Bringing back Bangalore History & Culture

The feminine force that built the city

Bangalore, now a global city, was built by Kempegowda-1 and his sons. Ever since, the city has been built methodically and systematically by subsequent administrators like Marathas, Mughals, Mysore rulers, British commissioners, Dewans under the guidance of Mysore Kings, Bangalore city corporation, and now the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). There is no doubt about their immense contribution to the growth of the city, but it is also to be noted that these heads had the authority, control over state exchequer and manpower to build and run the city administration. They were ably supplemented by many philanthropists who built hostels, choultries, temples, hospitals, roads etc, by using their hard-earned money. Many such institutions in the city have been more than hundred years old and stand as testimony to the generosity of these great Samaritans. My book Bengaluru Nagara Nirmaapakaru in Kannada, briefly introduces over 100 such philanthropists.

One more category of people whose contribution in grooming the city is equally important but not much publicised are of the women who built Bangalore. It is very important, particularly for the present generation, to know about the equally remarkable and long-lasting service rendered by the feminine forces of the city.

The long story begins with Laksmamma, the daughter- in -law of senior Kempegowda. Even today there is a strong belief that Laksmamma, the wife of Kempegowda II, gave her life to save the fort that her father-in-law was building. To commemorate her supreme sacrifice, Kempegowda built a vault in her homeland which is very much within the limits of the city of today -- it is in Koramangala.

The British Commissioners ruled the Mysore province from 1831 to 1881. By the rendition Act of 1881, the Mysore state was reconstituted and the reins of the governance was officially handed over to Chamaraja Wadiyar on March 25, 1881. But the Maharaja died of diphtheria in Calcutta on December 1894. Her Highness Kempananjammanni avaru, popularly known as Vanivilasa Sannidhana was Maharani Regent of Mysore till Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV, the Yuvaraja attained majority and took the responsibility of heading the state in 1902. With the help of Dewans, the queen successfully administered the state.

The great plague in 1888-89 had played a havoc in the state. There was a huge loss of life and it created commotion among the public. There was an urgent need to provide medical assistance to the people. The Maharani who was pained to see such large scale calamity, discussed with the royal surgeon MecGon about building a big hospital where under one roof people would get all the medical facilities. After a series of discussions with the Dewan and other officials it was decided to build it in Bangalore as it would be easy for people to come. It was also decided to dedicate the hospital to Queen Victoria to commemorate the 60 years of the Empire’s reign.

The foundation stone for this premier medical institution of India was laid on June 22, 1897 by the Maharani Regent of Mysore. This date also had special significance as on the same day, a six mile long diamond jubilee procession of the queen Victoria was taken in London. After completion, the hospital was formally inaugurated on December 8, 1900 by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India.

Vanivilas Sannidhana was a great believer in educating women, and under her patronage, Maharani College became a boon to women’s education in our state. There are many edifices in old Mysore region with the prefix Vanivilas -- Vanivilas Hospital, Vanivilas Educational Institution, Vanivilas Circle, Vanivilas Road, all named several decades back, indicate the highest regard that the people of Bangalore had for this great queen.

Child marriage was a curse, especially when these young girls lost their husbands. They had to live a widow’s life, weighed down by the cruel custom. But many braved the social circumstances and made remarkable contribution in the fields of education, trade, and social service .

R. Kalyanamma who founded Makkala Koota is one such remarkable lady. Makkala Koota, near Kannada Sahitya Parishath, Chamarajapete is a prominent landmark of the city, particularly of South Bangalore.

Kalyanamma broke away from the dogmas of the society of her time and dedicated her life for social cause. She did not study at the university, but her intense love for literature, self confidence and the zeal to work for humanity, particularly the welfare of women and children brought her to the forefront of the society. She was the member of Mysore University Senate, nominated twice to Municipal Council, and held office as Honorary Bench Magistrate. These versatile responsibilities had given her the inner strength required to take big social tasks.

She successfully ran a magazine for women called Saraswathi for 30 long years. To encourage reading and writing skills of children she started publishing short stories, skits, poems written by children in Makkala Bavuta, a section of about two pages reserved for children. The editing of the same was also done by children. One such editor was Chi. Udayashankar who later established himself as a very creative and popular writer in the film field. Even G.P. Rajaratnam, another noted literary person of Kannada literature, once had said that the encouragement given by Kalyanamma in her magazine helped him later to seriously study literature.

In 1938, she was elected to Bangalore city corporation as vice president. She became municipal school board president. These positions inspired her to assemble like-minded women and organise a children’s festival. With goodwill and encouragement of eminent persons like B.M. Shri, P.R. Ramiah and many more such people, the first Childrens’ Festival was held on April 26, 1938. It was inaugurated by the princess of Mysore royal family Smt. Vijayalakshamanni. The three days colourful event was talk of the town and newspapers praised the initiative of Kalyanamma. The same year she gave it an organisational dimension by registering as Akhila Karnatka Makkala Koota. The elite of Bangalore, including Dewan Sir Mirza were members of the registered body. Later, with the help of the land given by the corporation, a building to conduct the activities was built in the present location. With the help of philanthropists some modifications were made.

On the lines of Kannada Sahitya Sammelena, Kalyanamma organised the annual children’s literary meet. An excellent children and senior citizens friendly playground is developed and maintained by BBMP. They have honoured her by naming it as Kalyanamma Makkala Aatada Maidana.

Kalyanamma died in 1965.

(To be continued)

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 3:47:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/the-feminine-force-that-built-the-city/article24470919.ece

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