a great deal of research and planning. Thus was born the huge Yele Mallappa Shetty Kere or lake
The lake served as a lifeline for people living in its vicinity. Soon, it also began supplying water to Bangalore. This even as Sankey tank was being built and other water works were being commissioned by the Mysore Government and also the British.
 Today, realms is written about Sankey and others but there is not a mention of Shetty who was a rich areca merchant involved in taking up developmental works. A philanthrophist, Shetty was also involved in constructing the temple structure around the historic Kadu Malleswara Temple in Malleswaram.
Sadly, while historians and others wax eloquent about the association of Shahaji, the father of Shivaji, with the Kadu Malleswara temple, they fail to even mention Shetty and his contribution. Incidentally, the structure funded by Shetty came to be completed sometime in  1900.
Shetty also built a maternity hospital, which today is called Yele Mallappa Shetty's Maternity Hospital. Not many know that this is one of the oldest hospitals of its kind in Bangalore and that it was built in 1879.
Supposedly belonging to the Lingayat community, there is a road named after him in Bangarpet town of Kolar district. The mining town of Bangarpet was earlier known as Bowringpet. It is about 71 kms from Bangalore.
Coming back to the lake, it once occupied more than 300 acres in area. Today it is about 260 acres and it is home to a variety of migratory birds. Wildlife photographers have sighted more than 38 species of migratory birds and recorded 28 of them. The Golden oriole, northern shoveler, green bee eater, bulbul, pied kingfisher, egrets, Eurasian coot are spotted in the water body frequently.
This is also one of the largest fresh water lake in north east Bangalore  and  its watershed is spread over in an area of 287 km2. It forms part of the  Hebbal and Rachenahalli valley.
Unfortunately, the lake and its surroundings are host to a variety of industries and establishments such as  stone crushers, asphalt manufacturing units, factories, brick manufacturing, dumpsite, fodder industry, garages, solar cell factory, steel warehouse and even agricultural lands.
Layouts and educational and commercial centres around the lake and increased urban activity have almost killed the lake.  

There are studies to this effect by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board and by Bangalore University.

Thursday 10 April 2014

The forgotten palegar

Mention Srirangapatna and the first name that comes to our mind is that of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.  Similarly, mention  Srirangapatna fort and the first thing that comes to the mind is the heroic death of Tipu on May 4, 1799 just a few yards away from the massive fortifications.
The Fort, perhaps, is the second most important monument of Srirangapatna which lends a unique character to the bustling town (The first important monument should be the sprawling Ranganatha Temple). There are a lot of legends and myths associating the Wodeyars, Hyder Ali and Tipu with the fort. 
But what many have forgotten is that the fort was initially built by a local chieftain whose name is now almost forgotten, so much so that the fort is more associated with Hyder-Tipu and the Wodeyars than this palegar.
There is no plaque, name board or even a sign board detailing the contribution of this Palegar. What is more astonishing is that it was this palegar who laid the foundations of the massive Srirangapatna fort more than seven centuries ago.
Moreover, it was also this palegar who contributed lavishly to the temples in Srirangapatna, Tonnur or Kere Tonnur and of course Melukote.
This palegar was the first chieftain to fortify Srirangapatna and also rule from the area but as a vassal of the might Vijayanagars. A devout Srivaishnava, he ruled justly and he was one of the top army commanders of the Vijayanagar forces.
This palegar is none other than Thimanna Hebbar, the chief of Nagamangala, who was also known as Thimmanna Dannayaka.
He rose to prominence because of his military and administrative prowess and in 1454 A.D., he took the permission of the Vijayanagar Emperor to build a mud fort in Srirangapatna.
However, even before Thimanna Hebbar fortified Srirangapatna, it was a thriving and important town. During the Hoysala rule(943-1340), Srirangapatna was one of the most important agrahara centres.
Once Veera Ballala (1291-1343) died, the Hoysala empire disappeared and Srirangapatna became a provincial capital of the Vijayanagars. Sometime in 1450 or a little earlier, Thimanna Hebbar took up the post of a palegar of Srirangapatna and he was a vassal of the Vijayanagars.
In 1454, Thimanna Hebbar laid the foundations of the mud fort and also dug a trench around it. He also repaired, renovated and donated liberally to the Ranganatha temple in Srirangapatna, the Nambi Narayana temple in Tonnur and the two main temple of Melkote-Cheluva Narayanaswamy and Yoga Narasimha.
These temples had been ravaged by Mailk Kafur during his south India invasion of 1311.
Thimanna Hebbar was a commander of the Vijayanagar forces under Emperor Mallikarjuna Raya (1446-1465) who continued him in the post of a palegar of Srirangapatna.
The descendents of Thimanna Hebbar were confirmed in the post of  palegar of Srirangapatna till 1495 when the Vijayanagar Emperor  Narasimha Raya (1491-1505) decided to appoint relatives of the royal family as Viceroys of Srirangapatna.
The royal family of  Vijayanagar continued to hold Srirangapatna as Viceroys till 1610 when Raja Wodeyar defeated Tirumalaraya in the battle of Kesare and made Srirangapatna his capital.
Raja Wodeyar realised the strategic importance of the Jaladurga or island fortress formed naturally by the north and south branches of the Cauvery and renovated the fort.
Later, Kanteerava Narasaraja Wodeyar in 1654 and Chikkadevaraya Wodeyar strengthened the fortress and Hyder and Tipu too contributed immensely.
When the British stormed the fort on May 4, 1799, they admired the massive structure and refrained from pulling it down.
The fort is on the western end of the island and it is in the form of an irregular pentagon with a perimeter of about 4 kilometres.

The fort is a major tourist attraction as are the many additions to it made by Tipu. Of the brave and just palegar, there is no mention and it seems time has swallowed his name. 

Sunday 23 February 2014

The little known temples on the hill

An earlier post had dealt with the Chamundi Hills and the many names that the hills were called by. This post is about a few other temples on the Chamundi Hills which unfortunately are not so well-known as the Chamundi Temple.
One of the earliest temples not only on Chamundi Hills but in the Mysore region is the Mahabaleshwara Temple.
The Mahabaleshwar temple was initially built by the Gangas during the eighth century and renovated by Hoysalas. Interestingly, the bronze idols in this temple belong to the Chola period.
The temple is an artistic blend of  Hoysala and Ganga architecture. The main deity is the linga which has Shiva’s face on it. There is also an idol of Parvathi to the left of the Linga.
The idols of Sapta Mata (seven mothers), two idols of Ganesha,  Nataraja along with Sivakami are also found in the temple.
Generally, we do not find an idol of Nataraja in a Shiva temple but this is an exception here. It is also rare to find a stone idol of Nataraja and this can be seen here.
The priest of the temple says since the Linga self manifested, it is also known as Aarsheya Murthy.
Outside the temple are the five avatars of Shiva - Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Eeshana. These idols were consecrated by Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar.
Another little known temple on the hills is that of Lakshmi Narayana which is situated behind the Mahabaleshwar temple.
The temple faces West and it is dedicated to Narayana along with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi.
This deities have been carved from a single stone. There is a beautiful and unique idol of Hanuman here and it has been growing for the last 100 years. Strangely, the idol cannot be seen clearly in the day but it is visible after dark when lamps are lit. This idol faces north.
There is an interesting tale about the idol. According to locals, Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodayer came to the place and directed a sculptor to break a stone lying on the hill. The sculptor hit the stone a few times but was only able to make a small dent. Later that night, Hanuman appeared in the dreams of the sculptor and asked him not to break the stone. He said he was growing on the stone and, therefore, there was no need to break it.
The stone then was consecrated as it is and this has been growing. Maharani Tripura Sundari, second wife of Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wodayer, commissioned a silver Kavacha for the idol.
There is no Dhwaja Stamba for this temple. However, both the  Mahabaleshwara and Chamundi Temples have Dhwaja Stambas.
Another interesting temple on the Hill is the Nandi and the small cave temple of Shiva behind it.   
The 16 feet high and 24 feet long monolith Nandi was installed by Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar in 1659. The significance of this Nandi is that, while Nandi everywhere faces Shiva, it faces south while Shiva looks towards  the east.
Locals say the Wodeyars installed ten different Nandi idols around the hill to protect their empire. Even today, some of the Nandi statues can be seen as Neerkal Hatti Basava, Ulluri Basava, Kodi Basava and Kere Bali Basava.
Coming back to the Nandi on Chamundi Hills, there is a small Cave temple adjacent to the monolith which houses a Shiva Linga.
Another temple is that of  Jwala Tripura Sundari, sister of Chamundi at Uttanahalli.
The idol of the goddess, said to be an avtar of Lakshmi, is located little below the ground. The hillock on which this temple is located is called Ramanathagiri. This is so as the temple also houses the self-manifested idol of Ramanateshwara or Shiva.
Nearby is the ashrama of Markandeya ashram which is marked by a small temple. Legend is Markandeya worshipped Shiva at this very spot.
Devikere, which lies en route to the Chamundi Hill, is a small but beautiful pond meant to draw water for the temple. The Devi kere is also known as Deva Gange as Ganga created the water here to worship Shiva.

Friday 21 February 2014

The many names of Chamundi Hills

Lakhs of tourists and pilgrims make a beeline to the Chamundi temple atop the Betta or Chamundi Hills in Mysore. The Hills, which are among the eight most religious hills in south India and have an average elevation of a thousand meters above sea level,  are a natural and religious attraction and give Mysore a pride of place on the tourist map of India.
The Chamundi temple, which is situated atop the Chamundi Hills, is one of the largest in Karnataka and rivals the Ranganatha temple in Srirangapatna and the Nanjundeshwara Temple in Nanjangud in size and footfalls.
Tourists and first tome visitors and even many Mysoreans assume that the hills came to called as Chamundi after the temple by the same name. What they do not know is that the hills were known by different names and it came to be called after Chamundi only after the Wodeyars began ruling from Mysore in the 14th century.
Interestingly, there are many myths and legends associated with Chamundi Hills and of course Mysore too. Mysore perhaps is the only city in  Karnataka after Badami to be named after a demon. If  Badami is named after Vatapi, Mysore city is named after Mahishasura.
Chamundi Hills, with along and winding 12 kilometre road to the top amid forests, is the very place where the demon, Mahishasura, was slain by Goddess Chamundi. The silhouette of the hills from the main palace of Mysore gives an impression of Mahishasura sleeping.
Located 13 kilometres from the heart of Mysore city, the first mention of Chamundi was after Mahabala, a form of Shiva. Centuries ago, the Chamundi Hills were better known as Mahabaladrigiri.  This was so as the main deity on the hill was Mahabaleshwara (Shiva) and not Chamundi.
The name of Maabbala or Mahabala Betta or Maabala Theertha is repeatedly mentioned during the Hoysala period. Mahabala was another name for Chamundi Hills. 
Hoysala Emperor Vishnuvardhana had given funds for the maintenance of the temple and also for the worship of  Shiva. Till the reign of Bola Chamaraja Wodeyar, the Chamundi temple was one of the many on the hills and the Mahabala Temple was the most important structure atop the hills.
It was when Bola Chamaraja Wodeyar survived an attack of lightning but lost all his hair that he believed Chamundi had saved him. Since then, Chamundi began gaining importance and the temple of Chamundeshwari began gaining prominence. 
Subsequently, Dodda Devaraja Wodeyar (1659-1673), built 1108 steps in 1659 or 1664 for the benefit of pilgrims. The steps can still be seen and they are used by devotees and health and fitness freaks. He also commissioned the 16 feet high monolithic statue of the Nandi on the hills in 1659.
By the way, the temple of Shiva or Mahabala exists even today and historians and archaeologists agree that this structure is much older than the Chamundi temple. The first structure of this ancient temple dates back to the period of the Gangas.
When the Wodeyars came to power and began ruling the province of Purugere from the 14th century onwards, first as vassals of Vijayanagar and then as independent rulers of Mysore, Chamundeshwari or Chamundi became their family deity.
The Wodeyars commenced regular poojas at the Chamundi Temple and the hills slowly came to be known as Chamundi Hills. Another name for the hills is Trimukuta Kshetra or three-peaked hill.
The Chamundi Hill is compared to a middle bud of a lotus surrounded by eight petals and all these petals represent different hills. The eight hills are Chikkadevammana Betta in HD Kote, Gopalswamy Betta, Biligiri Rangana Betta (BR Hills), Male Madeshwara (MM Hills) Betta, Kunti Betta near Pandavapura, Yadugiri in Melkote, Mallayana Betta in Pandavpura and Karigatta in Srirangapatna. The Chamundi, therefore, is called as a bud surrounded by eight petals and, hence, the name Ashtadala Parvata (hill surrounded by eight petals).

The Chamundi hill is sandwiched between two rivers. If  Cauvery flows north, Kapila flows south. The Chamundi Hills also has one of the oldest inscription ever found in Mysore and this is dated to 950A D when the Gangas were lording over the area. There is also a Hoysala inscription here dating back to the 12th century. The hills not only provide you with a trekking, walking and motoring experience but also give you a glimpse of wildlife in the Chamundi Reserve Forest abutting the hill. (This is the first of a three part post on Chamundi Hills, its temples and other little known spots).

Monday 27 January 2014

When a truncated State helped Bangalore

The year 1799 was a watershed in the annals of the Mysore Kingdom. It was the year when the geographical contours of the Kingdom was redefined. It was also the year when the Tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, was slain by the British and  his brave attempt to throw out the British from India ended.
The year of 1799 also saw a major change in the political scene of south India. Till then, Tipu and his father, Hyder Ali, had redefined the polices in the Deccan and their strong opposition to the British had kept the East India Company on its toes and dealt a severe setback to their ambition of  taking over south India.
The death of Tipu led to the extinction of the short-lived Muslim rule over Mysore. Wary of a backlash, the British cleverly handed back the Mysore Kingdom to the Wodeyars but made them sing the Subsidiary Alliance.
The British divided the erstwhile Mysore State into four parts. While they retained Coimbatore and West Coast and also control over Bangalore Cantonment later, the Nizam of Hyderabad was gifted Gutti, Gurumakonda and northern part of Chitradurga. The Marathas were appeased by giving them Harapanahalli, Anegondi and surrounding areas of Bellary.
The remaining portion, which was a truncated leftover, was created as Mysore State and handed over to the Wodeyars. On their part, the five-year-old Mummadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar was coronated the Emperor in a tent in present day Nazarbad in Mysore. The capital of Mysore State too was shifted from Srirangapatna to Mysore.
The British initially maintained a fairly large military presence in Srirangapatna and the expense was borne by the Wodeyars. They then shifted the military presence to Bangalore and forced the Wodeyars to cede administrative and military control over the large tract of land to them.
While Srirangapatna continued to languish and slowly lost out its importance, Mysore and Bangalore developed rapidly and this is no small measure to the Wodeyars and the Dewans of the State.
Dewan Purnaiah took over charge of Mysore State in 1799 and was in the post till 1811. Purnaiah took special interest in developing Bangalore.
He visited Bangalore often and renovated the temple inside the old fort now located in City Market. He also built a choultry for travellers in Tulasi Thota near Majestic. He also financially helped farmers to convert the rocky areas in Sarakki, Jaraganahalli, and Maruthihalli into cultivable lands.
When the British started construction of the Cantonment in Bangalore in 1807, their first base was in 1808 and it was located near where the Command Air Hospital is located today on Old Airport Road.
The emergence of Cantonment as a rival to the pete brought in Western thought, culture and lifestyle to Bangalore. When the British took direct control over the Mysore Kingdom in 1831 and till its return to the Wodeyars in 1881, Mysore was lorded by English Commissioners who had their headquarters in Bangalore. These Commissioners directly reported to the Governor General of India and not to the Governor at Madras.
It was during this period that two Commissioners-Mark Cubbon (1834-1861) and Bowring (1861-1870) gave Bangalore its present character. They ensured that Bangalore received the necessary infrastructure to develop into the foremost City of the times. 

Sunday 26 January 2014

When famine struck Bangalore

It was sometime in 1877 and India was reeling under a terrible famine. The failure of the monsoons in 1875 and 1876 had led to a prolonged drought in south India and people were finding it difficult to make ends meet.
The Mysore Kingdom and other parts of what is Karnataka today too suffered from the lack of rains. There was no food and cattle was dying everywhere. The prices of food grains and other commodities had shot up and people in Mysore State were suffering.
The severe famine in Mysore State which commenced in December 1876 was the result of the failure of  two successive monsoons in 1875 and 1876. Bangalore was a little more fortunate tan other places of Mysore State and south India as it had fairly adequate stocks of food grains and water.
Seeing Bangalore as a much better option, large number of people from Madras Presidency (as present day Tamil was known then), Hyderabad, Travancore, Bombay Presidency and almost all the districts of  north Karnataka migrated to Bangalore.
The migrants found Bangalore a much better place to live in. The Cantonment was a sprawling city, while the Pete was a prosperous native town.     
This was the period when Chief Commissioner C.B.Saunders was administering the State of Mysore and Dr. J.H.Orr was the President of both Bangalore Pete and Cantonment Municipality.
The huge influx of people led to inflation like situation in Bangalore. The prices of food grains shot up four times its usual price and rents too took an upward swing. Vegetables and fruits too became costlier.
Thargurpet, by then, had become the grain market of Bangalore. Hundreds of shops lined the lanes and bylanes of the locality dealing wholsesale and even in retail food grains.
Many people who had migrated to Bangalore from other parts zeroed in on Thargurpet to feed themselves,. While a lucky few managed to get work, others lazed about and took to begging to feed themselves and their families.
By July 1877, the Bangalore municipality recorded 25,000 famine immigrants to Bangalore.      
Though there was no dearth of food grains in Bangalore, traders and merchants made handsome profits, quoting higher prices. Bangalore also became the nodal centre for distributing food grains to other parts of the State. Every day, 400 tonnes to 500 tonnes of food grains came to Bangalore by rail from Madras.
The food grains and other relief materials were dispatched by rail and road and the Government of India nominated Richard Temple as Special Commissioner to monitor such work from Bangalore.
To tackle the situation in Bangalore, the municipality and the Government appointed specially designated people wearing white and blue caps to identify  weak and starving people and bring them to relief kitchens which were set up across Bangalore.
The Government set up three kitchens under the direct supervision of the General Famine Relief committee. These kitchens fed the migrants twice a day in return for work as they were able to perform.
The Government placed Captain Healey and Lieutenant P.E. Anderson in charge of  relief work in the Pete and cantonment respectively. They supervised the distribution of grains to the poor and also helped people to get back their jobs. These two British officials were assisted in their work by local volunteers. A majority of the volunteers were clerks in Government offices in Bangalore.
Local industrialists, philanthropists and leading citizens of Bangalore also helped out by providing food and shelter and even collecting money. Rai Bahadur Arcot Narayanaswami Mudaliar started a woolen mill where boys were provided with food, clothes and taught to work.
 Brahmo Samaaj and the leading trader of Bangalore, Ele Mallappa Shetty fed 30,000 people daily.
Unfortunately, the magnitude of the famine and drought was so severe that thousands died due to starvation and malnutrition in the State. Bangalore too was not spared such deaths. During August 1877, the average number of dead on the streets of Bangalore was 20 and it shot up to 40 in September. In Cantonment, British soldiers were aghast to find bodies of people, including children, lying exposed and partly devoured by animals.
The Government took up several public works like desilting and repair of Dharmambudi tank and the construction of an additional reservoir adjoining and forming a part of the Sampangi tank. The existing tanks dried up and the Government was forced to dig new tanks and lakes.
Hundreds of  weavers and loom workers of Bangalore who had sold their looms worked as labourers in Sampangi tank. Hundreds of craftsmen too sold off their implements and started working in relief works for their daily bread.
The relief works picked up when the Viceroy of India, Lord Lytton, visited Bangalore in September 1877. He reviewed the famine and drought relief works and appointed Sir Charles Elliot as Famine Commissioner to carry out relief operation more effectively.
Lord Lytton also sanctioned the work of laying of railway line between Bangalore and Mysore.
Thankfully, the drought came to an end when rains lashed Bangalore and other parts of  Mysore State in September and October. However, the relief works continued till November 1878. By then, the devastating famine had resulted in more than seven lakh deaths in Mysore State.
Today, this event is called “The Great Famine of 1876–78.” It is also called as the Southern India famine of 1876–78 or the Madras famine of 1877.
The famine began in 1876 and affected south and south west India first and then spread north and also to some regions of the Central and United provinces. The famine ultimately covered an area of 257,000 square miles (670,000 km2) and directly affected  58,500,000 people. The death toll from this famine is estimated between 5.5 million to 29 million.
Many say that the Great Famine may have been caused by an intense drought resulting in crop failure in the Deccan. Another reason is the foolish decision of Lord Lytton to export huge amounts of food grains to England at the cost of local consumption.
The Great Famine completely shattered the British air of superiority. They had taken over the Mysore Kingdom and in 1873-74 they were thinking a State with surplus in all fields back to the Maharaja.
Their slow response to the famine hastened the rendition or the return of power to the Maharaja apart from exposing their sham of all-round development and a State rich in coffers. The late relief measures cost the Government Rs. 140 lakhs and this was nothing compared to the losses of revenue. Moreover, the Government was forced to borrow Rs. 80 lakhs from the Government of India to tide over the financial crisis.
The famine in the Mysore Kingdom is supposed to have left more than a lakh dead and the inadequate and half-baked measures put in place by the British officials left Lord Lytton fuming. Even, Lord Lytton, the Viceroy, despaired of the lack of proper and sustained relief measures. He as moved to write, that there was “cause for anxiety in the general administration of the State” and  that the Chief Commissioner Saunders “was not in control of  the administration.”    

Saturday 25 January 2014

When the British wanted Lalbagh to feed their soldiers

The Lalbagh in Bangalore has always been rated as one of the finest botanical gardens of the world. It is not only the pride of Bangalore but it is a rare repository of  exotic plants and trees, many of which go back to the time of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
The credit for the making of Lalbagh goes to both Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan. They started planting the gardens sometime between 1740 and 1760 and they both took keen interest in raising the garden.
Both Hyder and Tipu imported exotic plants, seeds and saplings from countries as far away as Turkey, Persia, Afganisthan and the continent of Africa. They also set up a separate garden department to deal with Lalbagh and other gardens.
The death of  Tipu in 1799 did not put the brakes on the development of Lalbagh. Instead, the British took keen interest in redeveloping and subsequently expanding the Lalbagh. They wanted the Lalbagh to cater to the culinary tastes of the British troops stationed in Srirangapatna.
The troops of  the East India Company were not accustomed to eating native fruits and vegetables and they longed for “good old English” vegetables and fruits. Bangalore was found to be ideal for growing some of the English vegetables and fruits.
The East India Company took over Lalbagh and the then  Governor General, Richard Wellesley, commanded surgeon- naturalist Dr. Benjamin Heyne, to look up Lalbagh.
Heyne was also tasked with the job of  ensuring that the Lalbagh  provided food for the regimental messes of the British troops. He was also encouraged to demonstrated to the native gardeners and growers how English vegetables such as potatoes, cabbage and turnips could be cultivated in Bangalore.
Heyne sent a letter to Fort St George, dated April 27, 1803, proposing the retention of a small spot of ground in Bangalore for the purpose of cultivating the potato, turnip and other culinary vegetables.
Lalbagh, under Heyne, came to be transformed into a European style garden and it was only from this period it also began to serve as a botanical garden.
Heyne, who was the first British keeper of Lalbagh, brought 369 plant species from the Western Ghats in South India to Lalbagh. Since Wellesley had asked Heyne to introduce crops, including fruits and vegetables palatable to the British, the botanist did his best to redevelop Lalbagh and grow alien crops in India.
This experiment of Heyne started in 1800 and continued till 1807. He introduced Apples, cocoa, durian, clove, nutmeg and mangosteen and the fist saplings of all these were planted in the Lalbagh.
When the experiments in Lalbagh succeeded, Heyne prevailed upon growers in and round Bangalore to grow European and  British vegetables.
Heyne was in Lalbagh till 1812 after which he joined Francis Buchanan in his survey work. Though he could not transform Lalbagh into a garden to serve the British belly, he protected it and preserved its plants and trees.  

Friday 24 January 2014

When Ganjam lost its sheen

It was once a prosperous City that Tipu Sultan, the                          tiger of Mysore, founded. It was on the banks of the Cauvery. No, it was not Srirangapatna but a suburban town that Tipu built when he conquered Sira, near Bangalore.
After the sacking of Sira and the defeat of its ruler, Tipu forced the people of the once thriving town to migrate to another town, many miles away. This was the town of  Shehar Ganjam that he built on the outskirts of Sriranapatna.
Tipu ensured that Shehar Ganjam was well-populated. The city was planned well and it was adjacent to Daria Daulat, his summer palace on one side and Gumbaz, where his father was buried, on the other.
Ganjam had four major roads and it was bisected by smaller roads. Tipu grew several fruits and flowering plants and trees around the town and also encouraged gold and silver smiths. Soon, Ganjam came to be known as the foremost jewellery centre of south India and it rivaled Hyderebad in the design and production of jewellery.
The tradition of jewellery became so synonymous that people called it by the name of the City-Ganjam. The royal patronage endured that artisans and gold and silver smiths apart from jewellery designers flocked to the suburb of Srirangapatna.
There are records to indicate that much of  Tipu’s gold and silver jewellery and the jewellery at the royal treasury came from Ganjam. Of course, there were also spoils of war. But the royal treasury and also the jewellery and ornaments of the high-ranking nobles and courtiers came from Ganjam.
At its peak and this was during the heydays of Tipu, Ganjam was peopled by 12,000 artisans. Ganjam then was also known for its clothes, paper and manufacture of stringed musical instruments.
Ganjam suffered a serious setback in 1799 when the marauding British and Nizam forces set camp at Gajnam and at Karighatta hill. They destroyed the fort of Ganjam and also hacked the magnificent garden and orchards developed by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
Many people, including traders and jewelers fled from Ganjam. After Tipu died in 1799 in the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war, the gold trade of Ganjam received a setback. When the Wodeyars were handed over the Kingdom of Mysore and the sons of  Tipu imprisoned in the Vellore fort, there were fears that Ganjam would lose its importance.
For some time, this proved true as the political uncertainty of the Mysore Kingdom led to a decline in the trade. However, once the political situation stabilised and the Wodeyars shifted their Kingdom to Mysore from Srirangapatna, the trade in gold and jewellery picked up again.     
Over time, the artisans of Ganjam made the jewellery so famous that it rivaled the reputation of Surat. Thus if Surat came to be known for its trade in diamonds, Ganjam earned famed for its signature jewellery.
The intricate design and the many patterns of Ganjam jewellery made its stand out against jewellery from other centres. During the Wodeyar rule from 1799, Ganjam once again regained its prominence as the primary manufacturing and trading centre of jewellery.
Ironically, the final nail in the coffin of Ganjam came after India attained Independence from the British-the very dream that drove Tipu to battle the British. The modernisation of the jewellery making process and the sophisticated equipments used in the manufacture of jewellery and the mechanisation of its process sounded the deathknell of the Ganjam jewellery industry.       
The local jewelers and designers slowly but surely went out of business as orders became far and few. Imitation jewellery and import of gold coupled with high prices of gold and lack of Government support routed the once prosperous small-scale industry.
Where Ganjam once had hundreds of artisans and designers, none survived. Today, it is hard to spot even a single jewellery shop in Ganjam and of course of the designers and makers there is none.
Today, Ganjam survives only as the name of jewellery shops. Of the once thriving trade and commerce centre, there is not a whiff. All we can see is the Gumbaz and the Daria Daulat and sandwiched between them is the village of Ganjam.
Today, thousands of tourists make a beeline to Ganjam to see the Sangam, the Daria Daulat and the Gumbaz. Very few of them know the Ganjam as a prime jewellery manufacturing and designing centre which brought name and fame.     
Ganjam is just two kilometers from Srirangapatna, 17 km from Mysore and 127 km from Bengalore. It is easily accessible from Srirangapatna. 

Thursday 23 January 2014

What's in a name?

What is in a name, you may ask. “Everything”,  is the answer if it is Bangalore. Unlike many other cities in India, Bangalore was never known or founded by that name.
When Kempe Gowda founded Bangalore it was called Devarayanapura and this was the name that Kempe Gowda the first gave to the City he founded. This name was in honour of Achuta Deva Raya, the Emperor of Vijayanagar who permitted Kempe Gowda to not only found the City and build a fort but also construct petes where each of the locality was allowed in trade in a particular commodity.
Thus the founding of Bangalore and the origin of the petes and there were 84 in all when it all began goes back to the reign of Achuta Deva Raya (1529-1541). However, there is another historical view that Kempe Gowda named his new city as Devarayanapura in honour of Krishna Deva Raya (1509-1529).
There is enough evidence to suggest that Krishna Deva Raya did visit Bangalore and that he stayed at a temple or adjacent to a temple in Madiwala.
Though there was no Bangalore when Krishna Deva Raya stayed in Bangalore, Kempe Gowda might have seen him. That he had heard of  Krishna Deva Raya is undeniable. Kempe Gowda also saw Hampi or Vijayanagar and decided to construct a City on the same lines.
He then set about the process of City building. He first harnessed a pair of bullocks to four carts and sent them away in each of the four directions. He asked his soldiers to accompany the bullock carts and he directed them to mark the exact place where they stopped.
The place where the bullock carts stopped were to be the boundaries of the new city. The centre from where they went out in the four directions is what is today known as Doddapete Circle. Unfortunately, the circle is lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life and not even a  handful of the thousands who pass by the busy circle spare a thought to the history of the circle they are traversing across.
Bangalore was never the name Kempe Gowda gave to his nascent city. Bangaluru near Kodigehalli was the place where his wife came from and where his in-laws lived. His wife came to the new city with a fairly large retinue of servants and relatives. Soon, other inhabitants of Bangaluru followed when they realised that Kempe Gowda meant business and that he was a master of  construction. The many temples that Kempe Gowda built, the tanks and lakes he planned, the petes he set about to plan so assiduously and above all the mud fort at the present City Market gave these people a sense of security.
The people of Bangaluru voluntarily shifted from their village and settled down in the city. Soon, the new city overtook other small habitations around such as Magadi, Yelahanka, Anekal, Bangaluru, Begur and Hoskote.
The new city also worsted the old and established cities of Kolar, Chennapatna and Savandurga. It then came to be known as Bangaluru and the one hundred and one years of  the rule of Kempe Gowdas made the city famous by that name.
Gone were the earlier names of Bangalore such as Kalyanipura and Devarayanapura. Bangalore soon became famous and even the British took to the name.
Though the Adil Shahis first and Marathas and Hyder-Tipu wrested control of  Bangalore over different periods, they could never change the name of Bangalore. After the British took over the administration of Mysore from the Wodeyars, they shifted the capital from Mysore to Bangalore. They too preferred Bangalore as a name.
When the British handed back the kingdom to the Wodeyars, the capital was once again shifted to Mysore. But the Wodeyars never changed the name of Bangalore though the Dewans of the state and sometimes even the Maharajas preferred to stay on in Bangalore.  
When India became Independent, Bangalore was unanimously chosen as the capital of the Mysore State. After the integration of the States and the formation of Karnataka, the city of Bangalore continued to retain its name and also the character as capital of the State.
Today, Bangalore has become Bangalooru and there is no unanimity on how this name came about and whether at all it had anything to do with the Hoysala Emperor, Veera Ballala and the story of boiled beans (Benda Kalluru).
Did Benda Kalluru become Bangalore or did Bangaluru become Bangalore.
Whatever the origin of the name, one thing is clear. Human habitation existed in and around today’s Bangalore even during pre-historic times.    
Several Stone Age weapons dating to periods between 2000 BC  to 1000 BC have been found near Jalahalli, Siddapura and Gavipuram. Besides, relics belonging to the Iron Age dating to about 800 BC have been discovered in Kannur, Jadigenahalli and  Koramangla.
That Bangalore was known to foreigners can be evidenced from the fact that Roman coins belonging to Roman Emperors Augustus, Tibirius, Cadius, and Caligula have been unearthed from Yeshwantapur and HAL localities.
Another legend says sometime in the 5th century the Ganga rulers constructed a small settlement near Kengeri for their guards. The guards were known as Bengavalu in Kannada. Their dwelling place became Bengavaluru, which later became Bengaluru.
What is interesting is that the word Bengaluru first appeared in an inscription of  890 A.D. found in Begur. However, this Bengaluru is different from the Bengaluru near Kodigehalli near Hebbal.
Bangalore was also the place where many hero stones or veeragallu  have been found. The hero stones in Lalbagh and Kengeri (10th Century), lake in Krishnarajapura (11th Century), near Railway Housing Colony (13th Century), and near the band-stand in Lalbagh Glass House (13th Century) tell us that Bangalore was inhabited during those periods.
Apart from coins and implements, a host of inscriptions and historical evidences belonging to various periods - Talakadu Gangas (2nd to 10th Century), Cholas (1004-1116), Hoysalas (1116-1336) and Vijayanagar (1336 to 1537) and of course Kempe Gowda – reveal the antiquity of Bangalore.
Yet, the most romantic story of  how Bangalore got its name comes from the hunting  anecdote of  Veera Ballala. This story goes back to the 12th century.
A few historians say that Venkataru was the City built by Kempe Gowda. As Venkaturu had several temples dedicated to Venkataramana Swamy, it became Benkaturu and finally Bengaluru. Yet another story says Bangalore is the name that came after Benacha kalluru (Benachu is the quartz stone that is found in and around Bangalore). The many Benge trees found in Bengeuru also contributed to the name of Bengaluru.
Ironically, we hardly get to see any Benge trees in Bangalore.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

When rivals plotted against Kempe Gowfa

We all know that the reign of the Kempe Gowdas came to an end when the Adil Shahis of Bijapur conquered Bangalore in 1638.
The then Adil Shahi Sultan, had sent out a huge force under Ranadullah Khan, Afzal Khan (he was subsequently killed by Chatrapathi Shivaji) and Shahaji Bhonsale (father of Shivaji) to Bangalore and Sira.
While Afzal Khan marched towards Sira and conquered it, Ranadulla Khan also called as Rustam Zaman and Shahaji camped at Bangalore.
The forces of Kempe Gowda held out at the fort of Bangalore for three days before succumbing to the mighty Adil Shahi army.
The ruler of Bangalore then was  Kempe Gowda III and he had come to power in 1633. Unfortunately, his reign was marked by jealousies and squabbles and neighbouring palegars and nayaks, who had become wary of  the rising power of  Bangalore, conspired against Kempe Gowda.
These palegars could not digest the fact that Bangalore was becoming an important centre for inland trade and commerce. The natural beauty of Bangalore and its prosperity made them jealous.
Bangalore had never seen a major war after Kempe Gowda established the City in 1537. It had remained as the capital of Yelahanka Nadaprabhu’s or the Kempe Gowdas for 101 years from 1537 to 1638 A.D.
Kempe Gowda I, the founder of Bangalore, was a visionary, builder and a lover of art and architecture. He was also a powerful vassel of the Vijayanagar and he had earned his military spurs by subduing nayakas and palegars.
His son Gidde Gowda ruled for 15 years from 1570 to 1585. Thereafter, Kempe Gowda II ruled for 48 years (from 1585 to 1633), and like his grandfather, he was a builder. He constructed like Ranganathaswamy temple in Balepet and the forts in Magadi and Savanadurga. The watch-towers in Lalbagh, Kempambudhi tank, Halasur tank, and near Mekhri circle have become famous as Kempe Gowda towers.
It was during the reign of his son that the Kempe Gowda rule came to an end in Bangalore. The neighbouring rulers were never on friendly terns with Bangalore. They joined hands and conspired to bring down Kempe Gowda.
The conspiring chieftains: Hanumappa Nayaka of Basavapattana, Dalwai Chennaiah of Chennapattana, and Sumukhi Begur Nayak among others joined hands to topple Kempe Gowda.
Realising that even their combined armies could not defeat the disciplined forces of  Kempe Gowda, they invited the Adilshah to invade Bangalore. The Adil Shah was only too happy and he sent a huge force under commander Ranadulla Khan and his deputy Shahaji Bhonsle.
The Adil Shah army defeated Kempe Gowda’s army in three days and captured Bangalore. Shahaji permitted Kempe Gowda III to surrender and also allowed him to retreat to Magadi in 1638. From that day, the Kempe Gowdas could never set foot on Bangalore again and instead they set about developed Magadi and Savandurga. Shahaji permitted Kempe Gowda to rule from Magadi and this is how he came to be known as Magadi Kempe Gowda. But the char of Bangalore and its prosperity could never be replicated in Magadi.
Kempe Gowda’s descendents ruled from Magadi till 1728 when the Wodeyars under Dodda Krishnaraja Wodeyar (1714-1732) put an end to the Yelahanka Nadaprabhu’s reign. The last of the Kempe Gowdas called Kempeveera Gowda (1705-1728) or Kempe Gowda the third spent his time in a jail in Srirangapatna. It was an unhappy time for him as he had not only lost his kingdom but also liberty. He died in jail along with his general Veerabhadra Nayaka, a sad and unhappy man, ruing his fate and his defeat at Savandurga by the marauding Wodeyars.  

Thus Bangalore was lost to the Adil Shahis and Shahaji and his Marathas reigned over Bangalore from 1638 to 1688. In 1688, Khasim Khan, the Mughal Commander, took Bangalore from the Marathas and then sold it to the Wodeyars.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

The Shakti temple of Kshanambike

Nimishamba in Ganjam near Srirangapatna is well-known for its temple dedicated to Nimishamba.
The name Nimishamba has been given to the Goddess as she is believed to grant the wishes or request of a devotee within a minute. In Kannada the word Nimisha means a minute and Amma is mother. Therefore, Nimishamba means a mother who gives boon or grants a wish in a minute.
While the Nimishamba temple is very well-known and thousands visit the shrine every day, there is a temple of another similar Goddess which is not as well-known as Nimishamba.
This is the temple which houses the Kshanambike. Like Nimishamba, this temple too id dedicate to a Goddess and it is located in Srirangapatna itself.
The temple of  Goddess Kshanambika is an ancient one and this is believed to be much older and more powerful than Nimishamba.
If Nimishamba grants wishes in a minute (nimisha), the Kshanambika is said to fulfill the wishes of the devotees within a second (kshana).
In Kannada, the word mans a second and Kshanambika means the Goddess who grants boon in  second. The main source of power of the Goddess here is a bijakdhara garbhita srichakra.
T he Srichakra is a geometrical representation of the universe and this is vital component of yantra worship. The mandala within the Srichakra is believed to activate the energies both within and outside the devotee.
Geometrically, the Srichakra is formed by the intersection of nine isosceles triangles which intersect at various points. While four of the triangles are upright and represent Shiva, the five inverted triangles represent Shakti. All the nine triangles together signify the nine fundamental elements of  skin, blood, flesh, fat, bone,  semen, marrow, breath and the individual soul.
This Srichakra can still be seen in front of the idol of the Goddess Kshanambika. Incidentally, an Astamangala Prashna conducted at the temple has revealed the antiquity of the Srichakra and the Shakti that radiates from the Chakraraja.
The temple of  Kshanambika is located in Srirangapatna itself and it is easy to locate it. If there is any difficulty, locals will be able to guide you to the temple.
The temple is located within the fort and nearby is the Hanuman Temple and the Jumam Masjid.
One can visit both the Nimishamba and Kshanambike temples and both are closely associated with Shakti. If fact, you can club visit to both temples by going in your own transport or hiring an autorickshaw. 

Monday 20 January 2014

The Ganjam figs

An earlier post had dealt with the City of Ganjam and also the jewellery making. This post is about the world famous figs of Ganjam.
Ganjam was as famous for its jewellery as it was for its figs. Though the city of Shehar Ganjam was constructed by Tipu just two kilometers away from his island capital of Srirangapatna, it developed into a distinct city in itself.
Tipu ensured that Ganjam was surrounded by lovely orchards, farms and plantations. He introduced a variety of Indian and foreign plants and trees. He planted many exotic trees and plants in the Gumbaz gardens and around Daria Daulat palace. If the Gumbaz housed the mausoleum of his father Hyder Ali, the Daria Daulat was his summer retreat.
Both the Gumbaz and Daria Daulat were surrounded by hundreds of varieties of  trees and plants. Since Ganjam city was built between these two buildings, it too received Tipu’s largesse. Tipu imported fig or anjura from several countries and had them planted in and around Ganjam.
Soon, the fog took root in Ganjam thanks to the salubrious climate and the ready supply of water from the nearby Cauvery. The garden department of Tipu supervised the fig in the royal gardens in Ganjam.
Ganjam soon became known for its figs. Farmers were encouraged to grow fig and the special and popular variety of fig grown here came to be known as Ganjam fig (Ganjam anjura).
Even Tipu is known o have enjoyed the Ganam fig. Soon, the fig was an important export from Srirangapatna and it contributed to the local economy.
When the British set up camp at Ganjam and overran the Gumbaz, they also captured Ganjam. They destroyed many trees and plants. Initially, growers and farmers fled Ganjam fearing the British. But they came back after the death of Tipu and once again began cultivating fig.
The British imported Ganja fig from Srirangapatna to Bangalore and other places. The Wodeyars too encouraged the farmers and growers to come back and take back possession of their land. Though the fort of Ganjam was destroyed in 1799, the British and the Wodeyars allowed residents to comeback after the death of Tipu Sultan on May 4, 1799.
 Fig cultivation once again took off. Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar and Dewan Mirza Ismail gave a boost to fig cultivation. Both were admirers of the Ganjam fig and they encouraged 150 farmers in and around the village of  Ganjam to grow them. They gave subsidy and donated five guntas of land to each of the 150 growers. They also initiated steps to irrigate the fig farms with water from the Cauvery.
The figs grown on these 150 farms were initially sent to Mysore palace where the royal family of Wodeyars took pride in serving them to the British officers and visitors. Soon, Ganjam figs began to be exported to other states and they commanded a good price in the market.
The Ganjam figs gave the Australian figs and Pune figs a run for the money. They had a unique taste of their own.  
The fig farms survived till1960 after which they slowly died. Lack of encouragement, lack of proper inputs and the growing interest in other cash crops led to many farmers abandoning the fig. Today, there are barely handful of the 150 fig gardens that could be seen in and around Ganjam till the 1960s.

There is a small patch of land which belongs to the  Horticulture department where it has grown 20 plants. The department had taken possession of this 5.5 acres of land from the PWD in 1964.
It is said that the Horticulture department has taken over the 5.5 acre fig gardens from the Public Works Department in 1964. However, we can see a few Sapota plants there. The Ganjam fig plants can be seen at the department nursery at Javarahalli farm in Ganjam (there are 100 fig trees there) and at the farm in Nagamangala taluk.
When we visit Ganjam, even today we can see rusted machines and pipeline network that were used to pump water from the Cauvery to the farms. The two pumps of 40 HP and 20 HP capacity can still be seen but they are defunct.