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Not just brick and mortar

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

Vidhana Soudha: An architectural delight.

QUITE A few beautiful buildings mark the city of Bangalore. There is both grandeur and elegance in these buildings. This presentation dwells on just a few features that interest the common man.

The Attara Kacheri, built in 1868, housed the State Secretariat till 1957, when the offices were shifted to Vidhana Soudha. The Attara Kacheri now houses the High Court. It is said that the contractor, Bansilal Ramratan (his partner was Arcot Narayana Swamy Mudaliar) offered to buy the Attara Kacheri when his payments were delayed. He would convert it into an office for his "collectors" and as a stable, he quipped! When the building was damaged in a fire, there was a proposal to demolish it and build a new concrete monster in its place. A public litigation, however, stalled the proposal.

The Attara Kacheri, close to the Museum, and the Seshadri Memorial - all in Pompeian red - add to the charm of the greenery in Cubbon Park. Bangalore Palace was built in 1880 on the model of Windsor Castle. The land was originally owned by Rev. Garret, who was the first to establish a printing press in Bangalore.

The garden and the polo ground were laid out by the famous John Cameron, Chief of Lalbagh gardens. Central College was built in 1882 in Gothic style. The red brick clock tower and the beautifully-arched entrance porch remind us of the classic architecture of 15th Century. Many luminaries studied in the college.

The thinker statesman, C. Rajagopalachari, the first Indian Governor General, was one of its alumni. What was started as a high school in 1858 became Central College in 1875, which is now the nucleus of the Bangalore University Campus.

The Old Residency, the New Residency (Raj Bhavan), and the Bangalore Club are reminders of other British colonial buildings. Their front elevation resembles the White House to a certain extent. During the Commissioner's rule (1831), the resident occupied the Old Residency. He was there till 1855, when the building was given to the Madras Bank. This became the Imperial Bank and later the State Bank of India.

A portion of residency was converted into a jail in 1835 and also provided for the residence of the Superintendent of Jail.

The "thugs" from North India were caught and housed in this jail. The jail was relocated at Gandhinagar in 1865.

The Jail Superintendent's house was converted into a museum, which was shifted to its present location in 1877, and its old place became the office of the Superintendent of Post Offices. Good Shepherd Sisters of Society bought a portion of the Old Residency and started a school in 1855. In 1877, when Viceroy Lord Lytton came to Bangalore, he gave away the "thug jail" portion to the society in appreciation of its service during the famine of 1876-77. The roads next to the Old Residency naturally came to be known as Madras Bank Road and Old Museum Road. The New Residency was came to be used after 1831. A ballroom was built in 1874 in anticipation of Prince Albert Victor's visit. It was also named Serepia, after the ship which was scheduled to bring the prince. But the prince came in 1889. The Commissioners (till 1881) and then the Residents stayed in the Residency. In 1947, it became the Raj Bhavan, the residence of the Governor. The first Governor, Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, did not use Raj Bhavan and it was used for housing various Government offices and as a guest-house. General S.M. Sri Nagesh was the first person (as Governor) to occupy the building in 1964.

The Diwans of Mysore resided in some of the beautiful buildings. C. Rangacharlu's house, Satyalaya (Palace Road), later became the Sandur House. Seshadri Iyer's Kumar Krupa (High Grounds) was named after his family deity, Kumaraswamy, and is the State Guest House today.

Sir P.N. Krishnamurthy's Poorna Prasad (Race Course Road) was named after his great grandfather Diwan Poornaiah. V.P. Madhava Rao's residence, Patan Bhavan (Madhav Nagar), eventually housed the office of the Atomic Energy Commission before passing on to private hands. Cubbon's secretary, Cunningham, resided in Balabrooie (Palace Road) built in 1860 and named by Sir Mark Cubbon. Balabrooie was a popular name in Isle of Main, the birth place of Cubbon. Sir M. Visveswaraya, Sir Albion Banerjee, S. Nijalingappa, and Devaraja Urs made this their residence and it is now a State guest house.

After retirement, Sir M. Visvesvaraya first stayed in Upland and later in another bungalow on Cubbon Road. These buildings are no longer there.

Sir Kantharaja Urs and Sir Mirza Ismail resided in Beaulieu (Palace Road).

It now houses the office of the Post Master General of Karnataka. Windsor Lodge where Sir Mirza lived after retirement is now an underground water storage tank. N. Madhava Rao's Himalaya (near M.N.K. Park) has given place to a nursing home. Sir Ramaswamy Mudaliar's Carlton House is now the office of the Corpse of Detectives.

Some of the other beautiful buildings are: The Vani Vilas, Victoria, and Bowring Hospitals, Sir K.P. Puttanna Chetty Town Hall, Corporation Buildings, Bowring Institute, Indian Institute of Science, Sapper House, Ravindra Kalakshetra, Kannada Bhavan, Chowdiah Memorial, Aurobindo Ashram, Manickvelu Mansions, West End Hotel, Niton House (where Nobel Laureate Sir William Ramsey lived), and the row of palaces on Cunningham Road for the princes of Savanur, Sandur, Pudukottai, Kashmir, Bobbili, Vadhvan, Bhavnagar, and Porbandar.

The most recent of the grand buildings is the Vidhana Soudha, the foundation stone for which was laid by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru in 1951, when K.C. Reddy was the Chief Minister. It was Kengal Hanumanthaiya who was instrumental in the redesign and speedy construction of this magnificent edifice.

Bangalore boasts of big, beautiful heritage buildings, no doubt. But there were simple dwellings made famous by its occupants. Bangalore offered shelter to great souls like B.M. Sree, D.V.G., Masti, T.S.V., Kuvempu, Veecee, Anakru, T.P. Kailasam, K.V. Iyer, T.N. Sreekantiah, M.R. Sree, Devudu, T.T. Sharma, Siddavanahalli, Veerakesari, R. Narasimhachar, and Galaganatha among others. The structures of brick and mortar sheltered the very soul of high thinking and humanity that made the City vibrant. Research students have a veritable gold mine to dig into here.

(The author would be grateful for additional information, old anecdotes, and old photographs on the subject. He can be contacted on 6520122 or


Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

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