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.  

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