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The chronicle of a high profile 'halli'

The neighbouring Kanakapura town is familiar to all Bangaloreans. But few know of its original name, Kankanhalli, or its past. Read on to take a peek at the interesting history of this place.

EVEN THE brightest participant in a quiz competition, held in Bangalore, with questions on the City and the towns and villages around it might be spread-eagled by the question "Where is Kankanhalli or what is it called today." The boys or girls might be aware of the old dance form with the same rhyme, cancan. The question might throw up the aspect of ignorance inherent in every know-all.

Of the many names that have gone out of currency in Bangalore and the Old Mysore region of Karnataka is that of Kankanhalli. The town with that alliterative name is none other than Kanakapura, a name repeated ad nauseam in newspapers published from the City or on the television till recent days. The parliamentary byelection held from there has already come to be ranked with the November 1978 Chikmagalur Lok Sabha byelection because of its political significance. Call it the election celebre.

Though it is a common practice for newspapers to write of the return of normality to a city or town rocked by violence, none wrote of the tranquility that has returned to the Kanakapura Lok Sabha Constituency. Nay, Bangalore as parts of the State Capital are part of the constituency. It may be that Kanakapura has overrun parts of Bangalore, though the creeping frontiers of the latter are marching towards that town. No doubt, a well meaning former IAS officer, N.P. Singh, who was the Urban Development Secretary, had once suggested that instead of spending hundreds of crores of rupees on bringing more of Cauvery waters to Bangalore, it was better to develop a satellite town close to Torakadanahalli (near Kanakapura) from where the Cauvery is tapped. Is it not often said that besides Indore, the erstwhile capital of the Holkars (whose name is evocative for lovers of cricket) in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, Bangalore is the other city without a source of water close to it? Unlike Bangalore, Kanakapura is a riverine town standing on the right bank of the Arkavathi.

Kanakapura is now of course forgotten after the end of the noise and chaos called election.

Of the many roads that led out of Bangalore, Kankanhalli Road was among the famous — the roads to Mysore, Tumkur, and the two links with Madras. It might be because of the eminent Bangaloreans who had built palatial homes along it in Visvesvarapura and Basavangudi — Ramachandra Rao Scindia, S.V. Srinivasa Setty, Dr. S. Subba Rao, Kota Kamakshayya, Sir M.N. Krishna Rao, Bombay Ramaswamy, K. Matthan or Dr. T. Seshachalam. There was, of course, that "road to eternity", the Subedhar Chatram Road running through the heart of Bangalore, Kempegowda Circle, Seshadripuram, and Malleswaram. Hardly anyone knew where the choultry built by the Subedhars existed. Some say it was near Hessarghatta or beyond Jalahalli. There still exists a Subedharpalya near Mathikere.

Kankanhalli Road started from Sajjan Rao or Visvesvarapura Circle. Today, a stretch of the road is renamed Vasavi Temple Road.

Hardly known today is the fact that though called Kankanhalli Road, it did not take one to Kankanhalli (Kanakapura) proper. It was the road to Arkavathi. Till about 1954, the river had not been bridged. Motor vehicles started or stopped at the river and people had to wade through the waters. There were also bullock cart services to ferry people across the river. Those avoiding the Kankanhalli Road had to reach the town through Closepet (later renamed Ramanagara) which is 27 km. away from it. Travelling to and from Kanakapura was a travail as the road was only a "cutcha" one. Buses, driven by petrol or even coal in the Second World War years, were taking three hours to cover the 56 km. distance because of the dirt track. It is thus that the memories of old Bangaloreans about Kankanhalli Road are those of the days of the bullock carts. The high pitch songs of the cartdrivers and the tintinnabulation of the bells tied to the bullocks had disturbed the stillness of the night for the residents of old Basavangudi for decades. There was romance in the songs and thrill in the bullock cart drive through the shrub forests which abounded on both sides of the road in Horohalli, Kaggalipura, Thataguni, Thalagattipura, Konankunte or Banashankari temple. Yediyur was the border post of Bangalore those days. There was, no doubt, meaning in it being called Yediyur Terminus. It is because of the existence (or survival) of the Yediyur tank that there is today no alignment between the Basavangudi stretch of the Kanakapura Road and that running beyond South End Road (Nittoor Srinivasa Rau Road).

Probably, once the Arkavathi bridge near Kankanhalli came to be built, the town was robbed of its historical name and got a new one. The renaming of Kankanhalli was part of the renaming spree undertaken by the Hanumanthaiya regime. The official bungalow, Kumarapark in Highgrounds (built by Dewan Sir K. Seshadri Iyer) Kengal had occupied as Chief Minister, got the name Kumarakrupa.

Kankanhalli had its heroes and the famous. "Sardar" K.A. Venkataramaiya, the Gandhian was one of them. He and his wife, Gowramma, who is happily with us today, led the no-tax campaign in distant Sirsi and Siddapura in Uttara Kannada District (then part of Bombay Presidency). It had an equally famous Gandhian in Kankanhalli Kariappa, who founded the Rural College in the town and served in the Legislative Assembly. Another of those to carry the original name was Kankanhalli Gopi, the noted filmbuff. The alliteration in the name Kankanhalli used to arouse curiosity as to its derivation. The 19th Century British publicist, Francis Buchanan, had written in his travelogue, "A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar", that it was being called Kanikarnhalli and commonly Kankanhalli. "The name of this village is properly Kanya-Karna composed of two Sanskrit words, Kanya meaning virgin or the goddess Bhavani, and Karna meaning ear." He had also written that Kanikar in Tamil signified a proprietor of land and halli "in the language of Karnata, is a village." Another version about the old name of Kanakapura was that the fort in the town had been built by Jagadeva Raya, the chieftain of Channapatna, who had pulled down a smaller structure owned by one Kanakana and hence the name Kankanhalli. The fort has the ancient Ranganatha Temple. Kanakapura was one of the places through which the British Army under Lord Cornwallis, the Duke of Wellington, and others had invaded Srirangapatna in the 18th Century. Tipu Sultan, who was known for the practice of the scorched earth policy, had the town burnt down twice or laid waste to prevent its use by the British army.

A unit of the Maratha Army, which was inimical to Tipu Sultan, had settled down in Maralavadi village near Kanakapura, which even today has Marathi speaking residents. Lt. Col. Shama Rao Sindhia of this village, who died in recent years at the grand age of 100, was commandant of the erstwhile Mysore Infantry.

A member of his family, P.G.R. Sindhia , former minister, is the popular member of the Legislative Assembly from Kanakapura.


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