To keep up with the times

To keep up with the times

heritage: Dufferin Clock Tower in Mysuru; clock tower in Ballari; clock tower at Bengaluru Central University;old clock tower in Mangaluru; clock tower work in progress in mangaluru; Dodda Gadiyara in Mysuru. dh photos by savitha b r, b h shivakumar, govi

Just like the classic shapes and designs making a come back in many sectors, heritage enthusiasts have put themselves into work to revive the passion of clock towers. Clock towers may functionally be restricted to the display of time, but the presence of a clock tower in the city centre can be so reassuring and nostalgic. “There are many clock towers in the world that have survived wars, revolutions and social upheavals. But their presence or absence is always felt by a place, even in the most modern cities of the world,” says Sathishchandra Nayak, a classical horologer.

The clock tower is a tower-like structure which may have four faces each having a huge clock showing accurate time. In the past, people used to carry chain clocks on their belts and they used to coincide the time by looking at the tower clock, by the nature of its utility the clock towers evolved as social centres and a market grew around it. However, in the past few decades, the clock towers have gradually vanished. There are exceptions too.

Iconic towers

The Rajabai Tower in Mumbai, Dufferin Clock Tower and Silver Jubilee Clock Tower or Dodda Gadiyara in Mysuru, and the Clock Tower at Virajpet in Kodagu district are some of the clock towers that have attained the heritage value. All these have been maintained in good condition despite the challenges of weathering and maintenance. “The tower in Mangaluru which was built in 1939 was not that fortunate. It was pulled down by the City Corporation in 1999 and is now being rebuilt after widespread public outcry,” Gopalaiah H, an expert on clock towers, told DH.

The western coast towns like Kundapura, Bhatkal and Karwar have sported clock towers. Dufferin Clock Tower outside Devaraja Market built in 1886 is one of the oldest clock towers surviving in India. Mysuru kept up with the times by renovating it in 2012. The Mysore City Corporation restored it to its original beauty and relieved it from all encumbrances, mainly the hawkers. “We had only one maintenance personnel available for both clocks. After he died, both clocks had stopped working for a short time, but the city really went overdrive to get the clocks working again. Such was the love of Mysurians towards these two clock towers,” says former Commissioner of Mysore City Corporation A B Ibrahim.

The Silver Jubilee Clock Tower next to Town Hall in Mysuru was built in 1927 to commemorate the silver jubilee of Krishnaraja Wadeyar’s ascension to the throne. “Mysuru’s passion for clock towers did not stop at that when the University of Mysore celebrated its Centenary in 2015. It was commemorated with the hoisting of a clock on a tower by Pranab Mukherjee at Manasagangotri,” says Gopalaiah. “Some of the great-looking tower clocks are in Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, Visvesvaraya Technological University, Dharmasthala Entrance Arch, Commissioner of Police office in Mangaluru, Chennappa Circle in Ballari.”

The recent push on the smart cities projects in the country is perhaps another chance for rekindling the passion of clock towers. The smart city charter mandates the cities to have their own clock towers with a sizable financial outlay.

Mangaluru, the coastal city, has been accredited to have kept alive the art of making tower clocks. It has given a big push to the revival of clock towers. Even small towns have got into the clock tower fever, Udupi already has a clock tower. “It was one of the earliest towns that boasted of a clock tower in Karnataka, The radio tower of Ajjarkad and the clock tower at central bus stand were almost contemporaries, but sometime in the 1970s the tower was ruined and the municipality pulled it down. Thankfully, it was built back in 1999,” recalls Radhakrishna Acharya of Udupi Sanskrit College.

Officials of the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage say there are at least 12 clock tower sites in the state that are eligible for the heritage tag. The only criterion for getting the heritage tag is that the structure should be 100 years old.

In 1939, the pioneer of hand-wound clockmaker Vaman Nayak found out that much of the content regarding clockmaking in the world was in French. To understand the nuances of art of making clocks, Nayak learnt French language to get deeper knowledge of Horlogerie, his son Sathishchandra and grandson Siddanth have also added the Italian precision to their clocks by running the movement on the clock with microprocessor minute impulse control unit, which keeps the time precise for decades without much servicing. 

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