Friday, July 4, 2008

Know your city better.

We Bangaloreans are very proud our love for travel. Indeed, search for Indian blogs on adventure sports, treks, travel or bike trips and most of what you will get is those of people from namma bengaLuru (I refuse to say Bengalooru. Make me.)

While we seek to wander off at a moment's notice, be it to a weekend hike in Kudremukh, a fishing resort on the Kaveri, or temples just across the state border or a palace in a nearby city, how many of us have truly tried looking for things closer to home?

Is Bangalore so devoid of places worth visiting? Sad sods we are, yearning for pretty things far off while carelessly treading on treasures much closer home.

This is true irrespective of scale. We yearn for Athens when Madurai is next door, its goddess still living. For Versailles, with Amba Vilasa hours away. For the snows of Jungfrau when Leh is so much closer. For Switzerland while Kashmir sits idly by. For crusader castles when we haven't seen Mehrgarh or Chittorgarh.

I don't mean to be jingoistic, believe me, I'm the last person to be overly patriotic... all I am trying to say that there is so much we overlook. Beauty, it lies almost entirely in the eyes of the beholder.

Anyhou, I set out to find places to see in Bangalore which I'd never quite been able to before.

First stop, the Tippu Summer Palace. Tell me true, how many of you have actually been there? Sure, you might have passed it by on your way to the city market, or glanced at it while praying to kote Srinivasa, but how many have stopped for a look?

A small, pretty little thing built of wood and stone, only a fraction of the original palace remains today. A charming place nevertheless, it's serene and well maintained. The landscaped lawn all around with the trademark yellow shrubbery (of Karnataka tourism or the ASI? I don't know which,) adds to the effect.

Some of the original paint on the walls and ceiling survive to this date.

To the right of the palace, you have the compound of the Kote Srinivasa temple. With the gopurams recently painted, it makes for a rather fetching sight from the palace... towers rising up from the trees.

It's criminal, how modern Kannada movements have portrayed Tippu Sultan in very bad light. Tippu was no Malik Kafur, he was no Aurangzeb. Muslim he might've been, but he was an Indian muslim nevertheless, and a Kannada muslim at that. People scoff at the records of how he bailed the Sringeri Shankara Matha out of financial troubles. Talk of Bangalore and all you hear about is Kempe Gowda. He ate boiled beans there and built four itty bitty towers. Boo hoo. Tippu completed Lal Bagh, which Hyder Ali commisioned. Bangalore as we know it today was shaped much more by this man than any other. Yet he is tainted for what? Usurping power from the weak Wodeyars? The Golden age of Wodeyar rule we like to so fondly recall took place a century after Tippu.

Tippu building his summer palace adjacent to temple is but another example of his secular rule in southern Karnataka. In Srirangapattana you see the ruins of his palace flanked on one side by the famous Ranganatha temple, on the other by a mosque. In Bangalore you see the same. Heh, it's funny to think that the Hindu Marathas plundered Melukote (the Cheluvanarayana temple there being quite rich) during muslim reign in Karnataka.

(In case you were wondering, I'm totally for naming the new airport in Bangalore after Tippu. I'm tired of all Gowdas. Okay, I know that I'm not being fair, clumping together the likes of Kempe and Deve. Even so.)
Next stop: Venkatappa Art Gallery and the Government Museum. Also known as: Those Buildings Next to the Vishvesvaraya Tech Museum.

Admit it, anyone growing up in Bangalore would've been to the Visvesvaraya museum half a dozen times as a kid. Venkatappa Art Gallery was always That building down the road, and well, I'm willing to bet that most of us didn't even know that there was such a thing as a Government Museum there.

Both lovely places, the latter built using red bricks in a neoclassical style the Brits were so fond of. The Govt. Museum has a nice little collection of assorted Indian artefacts, from bronze age pottery to Chola statues.

Venkatappa Art Gallery has these lovely low-relief carvings on plaster of paris made by Venkatappa himself, meant at one point to adorn the walls of Amba Vilasa in Mysore.

From the museums one can see the buildings of Mallya's UB city. I was pleasantly surprised to find them not the least difficult on the eyes.

Please know that the holier-than-thou and the sanctimonious attitude was largely directed inwards. Maybe it's the sojourn to yonder distant lands looming large, I've become more aware of things and places around me.

Many thanks to Veeru alias Veerappan and his trusty Kinetic.


Mohan K.V said...

Strong pics, esp of the summer palace interior.

An interesting anecdote about Tippu that I heard recently. Apparently, our man was a great devotee of Lord Ranganatha, and passed a standing order to all his armies that not a single Ranganatha temple must be even touched. Junta came to know of this, and hastily renamed _all_ temples where the army was close by to some Ranganatha temple! Many stand even today, one being the Magadi Ranga temple which is actually a Srinivasa temple!

MM said...

Lovely pics these are.

Aquila said...

Ha! I've been to the Tipu summer palace. Lovely old place, and I like the way abandoned places haunt me. and very, very nice pictures.

PS said...

@KVM Nice! I've been to the Magadi Ranga temple, and yes, it's definitely Srinivasa there. Apparently our man had a smear campaign run against him by the East India company both in India and in England, to justify all those wars. Much of the British propaganda seems to have sneaked into modern, communal depictions of him.

@MM Thanks!

@Aquila Congratulations. You're better than most people here. :)