Bangalore and its charms!

I have lived in Bangalore for a decade now, and in the busyness of everyday life, doing things, making ends meet and so on, I have never seen Bangalore. Sure, I have had a drink at all the pubs and found every nightclub the night it opened, but never had I ventured into the city. While I am largely to blame for this debauchery, the fact remains that the historical buildings and landmarks have fallen to neglect and disrepair, largely because Bangalore isn’t really considered a touristy city. It is the city where you come to find a fine paying job or to make something of yourself, but not a city where one assumes there to be a whole lot of history.

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This was one of my resolutions for this year, to see and experience Bangalore more. So I have been walking around a lot, this time with the WOW (Women On Wanderlust) group. I registered for a walking trip with WOW- a touring company, run by women for women. The idea was to explore old Bangalore from a historical and hopefully, a slightly different perspective and in the process, make new friends as well.

We started bright and early at 8 am, meeting just outside the north entrance to Tipu sultan’s summer Palace. The palace is in the heart of the city, an area known as Chamrajpéte. Péte, in Kannada, stands for market, and as it happens, this is the area that used to house the trading centres back in the day of the Wodeyars and Tippoo Sultan.

The palace, the associated armouries, and the pétes or the markets used to be enclosed within the walls of the Bangalore fort, most of which is now lost. The Summer palace, which is where we started out walk, has largely been assimilated into the Bangalore medical college and Minto Hospital, and the ASI has done a rather shoddy job of restoring what remains. We entered via the north gate, which wasn’t the main gate of the palace, as it were. The east gate, the one right next to the temple was the main entrance, and that leads to the durbar halls. The two durbar halls, one facing north, and the other south are both mirror images of each other, and this is where the king and the queen would hold court.

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The whole palace was supposed to have been covered by paintings, murals and artwork. The mural paintings on the walls and ceilings were made on canvas which was then applied to the walls. However, instead of restoring this art, ASI has simply peeled off the canvas from most places and covered the walls with a synthetic brown paint. Some remnants of the murals are still visible.

The rose wood pillars which hold up the roof were brought in by the French, were then soaked and conditioned in the river Kaveri so they would be water resistant, which is why they still stand, nearly 500 years later. However, these pillars are also falling apart with holes gouged into them. Most of the gardens have now been taken over by BBMP roads. The Venkatramanna temple, which the Muslim Ruler Tippoo Sultan build for his Hindu subjects, to win over their fielty still stands.

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Back in the day, the palace had five attached armouries which held the arms and ammunition, and were usually build either underground, or at a depression, to keep them cool, as well as hidden from view. However, today, only one armoury remains, the rest have been destroyed. This last standing one, funnily enough, isn’t even on the ASI list of preserved monuments because it wasn’t included in a survey conducted in 1950- which somehow validates ASI’s claim that it was erected after 1950!!! It is now part of a dilapidated house in a part of town which isn’t easily navigable and the owners of the house allow a few groups of tourists like us, but mostly because the college student and our guide leading our walk was on friendly terms with the owners of this home. They, of course, do not allow for photography, because they fear the loss of home and hearth in the process of preservation of this important archaeological remains. There are moral and ethical arguments that need to be considered, but morally and legally speaking, this little piece of history definitely needs to be preserved, for the future. There are now some efforts to preserve this little piece of history, but there’s a long way to go.

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The old fort is largely gone, save for a few ramparts and the dungeons where the prisoners were housed. These little bits stand a short walk away from the summer palace. If one walks westwards, via the Minto hospital, one will arrive at the inside face of the Delhi gate, which is gate which opens in the general direction of Delhi, and hence the nomenclature. We saw what remains of the north gate or the Delhi gate, which is always locked. There were 24 gates manning the walls of the old fort, only five remain. Near the Delhi gate are also the dungeons, which can be accessed following special written permission from the ASI, and the head of the dungeon, a two-headed eagle, depicting both sides of a story, or justice can be clearly seen. Also clearly visible is the part of the fort wall that Wallace attacked. The damaged part of the wall which was later on sealed off is clearly visible.

The fort used to open, via the Delhi gate, into the Péte or the market, chikpet and doddapet (now called avenue road). The market had various other sections, such as flower market, spice market, rice market and so on. The markets of course flourish and are the central business hub in the Bangalore of today.

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We entered the péte through the spice market and walked a large part of the flower market, including all the way up to the third floor, where the garlands are woven. In the middle of a summer day, the place smelled like a garden, with tonnes and tonnes of roses and jasmines, literally littered all over the place. Many families come together to string together these garlands, and the place makes a for a soothing sight for tired eyes.

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This is where we ended our walk, exchanged numbers and cards, with promises to stay in touch. I am completely enamoured now, with this city that I have come to call home. As it always happens, change is happening to what remains to Bangalore, and these changes are inevitable for a growing city. However, no matter what the change, Bangalore still retains its old-world charm, and deep within, the nostalgic memories of music, fresh air, charming houses, women sitting in verandas cleaning rice while gossiping remain etched in time.It is our job, as residents, to preserve this, for our future generations to feel and see.

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