bangalore

Shrines of Old City

There is something pleasant about being in Pete in the early part of the day. For one there is no crazy crowd that you see in the mid-afternoons or evenings. And another is the chime of temple bells at the various shrines of Pete- signaling that the early morning prayers to the numerous idols of Shiva, Vishnu, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Shanmukha are in progress. The myriad lanes of pete be it Aralepete, Cottonpete, Cubbonpete, Nagarthapete, Tigalarapete are full of temples. And an interesting thing about these! There are some 44 plus temples that are associated with the old communities of Pete. Don’t believe me? Then here is a brief overview of some of these shrines and their backgrounds.

Take for example the Chenigaraya temple at Ganigarpete. It is a temple belonging to the community of Ganigas. Ganigas are oil-pressers who used to reside in Ganigarpete and extracted oils such as castor, sesame oil manually. With the demand for such cold-pressed oils disappearing, this community has slowly moved out and has taken up other businesses in the city. What remains today after their profession is the stone oil press –gana in Kannada in front of the Cheluvarayaswamy temple. This gana is said to have belonged to an oil merchant-Doddana Setty. Both wooden and stone presses were in vogue. The last of the oil presses disappeared some 50-60 years ago. The only memory of this once thriving community is the temple of Cheluvarayaswamy -their patron deity.

A couple of minutes away at Nagarthara Pete is the famous Nagareshwara temple for the city merchants or the Nagartha community. Nagareshwara happens to be their patron deity. The temple of 1884, has an idol of Shiva installed in the shrine. The linga is said to have been brought from Kasi. An inscription outside the temple declares this. There are beautiful idols of Nataraja, Shanmukha and the blissful idol of Annapurneswari made of Saligrama stone. Another interesting fact about this temple is that the Tigala community and the Ganiga community visit this temple when they want to start the auspicious process of writing a wedding invitation for marriages in their communities.

A temple closeby the Kamateshwara Kalikamba temple is a shrine that sees the followers of Vishwakarma community-craftsmen, goldsmith, carpenter, etc. When I entered the shrine of the goddess a priest was predicting the future looking at a persons’ horoscope. Apart from the beautiful idol of Kali there is also a statue of Nandi at the entrance of the temple. Another attraction here for foodies is the Lakshmi Nataraj Refreshments that serves smooth idlis with equally delightful red and green coconut chutneys. It has an interesting history behind it but that’s for another day.

Just a few minutes away is the Dharmaraya Swamy temple of Tigala community that specialized in agriculture and horticulture activities. It is a beautiful Dravidian style temple dedicated to Pandava brothers and Draupadi. The famous city festival-karaga begins its festivities from here when a male priest dressed in a saree carries the Karaga pot and weaves his way through the narrow lanes of Pete. There is also the idol of Potharaja- the brother in law of Pandavas who plays the important role of cleansing evil from the earth and has a day dedicated to him in the eleven-day Karaga festival.

There are shrines dedicated to Ganesha and goddess Muthyalamma as well. A lady draped in silk saree forbids me to enter the shrine inside. When I look inside the sanctum I realize that just adjacent to the inner sanctum of the Muthyalamma there are the idols of Yellamma,Uyallama-swing goddess kept in the room and equally revered by the community.

At Balepete main road, you have an interesting temple dedicated to Sugreeva. Sugreeva is the monkey king who helped Rama during his battle with Ravana. The idol is six feet high. Next to it is a  shrine for his brother Vali.

Incidentally, it is said that the idol of Sugreeva was rescued from the Kempambudhi tank and brought here. Opposite to these idols is the Venkateshwara idol. This temple is patronized by the tank diggers of the Woddaru community. Though there are no inscriptions the temple plaques mention that the time period of this structure is 1680.  The priest community resides inside the temple. Their tiny homes are neat, clean and in religious piety with numerous frames of gods and goddesses tucked inside their prayer room.

As you go towards Chikpete there is another special temple endorsed by the Jain community-the Adinatha temple. It is a beautiful marble structure but when the temple started out in 1918 it was a wooden structure. Inside the shrine, there are blissful idols of Adinatha, Parsvanatha, Mahaveera, Neminatha, etc. The ornate work of the temple is stunning, so are the marble inlay work and the figurines of dancers and musicians carved on the numerous pillars of the temple. In contrast, the Jain devotees are plain- in a posture of submission and prayers- some chanting on beads and some hymns.

Pete is thus a vibrant community full of colorful stories. Be a part of this enriching experience by booking our Life in Pete Walk.

–Usha

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

 

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.

 

 

Fraser Town Food Trail with Gang Of Dusters

A 30 member team of Dusters gathered around Xavier’s Cathedral at 4:30 pm. The agenda was the most awaited Fraser Town Food Trail. The trail promised Syrian Christian goodies, Aflatoon cakes, Middle East Platters not to mention Biryanis.  Here is a brief glimpse of the Food walk conducted yesterday.

 

Gyan on Cant History

A little introduction, a brief travel in to Cantonment history at the Church, the motley group of family and kids set foot inside the church. The church itself is beautiful with Corinthian Capitals, stained glass windows but with a small wedding happening it was even more so.

A short glimpse of the wedding, we headed out in to the sunshine to savor some goodies.  The bubbly Vidya mesmerized the foodies through her short and long tales.

Finally with a satiated smile and a content stomach we dispersed. Here is a sample of treats that we gorged on.

If you would like to join the fun then register for our delightful and engaging food  and heritage trails.

–Usha

 

CITY HERITAGE – or the lack of it?

 

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Telugu Church Office, Richards Town

(Image Courtesy: Poornima Dasharathi)

Bengalureans are usually surprised when I say the city is very old, at least a thousand years old! Many continents and countries weren’t yet discovered when our city was a big bustling place!

So why do we think Bangalore isn’t old ? The answer is usually ‘the lack of heritage structures’.

Heritage Law

Many countries have a robust heritage law for both public & private buildings. These include

  • proper identification, planning and conservation of structures
  • interaction & encouragement to private owners through tax reliefs, higher property value and certain structural change restrictions.

I was also told that in some places in London, there’s a law that certain city views cannot be altered!

In the News

Two recent events by individuals or organisations have raised this fact.

One is a fellow heritage enthusiast, Udaya Kumar’s research on Inscription stones & his experiences of the process – the interaction with the locals and their pride when they came to know its significance.

The other is heritage building demolition inside Lalbagh by the Horticulture department as it was ‘beyond repair’ and heritage organisations & Individuals’ protest.

While this is just one known demolition compared to several others that have gone or will go unnoticed in & around the city.

Since the last decade, many public & private structures have gone down drastically. Here’s some statistics by INTACH (a heritage awareness organisation), Bangalore.

Those who do raise our voice for heritage awareness feign helplessness when our own heritage homes are demolished to create a plush suite of flats or worse still sold to be used as a commercial structure!

Problems & Solutions

So what is the solution? It’s a very complex answer. Here are some  points and observations through various discussions with travellers, experts, civic planners, fellow bangaloreans on problems & solutions to preserve heritage structures.

  • The government has to create awareness of heritage and preserving old buildings to the common man. For example, how old is ‘heritage’? Is a 100 year old building heritage while a 90 year old one is not?
  • It has to create a robust heritage bill – however ‘no government will to create one due to rising real estate prices in Urban cities’ is the opinion of many.
  • With public structures, money is not an issue as government funds are surplus. Usually it’s just ignorance or just flippant attitude to an ‘old building’.
  • Instead of tax reliefs and subsidizing the cost of maintaining a heritage home, most private ancestral home owners also have the burden of a huge property tax. Some preserve for the love of it while many demolish it for an easier to maintain home with modern facilities.

(I personally know many owners who complain that the walls ‘just give away’!)

  • Joint families going nuclear and shared ownership also results in division and demolition of properties.
  • The lure of real estate value for both middle class and upper class families is one of the biggest reasons for private buildings going down.

Awareness is the first step I feel. Awareness and the will to maintain goes a long way. Ours is an old city, an important city, let’s preserve it. That will be a real tribute to Kempegowda!