A peep into the past! Private heritage homes in Bengaluru are opening their doors to guided tours

A bunch of historians, with help from the present owners of these homes, are organising tours around these houses.

A peep into the past! Private heritage homes in Bengaluru are opening their doors to guided tours
BENGALURU: Within a radius of one kilometre in Basavanagudi are a string of old bungalows, each with a story to tell. One century-old house was built by former Mysore dewan MN Krishna Rao while another stately structure belonged to M Mahadevan of the Survey of India. Two homes nearby belonged to freedom fighter Nittoor Srinivasa Rau and HAL’s former financial director CV Srinivasa Rao.

Telling their stories and what they mean to the city are a bunch of historians who, with help from the present owners of these homes, are organising tours around them.

“This makes people aware why it is important to conserve private heritage and what it takes to maintain them. By listening to homeowners, people connect better to the city’s past,” said Mansoor Ali, whose Bengaluru By Foot has guided over 750 people through these homes so far.

Awareness about private heritage is much needed. According to the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), private structures are among the most poorly conserved in Bengaluru. In the past 30 years, the city has lost 75% of its heritage homes, with only 129 out of 510 surviving today. While the Revised Master Plan 2031 has included and listed these buildings, the provisions are far from robust.

Malleswaram resident Vardan Chakrapani said that opening out his 82-year-old Arcot House only increases his family’s sense of pride. His grandfather AL Munirathnam was an engineer for the Shivanasamudra hydroelectric project.

Likewise, MR Narendra, grandson of dewan MN Krishna Rao, is happy to indulge tourists with stories and souvenirs of his ancestor. “These are like-minded people who appreciate the value of the old Madras-tile roof, rosewood staircase, teakwood furniture and lime-mortar building. It’s all about giving them a new perspective about old homes.”
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Marvelling at a colonial home from the outside gives no glimpse of the travails of its owners, the leaky pipes and crumbling roofs, said Poornima Dasharathi, whose organisation, Unhurried, also organises walks in the city. “Most homeowners are often pestered by real estate sharks. These last-remaining structures survive only because of individual will power. Owners must have a helping hand in a robust legislative framework that recognises, protects and provides some monetary concession.”

Arjun Chaudhary, an instructional designer at Manipal Global Education, who took a guided tour recently, said these homes also give an insight into how homes could be built in a sustainable and ecofriendly way. “Preservation legislation is easier said than done. But the government must make a genuine effort to categorise them and allocate funds.”
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