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Edifices that tell tales

This is the eighth of a 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.


One of the Kempegowda Towers atop the Lalbagh rock.

OUR CITY'S buildings, streets, circles, statues, and monuments have many an anecdote to tell, for those who care to listen.

Lalbagh, for instance, is not just a beautiful garden, but is also a geological monument. The Lalbagh rock, on which the Kempe Gowda tower was built, is estimated to be about 3,000 million years old. This rock, known as peninsular gneiss, is one of the oldest land formations on earth. The fossil tree in front of the band stand, brought from the Thoruvakkaru National Forest in South Arcot, is estimated to be 20 million years old. Compared to these old relics, the 200-year-old mango trees planted by Tippu and the 160-year-old building (now the National Horticulture Library) are veritable newborns.

Kempe Gowda's towers were essentially watch towers that also indicated the anticipated external limits of the City's growth. The four towers are located at the Kempambudhi tank bund, on the Lalbagh rock, near the Ulsoor tank, and adjacent to the Ramana Maharshi Ashram on Bellary Road. Historians refer to four more towers at Gavi Gangadhareswara, Nanjamba Agrahara, Basavanna temple, and near Binny Mills. Unfortunately, these four have not been traced.

During the III Mysore War, in 1791, one of the gunshots from Cornwallis's army hit the Garudagamba in front of Venkataramana temple inside the fort. The damaged pillar remained in the same position till 1984 when it was shifted to a side of K.R. Road. This was considered as a traffic hazard and was removed. In the process, the pillar broke into four pieces and it was dumped near a temple in Seethapathi Agrahara. The pedestal was placed in the Satyanarayana temple nearby. Possibly, the other pieces of the relic are being used as fence posts or may have come in handy for a washerman!

Tippu's armoury near the Bangalore Medical College is yet another uncared for monument. The Cenotaph was a 35-feet tall pillar erected as a memorial for the heroes who died in the Mysore wars. This memorial was considered a bitter reminder of the colonial rule and broken overnight (1964) and carted away.

There are many other war memorials and the prominent ones are: The memorial for the Madras Pioneers at the Residency Road (I World War), for Madras Sappers near Ulsoor Lake built in 1922 and later shifted in 1986 to MEG area, memorial in MEG and Centre shifted to the Museum Complex of Madras Sappers, for Mysore Imperial Service Troops near Doordarshan building, for Mysore Lancers near Kaval Bhairasandra (First World War), Minx War Memorial Park on Raj Bhavan Road, for martyrs of Freedom Movement near Mysore Bank Circle, for MEG soldiers, who died in Kargil Park, in Coles Park.

Every locality, extension, garden, boulevard, circle, or street naturally requires a name to identify them. Reputed persons could be thus honoured and their memory perpetuated. But unfortunately, some of these names get distorted, shortened, or changed in the process. The original name may stay on, but the person's good deeds are scarcely remembered. With the lapse of time, the extensions grow, roads become more busy, circles get greener, but alas, the person's claims for fame become dim! Take for example Chamarajpet I Main Road, which was named Albert Victor Road in 1889. It was soon shortened to A.V. Road. Kannada enthusiasts renamed it Alur Venkatrao Road, which was again shortened to A.V. Road. However, people still refer to it as I Main Road only.

Cunningham Road was renamed Sampige Ramaswamy Temple Road, shortened to S.R.T. Road. But the old name has stuck. The old name of Hudson Circle continues even after it was renamed as Rani Kittur Chennamma Circle.

However, a few names have been accepted readily - Nrupathunga Road (Cenotaph Road), Pampa Mahakavi Road (Hardinge Road), Vittal Mallya Road (Grant Road), Prof. Shiva Shankar Circle (Irvin Circle), etc.

A few cases of anglicising the Kannada names and shortening these to the initials are: H.B. Samaja Road (Harikathe Bhajana Samaja), M.K.K.V.P. Road (Mahakavi K.V. Puttappa Road, why not simply Kuvempu Road?), K.V. Lane (Kottige Veerabhadrappa Lane), and E.A.T.S. (East Anjaneya Temple Street).

Many names kindle a historian's curiosity - South Parade (M.G. Road), Cavalry Road, Millers Road, Standage Road, Wheeler Road, Sadashivanagar, Fraser Town, Murphy Town, Richard Town, Benson Town, Coles Park, Sarvanton Circle, Hudson Circle, Briand Circle, Nanjappa Circle, Nettakallappa Circle, Sajjan Rao Circle... One may mention here that many circles have disappeared in the growing traffic - Mekhri, T. Siddalingaiah Circle, T. Ananda Rao Circle and so on.

Visits of some great personalities and the places associated with them have also come to be forgotten. Sharadadevi is said to have gone into deep meditation on a hillock in the Ramakrishna Ashram (1911). It is said that Vivekananda used to rest daily on a stone in front of a tank in Tulasi Thota (1882). Gandhiji and Madan Mohan Malaviya together visited the Dairy Research Institute at Adugodi in 1927. Malaviyaji delivered a lecture in Sanskrit at Shankar Math during this visit. Famous personalities such as Julian Huxley, Arnold Toynbee, the Panchen Lama, Martin Luther King addressed gatherings at the Institute of World Culture. Many dignitaries were welcomed in the Lalbagh Glass House. Jawaharlal Nehru stayed with his wife and daughter in a house in Aralepete during his 1931 visit. Winston Churchill lived in Bangalore Cantonment during 1895. Rabindranath Tagore (1919) and Sarojini Naidu (1920) attended the annual functions organised by the Amateur Dramatic Association. Annie Besant was here in 1916. Many of these historical moments do need to be preserved for posterity.

The memory of many remarkable persons is preserved by setting up statues for them - Queen Victoria, King Edward, Chamaraja Wadiyar, Sir Mark Cubbon, B.M. Sree, Kuvempu... These statues need to be kept neat and clean, and our sense of history needs to be more than brushed up.

(The author would be grateful for additional information, old anecdotes, and old photographs on the subject. He can be contacted on 6520122 or on e-mail kcmvcm@rediffmail.com).

K. CHANDRAMOULI

Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

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