Few surprising facts about Basavanagudi

For the old kannadigas, the Basavangudi with its wide roads and temples is a sheer delight. Be it shopping at Gandhi Bazaar, gorging at Masala dosas or Rava vadas at Vidyarthi Bhavan or buying the numerous traditional snacks at Subbamma angadi, there is an old world charm in this extension. There may be no surprises here or they may be plenty, depending on how mindful you are walking the open streets of Basavanagudi.

basav

Nevertheless here are  few tidbits about the place.

  • There is a large monolithic statue of Nandi(Basava)in the Bull Temple and people know that the locality got its name from the Basava. But not many are aware that the source of the river Vrishabhavati lies underneath this hillock.
  • There is a unique idol of Lord of Fire -Agni in the Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple. What is special about this idol is that praying to this idol Agni cures all eye disorders that you may be suffering from.
  • One of the watch towers of Bangalore lies atop Bugle Rock. Every night a sentry used to blow the bugle and light a torch to signal that everything was safe within the city.

 

 

 

Top 5 Must try South Indian Breakfasts

South India is a mecca for breakfast lovers. Housewives across the country play a major role serving the best meal for the day and this  all starts right from procuring the right rice for breakfast.

The special variety of rice used to prepare Idli or Dosas are par boiled rice,also known as Kusabalakki in all major supermarkets. Apart from Kusubalakki, a very common rice used to prepare the breakfast dishes are Salem rice or ir8 quality rice.

All the southern states in our country grow different varieties of rice and every region has their own variation or specialties of Dosa or Idli. Today we are featuring only 5 varieties of breakfast dishes which are famous at many restaurants across Bengaluru. And this is all part of our walk too.

Rice Idli: This is a traditional breakfast in South Indian households. Idli is a savory cake that is popular throughout India. It all starts with soaking the par boiled rice and black gram dal for 5 hours before grinding to a paste. Once the paste is ground the batter is fermented and poured into an Idli contraption to create fluffy Idli’s.

Idli is normally served with many different chutneys like coconut, onion or tomato, sometimes it is also served with hot sambar. This breakfast dish can never go wrong.

idli

idli

Dosa: This is a fermented crepe made from rice batter. It is a staple in South Indian states of Tamil nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Telangana. Dosa contains no sugar or saturated fats as its ingredients consist of rice and urad dal. Once the batter is fermented it is then ladled onto a hot tava (griddle) greased with oil or ghee (clarified butter).

It is spread out evenly with the base of a ladle or bowl to form a pancake. A dosa is served hot, either folded in half or rolled like a wrap filled with spicy potato or served plain with chutney and sambar.

dosa

dosa

Medu Vadai: Morning’s  can never go wrong when hot vada is enjoyed with some filter kappi. We refer these vadas as Indian doughnuts. There are many different types of vadas which is prepared with split pigeon peas or green gram dal. Medu vadas are crispy, fluffy…medu meaning soft. These vadas are prepared with black gram dal. The dal is soaked and created into a paste then batter is deep fried and served hot.

vada

Upma: There are many types of Upma. People of South are experts in preparing upma. We prepare upma from puffed rice(poha), bread, left over idllis, rice rava and semolina. Arisi (rice upma) and semolina upma ,both types of upma are  classic dishes of the South. Cream of rice (rice rava) or semolina is tempered with onions and mixed vegetables to form a porridge consistency and served for breakfast. This dish is not only filling but also feels light. Normally rice or semolina upma is also served as an after school snack.

upma

Rava Idli: The creation of rava idli started at MTR, a famous restaurant located in Bengaluru during world war II. It was difficult to procure rice from other states and rice was short in supply. According to MTR they came up with rava idli and ever since then have been serving it to the customers. MTR does serve awesome rava idli.  This is made with simple semolina and yogurt tempered and steam cooked and served with a masala curry and chutney.

rava

For detailed recipes for all the breakfast dishes mentioned above do visit vidyascooking.blogspot.in.

Vidyalakshmi

 

Monsoon Blooms and Blossoms at Lalbagh

As I walk through the rain glistened paths of Lalbagh, I recollect a few lines from the poem ‘The Rain’ by William Henry Davies.

“I hear leaves drinking rain;

I hear rich leaves on top, Giving the poor beneath Drop after drop;

‘Tis a sweet noise to hear These green leaves drinking near.”

An apt poem to recall don’t you think, when taking an unhurried walk through the botanical garden?

The wet season is here and so are the sweet smelling Sampige, Akash Malige, Parijata and the Basavanapada. Though there are the occasional stray blossoms of red Gulmohar and Jacaranda still in the park, they will soon fade away to be replaced by these fragrant species.  Whether it is the rosy hues of Basavanapada or the silvery Akash Malige, their divine scents and blooms will stop you on your tracks at Lalbagh and that’s a promise.

For the uninformed here are few pointers to help you locate these monsoon flowering blossoms.

Champa, Chompa, Sonachampa,Sampige(Magnolia champaca) call it by any name, this native tree cannot be missed. With both white and yellow varieties, this scented flower is used in Pooja offerings. It is also one of the flowers of God Kamadeva(cupid) and so you could do well to declare your love beneath these trees.

Sampige

Sampige

Akash Malige, Neem Chameli, Indian Cork Tree(Millingtonia);the bell shaped white flowers grouped in clusters is a sight worth watching. The bark of this tree is used to make cork,hence the name cork tree. If you frequently suffer from colds this tree is worth sniffing. After all the flower buds are used in the treatment of Asthma and Sinusitis.

Indian Cork tree

Indian Cork tree

This is another tree that cannot be missed-Parijata(Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) also known as the Tree of Sorrow are sweet smelling white flowers with orange center. It is a divine tree said to have been brought down from heavens by Lord Krishna.

Bull’s hoof, Camel’s foot, butterfly,Basavanapada, Mandira Pushpa(Bauhinia)- the tree goes by many names. The shape of the leaf gives you a clue to its name Basavanapada or Bull’s hoof.  Pink,rose,white, lavender-the flowers come in various colors. This flower is also a popular offering to Lord Ganesha during Ganesh Chaturthi festival.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My article, titled, ‘A Temple Replete With Many Legends and Myths‘  was first published in Indian Express on  Nov 13, 2014. The article is presented here as a blog with some more photos.

Kadu Malleswara Temple

Kadu Malleswara Temple, Malleswaram

Set in a busy market-like area, just off the popular Sampige Road is Kadu Malleswara, a centuries old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Set on a top of a hillock in a forest, this simple temple is a kshetra (a pilgrim centre) for Shaivites.

If legends are to be believed, this is a place where sage Gautama is supposed to have meditated. However, there was no temple then.

An elderly man who visits the temple often had a few more legends. The story is set in 17th century when a betel leaf merchant rested near a stone on the top of a hillock. He kept another stone next to it and created a fire to boil rice. But the rice turned red with blood spilling out!

On seeing this, the merchant fell unconscious. Lord Shiva then appeared in front of him and explained that he was the stone (lingam) and that it was a holy place. On the lord’s direction, the merchant built a temple in the typical Dravidian style of that era.

The historian in me could not keep quiet and I told the man about a 17th century inscription (that still stands) that states that a grant was given to this temple by Venkoji, the famous Shivaji’s step-brother, when he ruled Bengaluru. As we exchanged notes, what struck us was the period in which the temple received the grants. Whether it was the merchant or the local ruler, the temple’s structure as it stands today dates back to the 17th century, while its legends and myths precede the date.

The architecture of the temple is quite simple, no highly carved pillars or huge audience halls. Clearly, this temple was a place of worship for a village or a small settlement that lived near this kadu (forest). The lingam is very simple, rising just off the ground with no pedestal. There’s a small nandi in front of the lingam. A bigger nandi built outside the temple must have been an addition made later.

Apart from Shiva, Ganesha and Parvati are also worshipped here. The inner sanctum sanctorum leads to a small passage that goes to the devotees’ hall (navaranga). The hall is supported by simple carved stone pillars.

Beyond the hall, as we come out is the mandatory nandi. A small girl whispers into the ears of the nandi to make her wish come true. A tulsi plant and small shrines are set around the main temple within its compound. A separate temple for Subramanya is situated next to the main temple complex. A lone bilwa tree stands in between these two complexes.

As we sit by the shade of the tree exchanging stories, the vast garden in front of the temple with the many trees, including the huge peepal that gives shade to the many naga stones, and the chirping of the birds still created the ambience of a forest. The lord who gave the area its name ensured that at least a part of it still looks like a kadu or at least a well-maintained garden.

Author: Poornima Dasharathi 

Bungalows of Bangalore

Image courtesy: Maureen MacDonald

My article, titled, ‘Where time stands still‘  was first published in Deccan Herald on  April 2, 2013. The article is presented here as a blog with some more photos. 

As I pass through some bylanes of Bangalore, I can’t help but stop and admire a charming bungalow standing still as a reminder of a bygone era. The bungalows of Bangalore that were once the rich man’s home have quietly made way to newer structures, radically, in the last two decades. But a few still stand tall, maybe because its owners wait for the right price, or maybe because of the families’ care for them.

How did these bungalows come to Bangalore? Where did they originate? The history of bungalows is as charming as the bungalow itself.

Janet Pott, the author of ‘Old Bungalows of Bangalore’, South India, states that the name and the form of the bungalow originated in Bengal. ‘Bangla’ or ‘bangala’ referred to the indigenous Bengali huts of the 17th century.

Origins aside, how did this basic peasant housing, made of locally available materials, become an Officer’s or even a Commissioner’s prestigious bungalow?

In his book, ‘The Bungalow: Production of a Global Culture’, Anthony King describes that the period of the East India Company’s rise from being just ‘traders’ to keeping an army and ruling the country (1757-1857) also led to improvements in housing its men.“The basis of Company rule was military strength”, he states. 

The first permanent military camps or cantonments were established outside Patna (Bankipur) and Calcutta (Dinapur, Behrampur & Baraset) in 1772. Indian and European troops were housed in tents and barracks; their European officers in a rapidly evolving version of the bungalow. The emergence of the bungalow, he narrates, as a culturally distinctive house form, is inseparable from these developments.

Soon, the bungalow became a symbol of power. In 1857, when the rule was transferred from East India Company to the British government, there was extensive adaptation of Indian forms. Though the European Resident kept improving on the basic model, e.g. converting the verandah into rooms, the main characteristics borrowed from the Bengali peasant’s hut — free standing, single storey, plinth, pitched, thatched roof and ‘virandar’ (verandah) were largely present.

Bungalows of the City

In Bangalore, bungalows first started to appear in the Cantonment region. The early bungalows were “typical white or cream washed”, describes Elizabeth Stanley in the book, ‘Monkey Tops – Old Buildings in Bangalore Cantonment’. These bungalows were to the South of Parade Ground, i.e., on St Marks road, Museum road, Residency road and Richmond road.

The structure consisted of a flat-roofed portico with support pillars and behind it a curved verandah. Its size varied, based on the owner’s social stature. 

The general basic plan is usually a verandah with support pillars, a living or a drawing room and a dining room in the centre. The bedrooms and dressing rooms open to each side of the living room.

The front of the bungalow was imposing and offset by huge gardens. A servants’ quarter, a stable and other necessities like poultry or a cow shed were present in the backyard. In the leisurely life of the pre-Industrial era, the bungalows sometimes included tennis courts or putting greens. The building, with its stone work, balustrades marking roof levels and imposing look contributed to the ‘classical’ look, she concludes.

An example of the classic bungalow is the Raj Bhavan, which was once the home of Sir Mark Cubbon, the Commissioner of Mysore (1834-1860). Raj Bhavan is out of bounds for visitors and there aren’t many bungalows of its kind left to look at. But I had some luck. Maureen MacDonald, who recently visited the City, shared a picture postcard of her grandfather and his home in the City in the 1850s.

 A typical white bungalow with flat roof, it looks straight out of the Victorian era — spacious home, horse carriages, the burra sahib, ladies in long white gowns and hats and children in their European dresses. But she did not know the address and hence we don’t know its current avatar. For her and many others, these homes live in memories.

Monkey tops

By the early 20th century, the fashion of classical buildings gave way to ornamental buildings that were taller and had high-pitched roofs. The flat roofs were now pyramidical and tiled; the balustrades gave way to battlements, towers with high-pitched roof and bastions. 

The most important change was the pointed roof for the windows called the ‘monkey tops’. These lovely pointy wooden roofs can still be seen in the few bungalows or even old public buildings that still exist today.

As I walk across into Usha Kumar’s home, the first thing I notice is the beautiful monkey tops that decorate the front windows. Though the wooden trellis work of the front door was beautiful, it’s the patterned sunlight falling in the living room that made me truly appreciate the architect’s plan. 

Homes, in those days, looked good from the outside as well as the inside. The verandah is covered. But the high-pitched roofs, the high ventilators, the single storey are reminders of the erstwhile ‘bangala’.

In today’s world, what does it take to live in an old charming bungalow? For Usha and her family, the home has many memories. She recalls her childhood memories of living in a bungalow and of the fun she and her siblings had. Her son Akhilesh points at a mango fallen from a tree in the compound; it reminds him of the delicious pachadi they make during Ramanavami. 

But it also means, a lot of hard work – repairing fallen plaster, getting the right material and labour for repair and keeping the compound and home clean. Huge compounds do attract unwanted debris or construction material from a local construction site.

Though the bungalow is European, the name is very Indian. Usha has named it after her parents. There is a tulsi plant at the entrance. This cultural contrast comes up in many anecdotes and conversations with her which I find charming.

The Cantonment was, and is, a very multicultural place, informs Mona, the curator of ‘aPaulogy’, artist Paul Fernandes’ gallery on the Bangalore of the 60s and 70s. She recalls her neighbours were a mix of different communities. 

Though culturally diverse, there was always harmony and co-existence, she declares. The illustrations in the gallery do illustrate this fact.

I walk around the gallery, lost in Paul’s  Bangalore where cycles had dynamo lights and police wore half pants and the streets showcased monkey tops. 

For many of us today, owning a bungalow can only be a dream. But the few bungalows that still exist bring memories of another era; a way of life that gave this city the ‘Garden’ adjective. 

Just what is Unhurried?

“What do you do?” – is an oft repeated question that pops up during polite conversations among relations or long lost friends trying to catch up.

So I start a story of how I left IT (Information Technology) and the world of software programming and jumped into the Entrepreneurs’ bandwagon and started Unhurried (well, not exactly ‘jumped’, it took several years of thinking and coffee!). 

Then I get interrupted – “That’s all fine, but what is your main job?” or “Just what is Unhurried? I mean the name is vague – you should be more specific, for e.g., Bangalore Heritage walks or something” or even worse – 

“Oh, you have made your money in IT, so this is your hobby, then? Cool!”. 

Just what is Unhurried?

To answer that, let me ask you a question. When was the last time you went on a holiday abroad? 

Booked a hotel? check.

Booked the flight? check.

Flew to London. What a city! The London walks are superb!

Went on a package tour through Europe – so many countries, so different and yet amazing together.

Flew to Alexandria, Egypt – wow, what a tour! Why dont we have such tours back home?

Through Unhurried, I aim to touch just that genre – the diverse culture and history of South India. Through walks, tours, stories, experiences, meeting people, eating food – getting to know South India just the way you get to know Cambodia or Egypt or Paris or London. 

Why Unhurried?

Its a perspective. Just stand still where you are. Look around you. Its the same old place with the same old people. But if you sit back and relax, stories and memories will flood in. 

Its the same with a tour in India or its microcosm in Bangalore. What’s there in Bangalore to visit? At best, one can go to Nandi hills. Right? Wrong. In a travel agents’ language, I aim to create interesting Inbound heritage & culture tours.  

So what does Unhurried offer?

Join a walk. Unhurried conducts both private, customized walks based on your requirements or a shared published walk.

Take a tour. South India is not just Madras(Chennai) or Bangalore or Kerala. I organize conducted tours based on your time, and requirements.

Who is it for?

Anyone(locals, expats, tourists)

  1. curious about the city’s(Bangalore) history and/or culture
  2. want to do an offbeat tour in Karnataka or Tamilnadu (stay at homestays, visit hinterlands)
  3. want to do a ‘normal’ tour visiting the known places but with a local experience

Workshops and Outings for Children

I believe the young ones understand and hence appreciate the richness of India’s rich history and culture. Unhurried conducts workshops, half day or full day outings for children from seven and above. These outings and workshops are exploratory and designed for the young.

If you represent a school or are a group of parents who want to have a fun outing with children, contact me.

Anything else?

If you want to do something that you don’t find on this website, shoot an email. Glad to help.

Of a chieftain and his dreams

My article on Ulsoor, Bangalore, titled ‘Of a chieftain and his dreams‘ was first published in Deccan Herald, Spectrum, in September 2012. It is reproduced as a blog here.

Mention Ulsoor and the immediate associations are those of the Someshwara Temple and the lake. The famed temple still stands proudly in  the bustling locality. The lake, said to have been built by Kempegowda, the Yelahanka chieftain who founded modern Bangalore, continues to be one of Ulsoor’s major attractions, writes Poornima Dasharathi.

A king, tired, after a long enjoyable hunt, lies under the shade of a tree. His eyes close and soon sleep overpowers him. As he slips into the world of dreams, the mighty Lord Someshwara appears before him in all his glory. 

Even as he marvels at his luck, the Lord smiles as he gives the king a task. “Erect a temple here in my name,” he commands. To aid the king, the Lord reveals the location of a hidden treasure. As the vision fades, the king opens his eyes, wondering about the truth of the divine experience.

But to his amazement, he discovers the treasure at the very location as told by the Lord himself! The king is convinced now. He has work to do. He employs a sculptor from Belur, a descendant of the famous Janakachari himself and constructs a temple dedicated to Lord Someshwara.

Soon the king, who has a penchant for building cities, creates a small hamlet around the temple for the Brahmins who maintain it. A royal decree is made – “From all the thirty three villages surrounding the Someshwara temple, one kolaga for each kandaga of grain would be given as endowment for the maintenance of the religious services at the temple”.

The narration (slightly dramatised) is a colourful medieval tale on how Ulsoor was founded. The king is none other than Kempegowda, the Yelahanka chieftain who founded modern Bangalore. The Someshwara Temple is the temple which stills stands proudly in the bustling area of present day Ulsoor. Kempegowda is also credited with building Ulsoor lake for irrigation and water for the surrounding villages, thus making it one of the oldest water bodies in the City. 

Much older than thought?

Though the area, the temple and the popular Ulsoor lake are credited to Kempegowda, historians believe that the area was older than his times. As evidence to this, they point to the architecture of the Someshwara Temple, which dates back to the Chola period.

S K Aruni, historian, ICHR, classifies the construction to three different periods – the Cholan period (inner most sanctum sanctorum, inner hall and its enclosing wall), the Vijayanagar period (outer pillared hall – mukhamantapa and early colonial period (Kamakshi Amman temple, the nandimantapa and balipeeta). The inner hall (navaranga) has beautiful Vijayanagara columns with sculptures and the outer bigger mantapa contains the popular yali pillars of those times.

On the inner wall of the temple complex that encloses the shrine, there are many reliefs; one of them in a cloak holding a stick is believed to be that of the Bangalore founder. The huge gopura of the temple, built in the typical Dravidian style, undoubtedly makes one marvel at the art of temple building.

As we come out of the temple and skim the pages of medieval history, we see that Lord Cornwallis first camps here while mulling over methods to overpower Tipu Sultan. 

As new lands are conquered by the British, the area transforms into a Cantonment; the lake is spruced up and becomes a water source for the troops. Post the colonial period, the area transforms into a residential area, the lake becomes an entertainment spot, a lung space. Boating, regatta events take place.

Pages from history, even as recent as 35 years back, describes Bangaloreans watching in awe the fireworks held by TTK in the islets of the lake.

Today the villages are gone, the jackfruit orchards that might have given the area its name (Halasuru) have also vanished, but some foundations of the story of Ulsoor remain. 

The temples are still revered, the lake still used, albeit for leisure, the area has still got a thriving economy and is a commercial hub. 

The British history remains through the names – Murphy town, Kensington Park and, of course, the MEG that embodies the military station.