Jayanagar: The first South B'luru locality to go modern

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In the 1990s, a decade in which I still used to voluntarily attend family functions regularly because they promised great meals, and more importantly because I had no alternative, most of these functions were organised at a place called Prasanna Kalyana Mantapa in Jayanagar 1st Block, quite close to the Ashoka Pillar. But even back then, I would find such functions excruciatingly boring and until it was lunch, would spend time loafing around the area. And this area was quite different from any other in Bengaluru that I was familiar with back then. For, right next to the mantapa, there were a bunch of nurseries with rows and rows of flowering plants up for display and sale.

These nurseries were part of the village of Siddapura, which, thanks to its proximity to Lalbagh, has been a hotbed of horticulture and gardening for nearly three centuries now. Siddapura was one of the many villages that Bengaluru's first planned layout in independent India, Jayanagar, subsumed. While some like Siddapura, or the larger villages with tank sizes proportional to the size of the village, namely Yediyur and Bairasandra, have managed to retain their culture and history, some of the others have all but disappeared. More than half of what used to be Kottapalya today is occupied by a large campus of the Jain Group of Institutions. And the village of Thayappanahalli today survives pretty much only as the 'T' in Jayanagar 4th T Block. And no, that 'T' does not stand for Tilaknagar as some believe. Please, let the village survive at least in this nominal fashion. 

Jayanagar, named after the then Mysore scion, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar (there is no official record stating that it is actually named after him, but it does seem to be the most obvious deduction to make) was inaugurated in August 1948 by C Rajagopalachari with Wadiyar accompanying. The Ashoka Pillar was erected as a marker for this inauguration. Incidentally, just a year later, these two gentlemen got together again, with another pillar to mark the occasion. This was for Rajajinagar, named for C Rajagopalachari, and inaugurated by Wadiyar.

Right from its inception, Jayanagar, with its wide perpendicular roads, cut across by diagonal alleys that just as easily confuse motorists as they provide short cuts, has drummed up an inordinate sense of pride among its residents.

For a long time, until the claim was usurped by neighbouring JP Nagar, people talked of Jayanagar being the largest planned layout in Asia. I would resist from taking that claim too seriously for it is not all that different from Chennai residents claiming that Marina is the largest beach in the world. But the wide roads, the cleaner and more modern market (or shopping complex to be more precise), the art deco bungalows, plenty of parks and playgrounds, as well as schools and colleges allowed Jayanagar to settle into its role as the South Bengaluru locality dressed in a three-piece suit with a top hat, while the more traditional Basavanagudi wears jubba, panche, and a Mysore peta. The rose in Jayanagar's suit pocket comes from a Siddapura nursery, of course.

(Thejaswi Udupa is a writer who thinks of Bengaluru as home and, naturally, has very strong opinions about the city and its boundaries)

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