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A stroll through history

Experience Leaving the new Bangalore behind, a few citizens walked back in time to understand the city better, writes SHAILAJA TRIPATHI TANEJA

Photo: Murali Kumar K.

Flower power City Market is one of our oldest and largest commercial establishments

If you in recently-sprouted parts of the city and blithely believe this is all there is to the city, you are hysterically mistaken. Beyond the malls, the posh restaurants and IT companies, there exists another city; steeped in myths, legends and hist ory.

However, exploring the past was not the only objective of the walk “Paytay Kotay Keray Thota: Changing Geographies and Fragile Futures” held jointly by Visual art collective, Group SCE and the Indian Institute of geographical Studies. “It’s not mere story-telling,” said Dr. Chandra Shekhar Balachandran, cultural geographer and director of The Indian Institute of Geographical Studies. “The idea is to tell people about the process of modernisation of Bangalore and how these processes have changed the economics and geography of the market area. The city lacks in investment by people and through this walk we want them to think how they can play a role in making the city better.”

The walk explored four areas – “paytay” (commercial area like markets) “kotay” (fort) “keray” (tank) and “thota” (grove). A group of 75 boarded the BMTC bus from Unity Building on J. C. road. The first stop was Dharmaraya temple in Nagarathpet, “a site considered the only site connecting the city with mythology,” said Suresh Jayaram, a visual artist and art historian. “The temple from the Ganga Period is dedicated to the pandavas and aadishakti.” Displaying the images of the annual Karaga festival, Jayaram talked of how the change has affected tigala community who once lived in and around the temple. “The tigalas came from Tamil Nadu and were primarily farmers who lived around this area as it had many tanks. Gradually their land were taken away and tigalas moved away,” said Jayaram who belongs to tigala community.

On Karaga, “for one night tigalas reoccupy the city. They take out a procession at 2 a.m. A man dressed as woman, carries the Karaga, (an earthen pot symbolising Draupadi, believed to be the reincarnation of aadi-shakti), walks through old Bangalore and returns before the sunrise,” narrates Jayaram.

From Dharmaraya temple, the group moved to one of the oldest and largest wholesale markets in the region, K. R. Market or City Market. The walk looked at the market space from two angles. “The city had eight bagilus or gates,” said urban planner Champaka T.R. “The place where we stand today was Anekal bagilu, the gate to enter the paytay. The whole area was a keray named after siddhi, a relative of Kempe Gowda. The market was just a courtyard with shops on the ground floor. Ten years ago, the corporation made it multi-storied. Since the tank isn’t there anymore you have to just imagine the landscape.” Behind the aromas of spices and fragrance of flowers, there lies the tenuous relationship between the authorities and the hawkers and amongst the vendors themselves. “There are about 1,600 shops in the building. About 500 shops are not easily visible and some of them moved into the public space,” Champaka added.

Amidst the hustle-bustle of the market, is the shrine of Hazrat Syed Pasha that attracts devotees from different faiths. Believers put a lock at the shrine and take back the key to signify locking up their troubles.

On K.R. Road, just a few metres away from City Market is Bangalore Fort. It was first built in mud in 1537 by Kempegowda, the founder of Bangalore. Haidar Ali rebuilt it in stone and then his son Tipu Sultan improved on it. Victoria Hospital, one of the largest and oldest hospitals in the city is rumoured to be made of stone from the fort. Looking at the metal rods to hold up the tarpaulin on one of the sides of the historical monument, one can just imagine vendors busy hawking their ware. The dungeons in which British officer David Bayerd was once imprisoned are dirty.

The last stop was Tipu Sultan’s palace. Made mostly out of wood, this two-storeyed structure served as Tipu’s summer palace. The inlay work, the arches, Tipu’s rockets, the palace flanked by garden on either sides evoke nostalgia.

The walkers included Kannadigas, foreigners and architecture students. Dr. Sanjay Govil, liver transplant surgeon at Narayana Hrudayalaya took part for three reasons. “I wanted to do something which was non-medical, to meet new people and understand the city little better.” Raghu V., an instrumentation engineer, was always interested in history and participated in the walk to learn something new.

(As there is a long waiting list of interested people, the walk will be repeated soon. Contact 25205305-08)

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