OFTEN DESCRIBED AS Asia’s Silicon Valley because of its thriving information technology industry, Bangalore is India’s fifth-largest and fastest-growing city. Until its high-tech boom began in the late 1980s, it was known as the Garden City, with greenery flourishing in its pleasant, temperate climate. Today, with a growing population of young professionals, it has acquired a vibrant, cosmopolitan air. Bangalore was founded in the 16th century by a local chieftain, Kempe Gowda, but derives its name from the Kannada word benda kalunt , or “boiled beans”, which an old woman gave a 10th-century Hoysala king when he turned up hungry at her doorstep.
Built of granite and porphyry, this imposing building houses the Secretariat and the State Legislature of Karnataka. Constructed in 1956 after the transfer of power from the ruling Wodeyar dynasty to the central government, it was designed by Kengal Hanumanthaiah, the then chief minister, who intended it to “reflect the power and dignity of the people”. It is capped by a 20-m (66-ft) dome, which is surmounted by the four-headed Ashokan lion, symbol of the Indian state. With Rajasthani jhcirokhas , Indo-Saracenic pillars and other decorative elements, the Vidhana Soudha exemplifies the Neo-Dravidian style of post-Independence Bangalore. The woodwork inside is noteworthy, especially the sandalwood door to the Cabinet Room, and the Speaker’s Chair made of rosewood from Mysore. The building looks spectacular on Sunday evenings when it is beautifully illuminated.
This graceful, twostoreyed building with Corinthian columns, was completed in 1864 and housed the Public Offices from 1868 until 1956. These were later moved to the Vidhana Soudha, and this building became the High Court. On the ceiling of its Central Hall is a portrait of Sir Mark Cubbon, commissioner of Mysore from 1834 to 1861 Behind the building is an equestrian statue of him by Baron Marochetti.
ST MARK’S CATHEDRAL
This simple, Neo-Classical cathedral was completed in 1812 and consecrated by the Bishop of Calcutta in 1816. An elegant, cream-coloured structre, it has an imposing portico in front and an apsidal recess at the rear. A shallow dome marks the internal crossing.
Built in 1880 at the exorbitant cost of one million rupees, the Bangalore Palace was modelled on Windsor Castle, complete with fortified towers and turreted parapets. It stands amid undulating lawns, partly converted into a formal garden with axial paths.Spread over 13,700 sq m (147,466 sq ft), the palace fell into disrepair after 1949 when it was at the centre of an ownership dispute between the government and the ruling Wodeyar . It has since been restored to the Wodeyars and is now rented out as a popular venue for functions such as weddings and music concerts, and film shoots. No Kannada movie is considered complete if a scene is not shot here.
TIPU SULTAN’S PALACE
Within the original citadel, a mudbrick fort built by Kempe Gowda in 1537, lies Tipu Sultan’s Palace, dating from about 1790. Made mostly out of wood with finely embellished balconies, pillars and arches, this two-storeyed structure, a replica of the Dana Daulat Bagh in Srirangapattana served as a summer retreat of Tipu Sultan. He endearingly called it Rashk-e-jannat, or the “Envy of Heaven”. Although now dilapidated, it is still a hauntingly atmospheric place. While the palace retains the original elegant teak pillars, most of the painted decorations have been destroyed. The palace housed the public administrative offices from 1831, until they were shifted to the Attara Kacheri in 1868. The Venkataramanaswamy Temple, nearby, dates from the early 18th century and was built by the Wodeyar kings. Regarded as one of the most richly diverse botanical gardens in South Asia, Lalbagh, in the southern part of the city, was laid out by Haider Ali in 1740. Spread over 97 ha (240 acres) of parkland, many of its tropical and subtropical plants were brought here by Haider Ali’s son, Tipu Sultan. Later, John Cameron, the Gardens’ Superintendent in the 1870s, imported several more rare species from Kew Gardens in London. Cameron was also responsible for initiating work on Lalbagh’s famous Glass House, modelled on London’s Crystal Palace and conceived as a venue for horticultural shows. Surrounded by champaka trees and pencil cedars, the Glass House has played host to several visiting dignitaries, An Annual Flower Show is still held here.
The entrance to the park is marked by an equestrian statue of Chamaraja Wodeyar of Mysore. Another popular attraction is the surreal Floral Clock, surrounded by Snow White and the seven dwarfs; this was a gift from Hindustan Machine Tools, leading Indian manufacturers of watches.
GAVI GANGADHARESHVARA TEMPLE
One of Bangalore’s oldest temples, the Gavi Gangadhareshvara Temple was built inside a natural cave in Gavipuram by Kempe Gowda in the 16th century. Legend has it that Kempe Gowda built this temple in gratitude after being released from his five-year imprisonment by Rama Gaya. The highlights here are the granite pillars, two of which support huge discs representing the sun and the moon, while the other two are topped by a Nandi and a trident. Devotees gather here during the Makar Sankranti festival to witness a unique phenomenon — the evening sun’s rays passing between Nandi’s horns and falling directly on the linga inside the cave.