History

A glimpse of Indian Colonial architecture

A tiger skin hangs majestically in the drawing room, the column at la Martiniere,Lucknow is a fitting tribute to the surrounding landscape, the card room of Faluknama Palace, Hyderabad gives you a glimpse of the British aristocracy … These were some of the displays at the ‘Shadow of the Raj’ exhibition by photographer Derry Moore who had captured some of the Colonial scenes in mid 1970’s. All set in monochromatic tones, the architectural scenes, the landscapes and the portraits succeeded in ushering you back to the colonial era. Derry Moore had mainly toured Calcutta, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Chennai, Mushirdabad,Mumbai and captured the British colonial scenes back then…

The exhibition prompted me to explore a bit about the colonial architecture in the country and here is what I found..

The ancient Indian scene:

The Indian architectural scene had been rich and diverse even before the arrival of the European powers be it Portuguese, French, Dutch or the English in the country . Just take a look at the ancient Indian architecture – Sanchi Stupa,Mahabodhi temple, cave temples ….

Sanchi Stupa

Photo Source

Or the medieval architecture that saw Mughal styled structures- Tajmahal, Fatehpur Sikiri to name a few.

Fatehpur Sikiri

Photo Source

The foreigners who arrived initially came with the sole intention of trade. So these European powers began building ware houses, offices, churches in the beginning. Their architecture styles especially churches predominately revolved around Roman, Gothic, French influences etc.

A church in Goa

Photo Source:

With the political dominance of English in the country there was a fusion of European architecture with Indian buildings. The initial structures were the barracks, residential buildings of the cantonments. There was a influence of local element too especially in the officers residences. The Bangla of Bengal was adapted to suit the tastes of the European officer and so it became the vast free standing Bungalows of today. 

Before the 1857 revolt the construction of colonial buildings depicted the imperial power of the English. The official structures be it the post office, police stations or administrative offices were modeled to showcase this aspect. Often they followed the European classic style or the Gothic style revealing the superiority of the buildings of the west.

Victoria Terminus

Photo Source

After the revolt the structures built were to showcase solidarity between the British and India. Thus European buildings now started adding Swadeshi elements. Thus the resultant style was often Indo- Saracenic found in most of the buildings in Chennai- Senate House, Courts, Post offices etc. Bombay however retained its Gothic style. Victoria Terminus is a fine example of this.

tipu-summer-palace

tipu-summer-palace

With the shifting of capital to Delhi in 1911, the British focus was to showcase the imperial strength of their empire. The planned city incorporated a fusion of styles- Mughal, Buddhist symbols… You can still see domes, arches,lotuses and symbols like Elephants in the buildings of the new capital. A glimpse of this type of building can be seen in many of the city’s strutures- prominent one being the Rastrapathi Bhavan.

Rastrapathi Bhavan

Photo Source

With the British leaving the country, these colonial structures remained in remembrance of their rule. Alongside these heritage structures mushroomed skyscrapers, apartments,corporate housing and the shiny glass and chrome buildings that we see today. Yet these yesteryear structures say many a tale of the days gone by. And these are the very stories that we explore in our British walks be it the Bungalow Walk or the Cathedral Walk in our city. Come join us to hear more of such interesting tales.

–Usha

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

Unraveling the secrets of Srirangapatna – Photo Story

This weekend Unhurried had a fun bike trip with TVS group of Mysore.  The City trails event organized by Sona Motors, TVS and Autosense India, for their customers was a fun filled episode to unearth Srirangapatna’s history and and discover many of its untold stories. Unhurried along with On a Pedal  team went about organizing this in quite an innovative way.

Unlimited masti, fun quiz and a gripping treasure hunt followed by a sumptuous lunch were the highlights of the day. Here is an overview.

23 participants assembled at Sona Motors,Lakshmipuram around 10 in the morning. The event was flagged off at 10:30 by Rudra of TVS Motors.

The team on TVS vehicles reached Srirangapatna around 11. After a brief introduction to the city and its rich history, the participants were divided in to four teams.

A fun quiz session saw each team compete to get the maximum number of points. The team that won got a five minute lead for the treasure hunt and were given the clues first. The enthusiastic team breaking their clues headed off on their vehicles to their destination where the next clue awaited them.

After a gripping two hour hunt that saw teams zipping up past memorials, mausoleums, palaces and ruins the event ended at Hali Mane for a delicious lunch.

Here is a brief video.

 

Seven Must Have Experiences at Badami

The evening sun sets in. The last rays of sun hits the almond colored cliffs in front of me. And the sandstone turns golden. The view leaves me spellbound. And I forget the tiredness, the last eight hour journey has brought me. I have traveled 500 odd kilometers from Bangalore through traffics, highways and bumpy lanes to reach this lovely history rich city of Badami.

Badami was the capital of the early Chalukyan dynasty. This dynasty ruled most parts of Deccan Plateau and the areas around it between the sixth and eighth centuries.  Thus the city was an important historic center in South India then. Ancient cave temples, placid lakes, and ruins- the city is dotted with myriad attractions.  Here is a brief overview of some of them.

  1. Cave temples of Badami

Dated between the sixth and seventh centuries the four free standing rock cut temples are a revelation. The exquisite carvings, the designs, icons, reliefs and the artwork on the stone columns, ceilings, halls and inner sanctum deep inside the caves transports you in to a different world. The first cave temple is the oldest built around 543 AD and is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva. The second and third cave temple is dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu. The last cave is of Jainism faith and it has the figures of prominent Tirthankara (saviours) of Jains.

Note: One of the key attractions in Cave-1 is the dancing figure of Shiva with 18 hands. The figure displays around 81 dance forms with the help of these 18 hands. While there take a look at the pillars too. There are around 83 types of jewellery designs carved on them. Various incarnations of God Vishnu, amorous couples, different costumes and hairstyles like Korean and Mongolian- the scenes in cave-2 and cave-3 depict the daily lives of the people then.

badami

  1. Archaeological museum:

Celestial gods, hero stones, narrative stone panels depicting mythological stories, pre historic exhibits-the archaeological museum is a gold mine of information about the history of Indian architecture and Badami.

Note: One of the key attraction here is the figure of goddess of fertility called Lajja Gauri (Nude Goddess) .Carved out of grey sandstone she is shown in the birth giving posture. Traditionally the fertility goddess was worshipped by women aspiring to become mothers.

  1. Bouldering:

Badami is a haven for rock climbers. The fissured rocks, the soaring vertical cliffs, the horizontal cracks provide a challenging bouldering experience. There are various routes graded 4a-8b+ suitable for both amateurs and professionals alike.  There are more than 100 bolted routes in this area.

Note: Beware of the heat. Badami is hot throughout the year. December-February months are slightly cooler though and can be a good time to rock climb early mornings.

  1. Trekking to Badami fort:

The hill opposite to the Badami cave temples holds a number of ruins, shrines and fort.  The climb is steep through stone carved steps and is full of delights. As you trapeze over the narrow winding path you see copper coated volcanic rocks towering around you. The stone fort, the observation posts, the dome like structures to store arms, the temple ruins –the one hour climb can be a novel experience.

Note: The view from the top is simply amazing and a popular haunt of photographers. The artificial green lake below, the vertical rock cliffs across with  its rock cut cave temples, the lone stone watch towers atop, waterfalls from the cliffs during the rainy months-all make for inspiring photographic shoots.

badami

  1. Taste the protein bar of Badami -the Karadant:

Karadant translates to fried edible gum in local dialect- Kannada. Similar to protein bars the Karadant sweet is high in amino acids, omega fatty acids and antioxidants. Prepared with either sugar or jaggery, the chewy textured sweet is full of cashew nuts, dry grapes, dates, peanut etc. Jaggery comes from either of these two villages -Amingad and Gokak. So the sweet is labelled either Amingad Karadant or Gokak Karadant depending on from where the jaggery came and the sweet was manufactured.

Note: Most of the sweet shops and small outlets near temple complexes store these sweets. They are a bit pricey, a 200 gram of this sweet costs more than 100 Rupees, but are worth every bit. If you are nut allergic keep away from these sweets.

  1. An enriching experience at Badami farms:

Sunflower, sugarcane, millet, cotton-these are some of the crops that the farmers of Badami grow.  Harvest season sees a flurry of activities here.  Reaping crop, threshing, winnowing, tilling of the land to grow seeds and sowing are some activities you can witness. The black soil, the harvest in front of you, the grins of the farm ladies as they welcome visitors can turn out to be an enriching experience.

Note: October is the harvesting season for Corn. So a drive towards Badami can be colourful with not only the harvesting activity in full swing but also for its dashes of colours. The yellows of Sunflower, the orange hues of Marigold and the clear white cotton blooms amidst the golden corn can be a beautiful spectacle.

  1. Visit the heritage sites Pattadakal and Aihole:

While Pattadakal is 22 kilometers from Badami and Aihole is around 36 kilometers both are worthwhile destinations for sightseeing. Pattadakal, a world heritage center was the place for coronation ceremonies of Chalukyan kings. Aihole was an architectural and educational center with more than 125 temples within 3-5 kilometer radius of the village. Aihole has some interesting prehistoric sites too at the Meguti hillock.

Note: Don’t forget to savour the corn bread with a dash of rich legumes or eggplant curry accompanied with cold yogurt in pots. The simple fare served by villagers here is actually very delicious and healthy. The corn after all comes from the nearby farms.

–Usha

 

 

A glimpse of the pete

Narrow, gully style, often crowded, the streets of the city market can be harrowing for a first timer in the city. The gutter filled roads -traffic choked with zig-zagging vehicles does not make things easier. Yet appearances are deceptive as I discovered today. The old streets in the city is full of surprises that peels off layer by layer as you go deeper in to its interiors.

The BVK Iyengar road is a mess- road repair, widening , busy traffic, bustling crowds  everything happening at once. But if you can take a moment to pause and look around, you will see its vivacity beneath the dusts. The murukku or the chakli stands apt for the kitchen, the fern filled green glass bottles for home decor, the colorful handcrafted door hangings, never before seen herbs and the common kitchen spices and out of the blue- some pretty blue and pink dolls sitting on the pavement. Sure takes your breath away at the myriad colors in the streets.

A slight turn, a twist here, a bend there and I reach Balepet. In the cacophony of stores- some selling bedding,bags jewelry, clothes etc you can sense something different here. And when you halt for a moment you discover that this street has some oldest musical instruments shops in the area. Mridangam,tabla,harmonium, acoustic guitar.. So famous is the street that even CV Raman, the famous Indian scientist was a frequent visitor here to buy the instruments.  Stop to chat at these stores and you realize that the owners are multi talented. They are musicians creating music,  performing shows in the city, training youngsters… And surprise, they craft the musical instruments and repair them too! A big salute for these few artisans left in this old part of the city.

A few moments later I reach the Tawakaal Mastan Saheb Dargah at Cottonpet. The dargah is that of a Sufi saint and was built around Hyder Ali’s time. I hesitate a bit here as I have never been inside a dargah before but I have heard a lot about it and so I enter in. Instantly I am at ease. No one stops me and I see plenty of devotees  inside the shrine. I see a mother carrying a small baby asking the Muzaveer for blessings, another devotee silently sitting head bowed seeking solace, yet another making a wish and tying a thread. There are locks hanging in the window railings- wishes that need to be fulfilled, dreams that need to become reality and most importantly health and spirit that needs to be reinvigorated . Raghu from On a Pedal later tells me that the Hazrath Tawakkal Baba is famous for curing ailments and giving hope. And that perhaps explains the devotees of all religions fervently praying here.

The City Market and its narrow lanes are famous for innumerable things- silks, imitation jewellery, computer parts, electronic items, stationary  to name a few. This is no surprise as pete boasts more than 40 % commercial activity in its premises. The communities living here are diverse as well. You see Marwaris, Muslims, Jains, Gujarathis, Tigalas, Devangas and more doing business here. They have their own blocks, places of worship, meeting grounds, festivals and fairs. And so the pete is always busy; busy teeming with tradesmen, artisans, weavers, salesman and hawkers. To get a glimpse of this interwoven yet diverse identities come join us on our walk Life in pete happening this month end.

–Usha

 

 

The splendor of Navaratri

PC:By Arulraja 

Dasara always reminds me of my childhood. Dressed up in red green pattu Pavadai(or langa davani in Kannada) , me and my friends used to go to metu mami’s home to sing.
Metu mami was a tall thin lady, hair tied in a bun and drapped in a traditional silk saree. Her customary greeting as we crossed her Kolam filled threshold would be ‘Vango Vango’ to all us little ones.
For a few seconds we would be mesmerized, for mami always had a fascinating Kolu display during Dasara days.   There would be tier of steps all covered in white. The steps were always odd in number- sometimes 5, 7 and if mami had help 9. And each tier would have a different theme. There would be Siva-Parvati dolls in one step and scenes from Ramayana in the next. Sometimes mami would have arranged an entire row of goddess Durga in her various avatars. The tiers also boasted of Pattada Gombe- royal dolls of sandalwood symbolizing the King and Queen.

PC:By Bootervijay

For me the fascination lay at the bottom of the steps- a tiny little farm complete with a pond,a garden and animals.
Mami had explained to us the significance of this. ‘ Our Gombe display is incomplete without the pond and garden.October is the harvest time for pulses. So pulses like Chickpeas, Moong and even Ragi, mustard are sprouted,’ she used to say in her sing-song voice. And she had even showed us how to do it.
‘ Take some ragi seeds and immerse them in water. Then drain the water and allow it to sprout. You can then take these sprouts and sprinkle them in the mud. ‘
Today I know Navaratri is not just remembering the goddess but is also a way of saying thanks to the harvest.
After our starry eyes could take all that , mami would ask us to sit cross legged and sing bhajans. We prattled away the songs of gods and goddesses learnt at our music school and were rewarded with sundal at the end of our power packed performance. Sundal is a salad of sprouted channa bean blended with roasted spices and a sprinkling of fresh coconut. Yum’s the only word for it.Till date Sundal happens to be my go to comfort food.

The significance of Navaratri:

In May I happened to attend a friend’s wedding in Mysore. The bride was given lovely gifts by her mother and one of them was this Pattada Gombe set. It was a male-female pair dressed in red and gold zari, decked up with jewels. ‘ It is to help her start her Kolu arrangement during Navaratri at her new home,’ explained the bride’s mother when I questioned the bride as to why she needs a doll set during her wedding day. Perhaps it signifies compatibility for the new bride in her new household.  On an other note Kolu means royal presence. And the Mysore Dasara has always been a State ritual boasting of Wodeyar’s presence. So the Pattada Gombe could be the symbol of Kingship as well.

The tradition of Dasara goes back to Vijayanagara times where Navaratri was an elaborate nine day ritual complete with entertainment, battle scenes and sacrifices. It was a public gathering with the King beginning the festivities after offering prayers to the goddess at the Vijayanagara capital. The Navaratri also saw the exchange of gifts and good will by the lower ranking chieftains and officials to their king. And these festivities also gave the chiefs an opportunity to display their power and wealth. They used to come with their troop of elephants,horses and men.

Many of the sixteenth century rituals have been carried out in Mysore Dasara rituals as well. The procession, the worshiping of weapons, the battle between goddess and the demon Mahishasura etc. to name a few.

However Navaratri is not just about royal presence . Navaratri is the worship of the goddess Shakthi in her nine forms. It is the triumph of good over evil when goddess Durga defeats the demon Mahishasura. Be it the Durga Pooja of Bengal or the Navaratri Golu/Kolu/Bomme Habba down south the focus is on worshiping the different forms of Shakthi on different days and incorporating her qualities.

The book ‘Kingship and political practice in colonial India’ gives a different perspective to the festivities. It mentions that these festivities reinforced the belief in the public that both the king and the goddess were the true custodians protecting dharma and maintaining peace and prosperity in the State. Together they slew the demon Mahishasura.

Navaratri in the city:

Things have changed now, yet most of the rituals still remain. The temples especially in South India are decked up-the goddess is worshiped in her nine forms- Shailaputri, Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skanda Mata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. The temples become a cultural hub showcasing  dance performance, yakshaganas and song orchestras.

The city wears a festive look. Durga Pooja pandals, Dandiya nights not to mention the Golu dolls spring up in the city. And for a moment the city forgets its dust,traffic and pollution inviting Durga with open arms.

To get a peek a boo of the city during Navaratri join us on our two walks, Basavangudi and Military coming up this weekend.

 

Reviving Bavadis as water source

Amazing isn’t it? Vijayapura  is turning towards its 500 year old ancient open wells to overcome water scarcity in the city. Taj Bavadi, Chand Bavadi- the wells of Vijayapura that were hitherto mere tourist destinations and were mushy, filled with garbage are now fulfilling their original purposes- that of providing water to this water scarce city. The city requires a mammoth 65 million litres per day.

Bavadis, vaav, pushkaranis, keres were some of the ways that ancient India dealt with water shortage. The dry, arid climates of Gujarat and Rajasthan led to the creations of step wells or vaavs. Similarly the  frequency of droughts led to water harvesting schemes like bavadis in Bijapur. While some were built in the memory of the beloved, some were just constructed by the rulers to replenish water sources and as a cool retreat. For instance the Rani ki Vaav at Patan, a 11th century vaav was built by queen Udaymati in memory of her husband Bhimdev. The fine architectural works on the columns, walls of the well has earned it the UNESCO world heritage tag.

CC:Bernad Gagnon

Similarly the 1549 Chand bavadi in Bijapur was built by Ali Adil Shah for his queen Chand Bibi while the biggest well Taj bavadi , a 1620 structure was built in honour of Taj Sultana- wife of Ibrahim Adil Shah.  The city of Vijayapura boasted about 1030 wells in 1830 out of which 700 were stepless.

The astonishing thing about these wells is that it served as water sources even during the harsh summer  months.  While bore wells have to be dug very deep say 200 feet or more , the water in these bavadis can be found around 50-60 feet. Not only that the presence of wells significantly improves the ground water levels. A win- win situation all around if the wells are kept in good condition.

But with the advent of water pumps and pipes supplying water to the city the bavadis are also in a state of neglect. While the Chand bavadi has become a dump yard, the Taj bavadi has become a dhobi ghat cum a place to wash vessels. The Mukhari Masjid bavadi near to a temple sees devotees throwing flowers, coconuts , shells in the well.  However things are slowly changing. The Taj bavadi, Chand bavadi along with a couple of others are getting revived. Silt and garbage are getting cleared to hold water. When the bavadis are revived it is estimated that it can satisfy 5 million litres per day water requirement.

Finally the city is waking up to its ancient heritage and water wisdom. Hope our city with its 300 keres too soon follows suit.

–Usha