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A whiff of History-M.G Road

M.G.Road is one of the busiest roads in the city of Bengaluru and is one of the most happening places too. Shopping malls, pubs,restaurants,art galleries, showrooms, banks dot this lively stretch. It is hard to believe that it was once a general parade ground with its barracks and regiments and from where the military and civil station burgeoned.

But look closely. And you will still see remainders of the by-gone era in the hidden houses tucked behind buildings,in the plaques of churches,in the signboards and statues….. Here are few fleeting glimpses of the station it once was.

At the east end of M.G.Road stands the Holy Trinity Church. It was one of the second churches in the area-the first was St Mark’s Cathedral. This century old church built in 1852 for the British Regiment has a number of tablets dedicated to officers who died in various battles of South East Asia.

There are tablets mentioning about officers of Mysore Revenue survey-there is one that talks about a officer who died from tiger wounds at shimoga; the 4th Hussars[Queen’s Own], King’s Dragoon Guards, Royal Artillery etc. Men who died at sea on their way to England,or of cholera on their march towards Bangalore finds mention here. Most of these are dated before 1880’s and gives a glimpse of society back then. During the summer of 1914, the Station had several troops-the 7th Hussars,the 26th Light Cavalry, the 13th Brigade R.F.A, 2nd and 44th Batteries,R.F.A,the 108th infantry etc.

As you make your way out of the Church you catch sight of  Mayo Hall- another colonial building dedicated to Lord Mayo,Viceroy of India. It was used as municipal offices,the upper floor was meant for public meetings.

Before this stately building is the statue of Rev Ferdinand Kittel, a priest from Germany who had joined the Basel Mission and had come to Karnataka to spread Christianity. However he is remembered for his first Kannada to English dictionary compiled in 1894. He mingled with the locals, understanding their culture,language and his dictionary reflects this trait. The 1758 paged book covered more than 70000 words and often included commonplace or local words apart from the usual meanings and synonyms of words. He is seen here holding a kannada flag.

As you wind your way up and come towards MG Road-St Mark’s Road you hit the 1912 stone building of Bible Society and the Tract and Book Society . The Bible Society is responsible for printing and distributing Bible in different languages. Today it also prints literature books.

Another section of the building facing the St Mark’s Road has the Hard Rock Cafe, that was a Tea room during the cantonment days, then went over to Tract and Book Society section and then to a music store, a pub and finally the Hard Rock Cafe.

As you trudge ahead you sight the St Mark’s Cathedral and then the Queen Victoria Statue at Cubbon Park. The park served as the buffer zone for the old city and the cantonment. After nearly an hour’s walk you realize that there are a lot of hidden jewels in the city that the unplanned urban development has not been able to erase. And you wish to learn more. That’s when you must book a heritage walk with Unhurried and tag along for a slow heritage walk with us.

–Usha

 

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Lepakshi Attractions

Lepakshi is a wonderful weekend destination from Bangalore. Located in Anantapura district it is around 120 km from the city. There are plenty of intriguing things to see here.The hanging pillar, the red blotches on walls said to be bleeding eyes,the unfinished wedding hall, Lepakshi paintings with their colors still intact,the footsteps of Sita … Here is a quick summary of the attractions present at Lepakshi temple built during Vijayanagara times.

Watch out for Monoliths:

The temple Lepakshi is on a plateau surrounded by granite rocks and boulders. The Lepakshi sculptors have thus used the abundant rocks to carve out huge monolithic sculptures that are one of the highlights of Lepakshi. For instance the Nandi at the entrance of the temple is six feet high and eight meter long. Inside the temple complex is another sculpture- a seven meter high Naga statue carved out from a boulder-the Linga however is a polished black stone. Behind the Linga you see carvings of spider,hunter and elephant worshiping the Linga- perhaps the legend  of Srikalahasti itched here.

Check the inscriptions out:

On the walls of Virabhadra temple are some old Kannada inscriptions. One of them is dated to the period 1531 and talk about the Vijayanagara king Achyutaraya giving grant of village to Virapanna, a governor of Penukonda for services of gods Virabhadra, Raghunatha and Papavinasa of LepakshiVirapanna’s reliefs and paintings inside the temple vouch to the fact that he played an an all important role in construction activities of the temple. How did Virapanna get the king to donate? George Michell in his lecture on Lepakshi mentions that Virapanna was from Veerashaiva community. During the Vijayanagara times they were involved in long distance trading and that perhaps explains their influence. Virabhadra was their patron deity.

Lepakshi sculpturing on walls:

On the mandapa there are beautiful dancing figures-male and female both, exquisite yalis. The walls of Virabhadra shrine have two sets of carvings each going in the opposite direction. One tells the tale of Siriyala-one of the greatest devotees of Shiva who offered the cooked flesh of his only son to Shiva who had come disguised as a mendicant. In the opposite direction is the tale of Kirātārjunīya-the story of Arjun and Shiva disguised as Kirata. They  both simultaneously strike a boar and end up fighting.  Finally Arjun gets defeated and realizes whom he is fighting with and surrenders to Shiva.

Lepakshi paintings:

The paintings are a revelation. The ceilings of mantapas have paintings of Virapanna and his wife worshiping Virabhadra, story of Markandeya, Shiva as a wandering ascetic etc. The colors brown,black,deep red are still surviving and that’s what makes these masterpieces exciting. The Natya Mantapa or the dancing hall too has figurines of five headed Shiva,musicians,Bhringi -a sage with three legs etc. The ceilings too depict paintings like the story of Manu Needhi Chola- a king who killed his own son for the sake of justice to a mother cow whose calf was accidentally killed by Manu Needhi Chola’s son. Then there is the painting of Shiva as Bhairava with skull bowl and dancing deer. What makes this painting interesting is that in-spite of the frightful nature of Bhairava, the face of Shiva is calm. George Michell mentions that the fluidity found in these paintings is amazing. The later paintings after Lepakshi lack this aspect.  The paintings also give a fair idea of the textiles and costumes present then. There are cotton prints with Kalamkari work on them, conical hats,dhoti, tops,sarees etc. giving a glimpse of society prevailing then.

Apart from these attractions there is an unfinished mantapa known as the wedding hall with divine figures and sages sculpted on the columns; a hanging pillar that does not rest on the ground, the blotched red marks on the walls- said to be the plucked eyes of Virapanna who was  charged with embezzling funds from the king’s treasury. Anger at being accused he blinded himself.

The stories,the depth and details of paintings and relief figures will transport you to a different world. Lepakshi is a place worth visiting and makes for a good one day destination from the city.

–Usha

 

 

Lalbagh walk -Republic Day Pictures

Don’t miss the republic day flower show at Lalbagh happening till the 26th  of this month. With clear skies and warm sun it is a great time of the year to explore this 240 acre park. With colorful marigold,roses, chrysanthemums,lilies,hibiscus greeting you everywhere it is sheer joy to be present in this green space.

The theme of the 209th flower show this year is a tribute to Gandhi- in remembrance of his 150 birth anniversary. There is a 12 foot statue of meditating Gandhi, combined with his ashram, his glasses made of millet, Dandi March etc. The Sabarmati ashram at the center has been decorated with 2.4 lakh roses,3.2 lakh chrysanthemums and 80000 orange roses. There are also organic stalls,gardening section, stalls selling seeds and nurseries. Miniature garden models,composting and vertical gardens are certain highlights of the gardening section.
Here are a couple of snapshots from our Lalbagh Unhurried Walk that took place on the 20th of this month.

 

If you are interested in joining our walks take a look at the walks and tours we provide.

–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

 

 

Of Forts and Defenses- a Photo Story

Kalasipalyam -a place busting with people, traffic, not to forget cows! Not an inch of space at this crowded site, yet bang in the middle there is silence. A silence that astonishes you, for you don’t expect to find it in this cacophony. Yet it is there, thanks to the strong stone fort 500 years or older standing here. You enter the fort, pass the huge wooden gate and lo- a sense of calm descends. The thick walls of the fort reflect the outside sound – only silence and an inherent sense of peace greets you inside.

From ancient times forts have been defensive structures protecting the city and its inhabitants. The kings used it to mark boundaries, protect treasury, royal family; the powerful zamindars used it for protecting their property … They served as excellent places to hide as well.  It was difficult to enter these premises- the surrounding moat, ditch or bush of thorns around fort making things tougher for such attacks.

There were different categories of forts. The one at Kalasipalyam and the interconnected fort for the old city or Pete was a city fortress surrounded by a moat and had thorny bushes all around it making the city invincible. It was a mud fort before transforming in to a stone fort, complete with bastions after Hyder Ali and later Tipu Sultan came in to power.

But not all forts were built like this. At Savandurga, Nandi hills,Shivganage outside the city –the forts were parvat durg or giri durgs.

The forts were located on high hills- the boulders, the rocky outcrop making things tougher.

Battlements, bastions, loop-holes were other strategies to make the fort invulnerable. Even today the walls, bastions and towers remain on the durg perhaps telling the stories of sieges and battles. A trek at Savandurg or Shivgange makes you aware of this. The slopes, the steep ascents, the bastions at regular intervals- makes you aware of the planning gone behind building such forts.

Srirangapatna –the harbour of Tipu was an excellent Nadi-Durga/Jal durg. The city was on an island surrounded on all sides by Kaveri.

And during monsoons when the river was in full, the fort would become impregnable. Natural and artificial defence strategies were effectively used here as well.

There were other fort types as well- dhanva durg, vana durg, nara durg etc. While dhanva durg was protected by desert, vana durg was surrounded by forests, nara durg by strong men etc.

The toppling of fort was not just victory to the enemies or the replenishment of supplies. It also meant breaking the morale of the enemy camp. The capture of Bangalore fort by the British was a blow to Tipu’s army. Most of the forts came in to the hands of the English after this decisive victory.

Today what remains of this oval fort that once protected the palace, armoury, treasury etc. is just two and a half bastions and a gateway. But it does its job- retelling history effectively.

–Usha

 

Unhurried walk with Nestaway

We had a gala time last Sunday with Nestaway. Some 27 walkers joined us  on a Sultan Tour to understand Tipu Sultan-King Of Mysore a bit. The half a day tour encompassed cycling and walking through some beautiful hidden places of Bangalore.

tipu-summer-palace

After a brief stop over at the Summer Palace where the participants came to know the life and times about  the ruler, his ingenious warfare methods like the beloved Tipu’s rockets ,they then headed out to Tipu’s armoury at Kalasipalyam.  Tipu built ten armouries during his time, most of them at Srirangapatna. The one in the city is more than 200 years old. Pity it is not in a great shape. “People were playing cards here. The yesteryear ammunition dump has now become a garbage dump with plastics, bottles all thrown around,” said Arman a Nestie.

PC: On a Pedal

The next pitstop was at Siddapura Nursery where the green thumb of everyone became visible. After a refreshing hob -nob at the nursery, some came back armed with saplings to tend them at home. We then cycled back to Lalbagh.

PC: On a Pedal

A two hour unhurried walk at Lalbagh gave the walkers a glimpse of the times of Hyder and Tipu and their passion for horticulture. The once 40 acre garden due to the interests of these rulers and the vision of the British superintendents who came after them has today blossomed in to a 240 acre park with more than 1858 species of plants. While there was a sense of awe standing beneath the majestic Silk Cotton Tree, and amazement looking at the 400+ old Kempegowda’s watch tower, there were sniggers while passing by Rain tree, when the walkers understood how it got the name.

The walk was fruitful. The participants from all over India- Jammu,Allahabad,Kanpur,Nagpur,Kerala,Hyderabad etc got a glimpse of the Bangalore past. Mavalli Kere made them recollect the existing lakes in the city. When they realized that Bangalore hosted 262 lakes in 1960 and now it had dwindled to 34 lakes there was a sense of loss. Why was it called Pensioner’s paradise? What led to the unplanned growth in the city? These were some interesting questions that popped up after this.

After this action packed tour, we reached VV Puram Chat Street to fill ourselves. The yummy masala dosa,the spicy curd kodubale and sinfully wicked Gulkand ice cream more than made up for our tiredness.

If you would like to join in the fun then why not book a city walk with us?

–Usha

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.