Retracing the history of Chamarajpet

Last Updated 03 April 2017, 18:29 IST
Rangolis drawn by the elderly adorned front yards of the houses, which would transform into gossip centres in the evenings. A heady blend of jasmine and agarbathi fragrance, of coffee and sagu masala that drifted on to the streets would speed up the pace of returning morning walkers. And there were vataaras where four to five families lived together along with the owner sharing a common socialising courtyard.” Such snippets and the 125-yea-old legacy of Chamarajpet were showcased through a yakshagana performance by Karnataka Kala Darshini troupe recently.

The performance coincided with Destination Heritage’s — an organisation that organises events related to various aspects of heritage — first anniversary. As Githa U Badikillaya, its chairperson, affirmed, “When we understand the heritage of the place we live in, it gives a sense of belonging, and an identity. That is why we had this yakshagana performance.” 

Thriving locality
In the late 19th century, Bengaluru was a prosperous trading hub. Overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions in the pete (town) prompted V P Madhava Rao, Rai Bahadur Arcot Narrainswamy Mudaliar and Standish Lee to form a committee in 1892 and submit a report that layouts need to be formed in a grid pattern. It was a historic decision that paved way for the creation of city’s first extension, to the west of the pete. This later became a model for other extensions. The western extension remained unoccupied for some time as people were hesitant to move away from the pete area.

In 1894, the extension was named as Chamarajendrapete after the demise of the king, Chamarajendra Wadiyar X. The name was later shortened to Chamarajpet. Occupation of the area began after the plague epidemic (1898) subsided. This extension had broad streets and a diverse society. Even to this day, we find houses here built on 108x30 feet sites. These sites were then purchased for Rs 50.

Chamarajpet was home to many renowned personalities. Some of them include Kengal Hanumanthaiah, the second chief minister of Karnataka, the ‘human computer’ Shakuntala Devi, T P Kailasam, V Seetharamaiah, K R Sreenivas Iyengar and Honnappa Bhagavatar.

Many of the residents of Chamarajpet who are in their eighties were born at Brindavan clinic, the only such clinic present then. This later grew to become a super-speciality hospital. Malabar lodge was a popular haunt for many of the area’s residents before it shut down. Many of the dishes prepared in the restaurant were popular, while majjige huli and idlies were the most popular. In fact, acclaimed violin maestro T Chowdaiah had a permanent room here. Many other artistes also used to stay here. The Kannada Saahithya Parishat is another popular landmark at Chamarajpet. In the premises of Kannada Sahitya Parishat, sitting on the jamkhanas, people used to watch many programmes.

The culture of this extension has been moulded by its residents, many of them being eminent personalities, and various social, cultural, religious, and educational institutions. Some of the institutions present here are more than a century old. Such landmarks of Chamarajpet include  Bangalore Fort, Tipu’s summer palace, Fort high school, Minto eye hospital, Kannada Sahitya Parishat, Makkala Koota, St Luke’s Church and the Idgah Maidan.

Memories are like photographs that allow us to indulge in how things were. In this sense, Chamarajpet still holds on to its old-world charm, while it has embraced modernity.
(Published 03 April 2017, 17:34 IST)

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