Weddings are a vibrant industry in the area, where choultries have led to allied commerce such as catering and jewellery stores
When an industrial estate was set up in Rajajinagar, planners could not have foreseen that they would be inadvertently aiding the growth of an unintended industry — that of weddings.
Travelling along Chord Road here, what is most striking is the row of wedding halls or ‘choultries' lining the service lane. All the halls face east; the other side of the road, which faces the inauspicious west, has no such feature.
“All these plots, 75 ft x 120 ft each, used to house small-scale industries before. When many of those industries closed down in the early 90s, the plots began to be sold or rented out to other businesses,” explains T. Vasan, owner of Gowri Shankar Mahal, an ISO-certified choultry on Chord Road. “It is not clear who decided to set up a wedding hall first, but it was a clever move. These plots are of the perfect size for this — around 10,000 sq. ft each.”
There are smaller wedding halls on the second lane of the erstwhile industrial area, and in other parts of Rajajinagar too. For, the area enjoys a location advantage as well. “We knew nothing about Bangalore when we fixed a wedding hall in Rajajinagar for our daughter's wedding, and were a little worried about managing the whole affair,” says Lakshmi Suresh, who lives in Chennai. “That the area was only a 20-minute drive from the railway station and had many affordable hotels made things smoother for us.”
Vasan says, “With the Chord Road connecting to the Outer Ring Road, the choultries here have started attracting people from south and east Bangalore also.”
Bannerghatta Road used to be the other area where many weddings used to happen, but the choultries there sold out to shopping complexes or software parks. But according to Vasan, wedding halls are just as vibrant a business.
Business of getting married
“It is an industry that sprouts a host of allied businesses and employment such as catering, jewellery and textiles, beauty parlours, musicians and groceries,” he says. “In the past 10 years, three major jewellery stores and 10 hotels have come up on Chord Road alone.”
The Kalyana Directory published by Eshwar Bhonsle, lists all kinds of services in its 96 pages, starting from astrologers and beeda suppliers, through dandia dancers, generator lenders, turban shops and plastic bag stores, to tours and travels, and vessels lenders.
“During the wedding season, we are busy with events in the wedding and banquet halls of Rajajinagar,” says 25-year-old Rajkumar C., a wedding photographer.
Passing it on
The wedding industry also has its share of ‘social responsibility' activities. For instance, at Bhashyam Circle, which is home to a host of ‘grandige' shops that sell items required for religious rituals, is one such two-storeyed shop run by R.B. Shivakumar, son of R.V. Badraiah or ‘Bale Ele' Badraiah as he is popularly known. Badraiah, who was known for his social activities such as setting up free water fountains and benches at public places, used to sell plantain leaves on the roadside. Shivakumar continues his legacy by collecting leftover food from choultries and supplying them to the homeless of the city and orphanages.
The Rajajinagar Wedding Halls Trust, which has been running two halls on Dr. Rajkumar Road since 1963, uses the rent earned to fund college and school education of underprivileged children, according to its secretary Sai Prasad.
When wedding halls first came up on Chord Road, they charged about Rs. 25,000 a day as rent. Now, they charge up to Rs. 3 lakh for renting the premises from 9 a.m. on day one to 5 p.m. on day two.
“Adjusting for inflation, I would say the rents have not gone up at all,” Vasan says. “People used to conduct three-day weddings before, now, they have one day of rituals and go to hotels and banquet halls for the reception, also because 90 per cent of the halls here don't allow non-vegetarian food or alcohol.”
“We get to host weddings only 167 days a year, as only so many days are considered auspicious. Other days, our business suffers,” he says. “It is not that young couples do not want to get married on other days. If only astrologers wouldn't influence their parents. So, further expansion of our business is all in the hands of the astrologers.”