Bangalore Picturesque — Photos from a bygone era takes viewers back in time when Bangalore was a quiet cantonment

If Peter Colaco enchanted readers with his memories of life in Bangalore in the latter half of the 20 century, the exhibition “Bangalore Picturesque – Photos from a bygone Era”, imagined by a Facebook group, takes viewers back to the very roots of the city, which shaped life in Bangalore in the early 1900s.

The exhibition, quite fittingly, is on display at the Vismaya Gallery in the Rangoli Metro Art Center that runs along the metro line on MG Road.

“Bangalore Picturesque” features photographs from private collections curated into three broad categories, “Practises”, “Places” and “People”, showcasing the livelihoods or the main activities pursued by Bangaloreans, the shaping of the city as it stands today, and its people.

“Practises” showcases the simple populace of the laid-back town engaging in brick laying and construction, riding their bullock carts, amidst vocational training, prayers and processions. “Places” shows the Bangalore cityscape with landmarks like the original Russell Market, built in the early 1860s or the Sampangi Tank, full of water and surrounded by a lush, rolling landscape. The tank, the viewer is informed, is where the Kanteerava stadium now stands. Commercial Street is a neat row of uniform buildings separated by a fairly broad and empty street.

There are also photographs of the Basavanagudi Bull Temple in the 1900s, the Miller’s Road tank and its tree-lined avenue (completely filled in, as mentioned in Colaco’s book), the Mahatma Gandhi Road (then South Parade) and the Ulsoor Tank with the Kempegowda Tower.

The photographs also show the landscapes and the buildings in Cubbon Park and Lalbagh, the High Court, the bandstand and the glass house or the Darwinia Building which was demolished in 1959. The Bangalore streets in the 1900s appear quiet, orderly and neat, hardly a soul in sight. The landscape of the garden city seemed to be generously dotted with pretty churches.

In the “People” section, the exhibition showcases Bangalorean women of the Goodwill Girls’ High school. Fred Goodwill who captures most of these photographs also captures the streets of Bangalore with boys at play a family filling water from a water cart, a fruit seller or Sunday at the church.

The section also showcases the grand luncheons at Lalbagh’s Glass House with the city’s elite, elegantly posing to be photographed. Then there are the memories, excerpts of text or little snippets about the city as it was seen by those who passed through it, wrote about it or lived here in those years, from the 1800s up until 2012.

Among those whose words have been featured are Manmohan Singh, Ramachandra Guha, Thomas Friedman, Chiranjiv Singh, Laeq Futehally, Dr. M. H. Marigowda, John Blakiston, Edward Thornton and Paul Byron Norris. The exhibition also offers a space for citizens to contribute their memories of the city.

“The exhibition is part of an ongoing project that deals with the story of the city. Through this exhibition viewers will be able to imagine Bangalore both visually and textually,” says Surekha, one of the curators.

“We are trying to create a public archive of historical landmarks and landscapes,” says fellow curator Suresh Jayaram. “We are trying to put it in the public sphere and give it visibility. “The exhibition is also a way of looking at the past in the present. We can’t erase the past, we are here in this contemporary context because of certain events. They have also become markers in identifying the city, giving it a historical and cultural perspective.”

The curatorial team also includes Meera Iyer and Aliyeh Rizvi while the project team includes C.N.Kumar, Mansoor Ali and Kiran Natarajan. The exhibition will be on view at Vismaya Art Gallery, Rangoli Metro Art Center until November 15.