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Cheers to the sporting spirit

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

A view of the Karnataka Golf Association — Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

AS THE capital of Nadaprabhus and later as the military base from Shahaji's time, Bangalore has all along emphasised on the health and strength of the men of its troops. Garadimane, commonly known as Akhada, was an important training centre for men. This concept is drastically different from the modern gymnasium. The word garadi is derived from Garuda, known as bodyguard.

One of the earliest garadis was the Dodda Garadi in Aralepete, which was established in 1680 by Guru Gopal Mahandat, hailing from Kanpur. Hyder Ali in his younger days served in the home of the Bangalore Parupathegar, Katti Gopala Raja Urs, Hyder frequented this garadi to learn wrestling and club wielding. Later, the garadi was renovated twice - 1827 and 1877. Many other garadis came up during this period and among them are - Annayyappa garadi in Tigalarapete (1890), Kunjanna garadi (1895-1900), Venkatadasappa garadi in Doddapete, Chikka Annamma garadi in Cubbonpete, Ane Kallappa garadi, Nana Rao garadi in Balepete, Balegaradi, Bori Muniappa garadi near Super Talkies, Thimmarayappa garadi, and Dasappa garadi.

From 1940 onwards, the garadis saw a gradual decline. Change in outlook, education, increasing employment opportunities in factories and offices, a different yardstick for army recruitment, new distractions and problems, and the growing fascination for gyms and yoga, are possibly reasons for this.

The establishment of the cantonment in 1809 saw a spurt in new sports activities such as polo, golf, and horse riding.

The polo and golf club were started much later in 1855 and 1876. Bangalore Golf Club is the second oldest in India, the first being the Kolkata Royal Golf Club. Horse racing was popular from early times. It was introduced by the British in 1750. The first races were held in Kolkata in 1769 and later in 1797 in Mumbai. Bangalore had a horse track as early as in 1803, even before the British could settle down in style. The track was in Agram on Hosur Road.

For a long-time, as late as 1870, horse racing was the sport of elite the and artistocratic class - the kings, Britishers, and the wealthy. Later on, the Pari Mutual and the Book Maker systems encouraged many common people to take to it.

The Race Committee was in charge of conducting races in Bangalore. The committee became the Bangalore Race Club in 1915 and a limited company in 1962.

It became an independent Turf Club in 1967, and is today known as the Bangalore Turf Club Ltd. It conducts about 600 races on 65 race days in a year.

Much of the impetus for the growth of sports came from the military establishments in Cantonment. Even today sports teams from MEG, ASC (South), LRDE, and Police Departments actively participate in football, hockey, basketball, and volleyball matches and tournaments. Educational institutions, particularly Christian Missionary schools and colleges, encouraged sports even in earlier years (1820). Many young men and women from these institutions have participated in national level competition in athletics, swimming, table tennis, basketball, and hockey.

One can recall the encouragement to cricket by Central College, particularly when Prof. Tait was the principal. After Independence, many public sector organisations, such as HAL, HMT, ITI, and several banks have built up their own sport teams.

Private clubs have also entered competitive sports in large numbers.

The Bangalore Blues for football, Devanga Union and Oriens for basketball, Bangalore United Cricket Club, Bangalore Cricketeers, City Cricketeers, Swastik Union and Crescents for cricket are some of the many earlier private clubs, which have established a reputation.

Apart from the institutional encouragement, many individuals led by the great Vijay Sarathy and Safi Darashah have helped in promoting sports in the City. And who can forget the fine contributions by sportspersons such as Nettakallappa and A.R. Chikkappayya (athletics), S.V. Appaiah (basketball), Krishnaji Rao and A.R. Khaleel (football), M. Chinnaswamy, Thimmappaiah, Keki Tarapore, and Kasturi Rangan (cricket)? The quality and the competition generated through several tournaments have led many good sportsmen to prosper and make a name. The Stafford Challenge Trophy for cricket and several other trophies for other sports have enabled excellent sportsmen to be noticed by the national selectors. Many sportsmen have made a mark at the national level - Kenneth Powell, Diana Sims, Ashwini Nachappa, Nirmala Uttaiah (athletics), Nisha Millet, Reshma Millet, Abhijit Jayathirtha Rao (swimming), Prakash Padukone (badminton), Mahesh Bhupathi (tennis), B. Saikumar, K. Jayanth, B.K. Arunkumar (table tennis), M.G. Jairam and Selvaraj (billiards), Syed Altaf Ahmed, Ahmed Khan, and Krishnaji Rao (football), D.S. Bhardwaj, Jayanthi Shivanajappa (basketball), K.M. Balaji (volleyball), P. Gopalappa (kabaddi), G.R.Vishwanath, B.S. Chandrashekar, E.A.S. Prasanna, Roger Binny, Venkatesha Prasad, Javagal Srinath, Brijesh Patel, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Syed Kirmani, M.N. Parthasarathi, M.G. Vijayasarathi, B.N. Nagaraja Rao (cricket).

Sports and games in Bangalore have flourished, thanks to the many good playgrounds (115 in number), swimming pools (eight), and the two hostels for sports persons only. The State level associations for cricket, billiards, lawn tennis, and yoga are all located in Bangalore.

The City's weather, the infrastructure, the numerous sports enthusiasts, and the general ambience of the "sportsman's spirit" have naturally led to the location of the National Sports Authority's South Zone Centre in Bangalore. May the sporting spirit ever flourish here!

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


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