The Summer Residence of Tipu Sultan

I touch the teak wood and I am in awe. I am whisked 200 years back because that was when this teak wood became a part of this summer palace. Sometime in 1781-1791, the foundation stone would have been placed,next would have been the stone walls, the wood pillars, beams, the intricate brackets supporting the beams, the decorative arches- what forethought would have gone in designing this ‘Abode of Happiness’ for Tipu Sultan, the then ruler of Mysore kingdom.

Tipu Sultan’s father Hyder Ali started this summer palace in 1781.After his death, his son took over and by 1791 the palace got built. Today more than 200 years later, only a fraction of the palace survives. But what remains, is enough to show you the magnificence of the old palace.

tipu-palace

From outside when I look I imagine that it was one single storey. But as I look closer at the Indo-Islamic structure I gather that it is two storeyed. The misconception resulted because of the teak pillars that stretched out from ground to the first floor giving it the appearance of a single tiered building.

The ground floor houses the museum of Tipu Sultan today. You learn plenty of things here. For instance you may have known that Tipu was an able administrator, was proficient in several languages and boosted the economic prosperity in the State. Yet you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that he was the pioneer of early rockets. The early rockets during the Tipu era  had a bamboo/wood pole with an iron cylinder containing the explosives and a rocket man used to light it. The rocket would shoot up or travel horizontally, light up the ammunition, scatter horses and were a menace to the British. These rockets caused heavy casualties in the British army during the Polilur war which Tipu won.

After Tipu’s death in 1799 in the final British-Mysore war, the British took care to take these Mysore rockets along with them. They were studied, improved upon and were used in the wars against Napoleon.

tipu-summer-palace

From the ground floor there are stone steps to take you upstairs to the cantilever balconies and the Zenana quarters. Tipu apparently held his durbar here and the rooms above(Zenana quarters) were for the ladies to tune in to the court proceedings. The beautiful floral motifs on the ceiling and on the walls makes you realize how splendid the palace would have looked with teak-wood pillars, wooden banisters and pigmented motifs covering the bare walls and ceilings.

The tour of this palace takes you a mere 40-50 minutes. Located on Albert Victor Road it is open on all days. Combine the visit with the nearby Tipu’s armory and the old fort.

–Usha

Kashmiri Carpets- A heritage worth possessing

The passion in the young chap at the Asian Arts Emporium was evident. He spoke about carpets as if they were living, breathing buddies of his. “Look at the colors madam. Just walk around and you will see the carpet changing color,” he gushed. This was true as I walked around the hand woven Kasmiri carpet, I could see it altering from dark to light shades. ” Isn’t it magic madam? No machine-made rug can give you such results,” he said smiling proudly.

rug-1088557_640

Kashmiri Carpets with a Persian touch:

Though it is unclear as to when the carpet weaving was introduced to Kashmir, it is evident that the artists were brought in from Persia to train the weavers of Kashmir. The Mughals were responsible for its growth in India. ” Each community in my village is engaged in the weaving. And each of their patterns are distinct,” said the salesman. The colors were subtle, the patterns were varied, some floral, some geometric in the numerous wool and silk carpets that he displayed. The oriental rugs can have varied patterns- flower motifs,trees, tribal designs, curvilinear/abstract, animal figures etc. This again is unique to the area from where it originates.

Machine-made versus handmade:

The machine made rugs  stand no chance with the handmade rugs when it comes to quality and durability. Turning the handmade rug on its back he showed me the weaving and the knots made by hand. The knots were uneven. ” “Even if one knot breaks madam there is no damage to the rug,” he said and added,” But the same cannot be said for the machine-made ones as parts of the carpet may unravel if there is a damage to the knots.”

While a good quality machine-made rug can last for 20 odd years a handmade rug is a heritage that can be passed down from generation to generation. The older it is the more expensive it gets! Plus rugs before the invention of synthetic dyes are truly antique and fetch a good value if you have the heart to sell it.

Dust generally causes no problem with handmade carpets. The pile is inclined, so it dusts itself off from the dirt. ” “Any stains can be easily removed from the carpet by rubbing lemon juice,” said the young chap.

I didn’t buy anything because I could not afford the 50,000 Rs price tag attached to the handmade carpet. This is the only disadvantage that I could come up with, the price. Machine made stuff are cheaper. But money is a small factor to consider when you understand that it takes the weavers 7-8 months to prepare a carpet. So if you love collectibles and money is not a problem, then this is one heritage item that is worth possessing.

 

 

 

 

Bengal Muslin- Cloth that fits inside a small bamboo

Soft as silk, soft to touch and wear, so delicate that you felt light wearing it and so gracious that it was fit for the Kings and Emperors. When daughter of Aurangzeb wore it she was criticized for wearing a transparent dress although she was clothed in seven layers of the material. Can you take a guess as to what I am talking about? It is the famed Bengal Muslin, cotton but not just cotton-sheer fine cotton.

Bengal Muslin

Bengal Muslin

What happened to Bengal Muslin:

A story of treachery, the disappearance of Bengal Muslin from the popular scene of textiles is tragic.Originating in Dhaka, Bangladesh it was not only exported to the Arab world but also grew popular in the western countries especially in the 18th century. Bengal produced wide variety of muslin from plain to thick,striped or fine. The soil, the temperature, the waters of Bengal rivers and not to mention the weavers of Bengal all contributed to the fine quality of Muslin it produced. So where did this delicate hand spun fabric disappear?

Until 1757, there was no monopoly of any company on the trade scene of Dhaka. There were European traders exporting the products out, the weavers earned handsomely and the competition among the traders only made things better for the weavers and families. But after 1757, the East India Company took over. The policies, laws, combined with the industrial revolution and the import duty exercised on the Indian textiles did not make things easier for the weaving community. They became dependent on the Company.The flooding of factory produced muslin did not help either. In 1825 the factories closed and the weavers were rendered out of work. The British textiles had dominated the markets!

The future:

Today realizing that most old things are gold- some enterprises are working with Bengal farmers and weavers to produce this fine gold. One of them is an organization called the Mahatma Gandhi Gramudyog Seva Sansthan(MGGSS). Established in 2010 it is trying to revive Muslin,Khadi, hand looms and to promote desi varieties of cotton that have lower eco footprint compared to the foreign varieties of cotton. Their recent exhibition at Ants Cafe showcased some of the collections like soft stoles, kurtis, plain fabric, dupatta, dhotis, sarees etc.

“We have been able to bring Bengal Muslin of a quality up to 500 counts. We are researching to produce yarn counts of more,” said Rubi Rakshit, one of the representatives of the MGGSS passionately. The increase in counts is a depiction of how fine the garment is !

One of their challenges has been to create awareness about hand looms and thereby increase the demand of these traditional crafts. Only then there is profit for farmers, weavers,dyers,spinners etc- all through the production chain.

So as a city dweller the maximum that you can do is to visit such exhibitions and sales, understand a bit more about this rich heritage and choose to support such enterprises.  And spread the message further.

To know more about this project check out Arup Rubi Rakshit page.

References:

The Song of the Shirt-Jeremy Seabrook

 

 

 

Exploring Cantonment with Kids

 

Cantonment

A tale of two cities in Bangalore,” says Aryan in our walks. The 10 year old kid was surprised to find two different cultures existing in the city-one the old pette and the other, towns of Cantonment.

Away from the buzz and traffic of the city we took school kids to Richards town, Cleveland Town and Frazer town and here is what we learnt from them.

Fraser Town

 

How do you have photographs of Mr.Frazer,” asks Ankita after she sees a couple of mobile pictures of him. I say, from the net and she is not impressed. She was in truth trying to find out who had photographed Frazer and were there cameras back then?

There were barrage of other interesting questions too.

Hazi Ismail Sait who did so much for the community, what business was he in? Why did he care so much about the education about girls? Krumbiegel  has contributed so much for the city. How is he remembered? Are there any roads,statues or establishment at least named after him?

These kids aged between 10-12 sure could think was what I thought, listening to their flurry of questions.

Why are British statues still here?,” a somber Anurag asks and adds quite politely, “We should remove them“. He is not impressed with Queen Victoria’s haughty statue inside Cubbon Park.

Cantonment Bungalow

 

Seeing the different Bungalows in the walk, the would-be investors wanted to know its present cost.  And they started with the initial price of 10 crores going on till 100!

“Are there any ghosts from British era?,” asked one smart alec. I had to invent some. Peter Colaco’s book came in handy as well. The headless beauty and faceless man stories flowed from my tongue.

It pays to walk with kids. They are always eager to learn more, especially if it is stories. And history is very easily conveyed through stories. The importance of heritage is also communicated.

“The fort that existed should not have been dismantled madam. I wish there were some laws to protect heritage in our city,” says Kiran seriously. I convey to him gently that Bengaluru has not yet got the heritage tag. For these innocent questions and more, I love going on walk with these smarty-pants.

Check out our school programs page if you are interested in sending your kids to an educational tour with us.

Disclaimer: The names of the kids have been changed to protect identity.

Usha

 

 

 

 

 

VV Puram -blissfully delightful

I bite in to the soft Congress Bun and I am in the seventh heaven. This is the first time I have had this, that too in one of the oldest bakeries of Bangalore-the VB Bakery.  And there is only one word for this bun filled with spicy peanuts and butter-exquisite!

Congress Bun

For more than a decade I have lived and worked in Bangalore but I never did visit VV Puram eat/thindi street. This week I had an opportunity to do so but unfortunately it was midday when I visited this place. So the popular shops that dishes out Avarekalu dosa and curd Kodubale(crispy snack) had to be skipped. But there were still a couple of shops open and I was content sampling that.

VV Puram thindi street

My first stop was of course at the VB Bakery. After gorging on the bun and the pleasant fruit cake I bumped in to one of the proprietors. A quick chat with him revealed that the bakery was gearing up to celebrate its 70th year in Bangalore. ” “We are busy making preparations for the event. Ours is the oldest bakery to be opened here at VV Puram,”recalled the owner proudly. They used to supply Garlic bread to Pizza outlets. Khara bun Congress was their avishkar! The sweet damrot prepared with pumpkin is not to be missed either.

Holige

A quick cross over from VB and I had a hot bite of freshly prepared Holige(sweet flat bread) at the outlet- Shree Vasavi Condiments. With dexterity the cook was filling yellow gram, Jaggery stuffing in to the holige ball, patting it skilfully and dropping it in to the flat top grill. 12 holiges in less than a minute, beats the 2 minute maggie ad any day:-)

With the Averekalu(Hyacinth Beans) season beginning, the Belle Nipatu(crispy snack) with generous dose of this beans is also a worthy bite. I wanted a pack of 10 but I didn’t get any. The reason ” Hot illa madam, swalpa kaya beku(The goodies are not hot madam, wait for sometime),” was the shop’s response. Ever been turned out because a shop did not have freshly made stuff for you?

After that I did not get the popular curd Kodubale or the Avarekalu dosas anywhere. The shops all serve these delicacies after six.  But I was not disheartened.

Gulkand at VV Puram:

Gulkand

I got my favorite Gulkand with a dollop of ice cream and fruits at the Shivanna Gulkand shop. U mm…. heaven  with dates, sweet gooseberry, banana, cherry with a generous dose of vanilla flavored ice cream. Sinfully wicked I say and you gotta try it. ” Madam we export our Gulkand and the masala mix to other countries,” said the owner proudly as he counted my change. The Pepsi and other drinks you get here has a twist. The masala mix is generously sprinkled on it making it a Pepsi Masala.

There is of course the Dosas, Thatte Idlis, corns,noodles and chats. A person visiting this little street can happily spend 2-3 hours gorging on the snacks. But if you wish for some long, short tales to go along with it then join Unhurried Food walks and you will not be disappointed.

–Usha

 

 

Three reasons to check out the Military Hotel

Messy,dingy, unhygienic- if these are the words you associate with Military hotels then it is high time you change this notion. A Walk last week with Vidya soon changed my concept of Military Hotels.

Military Hotels were something I stared at while driving through highways. Small tables and chairs crowded in a single room giving a non assuming appearance,  the meat and egg dishes affordable and fulfilling for all the travelers who were cool enough to overlook its appearance. My thoughts about such outlets were not always good, I am ashamed to say. But things changed with a visit to Banashankari.

urundai-curry-or-kaima-unde-curry

After a quick visit to the Banashankari Amma temple we set out on a good 3-4 hour walk and here is what I discovered.

–>The origins of Military Hotel of Bangalore is shouldered in a mystery. There are several versions floating out there, each more captivating then the other. But the stories are definitely interesting from the Maratha’s to the Tipoo Sahib.

naidu-biryani

–>There are huge variations in Hindu and Muslim Military styled hotels. You can clearly distinguish this in their cooking and the dishes you are served with. With a food blogger with me who tastes each grain of the food as if it was her last on the earth, I come to know these subtle differences quite forcibly:-)

–>Military Hotels are not just meat and egg dishes. Each hotel I am taken to has a large range of dishes from Ragi Mude, Paya soup to Mutton Biriyani and Kheema. The owners take pride in talking about each dish. And many seem to be regulars here with the waiters at ease with the customers, serving them their favorites which they routinely  ask for.

chilly-chicken

Today these hotels are no longer hole in the wall eateries. The popular ones have merged with the times dishing out hygienic healthy varieties in air conditioned rooms or at least in wide sunlit rooms reflecting a fresh ambiance. So go check out some of these traditions of old Bangalore before they too disappear in this burgeoning city. Or come with us on a Military Hotel walk and discover the joys of eating.

–Usha

 

 

 

 

Basavanagudi and its charms

Basavanagui is full of secrets. The town looks sleepy but it isn’t. Looks are deceptive I discover as I trudge past its numerous tree laden streets,old homes, bungalows, bazaar and temples.

As I walk down the Bull Temple Road I hit the Nandi temple. I ascend the stone steps and greet the huge granite statue of Nandi the bull.

Bull temple

Bull temple

One of the largest idols of Nandi in Karnataka, the black Nandi idol is impressive. Poornima later tells me that the granite idol has been rubbed constantly by charcoal and oil to keep it dark. As I circle the  Nandi there is another secret I discover.   Beneath me runs a stream that is a part of Vrishabhavati river. Ya the same dark murky waters that you see in Mysore Road sullied by the city it flows through.

bugle rock

I exit the temple and take a right towards the Bugle rock park. This place has its own set of secrets and it keeps it well hidden. One corner of the park has a 3000 million year old rock formation that holds one of the watch towers of Kempe Gowda. I climb the rock mound towards tower and gaze upwards. And what do I see? Two twinkling eyes of the bat stare right back at me. It is hung upside down as usual from a tree. That is when I realize that it is not alone. It has hundreds of companions, all lazily hanging down from the nearby Gulmohar and Eucalyptus trees. The Bugle rock is the abode of fruit bats.

As I slip out of the park I see a laughter club in action;senior citizens all laughing aloud, holding hands and stretching delightfully in this precious green space. As I walk out of this park I realize another thing. This park was an important part of history. During the 3rd Anglo Mysore war a section of Mysore army had collected here and had made their clandestine plans before they went on to attack the British.

I leave behind the tall shady trees and head to DVG Road towards the Bazaar- the go to place for all kannadigas or otherwise. Gandhi Bazaar is a bit like google. You want anything,you get it right there in its criss-cross colorful lanes.The grandma looking for the particular shade of blue for her royal silk saree, the mami looking for an exact kundan piece, the tired laborer looking for a hot cup of coffee and the school boys looking for their favorite ground nut ladoo and congress kadle- Gandhi Bazaar is a delight for people of all ages.

Gandhi Bazaar

Gandhi Bazaar

As I reach the Bazaar circle I head towards Srinivasa Stores, popularly known as Subbama stores. This small outlet is no secret though. With the shop getting featured regularly in a number of magazines and newspapers, people queue up here rattling of various delicacies like Chakuli,Kodbale, Khara, kadle, happala,unde etc.

As I have something more calorie filling in mind, I skip this place for now and drag my feet towards Vidyarthi Bhavan. This again is no secret. The crispy Dosas or the delicious Kesari Bath or the filter coffee you order, everything is done to perfection. This again is no surprise- the eatery has years of experience, say 1943.But what is surprising here is that most of the benches not to mention almera, is decades old so that the old timers feel right at home.

Masala dosa

With a satisfying breakfast that is easy on wallet I head for home with a light heart, the traffic, noise and the pollution no longer bothering me- Basavangudi has that effect on you.

There are more such hidden  nuggets in Basavangudi. But you will have to come on our Unhurried Basavangudi walks to discover that:-)

–Usha