Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Language Capers... ! (Part-III)

Author's Note: Read the 1st part here and the 2nd part here.

Though historical references to the city predate 900 AD, a modern written history of continuous settlement exists only from 1537, when Kempe Gowda I (c 1513-1569, c 1510-1570 AD) a vassal of the imperial Vijayanagara Empire built a mud-brick fort at the site and established it as a province of the empire. He is therefore credited with having founded the city of Bangalore in 1537. Kempe Gowda also referred to the new town as his "gandu bhoomi" or "Land of Heroes". His grandson... Kempe Gowda II (ruled from 1585 to 1633 AD) built the four towers that marked the outer most boundaries of Bangalore in 1597 AD. Today the city has grown by leaps and bounds and left the towers behind! They now stand prominently in the heart of the city. He built more than 100 lakes (or rather tanks) and many markets in and around Bangalore. He also built many monuments in and around Bangalore, including the Bull Temple... one of the oldest temples in the city. The temple is dedicated to Nandi, the sacred bull. One of the towers - in Lalbagh - has been rebuilt to look like a temple. The Lalbagh was started by Hyder Ali in 1760 and later completed by Tipu Sultan. This 240 acre landscaped park is home to some very rare species of plants. The 'Glass House' inspired by the 'Crystal Palace' in London, is the venue of an annual Flower show.

The story goes that when Kempe Gowda I was building his new fort (in Bangalore), its southern gate would collapse every night. Astrologers advised him to conduct a human sacrifice (that of a pregnant woman) but Kempe Gowda was reluctant to do so. He refused the offer of his daughter-in-law, who was then in the family way, to sacrifice herself. And then one morning, as the workers went to work on the gate once again, they found it had not collapsed. But nearby they found the body of Lakshmamma, Kempe Gowda's pregnant daughter-in-law, with her head severed. She had killed herself to appease the Gods. A distraught Kempe Gowda is said to have built a temple in Lakshmamma's name... and installed in it the idol of his heroic daughter-in-law. The temple is less than half a kilometre from this memorial in 6th Block, Koramangala.

This poignant story of sacrifice is almost certainly apocryphal. If only some of the Horticulture Department's plans for Lalbagh would also remain so. The Department wants to have a musical fountain and laser show close to the very rock where Kempe Gowda II, grandson of Bangalore's founder Kempe Gowda I, built one of his iconic towers. This is also near the place where archaeologists discovered an Iron Age burial site, 1800 to 3000 years old. The Tower in Lalbagh at the end of Double Road - is on top of a hillock. This is the most visited among all the towers. From here you can actually see the Bangalore Skyline. The tower is on a rock which is very ancient and believed to be 3,000 million years old according to the Geological Survey of India.

The rest of Lalbagh also has a distinguished history. Ever since Hyder Ali set up a formal garden here some 250 years ago, people have always added to its wealth of trees, be it Tipu Sultan or later, the botanists who administered it for the East India Company, the Mysore Maharajas, and after Independence, the new Mysore state government. And it isn't just Lalbagh's halo of history and tradition that should give the Department pause. Have they thought of how laser shows will affect the garden's vibrant birdlife? As it is... even the humble sparrow has turned elusive... in Bangalore these days. Thanks to the vanishing green cover (in the name of metro rail, martyr's memorial, etc) and the closure of lakes to make way for malls, apartments, et al. As several people have suggested, if the government wants musical fountains and laser shows, there are other sites in Bangalore where it might be appropriate. Leave Lalbagh be.

It was during the British rule that the name of the city became anglicised to Bangalore. (See a Citizen Matters article on Bangalore Cantonment). During the British Raj, it became a centre of colonial rule in South India. The establishment of the Bangalore Cantonment brought in large numbers of migrants from other parts of the country.

Today as a large city and growing metropolis, Bangalore is home to many reputed colleges and research institutions. Numerous public sector heavy industries, software companies, biotech firms, high-end hospitals, aerospace, telecommunications, and defence organisations are located in the city. Bangalore is known as the "Silicon Valley of India" because of its position as the nation's leading IT exporter. A demographically diverse city, Bangalore is a major economic and cultural hub and one of the fastest growing major metropolis in India. In the good ol' days (sigh!)... prior to the "developments" of the last 1.5 - 2 decades, Bangalore was a well-laid-out city with many spacious gardens and parks. This earned it the monikers... the "Garden City" and "Pensioners' Paradise". Located on the Deccan Plateau in the south-eastern part of Karnataka, Bangalore is India's third most populous city and fifth-most populous urban agglomeration. As of 2009, Bangalore was inducted in the list of Global cities and ranked as a "Beta World City" alongside Geneva, Copenhagen, Boston, Cairo, Riyadh, Berlin, to name a few, in the studies performed by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network in 2008.

The proposal of name change first came up in December 2005, during a meeting of litterateurs at the state's golden jubilee - the Suvarna Karnataka celebrations. Jnanapith award winner U.R. Ananthamurthy mooted that "Bangalore" be renamed "Bengaluru" to mark the occasion. The then Chief Minister N. Dharam Singh welcomed the idea and announced (on 11th December 2005) that it would be done.

On 27 September 2006, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) passed a resolution to implement the proposed name change. On November 1st, 2006 the then CM, H.D. Kumaraswamy announced that it was official (1st November being "Kannada Rajyotsava" every year... or the "Karnataka Formation Day". Literally: "Birth of the Kannada State").

Brief History About Kannada Rajyotsava: India became a Republic in the year 1950 and in the same year linguistic provinces were formed. The state of Mysore is one such state in south India.

The state of Mysore was created taking into fold various parts of the region, which were ruled by kings. Several districts in, now called North Karnataka and Hyderabad Karnataka were dissolved in the new state. The new state was named after Mysore, which by itself was a princely state. The people (?) of North Karnataka and Hyderabad areas did not accept the name "Mysore"... and demanded a change of name. (Whether that was 'public' opinion or 'publicised' opinion... your guess is as good as mine!) After a prolonged debate the name of the state was changed to "Karnataka" on November 1, 1973.

Late Devaraj Urs... the then Chief Minister of the state took this landmark decision. Officially the new state was born on Nov. 1 and on this day every year "Kannada Rajyotsava" is celebrated... accompanied by songs - via loudspeakers - whose inspiring lyrics go like this, "Singapore hogi alli shopping madonna..." This is also known as "Karnataka Rajyotsava". "Rajyotsava" means "State festival." Some places and state government establishments have a ceremonial state flag hoisting... while most B2B establishments remain closed. If they don't, the "Mannina Magas/Magalus" (read: the sons of the soil of Karnataka)
make their presence felt... all in the name of "protecting" Karnataka and Kannada.

As with any other change, the city's name change has been opposed by many. A few are worried about the city's brand value diminishing, while some say it goes with local culture. Unlike the debates over the name change of most other cities in India (Bombay to Mumbai, Calcutta to Kolkata, Madras to Chennai, Trivandrum to Thiruvanantapuram) and elsewhere in the world (Peking to Beijing, Edo to Tokyo, Constantinople to Istanbul, etc.), the "debate" over the name change of Bangalore is happening at the local, national and global levels.

"Bangalore" had become India's most famous brand. Being "Bangalored" is now part of the global lexicon and comes from the IT and BPO business boom. The question now is how quickly will the world adapt to being "Bengalurued". Wonder what being "Bengalurued" would be like. Any ideas?? Also by not coming to Bangalore (Bengaluru?) while worrying about jobs in Buffalo being "Bangalored", namma Barackanna won't know that the jobs are actually being "Bengalurued", thanks to U.R. Anantha Murthy.

Being a city with a high immigrant population, some media polls show that the majority of the people are not in favour of the name "Bengaluru"/"Bengalooru". One hopes that brand Bangalore will remain intact and that better sense will prevail. This pensioners' paradise of a decade ago (rather a decade and a half) is turning rapidly into its veritable opposite, a baby boom city. Bangalore's demography has changed, it's become young. So a baby boom is inevitable. The influx of youngsters from across the country into Bangalore's IT and BPO businesses is producing what youngsters most typically produce - babies.

From a sleepy township to a bustling metro. From a pensioners' paradise to a happening city. Bangalore has grown by leaps and bounds in the last one-and-a-half decades. The city has catapulted itself on to the world map. However... the city's managers have failed to provide matching infrastructure. They basked in the glory that the software industry brought. They reaped dividends from huge investments and earned big revenue. But they failed to provide adequate power and water supply, good roads, better connectivity, transport planning and traffic management and a corruption-free system. Result: Haphazard growth. Frequent power breakdowns. Inadequate drinking water supply. Garbage dumped everywhere. Chock-a-block vehicular traffic. (Incidentally in 1906, Bangalore became the first city in Asia to have electricity, supplied by the hydroelectric plant situated in Shivanasamudra.) Going forward... the majority of inhabited accommodation will be at or above the tree canopy level... thus paving the way for 'development in the sky'. Big promises are made now and then. But many remain on paper. The will to get going is sadly missing. And I thought... where there is a will... there is a highway! But looks like... where there is a lack of will... there is a metro rail! As Bangalore takes two steps forward, it's forced to take a step backward... or maybe vice versa. Methinks... "BUNGLEuru" is a more apt name and reflects the state of affairs succinctly! What?? Bangalore's infrastructure needs to be improved... and that cannot be achieved by changing its name to "Bengaluru"/"Bengalooru". I'm even willing to discount the "corruption-free system" bit!

(More later...)

Note: The views expressed here are entirely in good humour and without malice.


Pic courtesy: Link.


  1. BUNGLEuru :D :D LOL!! Great post!

  2. loved it! you have a way with words.. :)

  3. @ Reema: Thanks girl :)

    Glad you enjoyed it...

  4. Loved this one too!
    That's so much info! Where do you get all this from??!
    Lol @ "BUNGLEuru"! :D