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..”
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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.
‘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.
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 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)⊕