Heritage structures in Lalbagh

Last year the Krumbiegel hall was demolished. It was a lecture hall used by Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, the eminent superintendent of Lalbagh. The handsome colonial building that was witness to numerous lectures and session on gardening and Botany was razed to the ground. Though the 100 year old structure was a heritage building, yet it was pulled down- No laws to protect it you see. However Lalbagh is dotted with plenty of such structures. Before they too bite the dust here is a brief overview of some of them.

Pigeon House:

This structure near Siddapura Gate of Lalbagh is a structure of 1893 constructed during the time of John Cameron. The cylindrical shaped structure, 15 feet high has holes all around it for pigeons. Around 100 pairs of pigeons can dwell here. The Pigeon House also has a watchman’s quarters within.

West Guard Room:

This beautiful guard room near the West Gate of Lalbagh was once part of Diwan P.N Krishnamurthy’s House. When his house was getting dismantled the then Director of Horticulture- H.C Jayaraya got it here sometime in 1940’s. The granite structure, shaped like a lantern with glass windows all around it, is beautiful sight when lit. It glows like a lantern in the dark.

Directorate Building:

This building was constructed in 1920 when G.H Krumbiegel was the Superintendent of Lalbagh. He wanted to set up a college of Horticulture here with a library,museum,lecture rooms etc. This dream however did not come true. Today the building contains the offices of Directorate of Horticulture.

Lalbagh Library:

This colonial building was the house of Superintendent of Garden. The structure exists from 1839. When Lalbagh was under the Agricultural Horticultural society,  secretary William Munro mentions expenses incurred for construction of a house for Superintendent of Lalbagh. This structure had a number of rooms like drawing room,store rooms,halls etc. Today it houses the Lalbagh Library.

Other structures:

The Glass House, Band Stand, Aquarium building, Deer Paddock are other structures. The Deer Paddock was a tiled free standing structure that once sheltered deer. The Band Stand once used to hold flower shows before the construction of Glass House. The Victorian styled Band stand existed prior to 1870. The Glass House got constructed during the times of John Cameron and its foundation stone was laid by Prince of Wales in 1889. The construction was done by MacFarlane and Company, Glasgow. They were also responsible for designing the Cameron Gate of Lalbagh sometime in 1891.

The next time you visit Lalbagh do spare these heritage structures a glance. They form a valuable part of history. Do join our Lalbagh Walks if you wish to know more.

–Usha

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Masti Venkatesha Iyengar

The bugle rock of Basavangudi is a scenic place filled with dense groves of trees , a 1.8 km cobbled stone path for walking and lovely stone benches for the occasional rest for the tired walkers. Inside the park is an old water tank- the outer walls have been re-purposed with murals of famous personalities of Karnataka. And in one of them stands Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, a prolific Kannada writer- recipient of the famous Jnanapita award. I knew nothing much about him, save this. So a bit of research – the google and a couple of books about Masti and I discovered a disciplined, honest, an able administrator not to mention a man with a creative streak in him that made him author 123 Kannada and 17 English books. Here are few tidbits about him.

Photo Source

Known for his short stories he was honored with the title Rajasevasakta. With more than 123 books under his belt, a D.Lit of both Karnataka and Mysore universities and prior to that District Commissioner of the State, you would think life would have been a smooth journey for him. But it was not so. In fact he suffered hardships throughout his childhood and growing up years.

He was born on June 6, 1891 in Kolar in a small village known as Masti. Son of Ramaswami Iyengar and Tirumallama, he was born in to a rich family. But the family suffered hard times, lost their land. Masti had to bear all this. The plague too had stuck by then. So Masti shifted from his village with his grandfather and moved to Hongenhalli village. His father and brother lost their lives due to plague. Masti had to shift homes,schools. He did his BA from Central College, Bangalore. After that he did his MA in English at Chennai. No matter where he studied, he always managed to stand first. In Madras too he was a gold medalist  and topped his MA.

For some time he worked at the Presidency College of Madras before sitting for the civil services exam at Mysore. And in 1914 he joined government services as Assistant Commissioner and soon rose to become the District Commissioner. However he was bypassed for the post of Minister and a junior got promoted instead of him. For this reason  he resigned from the services in 1943.

Masti’s writing journey began in earnest after this though his first short story was published way back in 1914. Masti wrote under the pen name Srinivasa and when he started out he wanted to write in English. But an encounter with a farmer changed this. During his tax collection rounds when Masti berated a farmer for not paying his dues, the farmer mentioned that he did not know the rules that were all written in English. This prompted Masti to shift to Kannada. His first story was Rangana Maduve and his last was in 1985 and was titled Maatugara Malanna. During his lifetime he wrote essays, short stories, novels, dramas, poems and social stories. His novel Chikkaveera Rajendra won the Jnanapita award in 1983.

His love for Kannada was tremendous. He headed the Kannada Sahitya Parishat and in 1929 headed the Belgavi Kannada Sahitya movement. It is said that he always addressed his talks in Kannada.

Masti died in June  6,1986 at the age of 95. The only memories of him today is the Masti Mane in Gavipuram that has been converted as the office of Masti Venkatesha Jeevana Kaaryalaya[MVJK] Trust. The Trust has preserved Masti’s books and his letters. The road where his 90 plus years home stands has also been named as Masti Venkatesha Iyengar as a tribute to the fourth Jnanapita award of the State.

–Usha

Dasara walk- A glimpse in to History and Culture

The streets in the city are full of dolls this Dasara. They are innovative not to mention beautiful. The dolls are varied- while some are figures of gods and goddesses, some depict rural life, animals, birds…. Head to the city’s markets and you will be spoilt for choices. 

It is not just the streets. The temples too are part of this grand celebrations lasting 10 days till Vijayadashami. The idols inside the temple are decorated with full splendor. The goddess dons her different manifestations -Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandra Ghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayini, Kalaratri, Maha Gauri and Siddhidatri  representing the Navadurga of the Navaratri celebrations.

 

She is decorated with flowers,fruits and even vegetables. Devotees string such garlands and they get offered to the goddess.

Vendors take full advantage of such situation and set up stalls outside the streets and generate a good business. Some of them come as far as Bijapur and sell their specialty snacks.

 

Traditions get revived too. This Dasara some homes have opened their doors to strangers so that the culture of gombe habba is understood and hopefully preserved. One of the homes in Malleshwaram that has been doing this ritual for 20 odd years explained their traditions to us.

‘ The mud dolls are carefully unwrapped from their majestic trunks 10 days prior to Dasara. We pray to the Raja-Rani gombe and then lay out all the dolls. We make sure that we do not displace the dolls after this ritual and dismantle all the dolls, only after we put the Raja-Rani dolls to sleep on the last day. ‘

Sweetmeats and snacks are generously served to us along with strong cup of coffee and we depart to see some more displays.

As you wander down the streets you notice one common feature of this festival- the colors-deep red,blue green,orange. The colors are embedded in the rangolis, the flowers used for decorations not to mention the  stalls displaying the dolls. There is a festive buzz and if you wish to be a part of this celebration join us this week and the next for a delightful Dasara Walk.

Ganesha in Pete

The streets of the Pete wears a festive look. Colourful pandals are seen in the narrow lanes of Cubbonpete, Chikpete, RT street etc. and in the main roads of Avenue Road and OTC Road. The 500 year old Pete is always bustling with energy and even more so during the festivities. This Ganesh Chaturthi – the elephant headed God is in various forms at the Pete. At the weaving lanes of Cubbon Pete he shows off an all pervading self as Vishwa Roopa Ganapati, in a narrow bylane of Avenue Road he is as Sai Baba, in some he is immersed playing musical instruments.

The numerous groups at Pete- the Vinayaka group, Vidya Ganesh group, Ganesh group etc. have competed with each other to give their best. Some of the pandals are basic with excited children performing the aarati and distributing kesari bath while some are opulent with huge idols of Ganesh and engaging the services of priests to perform the religious ceremonies. Decorative lights, music and loudspeakers are found in most of the pandals.

The shutters of most of the shops are down. Most of the trading communities- Gujaratis,Marwaris,Devangas families are busy at the pandal ,participating in Chaturthi festivities full of vigour, immersed in prayers and distributing sweets.

The streets of Pete is full of temples for various communities. So there is an air of celebration in every street. The sweetmeat shops and the flower markets are making brisk business amidst the gaiety.

The celebrations will continue till the weekend and will then be taken out in processions to be immersed in designated venues. Join us this weekend as we show you this side of Pete.

–Usha

 

Entrenched exhibition at National Military Memorial

A quote from a fifth grade social book says, ‘ World War I broke out in 1914. Lakhs of Indians fought with British Army. Thousands were killed’ This seems to summarize India’s contribution to the war.

However a visit to the ‘Entrenched’ exhibition by Rereeti – an NGO that revitalizes museums gave a different perspective to the war situation of 1914. There were some interesting insights.

At Memorial

India’s contribution to WWI:

A report on BBC mentioned that there were 1.3 million soldiers fighting in the war. Indian fought alongside the British in countries such as Germany, Africa,Egypt.. More than 70000 Indian soldiers were killed, nearly 65000 were wounded. Not just soldiers, India also loaned two million cash to Britain, ammunition,food, cloth etc. The soldiers bore the cold, fought in the trenches of Europe, suffered the poisonous gas and were killed in thousands. At Ypres they were the first to stop Germans from advancing further. Letters retrieved then showcase the hardships faced by these unknown Indian soldiers in foreign soil. While some letters written by soldiers to their relatives describe the horrors of war and discourage their friends and family from enlisting in the army, some  are painful -reminiscing of open skies and wind swept fields back home.

details of regiments fought in different wars at Memorial

The exhibition portrays this information sensitively via maps/charts and in the form of insightful dialogues between a grandson and his grandfather. The Indian troops won  around 13000 medals and 12 of the soldiers also won the Victoria cross. All these details are depicted here.

Mysore’s contribution to war:

The Mysore State too contributed its share. It loaned nearly one crore, contributed more than 90 lakhs and supplied materials,ammunition and transport. The Mysore Corps sent mules, ponies. The Mysore lancers fought the battle of Haifa at Israel and also at other places like Egypt,Gaza, Suez canal etc. Along with Jodhpur regiment they overthrew the long lasting Ottoman rule in Israel. The exhibition not only sheds light on some of these contributions but also throws light on war memorials in the city – Sapper Memorial, cenotaph, Tipperary at St John’s etc.

Apart from photos and boards there are also tunnels simulating a trench like experience of the battle field. The NGO has partnered with three schools across the city  to make the event interactive.

On the whole the event at National Military memorial at Raj Bhavan is a very enriching experience and a must do  this weekend.

–Usha

 

 

Janmashtami Cultural Walk

Yesterday a motley group of people assembled at Iskcon Temple,Bangalore to explore Janmashtami celebrations in the city.  A quick tour of Iskcon gave a glimpse of Gaudiya Vaishnavism  and Iskcon’s Hare Krishna movement.  The chanting of ‘Hare Krishna and Hare Ram’ , the soulful bhajans at the Radha Krishna temple, the glittering idols amidst colorful fragrant flowers, the flickering brass lamps added a divine touch to the cultural walk.

Then began a tour of homes that usher in Krishna’s birthday in style. Our first stop over at a traditional Tamil home gave us a glimpse of Iyengar traditions. The walkers were welcomed with a smile and served with delicious usili and sweets.

They heard the stories of Krishna’s midnight birth and his adventures. The cradles all decked up with fruits and savories looked delightful- after all baby Krishna was arriving.

Numerous krishna idols- some depicting Laddu Gopal, Krishna the musician playing the divine flute or the lover boy performing Raas Leeela with his numerous gopis-milkmaids and Radha – heritage displayed with pride at owner’s home.

The tour  showed a different aspect of celebrations at each home. While some lovingly enticed Krishna with sweetmeats and snacks, some brought him alive printing Krishna’s naughty footprints on the house floor.

The Indian hospitality was in full flow – the walkers went home with a smile laden with gifts and sweetmeats.

 

 

Treasures in an Antique Store

A visit to an antique store is akin to a virtual journey back in to the past. The antiques are like treasures ushering you back to childhood or to some medieval period where making intricate sculpture designs was a piece of cake. The brass,bronze figurines, wooden toys, collectibles and records  at such stores with their rustic charms have a story to tell and are important pieces of history as well.  A similar experience awaited me last week when I popped in at Balaji Antique Store at Avenue Road.

The neatly stacked tin trunks,the compact jewelry and medicine boxes, the row of porcelain dolls brought back memories of childhood. You see my grandfather had a heavy trunk kept in one of his numerous rooms. Stacks of fold able beds were kept on top of it. And when guests came, the beds were removed one by one. I could now get my hands on the trunk and it was a secret delight to pry open its lid,peek inside  and check out the pretty China head dolls, old chinaware, medicine chests etc.

The China head dolls were my favorite. The antique dolls were made during the period 1836-1940 by German Companies. The nicest thing about them –  some of them had painted hair and  movable arms. These china dolls are dated according to their hairstyle, say if it had a center parted hairstyle, it was probably from 1830 and if it had long curls at sides, it would reflect 1840 and if it had headband it would be 1860 and so on.

Next my eyes fell on vintage Air India Maharaja Statue. The Maharaja was created in 1946 by commercial director Bobby Kooka and Umesh Rao , an artist. The Maharaja was the mascot of Air India at a time when air travel was considered luxury travel- a symbol of high living. The Maharaja traveled all over the world rescuing damsels, wrestling, being a monk, an artist etc- in other words living fully and reaching out from all parts of the world. Today the image has changed-the Raja has a leaner, sportier look.

Murphy Radios with its dials and knobs next caught my attention. Founded in 1929 Murphy Radios was a British Manufacturer of radio sets that used to supply to the British Army as well. One of their important contributions was the wireless set No -38- a transceiver used during world war -II.

Apart from spy cameras, radios and gramophones, vintage Brass lamps and bronze figurines fill nooks and corners of the store. They are ancient, rustic yet charming and I wonder which is older- Brass or Bronze. ‘ Bronze items are older perhaps from 8-9th century’,  explains Balaji , the owner when asked. Brass, an alloy of Copper is more malleable.

The lithographs of Raja Ravi Varma are displayed on the walls. The art of Ravi Varma was not restricted to Kings. He did paint for the royalty- Kings of Mysore and Baroda were some of his patrons but he established a lithographic press in 1894 and made his paintings accessible to all. From posters to calendars and frames his paintings got widely circulated. However this resulted in  his art being copied as well by artisans from various parts in the country.

Apart from these items there are collection of watches, cameras, wooden furniture, bronze artifacts,old film posters in its three rooms. All of them overflow with antiques and are a delightful way of spending your mornings or afternoons. The owner Balaji is a treasure trove of information and will regale you with delightful nuggets of information.

–Usha