For now, this old shelter rests in peace

A GOOD OLD BUILDING: The 'chatra' near Beniganshalli on Old Madras Road. -- Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash.

A GOOD OLD BUILDING: The 'chatra' near Beniganshalli on Old Madras Road. -- Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash.  

BANGALORE Feb. 1. Those who use the new cable-stayed bridge in Krishnarajapuram (K.R. Puram) do not know that they pass by a `chatra' that could be from the 19th Century.

Situated near Beniganahalli on Old Madras Road, the `chatra' is dwarfed by the new bridge and incongruously sandwiched between an apartment block and a steel stockyard. For years now, labourers have made it their own.

In its time, it must have offered the travel-weary a night's rest for a nominal fee. Back then, travel was simple and non-polluting; no fancy cars, just `jhatkas' and cattle-drawn carts.

Today, the local people do not know the structure's origins, and the workers, who loath to lose a free shelter, call it `Mohanraj Chatra'.

But the Karnataka Gazetteer (Bangalore District) talks of a `Gopalarayana Chatra' in K.R. Puram, where a Ganga inscription was found. K.R. Puram, says the gazette, was earlier `Hosauru', and got its present name around 1816 after Krishnaraja Wodeyar III.

Suryanath Kamath, Chief Editor of the 1990 edition of the gazette, says `chatras' date from the 19th Century and are usually seen around temples.

The gazette mentions 10 temples in the K.R. Puram area. It adds that, on the outskirts, there are the remains of a temple and two inscriptions from 1332, when Ballala III reigned.

``Bangalore has many `chatras'. The Thotadappa Chatra near the City Railway Station is famous, though it is now a hostel. There is also a row of `chatras' near the Gavi Gangadheswara Temple,'' Dr. Kamath says.

The Archaeology Department knows nothing about the K.R. Puram `chatra'.

It has eight structures on its `protected monument list' in Bangalore: the four Kempe Gowda watch towers, the Gavi Gangadeshwara Temple, the Dodda Basavanna Temple, the Mallikarjuna Temple, and the Bowring Institute.

Only buildings which are over 100 years old are included, and they must have a `historical' background. "The presence of a Ganga inscription does not mean the chatra must be `protected'," officials say. Further, once protected, there can be no construction in the surrounding 100-200 metres. Nor can the building be used anymore.

Dr. Kamath is sad at the present apathy towards things historical. The `chatra' will only survive if the townspeople are interested in its preservation, he says.

Its presence on prime property makes its future uncertain. What an irony it will be if a developer buys the land... for a five-star hotel!

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