Only four of the seven Kempe Gowda towers are protected monuments

Two small, iconic, 16th century watchtowers at Gavipuram here, dating back to the period of Kempe Gowda II, provide a contrasting picture: one a well-maintained, protected monument, while the other is in a sorry state.

At a park behind the famous Gavigangadhareshwara temple stands the poorly-maintained Kempe Gowda tower. The dilapidation is evident — the idols there have been vandalised, the tower bears cracks and graffiti, and there is no easy access to it.

But, tucked away about a kilometre from the temple at Kempanbudhi lake is the protected watchtower. It seems to have escaped the attention of the residents here, as most people pointed these reporters to the ill-maintained one.

Sunil Shamlal, a resident of Gavipuram, said, “I have been living in this area for some time now, but I am still confused as to which of these towers is the [protected] one. There is misconception among local residents here that the tower in poor shape is the original tower.”

Seven towers

According to historians, there are seven towers built in the city by Kempe Gowda, the ruler of Yelahanka, and not just four as often thought.

These towers are the insignia of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike.

However, only the four watchtowers at Ulsoor, Lal Bagh, Mekhri Circle and Kempambudhi lake have been declared as protected monuments under the Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1961. These are well-maintained.

The other three are east of Gavigangadhareshwar temple, west of the temple and at Bugle Rock, Basavanagudi.

According to S.K. Aruni, Deputy Director, Indian Council of Historical Research, there is also no significant merit to the fact that the Kempe Gowda towers were built to mark the boundaries of the city. “There are seven such towers, mostly situated near water bodies. They were used by the guards to blow bugles during the times of emergency such as wars or enemy movement,” he said.

He pointed out that similar towers could be seen at Magadi, Savandurga, Shivagange and near Hosur.

Explaining why only some towers had ‘protected monument' status, Mr. Aruni said, “An old inscription vaguely points to four towers for four directions. Besides, three towers are close to each other, which may have led authorities not to consider them for inclusion in the protected monuments list.”

All were historical monuments that required protection, the historian added.

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