Hidden Histories: From religion to rock

The Book and Tract Society’s structure was an old timers’ reading paradise. Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P

The Book and Tract Society’s structure was an old timers’ reading paradise. Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P  

The Bangalore Tract and Book Society building of the Bible Society, which is now Hard Rock Café, has stood the test of time despite the extensive transformation around it

The Bible Society building located on the corner of Mahatma Gandhi Road and St. Mark’s Road is almost always a sight for sore eyes with its vintage stone outlook amid the concrete jungle that surrounds the area at the heart of the city. It’s impossible to miss this colonial structure which has become a landmark location for anyone strolling or driving down the arterial M. G. Road.

Established in 1912, the building belonged to the Bangalore Tract and Book Society which was the auxiliary to the London Religious Tract Society. The purpose of the organisation was to prepare and circulate Christian tracts and school books as well as stationary for schools, according to their official report.

It also later produced Bibles and other Christian material, including the first complete Kannada Bible. Having completed over 100 years in existence, the building was one of the first to come up on the serene sleepy cantonment town that was Bangalore back in the days when Winston Churchill made it his home. Often a hub for old timers who used to frequent the library the building housed during Bangalore’s garrison city days, the structure remains unchanged despite the decades of rapid transformation the area around it has undergone.

The heritage monument is now home to Bangalore’s music and night life lovers’ paradise – the Hard Rock Café that took over the building in the last decade. Without changing or remodelling the classic old look of the building, the Café has put up a range of music memorabilia from it’s collection to adorn the walls that once had shelves decked with books.

Looking back, official records show that the Bible Society of Bellary branch was a founding member of the Madras Bible Association in 1820. This led to the establishment of the Bangalore Bible Society in 1825. In 1840 the activities relating to the Bible were placed as a part of Madras Auxiliary’s operations.

The Kannada Bible in a single volume was made available for the first time in the year 1860. In the interest of the Kannada speaking people and their increasing scripture needs, the Bangalore Branch was accorded a degree of autonomy in 1875 to function as an independent unit. This marked the birth of the Bangalore Auxiliary dedicated to provide scripture for all the Kannada speaking people and to circulate scripture in all languages spoken in the Mysore province.

While the structure was set up in 1912 itself, the Karnataka Auxiliary of the Bible Society of India came into being in 1945. Records show that in 1953, the first President of India Dr. Babu Rajendra Prasad and the first Chief Minister of Karnataka Kengal Hanumanthaiah visited the auxiliary. In 1961, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip also paid a visit to the auxiliary and were presented a copy of the Bible in Hindi.

In an interim period in the late 1990s, the building was given to the Christian Literature Service that sold Christian literature and other reading and gifting material. However, the building slipped out of their hands and was taken over by the pub 180 degrees Proof and the HMV music store before finally being taken over by the Hard Rock Café.

The British-style gothic European building has the name Bangalore Tract and Book Society etched in stone and is a high-roofed slopped structure with a frontal edifice for the names that gives a bungalow look to the classic building. The 9,000 square foot area is broken into three sections – two main halls that are now Hard Rock Café’s bars and an open courtyard.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka auxiliary of the Bible Society has now moved to the modern glass structure called Logos near the Trinity Metro Station at the other end of M. G. Road.

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Printable version | Jul 1, 2020 9:47:47 PM |

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