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The City of Boiled Beans

This is the second of the 16-part series on Bangalore, which will culminate in several competitions including a Quiz, Paint Your City, Photograph Your City, Treasure Hunt, and so on for The Hindu NIE participants.


The Kempegowda tower at Lalbagh

THE ORIGIN of a city's name and its antiquity always interest a historian. The origin of Bangalore is clearly marked by the ceremony of furrowing the main streets by Kempe Gowda I in 1537 A.D. This can also be assumed as the commencement of its political history.

However, there was human habitation much earlier around the place now known as Bangalore. Stone Age weapons belonging to 2000 to1000 B.C. have been found near Jalahalli, Siddapur, and Gavipura. Iron Age relics of about 800 B.C. have been found in Kannur, Jadigenahalli, Koramangla, and other places. Roman coins of Augustus, Tibirius, Cadius, and Caligula of about 1st Century A.D. have been unearthed from Yeshwantapur and HAL areas. Inscriptions and historical evidences belonging to various periods - Talakadu Gangas (2nd to 10th Century A.D.), Cholas (1004-1116 A.D.), Hoysalas (1116-1336 A.D.), and Vijayanagar Kings (1336 A.D. onwards) - show that several dynasties ruled over this area. In addition, many veeragals (hero stones) have been found in various places of Bangalore. Hero stones found 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) clearly show that the area was well inhabited and well settled.

The name of any city and changes in it have always fascinated people, and Bangalore indeed has caught the interest of many. Folklores, guesses, historical evidences, and inscriptions are quoted to prove different theories of the origin of the name "Bangalore". Around 5th Century, Ganga rulers constructed a hamlet near Kengeri for their security guards - known as Bengavalu in Kannada. Their dwelling place was popularly known as Bengavaluru, which later on seems to have changed to Bengaluru.

There is another story relating to 12th Century when Hoysala king, Veera Ballala II, came on a hunting spree and lost his way in this area. The hungry king was treated by an old woman with boiled beans (benda kalu in Kannada) and water, as was the custom in rural areas. The grateful king remembered this place as "Bendakaluru" which in course of time became Bengaluru. Another story tells us how Venkataru (because of the many Venkataramana Swamy temples built by Kempe Gowda) became Benkaturu and finally Bengaluru. Yet another talks of Benacha kalluru (Benachu is quartz stone found in plenty in this area) becoming Bengaluru. Another theory traces the name to Benge trees found in "Bengeuru" which became Bengaluru.

Bangalore also had other names such as Devarayapattana (16th Century) and Kalyanapura. However, the word "Bengaluru" first appeared in an inscription of 890 A.D. found in Begur, about 10 miles south of Bangalore. Historians believe that Bengaluru mentioned in the inscription may be different from the Bengaluru near Kodigehalli near Hebbal. It may be noted here that Bengaluru near Kodigehalli was the parental house of Kempe Gowda's mother as well as of his wife. This must have prompted him to name his city as Bengaluru.

Bangalore was the capital of Yelahanka Nadaprabhu's for 101 years from 1537 to 1638 A.D. Kempe Gowda I was a great visionary, a builder, and an enthusiastic and energetic ruler. He subdued the warring neighbourly chieftains and brought in prosperity and peace to the people. After 32 years of his rule, 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 brave soldier and a great builder. He is known for many constructions like Ranganathaswamy temple in Balepet and 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. The watch- tower is now the insignia of the Bangalore City Corporation.

Kempe Gowda III came to power in 1633 and his rule was stricken with fights and squabbles of neighbouring palegars. Jealous of the prosperity of Yelahanka Nadaprabhus, other chieftains jointly conspired and requested Adilshah of Bijapur to send his army to conquer Bangalore. The conspiring chieftains were Hanumappa Naik of Basavapattana., Dalvai Chennayya of Chennapattana, and Sumukhi Begur Nayak. Adilshah was only too happy, and his army under commander Ranadulla Khan and deputy Shahaji Bhonsle defeated Kempe Gowda's army in three days and captured Bangalore. Kempe Gowda III retreated to Magadi in 1638 and came to be known as Magadi Kempe Gowda. Kempe Gowda's descendents ruled from Magadi till 1728 when Yelahanka Nadaprabhu's rule came to an end. Thus Bangalore was lost to the alien power of Bijapur in 1638 A.D. After a brief stay, commander Ranadulla Khan moved away handing over the Governorship of Bangalore to his deputy Shahaji Bhonsle.

Yelahanka Nadaprabhus divided their principality into three administrative divisions, of which Bangalore was directly under the Nadaprabhu's. "Bara Baluti" system with 12 revenue collectors and a chief officer was followed here, as in Vijayanagar.

Weaving and other professions were encouraged and trading in all commodities got onto a firm footing.

People's groups and panchayats worked with common people in development programmes, welfare schemes, and social/religious activities. In spite of frequent clash and conflicts with the neighbouring chieftains, the rule of Nadaprabhus was generally marked by progress, prosperity, and peace.

Readers may send their comments and suggestions to the author. He can be contacted on 6520122.)

K. CHANDRAMOULI

Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy.

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