A time when ‘South End’ was really Bangalore’s southern end

When I was looking recently at some old books at home, I came across a guide book on Bangalore. It was published in 1956 by Satyaprakash and Company. In the preface, it says ” The necessity of a proper guide book to the city of Bangalore need hardly be emphasized. The importance of Bangalore …is greatly increased. This city of ‘long distances’ is growing industrially and commercially..”

I have tried represent the city of that time and have included some photos and quoted lines from the book.

Bangalore in 1956

The most interesting part of the book is the map shown in Pic #1. It is not to scale. Do not search for places like Indiranagar, Koramangala, Sadashivanagar, JP Nagar or Vijaynagar. They were not even thought of, at that point of time. You will find Jayanagar and Rajajinagar. Well, they were just names then. Some people had settled down here and there in those localities. Of course, the central part of the city has remained almost the same.

Click on map to enlarge.

South Bangalore

‘South End’ was really the southern end of the city. Nimhans, which had its beginning in a place known those days as ‘Mental Hospital ‘ was the southeastern corner of the city. The Bangalore Dairy did not exist. I remember that milkmen used to deliver milk to homes. Then as one went eastward (probably on mud roads), there was nothing at all until one reached the Madiwala village. The man who was to fill that part of the city and still further with a lot of ‘Information’ was probably still a schoolboy in Mysore at that time.

North, Northwest and North East

The Indian Institute of Science and Yeshwantpur marked the northwestern border of the city. Palace Orchards in the north central area was exactly what the name implies and not a place for mammoth gatherings as it is today . The Cantonment area (nobody uses that word now a days) with MG Road, Brigade Road , Commercial street , Cox Town etc were the northeastern and northcentral parts.

In the northwest, Rajajinagar was getting its first settlers. Mysore Road was the western boundary and the only Vijayanagar one knew at that time was in Hampi . There were many farms between Byatarayanapura (near the present satellite bus stand) and Kengeri. There was also the river ‘Vrishabhavati’ which was already getting polluted. As one went towards Mysore, a big tank signalled the entry to Kengeri. Kumbalagodu was a village and Bidadi was just another small station on the Bangalore-Mysore railroad.

As for its population, no hard numbers are given and it is said to be around one million. The area of the city is given as 40 square miles. This means the maximum distance between any two places was about ten kilometers. There were a total of nine postal zones. The telephone numbers were in four digits. For example, the number for Police was 4444 and the Railways 3000. Even the personal phone number (2538) of the Chief Minister was listed! I remember that our telephone number was 2842 for a long time.

Kalasipalyam bus stand: the place from which all buses started, looks quite nice; as everybody knows, today the place is chaotic and full of filth.

Transport

The guide book says that cycles are the common mode of conveyance. The total number of BTC (Bangalore Transport Corporation) routes was around 42.

Route No 1 ran from City Market to Yediyur terminus (South end) and Route No 42 from Majestic Circle to Rajaji Nagar. There were ‘Sundays only’ services to some ‘far off’ areas like Hebbal, Jalahalli and Banaswadi .

Kalasipalyam Bus Stand

Auto rickshaws allowed only two passengers and the charges were four annas (1/4 of a rupee) for one mile. Horse-drawn jutkas also charged the same amount for a mile but four people could sit in it. Taxis charged double this amount for the same distance .

I remember that a masala dosa would cost 25-30 paise. It is about Rs 30 today, a factor of 100 increase compared with an auto fare increase of about 70.

The speed limit was 30 mph for cars (48 kmph) . On some other roads like Old Madras Road this was restricted to 10 mph (16 kmph). It is probably same today because of the huge traffic.

Going out of town

The guide book has details of outstation buses, trains and planes. There were only seven direct buses between Bangalore and Mysore. The farthest the Government buses went was to Harihar and Tirupati.

The broad gauge trains were only six and they were all Bangalore-Madras trains. The narrow gauge from Bangalore to Bangarapet via Nandi etc took eight hours to cover a distance of around 80 kilometers.

Airfare from Bangalore to Bombay was Rs 285 (return); today, the fare has gone up by a factor of 30-40. The flight time from Madras to Bangalore was one hour and ten minutes.

Eat out, Movies, Shopping

There were a total of 32 cinema theatres in Bangalore. The number of ‘ western type’ hotels was six! West end Hotel was probably the most well known . There were also the Shilton Hotel.

There is a long list of Choultries which showed many people still relied on them. The Thotadappa Choultry near the railway station was quite well known.

As for shops and manufacturers, most were listed under postal zones of Bangalore One and Two – the City market/Majestic area and the Cantonment area.

United Breweries are listed under Aerated Water manufacturers. There was a shop for guns called GUNCRAFT on South Parade (Today’s MG Road) .If you wanted hats, you had a choice of four shops, two of which are Sri Rama Cap mart and Imperial Hat Works.

Some other well known shops were Ms Saleh Ahmed (Furniture), T Ramarao and Khaleel – (Clocks), Muller Paten (Medicine), Addison and George Oakes (Automobiles), International Book House and Higginbothams (Books), Bata and Casino (Footwear), Spencers (General merchandise), Mulani and Lawrence and Mayo (Spectacles), EGK amd GK Vales (Photo goods), Officers Wear Depot (Tailoring) and Ram Mohan (Travel). There are several agarbathi (perfume stick) manufacturers too.

The Puttanachetty Town hall looks splendid in isolation; today it is dwarfed by other buildings.

Water Supply

The book says ” The water supply is provided from two lakes – Hesaraghatta lake and Thippagondanahalli. The supply was nearly 11 million gallons per day” . This is about 10 gallons i.e. about 35 litres per capita per day. Today’s BWSSB supply is said to be 900 million litres (238 million gallons). Therefore the city is getting a factor of 20 increase in water. Since the population has gone up by a factor of only 7-10, the excess water is probably for industries and factories.

It is important to note that the book says, “Until a couple of decades ago, it was popularly known as the ‘pensioners’ paradise'”. The point it makes is that Bangalore had already left its pleasant past by the 1950s and was on its way to become a modern vibrant city.

(I had written a blog ‘EARLY DAYS IN BEAN TOWN‘ five years ago in Citizen Matters. This guide book corroborates many of the observations in that blog)

20 Comments

  1. Rahul Sarode has sent this to me about his early days in Bangalore. —-
    I’m not as old as you people but would like to share my experience when I used to visit bangalore when I was 3 from a village 250km away from hyderabad and there was no direct trains, we had to go to madras and get a train from there to Bangalore. The only places I feel which are same as it was 15 years ago are Banashankari, Bank colony and areas around it. I haven’t seen other parts of bangalore at that time. Maybe my mom remembers them, she is a bangalorean. After reading all the comments the one thing that hasn’t changed since 1950’s is the barking dogs in every street. — My comments : YOUNG OR OLD, ONE IS WELCOME TO RECORD WHAT ONE KNOWS ABOUT THE CITY. Hopefully all this will end up at least as footnotes in history of the city written by future generations

  2. Yes, today’s Kempegowda bus stand was where exhibitions etc were held. That was called Subhash Maidan. The tank was called Dharmambudhi tank. I remember some water in the 50’s in the part where today KSRTC buses start for different towns and cities.
    Thanks Rajalakshmi Bhat

  3. I landed at Rajajinagar 3rd block way back in 1963 summer from my remote village in Hassan District. I was just 9 year’s boy at that time joined 5th standard. My father & his brother unfortunately lost crores of rupees worth land in today’s value due to tenancy act. My brother was working at Indian Telephone Industry. As such after losing valuable property at native my father had to depend on my brothers salary of around Rs.60/- per month to run the family of total 6 people. The rent we were paying for a house of 3 squares with asbestos sheet roof was Rs.35/ per month against deposit of 2months rent. We felt that after leaving the native we landed at another village. Such was the condition of Rajajinagar. After alighting from ITI factory bus at Electrical power house at 11 p.m. after his 2nd shift my brother had to walk for a furlong distance to reach home in dark kaccha road, without street lights, amidst huge herd of barking dogs. There were only very few buses to Rajajinagar. Some of the bus numbers I remember even today is Route No.20 from City Market No.78 from Majestic. subsequently to Rajajinagar Entrance from majestic Route no.73 was introduced in which ticket price was just 5 paise. At that time the majestic Bus stand was on either side of the road from Everest Hotel i.e. opposite to Upparpet Police station up to Shanthala silks circle. I have so many memories of Old Bangalore and proud to be a witness to its transformation to NAMMA BENGALURU. I would like to share more things from my memory in coming days if you feel interesting to read.

  4. Yes.
    We stayed in Gandhi Nagar and the rent paid for our house was Rs. 35 for a house with spaciou hall, a bed room kitchen etc.,To day we cannot think of a house for dwelling in Gandhi nagar studied up to SSLC there in Govt. schools in Gandhinagar. Private schools were only for very rich people in those days. To days bus terminus was a a big dried tank area used for Exhibitions, circus and Hirannaya’s Drama talkies.
    RajalakshmiBhatt

  5. Thanks to Tushar Prabhu for his remarks about the early days of Kormanagala. I think St Johns medical college started in the mid 60s. It mush have been a lonely campus then. I remember the nice road with tress in front of st Johns even as recently as 10 years ago. The trees have vanished there and also near the Madviala masjid. Inner Ring road part of Kormangala still has huge tries. How long will they be allowed to remain there ? I hope somebody from indiaranagar and other areas will share with us what it was like in the earlier days

  6. My first visit to Bangalore as a student was in mid-sixties when – coming from a small town – the City (just Malleswaram and Sadashivnagar which I saw) was too big for me. I wondered why there is such a big wall dividing the city into two and did not realize it is the compound wall of Tata Institute.

    When I settled down in mid-seventies, the city had grown up only slightly compared to what you have written. Jayanagar was well-populated. I could get two Kali Dosas for 40 paise for breakfast and skip the coffee since I could get it at 18 paise a cup at the coffee club at my workplace. Koramangala was outside the city and there were no buses coming from Jayanagar. I had to change bus at Wilson Garden waiting 20-30 min. I once walked and found that it took only 40 min compared to an hour I was spending on two buses. So I decided to by a bike and it was fun after that

    I have fond memories of forest and lakes beyond Koramangala on Sarjapur Road where I used to go and sit when I was tired of work. Road from Dairy Circle to Bannerghatta was fun.

    I recall there were no sumps in most houses and water used to rise into overhead tanks with its own pressure.

    A Paradise Lost? Yet it is Namma Bengaluru.

  7. Mr Krishnan Bala has added bits of scintillating information on the city of those times. As I had remarked in my earlier blog on the city, South Parade, the present MG Road, was synonymous with Sin Street for most ordinary mortals of Bangalore. Koshys was called Parade cafe those days; If beer was @ Rs 2 then, it has also gone up by a factor of 70-100. As Mr Bala said, Vijayalakshmi Talkies in Chickpet and also Bharat Talkies on JC Road used to screen second run English movies. It was much cheaper than going to Cantonment. I would like to differ with Mr Bala about Bangalore having no shortage of electricity. Many Sundays there was no power in the day time. To remedy the power situation, The factories started giving holidays during weekdays. giving . Thanks again to Mr Bala for bringing in a little bit of life of those days.

  8. Palahalli is sure a man who possesses detailed record of Bangalore of the fifties in his crown,of the days when there was still a chill in the april after noon requiring a sheet to cover before a short nap ! While in the evenings devouts gathered in Malleswaram Ganesh Temple, the seekers of romantic life proceeded to South Parade and in the confines of the Plaza and Liberty enjoying less of the film screened, and more of what was going on when the lights were off among the audience which comprised a good sprinkling of the Anglo-Indian population !Though some English films used to be screened in Vijayalakshmi, the hushed silence and a feeling of high brow was absent and those that bought the tickets made the decision only after seeing a Rossana Pedesta poster out-side ! Additionally there was no compulsion to respond emotionally or even laugh or say wow since most in the audience understood the film only visually and the dialogues were superfluous ! Gopal theatre at Yeshwanthpur used to exhibit Tamil films as also the thatres in Ulsoor.

    One get an Alsatian pup for three rupees at Russel Market with a carry away basket, only to find when it grows up, it is a street mongrel and the dog lover in you is taken for a ride ! The secret of the bargain was to sell it before it starts barking !

    NMC (Neo Mysore Cafe) in Majestic served un-limited food on Plantain leaf with added Mysore Rasam and Butter milk in cups for a mere Re.1/-.There were no Sagars or Kamaths around the town ! Koshy’s charged a bottle of beer for Rs.2 but to be comfortably drinking there, one was expected to converse in fluent English.

    The city never was short of water and electricity ! Long live the Kannadiga who found the place and the Britisher who developed it in to a great Cantonment city.Winston Churchill served here during I world war as a Subaltern !

  9. Nice reading it and old memories came up in a rush!- received this from MN Anandaram, who was a Prof of Physics at Bangalore University

  10. The 7-Volume Children’s Encyclopaedia was completed in a residential house -west of Kanakapura Road-7th Block Jayanagar.Bnashankari Temple was an area of calm .one could not think of the present condition in his wildest dreams.
    Your writing has helped to dream the ‘good’ days of the past.- I received this from Prof A.Krishna Bhat , a leading scinece communicator in kannada

  11. I am sure there is much more to fill in and i request people who may have info to add more here or write a new article. As BS Acharya says, this is what has happened in front of our eyes ! – Thanks to Sri Ravi, JNS Prasad, CN Ravi , B S Acharya

  12. Dear Prof Vishwanath,

    This is indeed an interesting piece of information on the history of Bengaluru.
    I am amazed to note how rapid developments have taken place in our life time!

  13. Jayanagar I block was getting populated in the early-mid 50s. Madhavan Park area had its first houses. There was a cremation ground near the circle. Today there is a Gas Station at that place. Mariappa Road (with the Ashoka Pillar) had very few people even in the day time. South End had many small houses reserved for the police. Kumar, thanks for the comments.

  14. I remember as a child in the 50’s my grandfather would carry me from first block Jayanagar to South End circle and tell me that it was the South End of Bangalore.

  15. I wish the new clock tower commissioned last week at South End had an inscription somewhere that it was the southern end of the city in the ’50s. Each area of the city needs some board showing a brief history of the place. Like on MG Road that it was called South Parade and what was happening there . Change is inevitable but it should be recorded. Nakul, thanks for liking the article.

  16. Dear Sir – Many Thanks to you for taking the time to share this with us. You make us all wish to have been born a few decades ago. Thanks again and Take Care

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