‘The History and Architecture of Bangalore’ was the title of the speaker meeting organised by the Overseas Women’s Club (‘OWC’) of Bangalore. The meeting was held on Tuesday 23rd January at the beautiful Shangri La Hotel in the Caprese Restaurant on the 18th floor (which has stunning views across Bangalore Palace grounds). I went along because frankly I was fascinated to hear more about the city we have lived in for over a year. There are some stunning examples of architecture but some are very poorly maintained (if at all) and the rubbish and filth everywhere detracts from these wonderful places. I wondered how he was going to present this city of huge contrasts.
The speaker for this meeting was Chandra Mouli who was born and raised in Bangalore. He has a printing and publishing business as well as an outward bound events and training company. He has many interests outside of work and is a graphologist and a Pranic Healer (energy medicine which uses the life force to balance, harmonise and transform the body’s energy processes).
The title of his talk was ‘Bangalored’. Something which I would have known if I hadn’t been ‘Bangalored’ myself on the way there, getting stuck in horrendous morning traffic for a couple of hours and being late. As it turned out, that didn’t matter too much. Mr Mouli found himself ‘Bangalored’ when his carefully prepared slideshow of Bangalore’s architecture refused to cooperate. Everyone was having a late start that morning.
He commenced his talk without visual aids and it did not detract from the fascinating facts and an encyclopaedic knowledge of Bangalore that he shared with us. Some of his knowledge is from personal experience which has been added to over his lifetime of living in Bangalore and researching its history.
Some Fascinating Facts
I could not possibly list all the details of all the knowledge imparted to us that morning but I am able to share a few nuggets for you to enjoy.
- Brigade Road was the first one way street in India – made one way to stop accidents with drunks staggering in the road!
- Residency Road saw the first wood fired pizzas in Bangalore and the whole of India when in 1940 Mrs Decosta (who was married to an Italian) started a pizzeria and Italian guest house. She continued for 29 years until 1969.
- In 1857 UB City’s United Breweries started brewing their own beer (for the British) for the first time in Bangalore and the whole of India. Previously the Brits had to wait 6 months for their beer as it was exported by ship to Mumbai and then transported to Bangalore.
- St Joseph’s school is opposite UB City – blatantly flaunting the law which now states that alcohol and cigarettes cannot be sold within within 100 yards of school. St Joseph’s is a Victorian building and used to be a torture house for prisoners which also had a guillotine opposite. Rather than destroying a beautiful building the decision was made to use it for good in the future and it became a school.
- Bangalore was the first city to introduce a toll gate in Yelahanka. People coming into the cantonment area had to pay a small fee.
- Lavelle Road (connecting Mahatma Gandhi Square and Richmond Circle) was named after Mr Michael Lavelle. Mr Lavelle was a geologist and soldier who got a whiff that there is gold in Kular (40 mins away from Bangalore) and wanted to buy the land in Kular. Permission was granted in 1874 for the right to mine for 20 years. The Kolar Gold Fields came into being. The anecdote Mr Mouli told us included that permission had to be obtained from HM The Queen and Mr Lavelle snuck into the contract at the end that he could keep whatever he found on or under the land!
- One of the facts that is disputed is that Bangalore became the first city in Asia to have electricity in 1905/6. (The Bank of Bengal in Kolkata had an electricity supply in 1898). A Global tender was floated in Bangalore in 1905, and won by British, for the building of a hydro electric plant. This is thought to be the first global tender in the world. The hydro electric plant is situated in Shivanasamudra. Power still runs well from this. Mr Lavelle is the person believed to be behind the push for electricity.
- Bangalore had a plague / epidemic in the city in 1898 so the government set up a new area as a planned suberb in Malleshwaram, where Mantri Mall is today. As a consequence many people moved out off the then city centre to this new suberb. The Kadu Malleshwara temple in Malleshwaram is where the area gets its name from.
There were very many more facts and stories that Mr Mouli shared with us over the course of the hour or so. It was a very informative and interesting morning and well worth being stuck in traffic for hours to get there.