The Central College Clock Tower is a stunning piece of architecture and is 132 years old. While the clock tower has all the clocks intact, they stopped working a long time ago
Bidding adieu to the clock-less clock tower in Russell Market, we head towards Palace Road. The clock tower in the Central College premises is perhaps the second oldest in Bangalore. If the Russell Market clock tower stands uncared for, surrounded by haphazardly built structures around it, the one in Central College is clouded by the Bangalore Metro project. As if to say ‘far from the madding crowd’, this regal clock tower stands quietly on the lush green campus. So quiet, that it doesn’t even tick.
“It must have stopped working more than ten years ago,” friendly souls on the campus offer. “The maintenance of this clock has been taken up by Titan. We have been asking them to set it right, somehow it hasn’t happened…,” the officer in the Engineering Department of the Bangalore University explains.
Central College was started in 1858 as Central High School with just about five students. In those days it was just a small shed with the Rev. J. Garrett as its principal. For a period of eight years, between 1876-1884, the vice-principal was Mushir-ur-Talim, grandfather of the great scientist Homi Jehangir Bhaba. The administrative block of the college -- as the small inscribed stone slab on the face of the building says -- was built in 1882, also the year in which the clock tower was built. The university itself was set up in 1886 on the same premises. The clock tower and other red sandstone buildings on the premises of Central College were constructed around the time when the Attara Kutcheri (now the High Court of Karnataka), Carlton House and the Cubbon Park library were built.
Most books on Bangalore’s monuments and historic buildings speak of this strikingly beautiful structure in glowing terms. One of the most accurate descriptions says this: “The Gothic style architecture is characterised by a steep roof of Mangalore tiles, topped with row of decorative ridge-tiles, iron crested towers, turreted parapets and gables, intricately done plaster motifs conspicuous in the elevation in a contrasting colour, cast iron railings and pilasters and parilions rising from the wing.” A. Jayaram, an expert on Bangalore, says the The Central College main block has many similarities with the St.Andrew’s Church on the Cubbon Road. The latter was earlier referred to as the Scottish Kirk.
It is interesting how the clock tower became a part of the life of people on the campus. In the Central College Centenary Souvenir brought in 1958, there are several references to the clock tower. In a joint article “Reminiscences”, C. Rajagopalachari and his close friend, the Kannada writer Navarathna Rama Rao write: “We knew intimately and loved everything in the College from the lawn and the cricket field -- Oh, what a cricket field it was, with a border of ancient trees which gave shelter to boys young and old while they watched the varying fortunes of the battle their soldiers were fighting on the field -- everything from the lawn and the cricket field to the venerable trees which bounded them, and from the straggling outhouses by the muddy pond, to the austere red College building with the gaunt clock tower keeping watch over it…”
The clock tower which has now entered the realm of ‘timelessness’ was an object of curiousity and questioning always. K. Dwarakanath records this in the souvenir. “When I came from the Maharaja’s College to Central College in Bangalore, this Gothic architecture was one of the first three features that struck my mind. Another was the clock tower which is unique in its own way. I remember how in many a general knowledge test, there was this question on how many clocks that the tower has, and many students gave wrong answers…”
We too did a small quiz as we stood there – beaming happy smiles, most said: “Oh, we don’t know…”
(This is second in the three-part series on Clock Towers in Bangalore)