You wouldn’t have missed these books-thick often dusty volumes indexing each state/district giving you descriptive information about a region. Whether you are a student, a professor, or a historian or just an explorer you would have put your hands on these big books and probably sighed with relief when you got what you were looking for. Could you guess the name of the book? Off course it is the gazetteer!
If ever you have been to the Sheshadri Iyer Memorial library popularly known as the State Central library in Bangalore you will get an entire set of these books categorized district wise -Kolar, Mysore, Tumkur, Coorg, Mandya to name a few. Ever wondered why there was a need for these gazetteers in Karnataka?
When the administration of Mysore was under British control , the officers posted here could not relate to the regional issues faced by the state or grasp it. So the compilation of these books began for each district in 1867 and in the next two years at least 8-9 volumes prepared. Out of these only two got printed- Mysore district by H.Wellesley and Kolar by Krishna Iyengar. They were edited and published by B.L Rice- Benjamin Lewis Rice. He was also responsible for bringing out the Mysore and Coorg gazetteers.
Born to Missionary parents in Bangalore, B.L Rice has a list of accolades to his name. He was the principal of Bangalore High School, Inspector to schools of Mysore and Coorg, the Chief Census Officer and Secretary of Education department. He was fluent in numerous languages like Kannada, Sanskrit,Tamil etc and has translated nearly 9000 inscriptions most of them in Hale kannada.
His Mysore gazetteer is comprehensive and this is due to his systematic methods to uncover information. An article in Persecution mentions that when Rice was made the part time director of Archaeological research he visited about 654 towns in 215 days. Such was his passion for history!
Today there is the gazetteer department in Karnataka, started in 1958 and it has published 20 gazetteers of the state.These are descriptive gazetteers providing you complete information about a particular city,town or village coupled with other particulars like settlements inhabiting the place, the industrial progress, information about government and municipal bodies, the history -old maps and photographs etc. In other words what you are referencing has a gold mine of information- you get significant details about the locality from the time when the gazetteer was published. Jurisdiction and city limits, information about heritage buildings, old names of the villages if any , the topology of the land, its latitude, longitude-these are some finds.
What does the gazetteer say about Bangalore let us see….
Take the case of one of the oldest markets of Bangalore-the KR Market..
–>That it stands on the site of old tank called Siddi Kate -Siddi being an old lady from the Kempe Gowda family who contributed towards the tank’s construction.
A bit of the life in the market….
–>That the stalls of the market had ledges in front of them, people had space here to chit chat and bargain.
–>While some of the markets had heaps of grains discharged from the carts especially at Taragu Pete, Arale Pete had bales of cotton in the verandas of warehouses.. Homes and verandas were swept clean and cow dung applied, then colorful Rangoli used to adorn traditional homes while mango leaves were tied at the entrance. Women carrying pots used to chit chat while collecting water for their homes.Can you imagine life like this now in the dingy,narrow busy lanes of the city market?
Now is the time to get your hands on that gazetteer and understand a bit about your roots and ancestors.So if you haven’t seen a gazetteer yet, do head out this weekend to one of the central libraries in the State and browse through.