From rehabilitation area to posh neighbourhood, Malleswaram’s come a long way

One of Bangalore’s oldest layouts, Malleswaram celebrates the 125th year of its founding next year. Founded in 1889, Malleswaram was created by the Wadiyars of the Mysore kingdom to provide a modern lifestyle to all communities, in which they could live in hygienic conditions.

Most of the city was under the authorities of the British Cantonment in the 19th century, and had various well-planned layouts such as Richmond Town, Cox Town and Benson Town. The Wadiyar government planned and executed similar planned layouts in 1880s, leading to the formation of Basavanagudi and Malleswaram.

Interestingly, both these new layouts were created on foothills: Basavanagudi lies on the foothills of the Bull Temple, Bugle Rock and Lal Bagh, while Malleswaram is on the foothills of the Kempegowda watchtower and Palace Guttahalli. Malleswaram’s advantage lay in its access to a water source — a big stream (now the Rajakaluve) ran through it — and along with Basavanagudi, it was meant to provide temporary shelter during large epidemics (such as the plague) and during famine.

Named after a temple

No vernacular or English historical records before the 1880s support the existence of a village named ‘Mallapur’ or ‘Malleswaram’. However, the area originally came under the village of Ranganatha Palya, as an 1878 Survey of India map indicates. Just as Basavanagudi layout was named after the Basavanna temple, Malleswaram was named after the Kadu Mallikarjuna (Malleswara) temple.

Both Basavanagudi and Malleswaram were originally planned to accommodate all communities. While previous layouts such as Chamarajpet or Benson Town accommodated particular sections of society according to their original plans, Malleswaram was created to provide accommodation to a range of communities. That an inclusive society was no new concept can be seen in the old inscription found on the outcrop of the Kadu Malleswara temple, which refers to the grant given to Medaralingana village by Maratha Sardar Venkoji or Ekoji in 1669 for the upkeep of the temple.

Multicultural medievals

The inscription cautions that no one should alter the grant given by Venkoji, including Hindus and Muslims. The inscription clearly refers to various communities of the medieval period, including Muslims and Hindus. This historical evidence indicates that there was a significant population of Muslims in Bangalore in the mid-17th century, and this multicultural society continued into the modern period. In the new layout of Malleswaram, there were separate wards for Muslims, native Christians, and various Hindu castes including Brahmins, Lingayats, Vaishyas and Shudras.

According to historical records, Malleswaram was developed on 291 acres. It stretched from the old Raja Mills or Mysore Spinning and Weaving Mills (Mantri Mall stands in its place) to 15th Cross including Sankey Tank in the north, and from the Bangalore-Arasikere railway track in the west to the Kadu Malleswara temple in the east.

Steady ascent

Although the government created the new layout and invited people to purchase sites and settle there, it met with little response. It then formed a committee with members such as V.P. Madhav Rao, Mir Shaukat Ali and Rao Bahadur Arcot Srinivasachar and K. Srinivasa Rao to develop the new area in 1892. By 1895, the committee handed over the layout to the city municipal authorities, and from then onwards, Malleswaram became an integral part of the city urban administration.

It remained an ordinary neighbourhood until after Independence, when those who worked in the government and the upper classes chose to live there. From a site for rehabilitation to a posh neighbourhood, history bears witness to Malleswaram’s growth.

(Dr. Aruni is Deputy Director of the Indian Council for Historical Research, Bangalore)