Recalling Bengaluru’s multiple facets

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"The National Seminar on Urban Growth of Bangalore with special reference to Bangalore Cantonment (1809-2009)" was held at Christ University from February 18th to 20th. This seminar was organised by the department of History, Christ University, Bangalore along with the Indian Council for Historic Research (ICHR), New Delhi. There was also a photography exhibition that featured numerous archival photographs of buildings of Cantonment.

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Swati Ramanathan. Pic: Mathew Prasad Idiculla.

Swati Ramanathan, co-founder of Janaagraha, in her inaugural speech spoke of the how effective urban planning and urban governance can work together to provide a better city administration system. She also spoke of the need to provide new institutional structures for providing citizen centric growth and motivated the audience to actively participate in the various initiatives which strengthen citizenship.

Did you know?

Kempegowda bus station, Kanteerava stadium, Koramangala Sports Complex, Golf Course, National Games Village were all once lake beds.

The key note address ws delivered by Dr Solomon Benjamin, Associate Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS). He spoke critically of the present idea of urban planning which "aimed at turning Bangalore into a Singapore". He explained that the city’s development was working in a manner that was not in favour of the poor and a majority of citizens as only 1/6th of the city infrastructure is common to 2/3rd of the population.

Urbanisation

Dr Sashi Sivaramkrishna, author, explained on how Bangalore, in the pre-cantonment era, was actually devoid of much of the greenery cover which it has today. According to B L Rice’s Revised Gazetteer of 1897, the two major reason for greening Bangalore in 19th century was the demand for fuel and preference for ornamental trees.

The session "Seeds of Urbanisation" was chaired by Prof M J Vinod, from department of Political Science, Bangalore University. Dr K S Mathew, Honorory Director of Institute for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities (IRISH) provided a general theoretical perspective of the concept of urbanisation. Christ University student Mathew Idiculla analyzed how decentralised urban governance has evolved in Bangalore over the years.

In the second session, Historian Janaki Nair’s paper "Cantonment and its imaginary boundaries" prepared for the seminar, was read out in her absence. Dr C Nanjudaiah spoke on how Bangalore’s farm economy was destroyed by urbanisation resulting in the loss of the farmers’ land to accommodate real estate demands. Dr Gayathri Devi spoke of the contribution of various women in the city over the years, right from Kempe Gowda’s daughter-in-law who is supposed to have sacrificed her life so that the city could be saved!

seminar stage

The photography exhibition that featured numerous archival photographs of buildings of Cantonment. Pic: Mathew Prasad Idiculla.

Heritage expert Suresh Moona clarified the common misconception that the name Bengaluru was derived from "Benda Kalooru", arising out of the story of a woman serving Kempegowda with boiled beans; he enlightened the audience on how the inscription "Bengaluru" was found in a temple in Begur as old as 890 AD. In his paper, he discussed the various builders of Bangalore- the historic personalities, the lesser known builders and the modern builders.

Janet Prem explained the various geographical challenges that lead to urban growth. She mentioned instances like the plague caused people to move out of the crowded place resulting in expansion of the city.

Dr Harish G B spoke about Kannada literary movements and associations in Bangalore. M S Puttana, V Sitaramiah, G P Rajaratnam, D V Gundappa are among the many Kannada writers who made the city their base.

Culture, Identity and Economy

Day two of the seminar started with a much appreciated theatre presentation by Prakash Belawadi and team. They showcased the history of Bangalore of the past 1000 years by enacting and narrating the various defining moments in the history of the city right from the day the inscription of Bengaluru appeared and Kempegowda’s contribution till Bangalore in the independent era.

Prakash Belwadi addressing along with other dignitaries. Pic: Mathew Prasad Idiculla.

The next session discussing the city’s cultural identities, chaired by Prof. Krishnaswamy, Dean of Social Sciences, Christ University, began. Theatre persons Aliyeh Rizwi and Priyalakshmi Rao’s paper discussed the growth of English theatre in Bangalore, particularly the contribution of the Bangalore Little Theatre in developing a theater culture in Bangalore. Film writer Manu Chakaravarthy spoke of how Kannada cinema has showcased Bangalore over the years. Music composer-lyricist Hamsalekha, discussed how music has evolved in Bangalore over the last 200 years and how western music, made popular with the presence of the British cantonment had an influence even in Kannada music.

Prof. Narendra Pani of NIAS, spoke of how an urban culture, particular to Bangalore Cantonment, evolved over the years and eventually died in the later part of Independent India. Dr S P Vagishwari, Head, History Department, Christ University spoke on spatial identities by illustrating the evolution of Bangalore seen through the revivalism of architectural styles in projecting various images of Bangalore.

The fourth session of the seminar titled "Bangalore As and Is" chaired by Dr P M Mathew, professor of economics, Christ University, looked at the various agencies that made Bangalore the city that it is today.

Prof. S Ranganathan spoke about the Indian Institute of Science, founded by J N Tata. He recounted how Tata asked Vivekananda to head IISc. Had Vivekananda accepted, his life might have taken a very different path!

Xavier Louis and Fr Dr Jose C C looked at how education has evolved in Bangalore and highlighted the contribution of Christian Educational Institutions. They explained how St John‘s School was established in 1854 to solve the social crisis of Anglo-Indians having no entry to schools in the cantonment.

Arun Pai of Bangalore Walks said Bangalore holds an important position in the international imagination and it is critical to promote tourism today. Art historian Dr Annapurna Garimella looked at Bangalore as a "city of God" when explaining how religion has had various forms of representation in the city. Writer and journalist Mala Kumar talked about print media’s role in the city. Dr Usha R Vijayalakshmi’s paper on the role of medieval Tamil chieftains and Gopalakrishna G Hegde’s paper on the contribution of sportspersons were read out in their absence.

On Saturday, the last technical session of the seminar, was on the economies and diseconomies of Bangalore, chaired by Prof. Gerad Rasendran from Department of Economics, Christ University. Dr  Meenakshi Rajeev of ISEC spoke on the impact of the IT industry in Bangalore.

Helen Kennedy and Soosamma Mathews’ paper was on the ecological impact of urbanisation on water bodies like the Bellandur Lake. Prof. P U Antony spoke of biodiversity conservation, the long birding culture in the city and the how bird watching can play a strong role in urban conservation. Dr K S Vijayalakshmi analysed how globalisation and industrialisation has influenced the growth pattern of the city.

The seminar was concluded by a valedictory ceremony  presided over by Fr Dr Thomas C. Mathew, Vice Chancellor of Christ University with  Prof. R S Deshpande, Director, Institute for Social and Economic Change as the chief guest.   


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5 Comments

  1. Recently i came across BBMP map for widening the Jayamahal Road prepared by Indian Resource Information & Management Technologies Ltd , Bangalore. The Road across Jayamahal Road near Doordarshan was denoted as Devarajurs Road!

    Actually it is named as Des Raj Urs!
    I am very sure not many will know who this celebrated World war hero was unless you travel further on this Road and read the plaque on the war memorial! For the uninitiated, the Road is named after Col. J. Des Raj Urs , brother-in-law of Maharaja Krsihna Raja Wadiyar. He was the chief Commandment of the Mysore troops which campaigned in world warI in and around around Egypt, Suez Canal Zone and Gaza in Palestine. After their successful campaign and end of the war Col. J. Des Raj Urs decorated with the title with C.I.E, M.V.O, by the British King for his exemplary valor. Col. J. Des Raj Urs also become the first Indian member of the Bangalore Services Club (Bangalore Club or BUS club as it is known today). He lost his Wife Princess Krishnajammanni and three daughters to TB and was responsible for the first TB Sanatorium established at Mysore.

    Poor Souls of the bygone era! Ignorance or Vicissitudes ?????

  2. Agree with you Palahalli, it needs to reach out to the people at large. We need more publicized events whereby the public feel free to participate.

  3. History helps in acquiring pride about one’s locality, one’s town etc. It is nice to have academic seminars( I would have loved to attend it). However, it has to reach the common man. For eg. we have DVG road in Basavangudi (we initialise (!) everybody but that is another matter) but how many people know who is DVG . It would be nice to have some small boards or plaques at the two ends of each street giving some small detail about the person. When I was traveling by bus the other day on JC Road, I overheard a young man (obviously an outsider)telling his friend ” They even have a street named after named after Jesus Christ “! Poor Jayachamaraja Wodeyar !!

  4. Thanks Pramod, sadly there is a clear disconnect between the academics and the politicians on these matters. Maybe this divide should be bridged. More importantly, the state minsiters and legislators should not have so much say in the administration of the city. We have to move towards a more decentralised system which empowers the people.Sounds quite idealistic and unrealistic, but nevertheless provided under the Constitution.

  5. This is a good idea, but these conferences happen every year in one garb or the other. But do they have any impact on the barely literate Ministers and MLAs who lord over the city?

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