CITY HERITAGE – or the lack of it?



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!



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.


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?


Mango and Jackfruit Mela at Lalbagh

Mangoes and Jack fruits have arrived at Lalbagh.

mango mela

The sheer range of varieties is mind boggling. Some I had heard of Mallika,Badami,Alphonso,Raspuri,Totapuri,Neelum to name a few. But the others -Lilly, Panchavarnam, Sendhura, Terpentine- never heard of them. So much of yellow and so much fragrance all around me. It was a sheer delight to the senses.

Quite a number of places in Karnataka grow mangoes. Kolar,Tumkur, Ramanagar,Mandya,Hassan to name a few. Good rains yield great mangoes as these fruits are essentially rain fed. Lack of water has been a concern for mango growth as well. ” Water has been insufficient and as we have 500 acres of farm near Kolar we have to call in tankers,” says a organic farmer from this district. She convinced me to buy a locally grown variety Sakkare Guthi.  It tastes like sugar was her argument.


There were numerous stalls. Farmers from Tumkur, Madugiri, Srinivaspura,Chintamani etc touted their wares proclaiming them organic and chemical free. The major varieties had huge demand especially the Alphonso and Bangaloreans tucked with Alphonso boxes was a common  sight.

Tumkur Mangoes

Near the glass house were the Jackfruit stalls. Chandra and Haladi Halasu(Jackfruit) were in high demand. The farmers I spoke to mentioned that the Chandra Halasu were slightly more in demand because of its red fleshed color. ” The taste of the common yellow variety is more. Yet the Chandra Halasu is the one people ask for as it is rare,” said a farmer from Doddaballapura. They are more expensive too.

Besides the Mango and Jackfruits there were pickles and chikki stalls too. The Mela is ongoing till the end of this month. So do visit and enjoy these summer fruits of the city.





Man on a Green Mission

Image: Poornima Dasharathi

Note: This article, titled, ‘Man on a green mission‘ was first published in Deccan Herald, Spectrum, in August 2012. Its been reproduced here as a blog post.

Many great men have contributed to Lalbagh’s growth. Among them is M H Marigowda, who was the first director of the State’s Department of Horticulture. Tomorrow is his 96th birth anniversary, also celebrated as ‘Horticulture Day’, writes Poornima Dasharathi

It is that time of the year again, when Bangalore’s Lalbagh gears up for its grand flower show, a biannual event. The gardens have grown thanks to the contributions of several illustrious names, some from the era of the British Raj, and others later. 

The gardens have proved to be an ideal testing ground for many talented horticulturists across different eras. The names of New, John Cameron, Krumbiegel, Javaraya and M H Marigowda are associated with the gardens. 

While most of them worked in the colonial period and much of their work was in the fields of developing and innovating in the Government Gardens, Marigowda’s significant contribution was towards the common man and the farmer, opines S Narayanswamy, Senior Assistant Director, Horticulture Department.

He carried on in the rich tradition of Lalbagh’s horticulturists who worked tirelessly to bring new species to the City and the State.

M H Marigowda was born on August 8, 1916 in T Narsipur taluk, Mysore. He completed his schooling in Mysore’s Maharaja High School and obtained a B Sc from Central College, Bangalore in 1939. He went on to complete his M Sc from Lucknow University in 1942. 

He joined the Department of Horticulture as Assistant Superintendent. He was sent for training in advanced horticulture at Kew, England for a year. Post the training, he journeyed to the United States and obtained a PhD from Harvard University. 

On his return to Mysore, in 1951, he was given the post of Deputy Superintendent, Government Gardens. He was soon promoted to the post of Superintendent. In 1963, the Department of Government Gardens was rechristened as Department of Horticulture and Marigowda became its first Director.

He worked tirelessly in the field of horticulture until 1977 when he retired. In recognition of his work, the Government of Karnataka gave him the title, ‘Totagarika Ratna’ in 1993. His birthday is also celebrated as ‘Horticulture Day’.

Till date, he is the only Superintendent in the Horticulture Department to have obtained a doctorate. 

His siblings too are no less illustrious. While he became the Director of Horticulture, his elder brother M H Manchigaiah was the Chief Engineer of Mysore and another brother, M H Hombegowda, was the Chief Justice of Mysore! 

A chance discovery of a diary he maintained has a charming and philosophical quote that shows his dedication to his work. While returning to India in 1951, he writes in his diary: “…take a degree and go like all others with decoration and do nothing or take and see the good things done in the extension-service and serve the people without decoration-God should help me.” 

His ideas

Though Lalbagh is popular for its ornamental and exotic trees, it’s also a test bed for experimentation and cultivation of crops. Narayanaswamy recalls an anecdote of how Srilanka’s ‘chow chow’ (Bangalore brinjal) was introduced to Bangalore’ss farmers by the indefatigable John Cameron, Lalbagh Superintendent in the late 19th century. 

It is said that he would go on horseback and meet farmers at the toll gate on Hosur road to convince them to cultivate this vegetable!

In a similar vein, Marigowda’s vision was to “take Lalbagh to every village of the State”. To achieve this, he conceived a four-limbed approach for “sound and balanced development of horticulture”.

He explains, in an article, that just as the human body’s voluntary and involuntary functions are well-coordinated and interlinked, the different arms of horticulture should be linked so as to serve the people efficiently and scientifically.

He expounds his theory with the four ‘limbs’  of the letter ‘H’ in Horticulture. Each ‘limb’ stands for a different department and purpose and yet they are all interlinked.

These are: Department Of Horticulture (for scientific and technical guidance), Mysore Horticultural Society (publicity and education), Bangalore Nurserymen Co-operative Society (A-Z inputs), HOPCOMS – Horticultural Co-operative Marketing and Processing Society (to handle the horticultural output). With this model, he expanded the horticultural activities all over the State. 

In his tenure, the number of horticultural farms and nurseries rose from two in 1951 to a whopping 394 in 1974 touching every nook and corner of the State!

Dry land orcharding

Perhaps the most significant contribution of Marigowda to the State is his efforts to develop dry land horticulture. There are many districts in the State that receive little rainfall and where water is a precious resource.

He developed the idea of dry orchards such as tamarind, mango and jack fruit orchards . These orchards not only gave good yield but also served as ‘progeny orchards’ which means an orchard that contains all varieties of a single fruit or crop; in other words, gene pooling.

To conserve water and irrigate the lands, innovations were galore during his tenure. 

One unique method is ‘wick irrigation’. This method consists of a clay pot with a hole that is closed with a cotton cloth and buried until the neck beside the sapling. 

The pot is filled with water that drips through the cotton ‘wick’ to the soil. Such saplings would grow healthily for nearly a fortnight on just one pot of water! 

Many dry orchards exist today in places such as Kolar, Tumkur and Chitradurga. One classic example of a dry orchard is the Hogalakere horticultural farm in Kolar district. 

Emphasizing this fact, a farmer from Chintamani, Raja Reddy, explains that dry orchards had ensured that most of the non-cultivable land had turned green in his district.

His persona

Educated in London and Harvard, Marigowda ensured that his children had the best exposure to both worlds. His daughter, Sunita, explains that her father made sure her reading would encompass everything from ‘Jaimini Bharata’ to Shakespeare.

As a much travelled person, he also kept a well stocked library. Sunita recalls how she would get to read food and nutrition books from the USA which instilled in her a sense of nutrition from her childhood. 

This, she says, was the best gift her father gave her.

At work, he was supposed to have been a hard taskmaster. But he knew how to get the best out of his people. 

He also would go out of his way to ensure results. In the Fifties, when cars were fewer, if a grape specialist had to visit farms, Dr Marigowda would ensure the specialist gets to travel by car although he himself didn’t own one.

Marigowda’s dream was to make Karnataka the “Horticultural State of India”. This success of his work is largely due to his zeal and dedication. 

To quote from some of his published writings, he says “No man-made rules came in my way. The law of nature of plants was the only beacon of light and guide.”