Koramangala’s link to Kempegowda’s Bengaluru

Koramangala’s link to Kempegowda’s Bengaluru

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Ask anyone who has moved to Bengaluru in the last decade or so what the city’s most happening locality is, and a majority of them might answer Koramangala. It has among the densest concentration of places to eat out, and one can get by easily without having to know the local language.

Now, ask people who have called Bengaluru their home for over two decades which locality feels the least like their city, and a majority of them might answer Koramangala again. And for pretty much the same reason.

Someone like me, clearly belonging to the latter camp, is very likely to use Koramangala as an example for all that is wrong with the city’s recent accelerated growth. In my case, it often manifests as wry jokes. I call the place ‘Forumangala’, where easy pun aside, I see something Ballardian about the mall culture. Or worse, I dig up trivia to ask as quiz questions that has little purpose other than showing Koramangala in a bad light.

For example, the Integrated Water Supply Plan of 1964, the bureaucratic endeavour that eventually brought Cauvery water to Bangalore had also identified where sewage from the city should be drained. North and West Bangalore had the Vrishabhavathi river handy. For East Bangalore, they identified the Challaghatta tank, a large portion of which is a golf course today, something that many may not consider an improvement. And for South Bangalore, it was the Koramangala tank.

That Koramangala was the equivalent of a septic tank for a large portion of the city was important enough trivia for me. It is somehow appropriate that what was once Koramangala tank is today reclaimed by multiple government buildings and the brutalist architecture of the National Games Village.

But not even my cussedness can deny Koramangala its claims over one of Bengaluru’s founding myths. There is a legend vividly described in B N Sundar Rao’s book on Bengaluru’s history: When Kempegowda was fortifying Bengaluru, the last step of securing the main gate into the city was repeatedly failing. An astrologer apparently told Kempegowda that it required a blood sacrifice from the king’s family. Before he could act upon the advice, Lakshmamma, his daughter-in-law, decided to be that blood offering and beheaded herself with a sword.

The story goes that the gate was secured after this. Where Koramangala comes in is that the Mahalakshmi temple in the old village of Koramangala (near the current 8th Block) was built by Kempegowda as a tribute to his daughter-in-law. And a memorial marker for where she was buried is a few hundred meters away, in what is now a BBMP-controlled park. This is a story that ties Koramangala right back to the origin stories of Bengaluru and demands we pay this locality more respect.

But not everyone is convinced of this Koramangala-Kempegowda connection. Historian S K Aruni, for example, raises the question that if Lakshmamma’s death was so crucial to the establishment of Kempegowda’s city, then would she not have been cremated within the confines of the ‘pete’ area, and not somewhere as far away from the walled city as Koramangala was.

Koramangala, it would seem, definitely does not have it easy when it comes to earning love from old-timers.

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

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