From IT hub to heritage city: History enthusiasts dig deep to put together Bengaluru’s forgotten past

Recently two inscriptions have been rescued in Sarakki and Hebbal.

BENGALURU: Long before becoming India’s IT hub, Bengaluru was known as ‘Kalyanikere Nagara’, the city of kalyanis or temple tanks. Ronald Ross, a medical officer stationed in the British cantonment in Bengaluru in the late 1800s, called it the ‘city of springs’.

Over the years, the heritage kalyanis, lakes and open wells have become the first casualty of development. Most of them are now either built upon or dumped with debris. The kalyani at Gottigere being destroyed recently for a road-widening project is a case in point.

Meanwhile, a group of heritage enthusiasts has been documenting these lesser-known structures. Their work will be part of a book titled ‘Kalyanapuri Bhudrushya’, to be released soon.

From IT hub to heritage city: History enthusiasts dig deep to put together Bengaluru’s forgotten past

“Records state that Bengaluru had over 380 kalyanis during Kempe Gowda’s time, which have reduced to around 120 today (about 90 come under BBMP limits). The story is the same for other lesser-known natural and structural heritage,” said Rajeev Nrupathunga, author of the book and a professor of history.

The book, written in Kannada, uses archival records, photographs and oral histories to chronicle the city’s water bodies, garadi manes (traditional gymnasiums), bhajan mandirs, temples, communities and cultural events associated with each.

“Not many Bengalureans today know that the oldest bhajan mandir in the city dates back to 1806 in Mavalli. Apart from cultural activities, it played an important role in our independence movement. Bhajan mandirs were ideal meeting places for freedom fighters since the British would not interfere with religious spaces,” said Nrupathunga.

The 30-year-old heads a nonprofit Revival Heritage Hub, which comprises academicians and students working to preserve the city’s heritage. The young group of history buffs recently rescued two historic inscriptions in Sarakki and Hebbal.

While the first dates back to Veera Ballala’s Hoysala dynasty, the second is perhaps the last-remaining mention of the Hebbal lake. The Hoysala inscription, said to have been destroyed in a road-widening project, is being moved to the government library nearby with help from officials.

The team of young people has been working on the book for the past five years, their field work tracing the socio-cultural relevance of these structures in the past and struggle to survive in the present.

Another nonprofit, Discover Heritage, plans to carry out the English translation. Founder Githa Badikillaya said, “Bengaluru’s curse is that people here do not feel connected to the city. That said, youngsters here are perceptive and conscious of our heritage. They just need some direction and this book might offer them more perspective about our past.” The book is to be made available to school and college students for research.

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