City's New Year fest is a century old

City's New Year fest is a century old

The celebrations can be traced back to a British tradition in the 1900s when Bangalore was just a small town with about a lakh inhabitants, divided into city and civil and military station (Cantonment) areas.

Those days, New Year was ushered in in a spectacular manner with grand marches and elaborate parties. Bangalore Cantonment was the headquarters of the British population. The older parts of Bangalore were considered “city” where Ugadi was the new year for the Hindus. But now, Hindus observe both Ugadi and the New Year of the Gregorian calendar which falls on January 1.

Much of the New Year festivities in the Cantonment area are what have been handed down by the British troops who gathered at clubs like the Bangalore United Services (the BUS Club now called the Bangalore Club) and the Bowring Institute, which were then out of bounds for the lower ranks. In the 40s, during the World War II, The bands of Claude Thomas and his Elite Aces and Fred Hitchcock and his Swingaphonians would be in attendance at these clubs. The clubs celebrate the New year with the same gusto even today.

The others made a beeline for Basco’s, Elysium and Arabian Nights on Brigade Road or to Funnels and Baccalas at the South Parade (now MG Road).

Even the “pub city” sobriquet of Bangalore has its origin in Cantonment where popular pubs of yesteryears like Old Bull and Bush were located on Brigade Road and Green at South Parade.

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Civilians were kept off Brigade Road and South Parade as drunken brawls used to break out between archrivals the Tommies (British soldiers) and the Yanks (American soldiers).
Cut to the present. Brigade Road and M G Road aside, many residential associations, especially apartment blocks, will also celebrate New Year in a special way.

Purva Park Apartment Owners Association in Cox Town will usher in the day with games, music, entertainment and food.

At Cox Town in Bangalore East, there is a 50-year-old “santhe” held every New Year day where hundreds of vendors and their families pitch their tents selling every kind of item — from sweets, spices, flowers and toys to readymade dresses and household goods. There are also joyrides on merry-go-rounds for kids at the fair, which begins at the dawn of January 1 and goes on till midnight.

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