Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Biting the hand that fed us

This tank not only supplied water to the residents of  Bangalore but it was also the place where large crowds gathered in the evenings, spending time eating roasted nuts, munching tidbits and sitting on the steps, watching the steam locomotives huff and puff their way to and from the City Railway Station.
The water body was perhaps one of the most recognised landmarks of Bangalore in the 19th century and everyone who came to Bangalore by train saw the clear water and admired its beauty. Among the admirers of this tank were India’s first Prime Minister and statesman, Jawaharlal Nehru.
Nehru loved the way a passenger would be greetd woth the clear waters of the tan once he stepped out of the station. The wonderful sight of the vast water body charmed millions of people whpo carried back tales of the city of lakes back home.
The tank was surrounded by small and petty shops cart sellers and even houses. There were also several boarding houses for the poor and needy which gave shelter to the homeless. Several men of repute, including Swamy Vivekananda, sat near the tank.
Of course, Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi visited Bangalore several times and during one of their visits they found that the tank had dried up and given way to a vast ground where people gathered in large numbers. Nehru too along with other Congress giants and Mahatma Gandhi addressed huge gatherings on the dry tank bed. People then called it Gandhi Sagara.
Both Nehru and little Indira, as he called her, stayed during one of their visits at the house of a Congress leader in Cottonpet. The Congress in the State grew so attched to the ground that they wrote to the Mysore Government seeking a lease on it. The Wodeyars, who were chary of  antagonising the British or encouding the freedom movement in their Kingdom, demurred and so the tank bed remained for several more years before it completely lost out to growing urbanisation.
The tank, after the fall of Tipu Sultan, was the lifeline of the Bangalore Pettah area and it was also the boundary between the Cantonment (Civil and Military Station) and the Pettah area. Just across the tank was the Resident’s House and a little down was the Cantonment Railway Station.
All roads of the Pettah, including the now disused and broken down fort of City Market, radiated towards the lake. The many pettahs founded by Kemp Gowda-Chickpet, Balepet, Narasinghpet, Taramandalpet, Cottonpet and surrounding areas prospered and became a business and trading hub.
The tank too along with other water bodies provided clear ad pristine water to the people of Hale Bangalore or Pettah. Though historians ascribe the construction of this tank to Kempe Gowda sometime in 1537,  this water body finds mention in a Hoysala inscription of 1247 where it is called the Dodda Kere of Vengaluru.
It was this Dodda Kere or big tank that Kempe Gowda repaired, renovated and enlarged when he founded the City of Bangalore. He named the water body as Dharmambudhi Tank. Why it was so named is still a mystery.
There was another tank near the railway station and this was named as Jakkarayanakere. Today, the Platform road is the only reminder of the once vast lake. To the othet side of the railways station was the lake near Binny Mills.
Coming back to the the Dharmambudhi tank, this was one of the series of tanks and lakes developed by Kempe Gowda for providing water to the city he founded. The tank extended upto the Subedar Chatram Road where the Annamma temple today stands. The tank also irrigated the paddy fields and flower gardens of Tulasi Thotha and surrounding areas.
Water channels from the Dharmambudhi tank were constructed along the streets of the Pettah and water was let into these channels. Residents of the Pettah gathered water from these channels at various points called Karanjis or square depressions cut of stone.
The Dharmambudhi Tank and other water bodies like Sampangiramnagar provided employment to a new class of people called water carriers. Thes water carriers ferried water from the tanks to their custmers in skin bags slun across poles placed on their shoulders. The affluent class employed such water carriers on a regular basis.
The waters of the Dharmambudhi tank extended upto the steps of the Anjeneya Temple near Majestic. The temple authorities conducted theepotsava every year and it drew arge crowds. The many uses of the tank led people to name it as Jeeva kere.  
When famine ravaged Mysore State, including Bangalore in 1877, the Government ordered desilting work of the Dharmambudhi tank and repaired its supply channels to provide employment to the impoverished people. The desilting was a success and it led to increased supply of drinking water to the pete or Pettah.
The then Municipality decided to deveop the grounds adjacent to the lake and called it Chicklalbagh. The foundation for the park was laid in the same year and it was completed in 1878. The Mysore Government then decided to organize Nadaswaram recital every Sunday evening between 6 p.m., and 8 p.m., at the park.
With more and more people gathering in and around the tank, debris, filth and sewage began to build up and the tank slowly began shrinking both in extent and in quantity.
During summer, the tank water dried up and people defecated on the tank bed and in the water channels. They also dumped garbage and filth. When the rains came. The filth was pushed into the tank and soon it began to emit a foul smell.
In 1892-93, the monsoons failed Bangalore along with other parts of the Mysore Kingdom witnessed severe water shortage. The Dharmambudhi tank too dried up and the Government decided to fill up the tank with water from Hebbal tank and Jakkarayana tank. No less than 23,20,000 gallons of water was flushed into the Dharmambudhi tank from the Hebbal tank.
In 1889, when Prince Albert Victor, son of Queen of British India, Victoria, alighted at the Bangalore railway station, he was welcomed by dancers who performed on a float placed in the centre of the Dharmambudhi tank.
The famous Purnaiah Chatra and several other mathas were located on the south-eastern side of the tank. The Poornaiah choultry is a school now. Besides, there were three free boarding houses or chatras adjacent to the tank.
The Government, by then, realised that the tanks and lakes would not suffice to fulfill the growing needs of Bangalore. The Government took up construction of the Hesarghatta Reservior and committed itself to providing piped water supply to residents of Bangalore. The first piped water flowed into Bangalore in 1896 and all the water tanks and lakes, including Dharmambudhi, came to be neglected.    
The Municipality allowed the tank to become dry and by the turn of the 20th century, it had almost disappeared but for a small patch of water. In 1905,  the Mysore Government suggested to the Bangalore Municipality to convert the Dharmambudhi tank into a children’s park. However, the municipality felt that the tank could be maintained as a water body. It replied that when it had sufficient funds, it would divert water from Sankey lake into Dharmambudhi. This promises remained only on paper and it soon came to be forgotten.
Exactly two decades later, in 1925, the Municipality dug a well on the now dry bed of Dharmambudhi tank. This was to pump water immediately to the water starved areas of  Balepet and Manavarthpet. The municipality then hired the Dharmambudhi tank bed for holding public meetings, exhibitions and events and only a little shallow water near the Chiklalbagh side reminded people of the lake.
In 1931, Jawaharlal Nehru addressed a public meeting here and hoisted the tricolour as part of the Freedom Movement. In July 1931, the Bangalore City Congress Committee requested the municipality to lease the north western corner of  the tank bed for five years at an annual rent of Rs 6. The Municipality forwarded the request to the Government, which turned down the request.
The decades after Independence saw rapid urbanization of Bangalore and the Dharmambudhi tank slowly began dying. By 1957, the water had completely dried and from the 1960s, it was only a playground where Congress exhibitions were held.  
Soon after Independence, the dry tank was named Subashnagar in honor of Subash Chandra Bose. The tank bed became a popular venue for public meetings, exhibitions and other events. In 1963,  the land was handed over to the KSRTC and several years later, the Chief Minister, R Gundu Rao, asked the KSRTC to construct a mofussil and city bus stand.

Today, the only remnant of the lake is the name of Dharmambudhi Tank Bund Road. The Tulasi Thotha and Chick Lalbagh exist as also the Railway Station. Sadly, the waters of the tank are now only a memory and only a handful of the millions who pass by daily remember it.
There is no use blaming the Government alone for the death of the lake. All of us are equally responsible for biting the hand that fed us.   

The legend of the Tulasi Thotha

Bangalore is synonymous with Ramanavami concerts. The festival to celebrate Lord Rama in Bangalore turns into a symphony of music and the entire city of Bangalore transforms itself into a virtual stage for artistes to perform.
Every locality and almost every temple organises music and cultural festivals in honor of India’s best known God, whose is touted as an ideal King and whose Kingdom symbolised  an ideal State.
Ramanavami arrives in April and the onset of  summer is soothed by music that resonated for almost a month. The Ramanavami celebrations have attracted national and international attention and musicians and singers vie with each other to participate in the celebration of Rama.
The Rama Seva Mandali of Chamarajpet and the Mandalis of Seshadripuram, Shankarapuram, N.R. Colony and other areas have attined cult status. These mandalis invite a host of Carnatic, Hindustani and a few other other streams of music and art such as Harikatha, Janapada, Gamaka to exhibit their talents.
However, what many do not know is that the first public and perhaps popular rendition of Ramotsava were not held by these mandalis but by a saint-mendicant in the early years of the 20 the century.
This mendicant, who was widely popular throughout India for his devotion to Rama and his celebration of  Rama as an ideal King and a God who embodied all that is good and virtuous, first came to Bangalore in 1908 and started the Ramotsava celebrations.
The mendicant settled down at the Krishna Temple near the almost dry Dharmambudhi tank. The locality where the Krishna temple was situated was called Tuilasi Thotha. Tulasi is a Kannada word and it is the holy Basil plant and Thotha means grove or garden. There were several temples such as the Krishna Temple, the Dharmaraya Temple, the Kote Venkataramanaswamy Temple, the Venugopalaswamy Temple, Anjeneya Temple apart from the Annamma temple and since they all needed Basil leaves for regular worship, a Tulasi Thotha had come up in the area which today is occupied by Chicka Lalbagh.
The Tulasi Thotha was surrounded by several chatras or halls which provided shelter to the poor and needy and also to those who visited Bangalore for a short stay. Since the Railway Station as just a few hundred yards away, Tulasi Thotha always looked busy and it had a fairly large floating population.
The saint-mendicant whose name was Tulasi Ramadas came to Bangalore in 1908 and he settled down at the 15th century Krishna Temple in Tulasi Thotha. A leading citizen of Bangalore then and four times president of the municipality and Mayor of Bangalore and a councilor for 36 years, Rao Bahadur Lokasevasakta B. K. Garudachar had just taken interest in developing the Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple (Krishna Temple) at Tulasi Thotha Balepet.
Rao Bahadur was also one of the founding members of the State Bank of Mysore and he also built a free hostel in the temple premises. The sincerity and dedication of the Rao Bahadur attracted Ramadas who made the temple his home and commenced the Ramotsava celebrations.            
Though the main deity of this temple is Lord Krishna, Ramadas installed the idol of Rama and soon it came to be known as Rama Temple. The antiquity of the temple is a mystery and while some say it was built by the Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar in 1844, others say it is much older.
Ramadas saw the Krishna temple and he installed and consecrated the idol of Rama there itself on April 2, 1908 and began the Ramotsava celebrations. Since he was better known as Tulasi Ramadas, the area came to be known as Tulasi Thotha, says one legend about the name of the place. The other story is that there was a fairly big Tulasi Vana or Thotha, hence, the name.

Even today, the temple is maintained by the successors of  Rao Bahadur Garudachar who died sometime in 1948. There are a few houses in the courtyard for the people who work in the temple premises.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A repository of History

What Malleswaram is to north Bangalore, this locality is to south Bangalore. Both these localities were conceived and even formed simultaneously. They came up as a result of the great plague epidemic of 1898 that ravaged Bangalore.
Both Malleswaram and this locality is named after the most prominent temples in their respective localities. Sine their inception, both these localities have continued to be bastions of  local culture, Kannada language, literature, art and music. 
If it was the great plague that led to the formation of both Malleswaram and this locality, today it is the intellectual consciousness and remarkable adherence to tradition and culture of yore of the people of these two localities that distinguish then from the rest of Namma Bangalore.
Both these localities were well-laid our at the foothills of elevated hillocks. If Malleswaram was at the foothills of the Kempe Gowda tower and the small hillock of Palace Guttahalli, this locality was  at the foothills of Bugle rock and Lalbagh.
Talk about Bangalore and one is sure to mention Malleswaram in as much the same breath as Basavanagudi. Yes, this post is about Basavanagudi, one of the few localities in Bangalore that is named after a local temple or deity.
Each street and each institution in Basavanagudi has its own tale to narrate. The Bugle rock is not only historically important but it is also a geological wonder. The park nearby is host to fruit bats. There are scores of temples but Basavanagudi gets its name from the temple of Basava or Nandi on Bull Temple road.    
The village of Basavanapura that once was situated adjacent to the Karanji Anjeneya Temple just off Gandhi Bazar too lent its name to the new locality. .
There was another village nearby and this was called Sunkenahalli. Both Basavanapura and Sunkenahalli gave way to Basavanagudi and today both the villages along with Kanakanapalya, which was at the edge of the Basavanagudi locality (now RV Teacher College and surrounding areas) are history.
The only remnant of the villages are the Kadalakai Parashe that is held every year on Bull Temple Road. Even today, groundnut growers come in hundreds to sell their wares during the fair.
By the way, both Malleswaram and Basavanagudi had their own sources of water. The Kadu Malleswara temple in Malleswaram and the Bull temple were the places where the rivers originated.  
Interestingly both the localities were planned near the watch towers of Kempe Gowda. The locality of Malleswaram skirted around the Kempe Gowda tower near Mekhri Circle, while Basavanagudi extended to the entrance of Lalbagh which housed another of the towers and the Kempambudhi lake where the third tower was located.
Kempegowda-I (1513-1569) planned the southern boundary of Bangalore to include the Karanji lake and this was set aesthetically among the rocks. Kempe Gowda called this Karenji.
Kempe Gowda is also credited with having built the garbagudi of the Karenji Anjeneya Temple. He also arranged for the  Pranaprathista of the deity and ensured daily pujas were conducted.
Locals believe that Janamejaya, the grandson of Abimanyu, had performed penance at the hillock on which Anjaneya idol is located.
The Basava temple and several other temples were adjacent to the calm and peaceful Karanji lake. The water body covered parts of Basavanagudi, Chamrajapet and Gandhi Bazar. The tank dried up soon after the Dharmambudhi and Siddikatte tanks dried up. The National High School today stands on the bed of the once beautiful tank.
Just across the tank and where Ramakrishna Ashrama stands and the localities of Hanumanthanagar and Srinagar were the groundnut fields. The fields soon gave way once the Karanji tank ran dry. Only the Bugle rock remained.
During the third Mysore War which commenced in 1791, a contingent from the Mysore army under the leadership of Mir Quamar-ud-din launched a rocket attack on the British forces from Bugle rock. The small contingent was overcome and the British marched towards the fort (now at City Market) and subsequently conquered it.
Once Tipu was finally defeated, Basavanapura and Sunkadakatte continue to remain small villages on the periphery of  the Petah town and they supplied fruits, vegetables and ground nuts to the people.
However, things changed when the Mysore Government planned new extensions in the aftermath of the plague. This is how both Basavanagudi and Malleswaram came up and both swallowed the villages on which they were planned. 
Soon, both Basavanagudi and Malleswaram became the centre of Kannada and along with Chamarajpet led to the renaissance of Kannada language and culture.
Luminaries like Prof Bellave Venkatanaranappa were the earlier settlers of Basavanagudi. Prof. Bellave was an institution by himself and a founder member of several organizations such as the Kannada Sahitya Parishad and Basvanagudi Union and Service. He also renovated the Mallikarjuna templeand edited Vignana Kannada, a journal in Kannada on science.
He had a battery of disciples and each one made a name for himself and they included the redoubtable D.V.G, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, V.C, BMSri, M.V.Setharamaiah and others.

Even today, Basavanagudi retains its old world charm. It is one of the few localities in Bangalore that have managed to integrate harmoniously the old with the new. Of course, the rush of urbanization and modernism continues but the people seem more aware of their rich culture and heritage. No wonder, it is a repository of history and culture.     

Monday, 29 July 2013

Will it be Sharavathi or Yettinahole

The lakes first and Hesarghatta and Tippegondanahalli (TG Halli) quenched the thirst of Bangaloreans. When Bangalore was founded by Kempe Gowda in 1537, he conceived a system of interlinked tanks and lakes that not only provided water to the residents but also acted as a flood control mechanism.
When the British decided to shift their Cantonment from Srirangapatna to Bangalore in 1806, they realize that Bangalore did not have any natural water nearby to fulfil the water needs of a growing City. They then built the Ulsoor lake and also other water bodies such as Sankey (1882) and Millers Tanks (1873).
Soon, the Mysore Government too realised that the tanks planned by Kempe Gowda were insufficient to provide water to the pettah area and they planned the Hesarghatta reservoir across the Arvakathy.
When the Hesarghatta reservoir too failing to fully quench the thirst of Bangaloreans and drying up in 1925, the Mysore Government planned the TG Halli reservoir. Unfortunately, the Hesarghatta has completely gone dry and the TG Halli too is going the same way. The only alternative for the State Government was to tap the Cauvery which was more than 90 kilometres away from Bangalore.
With the Cauvery panel limiting the quantum of water to Bangalore, the State Government has now been left with no alternative but to look for alternatives to provide water to a city which is now the fourth largest metropolis in India.   
The State Government has now planned to reduce the dependence on Cauvery by tapping another river to provide drinking water to Bangalore and this is the Sharavathi river.  
The Sharavathi is a west flowing river which takes it birth in the Western Ghats. It is better know for being the source of Jog Falls. A high-level committee appointed by the previous Government has suggested a few days back to the present Congress Government that the Sharavathi could be harnessed to augment the exisiting water supply to Bangalore.
The committee had been appointed to identify possible water sources to redress Bangalore’s water needs.
The committee was headed by H N Thyagaraj, former chief engineer of Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and it comprised ten other members.
The committee has suggested five options to the Government and of them it concluded that the Sharavathi would be the most viable one.  
What makes the Sharavathi option ideal is that its waters are mainly used for producing power and also for agriculture. If the waters are to be diverted to Bangalore, then the State must be ready to reduce the power generation from Sharavathi. So, it means bartering water for power.
Sharavathi is at least 300 kilometres away and the water will have to pass through regions at a lower elevation than Bangalore. The committee feels that water can be brought from Linganamakki reservoir that is fed by Sharavathi to Hesaraghatta reservoir in Arkavathi catchment area.
The water can then be pumped into Bangalore. The committee has also recommended the manner in which the water has to be pumped. It says water has to be pumped first from Linganamakki reservoir to Yagati, which is 130 km away. It will then be pumped into Arkavathy, 170 km away, by using gravity. Though pumping is inevitable, the power consumed will be much lesser than what is being used currently in case of pumping the Cauvery.
Since Linganamakki has a capacity of 150 thousand million cubic feet (TMC), the committee feels that at least 10 TMC could be easily pumped into Bangalore. This could be increased by 10 TMC once every ten years.
Another option is to get water from Yettinahole. This option had been suggested by the Paramashivaiah committee. The Government now has no other alternative but to tap either the Sharavathi or Yettinahole, another river which originates in the Western Ghats, for providing water to Bangalore.
The Government realises that all the four phases of Cauvery are over and the river cannot be tapped for any more water. It has to approach the World Bank or other financial institutions for finance and these institutions would fund the scheme only if the source of water is identified.  
Former BJP minister Katta Subramanya Naidu had contemplated linking the Almatti to Bangalore so that the city gets 24/7 water.
Irrigation experts point out that the entire river system of  Karnataka yields 3440 tmc ft of water and the West-flowing rivers account for 2,000 tmc ft annually and this comes to 58 per cent of the total yield. Due to the narrow coastal belt in Mangalore, Karwar and Udupi, a major portion of the water goes into the sea and it is this excess that has to be tapped.
However, tapping these waters is not technically viable or financially feasible. Besides, any such diversion could cause large scale environment harm and destroy the fragile ecology of the Western Ghats. So the best option is to only tap the west flowing rivers on the upper reaches of the Western Ghats and this would come to 0.54 tmc ft of water.
Another plus for such a diversion is that the Western Ghats report high levels of rainfall and this bounty of Nature can be tapped. However, it should not be forgotten that the Western Ghats is a biological reserve and home to thousands of animal species including at least 325 globally endangered species.
Another problem for using Yettinahole to quench Bangalore’s thirst is that it is a major tributary along with Kumaradhara of Netravathy.
Besides, the Netravathy’s origin itself is Yettinahole. It is only later that the Kumaradhara joins the river. If the Yettinahole is diverted, it means diverting the Netravathy itself. The Netravathy is the lifeline of the coast and people living there should get the first right over it.

Moreover, river water has to flow to the sea to sustain aquatic life and also to retain the ecological balance. What could be done is to reduce the excess flow into the sea and use this balance to meet Bangalore’s water needs. But, many towns and villages in Mangalore district already suffer from water shortage.  The question is how will the Government tackle this problem. There has to be a coordinated and comprehensive approach to resolve this issue.      

Reusing waste water

Even as the State Government is scrambling to come up with schemes to provide water to a parched Bangalore City and even as it is commissioning several studies, organising seminars, holding meetings and undertaking studies to search for a viable alternative to the Cauvery, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has come up with a revolutionary idea.
The BWSSB has finally realised that augmenting Bangalore’s water supply should begin at home and it has decided, albeit a little late, to resolve Bangalore’s water woes by reusing water.
Reusing or recycling natural resources has never gained popularity in India and there has not been any serious effort either by the Government or the people to reuse natural resources or recycle waste.
Water is one of the natural resources that can be easily reused. The reused water can be used for non-potable purposes like cleaning, gardening and for toilet purposes. Infact, the technology for reusing water is so good that it can even be used for drinking and  this is what the BWSSB proposes to do.
The BWSSB has drawn up a large-scale plan to reuse water. This, it feels, will not only lessen the dependence on the Cauvery but also replenish ground water levels and provide the authorities with the much needed buffer to rejig the water supply network and also provide better services.
This would perhaps be the first time in India that an urban water supply board is using treated water to augment potable water supply. Ambitiously labelled as the Vrishabhavathi Valley project and this many say is the first of its kind in India, will see 300,000m3/d of sewage effluent undergo stringent secondary treatment. The next step is to treat half of this amount with tertiary treatment before releasing it into the Arkavathy river, where it will mix with fresh water.
This combined flow will be pumped into the Tippegondanahalli (T.G. Halli) reservoir, where the water will be further treated before being distributed to the western parts of Bangalore.
The BWSSB plans to construct a 147,000m3/d ultrafiltration plant at the Tavarekere pumping station. This would be state of art project and would cost at least Rs. 474 crores (USD112 million).
Since the project has been approved under the JNNURM scheme, 50 per cent of the cost will be borne by the Governments- Central Government will bear 35 per cent and state government 15 per cent. The other 50 per cent will be borne by the BWSSB and the water board proposes to raise this amount through loans from financial institutions.
Waste water from the domestic sector or households is also known as sewage and it can generally be divided into two distinct forms:
Blackwater – which is grossly contaminated by faeces or urine; and Greywater - which is not grossly contaminated by faeces or urine.
According to water usage surveys, an average wastewater flow of
586 litres is generated per day per house hold and Grey water represents about 68 per cent of the total waste water stream. When kitchen waste water is also excluded, the percentage of grey water
becomes about 61 per cent. This shows that grey water is a recyclable water resource
The BWSSB says that 80 per cent of the City’s water is met from the Cauvery and the rest from the Arkavathy and borewells. The current water supply is in the region of 870,000m3/d, though demand exceeds 1.2 million m3/d. The shortfall is met by the 3.14 lakhs borewells and this has severely strained the ground water table.
The Board has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Singapore Co-operation Enterprise (SCE) and Temasek Foundation (TF), an investment arm of Singapore government, for recycling and reusing treated water.
The Board wants to avail of technical guidance from Singapore as it has adequate expertise in waste water treatment, recycling and re-use.
BWSSB wants to develop a project across the Vrishabhavathi Valley as it already has five sewage treatment plants along the course of the river. The Board will now have to set up a reuse treatment system.
Even the Interim Report of the Expert Committee to Assess Long Term Additional Needs of Water for Bangalore City had recommended this measure among others to ensure that excessive dependence on fresh water is reduced.
The report points out that 1520 MLD of water goes into the Valley after treatment at BWSSB treatment plants. This water could be used to recharge groundwater, supplement inflow to Arkavathy and also be used for non-potable purposes.
It also suggest dual pipelines to transport potable and non-potable water for drinking and other purposes to houses and establishments and this can substantially reduce the burden on fresh water.
Bangalore has 14 secondary sewage treatment plants (STP) and all of them operate much below capacity due to insufficient inflow. They have a collective capacity of treating 873 MLD of water.
Apart from these plants, the BWSSB is installing smaller STPs near several lakes. But, Bangalore uses less than 7 MLDs of treated water. There is thus scope for larger use of recycled water. This is really ironical considering that Bangalore’s first sewage network was developed as early as 1922 but the treatment of waste water started only in 1974.

Recreating Tipu's march

History tells that Tipu Sultan was born in Devanahalli near Bangalore and that his father Hyder Ali was born in Budhikote near Kolar.
Both Hyder Ali and Tipu ruled from Srirangapatna which was their capital. The Mysore kingdom of Hyder and Tipu was a vast one and they were constantly at war with the Marathas and Nizams and later with the British.
Bangalore was an important trading and military post during the reigns of Hyder Ali and Tipu. Both father and son rode with their armies from Srirangapatna to Bangalore through the towns of Magadi and Savandurga to either reach Bangalore or Devanahalli –Nandi Hills region.
There are many small villages and towns where the armies of Hyder Ali and Tipu stopped over during their travels to and from Bangalore and Devanahalli-Nandi Hills (Nandidurga) region.
One such stopover was the village of Agalakote.
The village today, which is near Magadi, is only a small speck on the geographical map of  Bangalore district. It is s small that it cannot be spotted on the Karnataka map today.
This is the state of  Agalkote today as against the thriving and bustling small town that it was just a little over 213 years ago.
Tipu often stopped in the village to give the much needed rest to his army and also to his horses, elephants, camels and oxen, most of which belonged to the fabled Amrit Mahal breed.
The cattle and horses were stabled and given fodder either on their onward journey to Bangalore-Savandurga or Srirangapatna. The small town of Agalkote had sufficient water for the animals and it was just a few kilometers from the massive and imposing fort of Savandurga and the bigger town of Magadi.
There was abundant fodder for cattle and hay for the horses. The area also boasted of adequate water for the Army and the animals.  
Tipu and his officials took rest here and sent out detachments from this once fortified town to reconnitor the area. The fort was not a very big structure but if afforded security to Tipu and his army.
Tipu also built a mosque here where he prayed. Records of the then Mysore Kingdom say Tipu preferred to stay in elaborately pitched tents.
Today, neither the fort nor any other structure of the period, except the mosque, survives. The fort was perhaps demolished either by Lord Cornwallis when he conquered Nandidurga during the third Anglo-Mysore war of 1791 or it could have been demolished by Tipu himself when he destroyed a similar fort at Kengeri and reduced the extent of the Bangalore fort after 1791.
Agalkote is not mentioned in history books. Its only claim to recognition today is that it is near Magadi and it has an ancient mosque where Tipu Sultan prayed.
Ten years ago, 2004 to be precise, the State Government and the Army Service Corps (ASC) organized a march where horses galloped on the route once traverse by Tipu. The march commenced from Srirangapatna and it included the old hilly route of  140 kilometres from Srirangapatna to Savandurga.
The route included Tonnur (Tonnur Kere or Moti Talab) near Melkote, Brahamadevarahalli, Devarapura, Huliyudurga and Agalkote before it touched Savandurga.

The march with 200 horses was billed as Mysore safari and it was in honor of Tipu. The march took 6 days to complete the journey. The march was expected to be an annual affair and remind people of the military march of Tipu Sultan and his exploits. Unfortunately, the march also disappeared into the pages of history and it has not been held since 2004.    

River diversion report gathering dust

It has been a rather rainy month for Bangalore and all the brouhaha of a water famine has been pushed to the back foot and the authorities have once again gone back to their somnolent ways:  sitting on files, drawing up grandiose plans and pushing things relating to water needs of Bangalore under the carpet.
The rains have thus not only swept away the City’s growing thirst for water but also put a stop to the unending debate on the water woes of Bangalore. What Bangaloreans have failed to appreciate is that despite torrential rains in several districts of Karnataka, including Bangalore Mysore, Mandya, Coorg, Hassan, Chikamagalur, Mangalore, Udupi and Karwar, the Hesarghatta reservoir continues to remain dry and the Tippegondanahalli (TG Halli) reservoir is yet to get its quota of  inflow.
The groundwater levels in the City are going down and almost all sources of water be it the Arlkavathy, the Cauvery or any other lake or river is showing increasing levels of pollution. The less said about the Vrishabhavati the better. The Vrishabhavati is nothing but a river of sewage.
A committee constituted by the Irrigation Department on August 26, 2000 to look into the water needs of Bangalore has recommended harnessing West flowing rivers. These rivers, which take their birth in the Western Ghats, have been identified as potential sources of water supply to Bangalore.
This is the second committee that has gone into the issue. Some years ago, a detailed survey and project report was submitted  to Government for diversion of water from Nethravathy, Hemavathy, Tunga and Bhadra to drought-hit areas of the State and also to supply drinking water to Bangalore. This report has been gathering dust.
This report suggested diversion of river waters for agricultural and domestic purposes to vats tracts of land and urban areas in Doddaballapur, Kolar and Chikkaballapur and Bangalore districts. The committee had been headed by G. S. Paramasivaiya, an irrigation expert. The report on diverting excess water from rivers to drought-prone areas was submitted when S.M. Krishna was the Chief Minister. However, the report is yet to get technical and financial approval. Last year, the Government had stated that it had begun preparing the detailed project report (DPR) for the project but till now nothing has been heard of it.
The report suggested diversion of water from Nethravathy, Hemavathy, Tunga and Bhadra rivers by means of gravity diversion.
It said that the project, if implemented, would also recharge ground water as it would divert 245 TMC ft of water. It said the diversion and utilisation of west and east flowing rivers would provide the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) at least 12 TMC FT of water.
The State Government had entrusted the survey work to the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), Hyderabad, to conduct airborne laser terrain mapping. An amount of Rs 15.6 crore had also been earmarked for conducting the aerial survey to finalise the plan for implementing the project of gravity diversion of west-flowing rivers.
In turn, the NRSA had submitted to the State Government in 2011 a plan for airborne laser terrain mapping comprising a garland canal to carry water.
The report had identified Bangalore Urban and rural districts, Chikaballapur, Kolar, Chikamagalur, Tumkur, Hassan, Mandya,  Chitradurga, Davanagere and Bellary as beneficiaries of the project.

The project would also entail construction of  1,200 tanks in villages and 50 mini-reservoirs in the catchment and command areas. The project envisages construction of four garland canals, covering 1365 kilometres on the Western Ghats and 13 service canals stretching across 2237 km in north and east Karnataka. The garland canals would collect water from the ridges, transferring water by gravity to the command areas. The cost: Rs. 12,500 crores.

The looms that fell silent

It was nearly ten years ago that one of Bangalore’s best loved institutions closed down. The closure brought down the curtains on one of  Bangalore’s most important industrial relic. Since then, the institution has remained a mute spectator to developments that has overtaken Bangalore and transformed it into a front-line city of India.
This relic was in the news recently when the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) decided to swap a part of the land on which the institution stands with the Indian Railways.
The Indian Railways have been desperately trying to acquire lands for the much-expansion of the City Railway Station in Majestic. The City Railway Station is over utilised and further expansion has been put on hold due to the non-availability of land. The City Railway Station has ten platforms and all of them are utilised to the maximum extent possible. The platforms cater to 95 trains every day.
The railways have been unable to introduce new trains from the City Railway Station due to the non-availability of platforms and related infrastructure. Therefore, they have had to introduce new trains or extend the existing trains to and from Yeshwanthpur and Mysore.
The City Railway Station comes under the Bangalore Bangalore division of the South Western Railways (SWR).  The division has  managed to obtain 3.3 acres of land of the erstwhile Binny Mills in Cottonpet.
While the Railways get the land to expand their operations, they will hand over 3.16 acres of Railways land to the BBMP for construction of the Okalipuram Corridor for the flyover connecting Majestic to Fountain Circle in Rajajinagar.
The swap might not be that easy as a company petition relating to the assets of Binny Mills was decided in the Madras High Court regarding partition of the assets, including the mill land in Bangalore.
However, the 16-acre land on which Binny Mills is situated had attracted the attention of  SWR authorities who felt it would go a long way in meeting their demand for the expansion of the City Railway Station.
With the BBMP agreeing to hand over only 3.3 acres, the SWR now plans to expand the pit line from its present 18-coach facility to a 24-coach facility. The Railways are yet to get possession of the land, though a preliminary notification has already been issued on February 12, 2013. 
Whatever be the status, the mill is now history. The iconic institution closed down in 2005 after a long and illustrious innings in which it made a name for itself as one of the foremost manufacturers of cotton clothes. The proximity of the mills to both the railway station and bus stand and also to several markets gave it an edge that others could only envy.
The Bangalore Woollen, Silk and Cotton Mills, as it was known, was one of the most prominent landmarks of Bangalore and it was as much known for its quality of clothes as for its antiquity. You see, this was the first of the textile mills set up in Bangalore way back in 1884.
The steam driven looms in the mill continued to operate till 1902 after which it was discontinued and it ran on electricity. The mill then first received power at a rate of  2300 volts through the Bangalore power station and this equalled 800 horse power. It was among the largest consumers of electricity in 1912. It regularly used upto 950 HP of power, which made it the biggest consumer in Bangalore
The Binny Mills had both cotton and woollen spindles. The cotton yarn of Binnys commanded top price in Calcutta, and its woollen and hosiery products were known all over India. One outstanding record of the mill is that in 1913 it produced one million pounds of weight of blankets which were supplied to all units of the Army and Government departments.
Binny Mills was taken over by the Chennai-based Buckingham and Carnatic Mills (Binny & Co.), which operated it for over a century, manufacturing high grade cotton, and, a range of products for the defence – bed sheets, green sweaters, pullovers and blankets.
For thousands of school children till the 1980s, Binny meant excellent and high quality uniforms both in Bangalore and in Chennai. In Bangalore, the Binny georgette sarees, which were a rage among Bangaloreans, have now been revived by a few people
who were originally employed in the Mills. The sarees are available in a store called Rajnikant in Chickpet just off Avenue Road. The lane is just opposite the well-known shop of  Byrappa Silks.
The Binnys, originally from Scotland, lived in Madras, and they came to the port city in 1797 and established the cotton mills. Apart from Finlays in Bombay which had three mills with a combined capacity of one lakh spindles and 2000 looms, the other major mill in the textile sector was Binny Mills.
Binnys had two cotton mills in Chennai which it set up in 1876 and 1881 and it took over a smaller unit in Bangalore. Soon, Binnys sold goods not only in the country but also to China and became known as pioneers of mechanised dyeing and finishing. Its motto was quality before quantity and its Khaki clothes commanded a good price and were rated the best in India
The mills spun out their trademark goods till the 1980s when the decline set in. Labour problems, high cost of production, competition, high taxes, declining profits and a litany of other factors saw the mills trimming their labour force from 7500 to a mere 1,000.
Binny was formed in 1969 by amalgamation of  The Buckingham & Carnatic Company Limited, Madras (it is located in Perambur  and till a decade ago, it was the biggest textiles mill in Asia, having an installed spindleage capacity of 88,208 spindles, of which 79,072 were utilised. It had an installed loom capacity of 2,074 looms out of which 1,816 looms were utilised. It has a "dye house" or "processing house" and a central power station) , The Banglore Woollen, Cotton & Silk Mills Company Limited, Banglore, Madura Company Private Limited, Cochin, The Ganges Transport & Trading Company Limited, Calcutta, Binny & Company Limited, Madras and Binny's Engineering Works Limited, Madras.
However, after amalgamation, Binny incurred losses and in 1993 the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) declared Binny a sick unit. It came out of the purview of the BIFR by the August 7, 2008 order of the Madras High Court. 
The mills closed down completely in 2005 and since then they stood mutely watching the City going forward even as its fate remains to be decided. The once clattering looms have now gone silent and the near future might see the whistle of locomotives.
Apart from the building, many thousand houses in and around Cottonpet, Kempapura Agrahara, Okalipuram and other areas still shelter employees of this mill.
An interesting anecdote is that Pandit Rama Rao Naik of Agra Gharana who  played the role of the thief in Sadarame, produced by the famous Gubbi Drama Company, was a daily wage worker in Binny Mills.

Coincidentally, other mills around the City Railway Station such as Raja Mills, Minerva Mills, TR Mills and Chandra Spinning and Weaving Mills too have closed down, a sad reminder of the bygone days but that is another story.        

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Nada Prabhus

The end of the Vijayanagar Empire in 1565 saw the rise of several small chieftains and minor rajas and nayakas who held sway over small parts of the once mammoth Vijayanagar Empire.
The Vijayanagar Empire stretched practically over the whole of south India and comprised vast areas of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa. The demise of the empire saw the rise of provincial chiefs such as Nayakas of Madurai and Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu and Palegars and Gowdas in Karnataka.
They ruled over principalities of  Abbludu, Anekal, Avati, Bairanadurga, Bengalore, Chikkaballapura, Devanahalli, Doddaballapura, Gauribidanur, Gudibande, Heb-Holavanahalli, Hoskote, Hulikaluru, Huliyurdurga, Jangamakote, Kolar, Koratagere, Kunigal, Magadi, Mulabagalu, Nandi, Ramapura (Ramagiri), Sarjapura, Savanadurga, Shiddlaghatta, Utridurga, Vadigenahalli (Vijayapura), Sugaturu, Yelahanka in Karnataka; Berikai, Sulagiri, Madurai, Tanjavur in Tamil Nadu and Punganuru  in Andhra Pradesh.
These local chiefs often fought among themselves and later onlt the fittest survived. In Karnataka, the Wodeyars ruled over Mysore and Srirangapatna the erstwhile capital of a province in Vijayanagar empire, while Kempe Gowda reigned over Bangalore, Yelahanka, Magadi, Hosokte and surrounding areas.
The ancestors of Kempe Gowda are believed to have migrated to Yelahanka from Tamil Nadu. Historians surmise that it was towards the beginning of the 14th century that Mallabhaire Gowda or Ranabhaire Gowda migrated into Bangalore province along with his family.
Legend has it that the Gowda family comprised of seven members and they moved into an area adjacent to a village at the foot of Ramaswami Betta which is situated east of Nandi Hills or Nandidurga.
Since they were wealthy and they had arrived at the Betta in carts, they were called by the locals as Bandi Koppallu or Vokkalu, which meant those who had come in carts.
The Ranabhaire Gowda family is also invested with a Telugu origin and hence they are also called as Morasu Vokkalu. Members of this family worshipped Baire Deva.
The Telugu legend of  the origin of Kempe Gowdas say that Ranabhaire Gowda was compelled to leave Yanamanji village near Kanchi in Tamil Nadu in the dead of night to ensure that his beloved daughter, Doddamma, did not fall into the hands of a local chief who belonged to a lower caste. You see, the local chief was supposed to have been enamored of Doddamma’s beauty and he wanted to marry her.  
The Gowda escaped from the village with his immediate family members and several clansmen. However, there is another version of this story and according to it, Yanamanji was part of Mulabagal in Kolar district and the Gowdas made their way from near Mulabagal to present day Bangalore.
Whatever their place of origin, the Hoskote inscription of 1367 is emphatic that the founder of the line of Yelahanka Nada Prabhus was Ranabhaire Gowda of Avati. Another inscription of Subramanya says that the family of Ranabhaire Gowda came to Bangalore and that his brother Jayagowda was the founder of Yelahanka and his successors were called Kempanache Gowda, Hiriya Kempe Gowda (founder of Bangalore city) and
Immadi Kempabopalla.
Ranabhaire Gowda, a farmer, first came to Avati and slowly began ruling over provinces surrounding Bangalore. His brother, Jayagowda or Jayappagowda founded the lineage of Yelahanka Nada Prabhus.
Jayagowda served as a vassal of Vijayanagar and he is believed to have ruled for 15 years. He was succeeded by his son, Gidde Gowda. When Gidde Gowda did not have children, he prayed to  Kempamma, the consort of Bhairedeva, that if he was blessed with a son, his descendents forever would bear her name.
When a son was born to Gidde Gowda, he called him  Kempananje Gowda or Kempnache Gowda. He ruled Yelahanka and Bangalore  from 1443 to 1513.
Kempnache Gowda was succeeded by his son, Kempegowda I, in 1513. This ruler was a contemporary of  the Vijayanagar Emperor, Krishna Deve Raya. It was he who decided to shift the capital from Yelahanka to Bangalore and this was sometime in 1537.
Kempe Gowda sought permission from the Vijayanagar Emperor, Achuta Deva Raya, to build Bangalore and also construct a mud fort. It was during this time that a small dam was built across the Arkavathy at Hesarghatta.
Achuta Deva Raya was impressed with the sincerity, dedication and faithfulness of  Kempe Gowda and bestowed on him twelve hoblies of Kengeri, Kumbalgod, Hesarghatta, old Bengaluru, Varthur, Yelahanka, Begur, Halasuru (Ulsoor), Talagatpura, Jigani, Kanneli and Banavara and Hesaraghatta earning a revenue of 30,000 pagodas.
Kempe Gowda then went on a city building spree. He constructed the Basava temple at Basavanagudi temple, repaired and renovated the Gavi Gangadhareswara temple in Gavipuram and the Someshwara temple in Ulsoor He also built several tanks and lakes such as Dharmambudhi near Majestic, Sampangi where the Kanteerava indoor stadium stands today, Siddikatte which today houses the City Market bus stand and market, Kempambudhi, Karanji adjoining the Basava temple in Basavanapura village,  and Bellandur and ensured that Bangalore got adequate water supply.
Unfortunately, Kempe Gowda’s ambition of making Bangalore a thriving city suffered a setback when he was imprisoned by the Vijayanagar Emperor for having dared to establish a mint and issued coins called Virabhadra Varaha.
Historians ascribe this setback to several contemporary Palegars who were jealous of Kempe Gowda and his rising graph. His principal enemy was Jayadevaraya of Chennapatna. When Kempe Gowda was in the Vijayanagar prison, his territory was handed over to Jayadevaraya.
Kempe Gowda was in the prison at Anegundi (near Hampi) for five years, after which he was released and his province restored to him. He was followed by his son Immadi Kempe Gowda or Kempe Gowda II who extended the territory and conquered Savandurga and Magadi.
Kempe Gowda II constructed five towers in Bangalore which today are called Kempe Gowda towers. These towers, which acted as watch towers, were located on elevated ground or on small hillocks. Thus, they came up at Oyalidinne which is today near Mekri Circle, (north), Halasur rock tower which is near the Someshwara Temple (east), natural rock in Lalbagh (south) and near Kempambudhi tank (south-west).
Unfortunately, Kempe Gowda II had many enemies and they all ganged up with Muhammad Adil Shah of Bijapur and in 1638 Bangalore fell to the marauding Adil Shahis.
The local chieftains likc Jagadevaraya of Chennapatna, Seeryada Rangappa, Anantha Raja, Immadi Baira, Aayama Gowda sided with Adil Shah Generals Ranadulla Khan and Shahaji and Kempe Gowda II was forced to surrender Bangalore to the Muslims in 1638.
The Adil Shahis permitted Kempe Gowda II to relocate to Magadi after the latter agreed to pay heavy royalty. This was how Kempe Gowda II came to be called as Magadi Kempe Gowda.
Kempe Gowda II was succeeded by Mummadi Kempegowda who is also known as Male (rain) Kemparaya. He got the name Male when he prayed for rains when his province was in the grip of severe drought. When copious rains lashed Magadi and surrounding areas, a grateful populace called him Male Kemparaya.
He was followed by his son Dodda Veerappa Gowda (1678-1705). Then came  Kempaveerappa Gowda who assumed the title Mummadi Kempa Veerappa Gowda and he ruled from 1705 to 1728. By then, the Wodeyars had gained prominence and they were eying the rich province of  Magadi-Savandurga.
The Wodeyars attacked Kempaveerapa Gowda in Nelapatna which was the earlier name of Magadi. The fort of Nelapatna was breached and the Mysore army under Dalvoi Devarajayya overran the city in 1728.
Both Magadi Kempegowda and his general Veerabhadra Nayaka were taken prisoners and sent to Srirangapatna where they were imprisoned. The city of Nelapatna was destroyed and the Magadi-Savandurga province annexed to the Wodeyar Kingdom.  Kempaveerappa Gowda were captured and sent to
With the death of Magadi Kempe Gowda, the reign of the Yelahanka Nada Prabhus came to an end.  

Requim to a King

If you want to see a King Cobra in the wild, the best bet would be the rain forests of Agumbe which is located 373 kilometres away. Similarly, if you want to see the King, as the King Cobra is popularly known, in captivity, the nearest place is the Bannerghatta National Park.
The forests of Agumbe also house the world’s only centre dedicated to the study and conservation of the King Cobra called the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station. However, spotting the King in even its own Kingdom is a herculean task as it is extremely shy of contact with human beings though at times it can be highly aggressive.
It is Bangalore’s misfortune that lopsided urban development, short sighted policies and scant regard for ecology has completely eradicated several species of flora and fauna which once lived harmoniously in and around the city and were part of the fabled native species.
Gone are several species of  birds and mammals and even reptiles. The only surviving patches of green such as the lush green campuses of Bangalore University, University of Agriculture Sciences (UAS), Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Indian Institute of Management (IIM) are also under severe threat from insensitive politicians, indifferent civic agencies and a largely apathetic populace. But for a handful of  wildlife enthusiasts and Nature lovers, even these patches would have disappeared long ago.
At the turn of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the Cantonment, the British settlers reported seeing tigers in the vicinity of  Domlur, which then was a virgin forest. Since Domlur adjoined Ulsoor where the Cantonment was planned, the forests were cleared to make way for south India’s biggest garrison.
Within months of the Cantonment being planned in 1806, thousands of native Indians moved in from neighbouring states, particularly Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to settle in the new area. Since the Pettah or old Bangalore of Kempe Gowda could not hold them and provide civic amenities, these people settled in and around Ulsoor, clearing the forests and constructing buildings.
However, they did not totally destroy the fragile ecology of the area. They continued to preserve and protect the flora and fauna of the place and paid particular interest in retaining the wetlands such as Chellaghatta and Bellandur.
Though the Domlur forest disappeared and so did the tiger, the two wetlands of Chellaghatta and the 920 acre Bellandur continued to play host to some of the most exotic wildlife species and they included the King Cobra. Yes, the clear and clean waters of these two lakes and the grasslands surrounding them provided the King Cobras an ideal habitat. The rice fields that surrounded the lakes, the vast patches of  forests was ideal for the King. 
The king continued to live around these two water bodies till the 1980s after which the decline of the water body started. With sewage being let onto the lakes, the waters soon turned poison, first killing fishes before putting off other animals. The areas around the lakes were encroached and the water channels destroyed.
When BBMP got jurisdiction over the Bellandur lake, it banned cultivation of rice and this sounded the death knell for the King. The agricultural fields around these two lakes were the breeding grounds of the Rat snake, which is a pet diet of the King which also feasted on other snakes, including Cobras, rats, rodents and smaller wildlife such as rabbits and wild hens.  
Once present near Namma Bangalore, the King slithered away to safety and today all we have are tales of how they were spotted and how majestic they looked.
No King Cobra bites have been reported. Only four deaths have been reported in South India over the past 20 years. The venom of the King Cobra is neurotoxic, but it also contains cardiotoxic compounds.
The King’s venom is less poisonous than the cobra but it pours in so much quantity that it can kill an elephant or twenty human beings at one go. The venom attacks the victim's central nervous system, induces severe pain, leading to blurred vision, vertigo, drowsiness, and paralysis. Then comes cardiovascular collapse and coma. Death is due to respiratory failure.
Once sighted commonly near these two water bodies, the Ophiophagus hannah or King Cobra today no more lives in Bangalore. This glorious species has been driven away by our unquenchable greed for land. The world's longest venomous snake, with a length up to 18.5 to 18.8 ft (5.6 metres to 5.7 metres), the King is shy of coming in contact with human beings. It is rare to sight the King even in forests and this should make us realise how lucky we were to have him so near us.
The King never harmed anyone. On the other hand, we tore up his habitat in the name of development and made him flee to safer sanctuaries. In the process, we lost a priceless part of our City’s heritage. So, to even see a King in the wild, we have to travel hundred of miles away from Bangalore. What a travesty.
Alas, it has now become a typical case of “ How near, yet so far.”

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

This is where it all began

This is one of the oldest roads in Bangalore and it dates back to the time Bangalore was founded by Kempe Gowda. This means that the road was formed sometime in 1537 which is when Kempe Gowda is believed to have founded Bangalore.
The road is also the place from where Kempe Gowda harnessed four bullock to four carts and sent them in each of the four directions. Kempe Gowda constructed towers at the four places where the bullock stopped.
The place where the journey of the bullocks began is also part of the road, but Bangaloreans seem to have forgotten this romantic slice of their urban history.
The road was also the place which divided the erstwhile Peta or Pettah into different localities and each locality was populated by a different trading community. Thus we had bangle sellers concentrating in Balepet, rice sellers and commodity sellers in Akkipet and other communities occupying different areas which radiated from this road such as Chickpet (small market), Nagarthpet which houses craftsmen, Tharagupet which mainly dealt in grains, Sunkalpet (limestone sellers’ market), Kumbarpet (potters’ market), Gollarpet (cowherds’ market).
During the Adil Shah period when Bangalore was under Muslim rule from 1638 to 1687, Shahaji had his beautiful palace at Chickpet, which is just off this road. His two sons from Jijabai-Sambhaji and Shivaji and his son from Tulabai Mohite-Ekoji all lived and played in the vicinity and honed their skills in guerilla warfare and statecraft here.
A large number of Marathi speaking people migrated to Bangalore and occupied high positions under Shahaji who was the Governor of  Bangalore province. These people settled in Pettahs around this road and they were instrumental in pushing back Kannada and making Marathi the main language of Bangalore and also the administrative and political language of the province.  
After the Mughals conquered Bangalore in 1678, they too made this road an important thoroughfare and the Mughal Commander Kasim Khan or Quasim Khan occupied Shahaji’s palace in Chickpet. The Pettah area soon the birth of a new language and this was a mixture of Marathi, Urdu and a little of Hindustani. This new language came to be called Rektha and it rapidly spread to north India, particularly in Mughal Delhi and Nawabi Lucknow.
Once the Mughals sold Bangalore to the Wodeyars, the road was repeopled by Kannadigas and the old fort of Kempe Gowda repaired.
When Bangalore passed into the hands of Hyder Ali (1721-1783) and Tipu Sultan (1750-1799) sometime in 1758, the road once again became an important throughfare and two of  the many gates of the fort opened onto the road-Yelahanka gate and Ulsoor or Halasoor Gate .
The vast open space adjacent to the road also saw the British camp there during the third Anglo-Mysore War and finally overcome the forces of  Tipu Sultan. The area commenced from what is today Ulsoor Gate police station-Corporation and extended upto State Bank of Mysore or SBM or Mysore Bank Circle.
After the fall of Tipu in 1799, the road was once again part of Wodeyar Kingdom. It slowly began taking the shape of what it is today and by the turn of the 20th century, it looked almost as it is today.
This is Avenue Road, which once led directly from the fort towards the Sampangiramanagar tank. One of the intersections of the road is Doddapet Circle and this is believed to be the exact spot where Kempe Gowda harnessed four bullocks and sent them on the way so that he could subsequently demarcate Bangalore’s boundaries.
A little away from Doddapet circle and in preset day Chickpet was the palace of Shahaji. Unfortunately, the building did not survive and we have only Maratha and Adil Shah accounts of Shahaji and his family living in the palace.
Hyder Ali is believed to have camped here in the vicinity around 1758 and forced the Marathas to retreat from Bangalore. The Marathas too camped here when they took Bangalore from the reigning Wodeyars of Mysore under whom Hyder was a mere commander.
One of the heroes of the Indian War of Independence, Tatiya Tope, took shelter in the Kashi Visvesvara temple which is at the junction of Chickpet and Balepet. The Venkateshwara temple was built by Chikadevaraja Wodeyar more than 300 years ago. This is the only temple in Bangalore to display the names of people who helped build the structure and endowed it.
The Anjaneya temple at SBM Circle and Ganapathy temple, which is of recent origin, are important landmarks.  
However, today not much of  the past remains on the road. Though it is named Avenue road, there were hardly any avenue trees and it is a mystery why this road was so named.
The road today is a buyer’s delight offering everything from stationary to books, card board boxes to old and antique items, craft materials, jewellery, textiles, plastic goods, silk sarees, sweets, electronic goods and many other commodities at wholesale rates.                      
Avenue Road stretches from Mysore Bank Circle to City Market and the narrow road is clogged with street vendors, hawkers, push carts sellers and whole sale and retail dealers.
All the pettahs were linked to Doddapete road or avenue road which is more than a kilometer on length. The meandering road measures 4.8 metres to 7.5 metres.
Another landmark on the road is the Rice Memorial church. It was built in 1852 as a memorial to Rev Benjamin Holt Rice (1814-1887), who came to India as a missionary. His son, B.L. Rice is known for his magnum opus, Epigraphia Carnatica and the Mysore Gazetteer.
Avenue road is today among the busiest roads of Bangalore. If students and academicians frequent it for second hand and rare books, old timers throng the area to shop in their favourite shops, while women in thousands frequent the busy lanes and bylanes around Avenue Road looking for gold and ornaments.
There are scores of shops and establishments which are decades old and they sell a range of products. A stroll down the road is nothing but a walk down memory lane.