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A grand dream

This is the first of a 16-part series on Bangalore, which will culminate in several competitions including Quiz, Paint Your City, Photograph Your City, Treasure Hunt, and so on for The Hindu NIE participants.

The majestic statue of Kempe Gowda at the eponymous circle in the City. — Photo: V.Sreenivasa Murthy.

THE HISTORY of Bangalore is the story of the realisation of a grand dream, the dream of Kempe Gowda I. His dream to build a new capital was triggered off by his visits to Hampi, the beautiful capital of the famous Vijayanagar Kingdom. The grandeur of Hampi during the first Vijayadashami celebrations in 1515 A.D. and again during the coronation of King Achutaraya in 1529 A.D. must have greatly impressed Kempe Gowda. He expressed his desire to the king. The Vijayanagar ruler not only granted permission to his chieftain to build a new city for himself, but also donated 12 hoblis (revenue subdivisions) with an annual income of 30,000 varahas (gold coins) to meet the expenses for the venture.

The earliest ancestor of Kempe Gowda of whom we have record is Rana Bhaire Gowda (1367-1418 A.D.), who belonged to a sect called Morasuvokkalu. Morasu was the land to the east of the present Bangalore District - Kolar, Hosur, Dankanakote, Hoskote, and Anekal. When Talakadu Gangas ruled some parts of Tamil Nadu, Rana Bhaire Gowda's forefathers settled in Yanamanjiputhur (near Kanchipuram).

Rana Bhaire Gowda and his seven brothers came to Avati village near Devanahalli, to protect his beautiful daughter from the evil designs of the local chieftain.

Another version says that Rana Bhaire Gowda's ancestors belonged to Yanamunji Uthur in Mulabagal taluk. Later, his son, Jaya Gowda, settled down in Yelahanka and subdued the other local palegars (local chiefs). In appreciation, the Vijayanagar King honoured him with the title of "Yelahanka Bhoopala" (Nadaprabhu) in 1418 A.D.

Jayadeva's son, Gidde Gowda (1433-1443) and grandson, Kempa Nache Gowda, (1443-1513) ruled Yelahanka for a long time. Kempe Gowda I, who had this grand dream of building a new capital for his principality, was the son of Kempa Nache Gowda.

Having obtained support from King Achutaraya, Kempe Gowda selected a place for his capital near the village Shivana Samudra, about 10 miles south of Yelahanka.

The plateau after the hillock at the present Vyalikaval was a thick forest and appeared to be the best place for his new capital. His selection also seems to have been blessed by two auspicious phenomena - the dream in which goddess Lakshmi had given him indications of the events to come, and the uncommon event of a hare chasing away a hunter dog at the place!

Finally on an auspicious day in 1537 A.D., amidst holy rituals and festivities, he arranged for four pairs of decorated white bulls to furrow the land in four directions.

The focal point became the junction of Doddapet and Chikkapet, the junction of the present day Avenue Road and Old Taluk Kacheri Road (OTC). Kempe Gowda soon constructed a mud fort, which had nine huge gates.

The four gates were Halasoor (east), Sondekoppa (west), Yelahanka (north), and Anekal (south). Others were known as Varthur, Sarjapur, Kanakanahalli, Kengeri, and Yeshwantapura gates. The fort extended from the present Binny Mill in the west to the present Ulsoor Police Station in the east, and from the Anjaneya Temple near Mysore Bank in the north to the present Prof. Shivashankar Circle (near Fort High School) in the south. The main street extended from Sunakkalpet Circle in the east to what is now the Goodshed Road in the west. This stretch is now known as Old Taluk Kacheri Road. Another main street was from Avenue Road in the north to today's Krishna Rajendra Road in the south.

Kempe Gowda knew the secret of the growth and development of a city and arranged for locating important markets along the main streets. The markets were all called pete. There were markets for different products (Aralepete, Akkipete, Ragipete, Balepete, Taragupete, etc.), and for different professions (Kumbarpete, Ganigarpete, Upparpete, Nagartharapete etc). These areas are known by their old names even today.

The protective fort and a prosperous market attracted people from all over. Kempe Gowda, as a shrewd planner, had anticipated the needs of a growing population. Right from the beginning he had given importance to the flow of life - both physical and metaphysical. A number of lakes/ponds, and temples were built or improved by him in and around the fort.

The inner circle lakes included Kempe Gowda Agrahara, Siddikatte, Sampangi, Dharmambudhi, Kempambudhi, and Karanji. In the outer circle were lakes such as Yediyur, Chennamma, Mavalli, Akki Thimmana halli, Jakkaraya kere, etc.

Among the early temples were Gavi Gangadhareshwara, Basavanna, Dodda Ganapathi, Karanji Anjaneya, Ulsoor Someswara, Koramangala Lakshmi, Mahakali, Veerabhadra, Vinayaka, and Kalabhairava.

There is a heroic yet pathetic story about the fort. During the construction it is said that the southern gate would fall off no sooner than it was built and human sacrifice was indicated to ward off the evil spirits. A benevolent ruler like Kempe Gowda could not even dream of such monstrosity.

Realising his plight, his daughter-in-law, Lakshamma, sacrificed her life at the southern gate in the darkness of night. Today the gate and the fort are no longer there, but her memory finds expression in a temple in her name in Koramangala.

(Readers may send their comments and suggestions to the author. He can be contacted at 6520122).


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