Heritage building to be turned into library

Heritage building to be turned into library

Here's the inside story on a 19th century structure in Chamarajpet, which some say was a toll booth

Bangalore Gate, some historians say, was a toll booth. Credit: MS Manjunath

A 19th century structure in Chamarajpet has attracted the attention of architects, historians and heritage lovers, thanks to City Commissioner Bhaskar Rao.

Rao is out to restore Bangalore Gate, as the structure is called, with help from experts.

The building is likely to be turned into a library, Metrolife gathered minutes after an official meeting between Rao and two experts.

The building is enclosed by a compound that houses the Central Armed Reserve police quarters near Royan Circle. Rao is talking to the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), Bengaluru, about the restoration.

Basant Poddar, director of Bengaluru-based K L Poddar and Sons, will fund the renovation. Poddar, who spent most of his growing years at heritage house No 2, Ali Asgar Road, is

Entrepreneur Basant Poddar is among
those involved in the restoration.

passionate about preserving the city’s history.

Poddar spoke to Metrolife minutes after a meeting on Thursday with Rao, with the restoration of Bangalore Gate as the agenda. “I was approached by the police about a year ago to take up the restoration. The process got delayed and I have now taken it up,” he says.

Police feel the woodwork is weak and the building may fall apart anytime.

“Two more heavy rains and the structure could come crumbling down. This is the reason for the urgency to start work,” Poddar says. The design shows a blend of Islamic and colonial architecture. “We want to restore and renovate it into a library. We want more people to use it. We will also create a small park around it. The park will have flowering and fruit trees. We intend to plant a few aromatic trees as well. The idea is to bring people closer to heritage and history,” says Poddar.

Octroi post?

Meera Iyer, convenor, INTACH Bengaluru chapter, says an old map of the city indicates the building was an octroi post. “It was an entry point into the city from Mysore. That could be one reason why it is called the Bangalore Gate,” she says.

In her opinion, the design is “a strange mix of features.” “The structure is interesting because it resembles a Mercedes symbol with a dome. It is made of brick and mortar. The windows and pointed arches lean towards English colonial architecture,” explains Meera.

The building is in a bad shape because it has been neglected, and she estimates restoration will take a minimum of nine months. Historians are elated at the proposal, which they consider long overdue. 

Dr H S Gopala Rao, epigraphist and former president of the Karnataka Itihasa Academy, says the building was in use during the British era as a toll gate between Bengaluru and Mysuru. 

“It became a part of the CAR only because it was located on their premises,” he says.The foundation is strong and the walls look intact, and it may not be so difficult to restore it, he adds.

The design and architecture of Bangalore Gate is similar to the public buildings that came up in princely Mysore. Dr S K Aruni, deputy director of Indian Council of Historical Research, Bengaluru, agrees it was a toll booth, with the tall windows on all sides meant to ensure “100 per cent visibility.”

“Those manning the gate could see all around, and collect toll from horses making the journey,” he says.

Aruni sees in the structure a resemblance to the small watchman’s room at Lalbagh West Gate.

Columnist and historian Suresh Moona calls for more detailed research. “The entrance is pretty small and there are two room-like structures on either side, and it may not have been a toll gate.”

He notes with interest the “cloister-type arches and big dome.” 

“We have to investigate to understand what it was really used for,” he told Metrolife. 

History scape

Many believe Bangalore Gate was used to track the movement of people and horse carts between Bengaluru and Mysuru. The structure, neglected for decades, has a huge tree growing through it. This has caused the walls to crack. Other historical structures around here are Tipu’s fort and summer palace and the building housing Kannada Sahitya Parishat.

Coming up at the structure

- Park and library

- Fruit and flower trees

- Aromatic plants

(According to expert involved in restoration)

Pit stop for carts?

Basant Poddar, involved in the restoration, believes the building was a stopover for carts, just as Imperial cinema on Residency Road was an imperial horse station before the advent of the rail system. “Horse-drawn carts used to go from the city to different parts of Karnataka, and Bangalore Gate was one of the stops,” he says. Poddar, industrialist and history buff, has taken up the restoration of the Fort High School building in Chamarajpet and is also replicating the design of the heritage house he grew up in at a space in Devanahalli.

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