Enjoying a salubrious climate all year around, the bustling capital city of Karnataka has a perpetual holiday atmosphere. Being a major and fast upcoming city of South India Bangalore offers more than a day or two of sight seeing. Something is always going on here – exhibitions, carnivals, music and dance concerts, rapid industrial growth has not taken away its old world charm. However, the MG road area with fast food joints, yuppie theme bars and glitzy malls present a stark contrast with the rest of the city space.
Named after an old woman, who served a humble dish of boiled beans to a lost Hoysala king, Bangalore was founded in 1537 by Kempe Gowda by building a mud fort. Two centuries late Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan developed the fort but little remains of this period except the Lalbagh botanical gardens and a small palace. It was only after 1831 that modern growth of the city took place when British shifted their administrative seat from Sriangapatnam to Bangalore and developed it along the familiar ordered look of a cantonment. No wonder then, all the major roads still retain their original British names, which you find in the streets of London.
As one touches down at Bangalore, one finds it a sprawling and disorienting city. However, Gandhi Nagar and MG road areas remain the heart for 5.3 million inhabitants of the city. The crowded streets around bus stand and train station area are lively, nevertheless, unprepossessing part of city, crammed with shops, cinemas and medium hotels.
It was the visionary efforts of Wodeyar rulers under whose patronage Gustav Herma Krumbeigel (1865-1956) and his disciples created the landscape effects. Bangalore is blessed with many beautiful tree-lined avenues. The range of trees is such that each variety blossoms at different seasons, so there are sequentially flowering trees throughout the year. Apart from Cubbon and Lalbagh, there are well maintained smaller parks around MG road, Ulsoor and Sankey lakes which contain varieties of Jacaranda, Pink Cassia, Flame of forest, Rain tree, Gul Mohur etc. Rightfully, it is called ‘Garden city’.
As you set to explore the city, you find at the edge of Cubbon Park the imposing building of state legislature and secretariat with impressive words written on its portico ‘Government’s work is work of God’. Constructed in Neo-Dravadian style in 1956, this massive and beautiful building called ‘Vidhan Sauda’ is made of granite. It’s bewitching to watch on the weekends when it’s illuminated along the contours of the walls and pillars.
Nearly 120 hectare Cubbon Park laid out in 1864 provides a pleasant view and refreshing surroundings in the midst of city’s hustle and bustle. At the other end of the park is superbly restored neo-classical high court building, ‘Attara Kacheri’ in Gothic architecture. Adjoining it is a grand public library with rich collection of books ranging from old classics to the latest. Well, to take care of the children, the future of the country, and exclusive Children’s park is housed in the garden. Take care, adults are not allowed in this park. The modern Visvevaraya Technological and Industrial Museum attracts hordes of school children. Here, on pressing buttons the exhibits reflect the technological progress of the country.
Bangalore’s other popular park is the sprawling Lalbagh Botanical garden located in the south. Laid out by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, in 1760, this 96b hectare park has the labeled centuries old trees besides, probably, the largest collection of rare tropical and subtropical plants. A glass house, inspired by the Crystal palace in London is favourite spot with the crowd.
The remains of fort of Bangalore built by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan replacing the old mud fort, stand still as mute witnesses to the bloody battles with the British. Nearby, Tipu's Palace can be described as modest but is notable for elegant teak pillars.
At Basavanagudi is one of Bangalore’s oldest temples. Built by Kempe Gowda in Dravadian style I 16th century, the Nandi, a huge sacred bull has been carved out of single granite boulder. The temple is thronged by people from all over the city to seek the blessings. The Bangalore palace in Tuder-style architecture with its vast grounds, built in 1887 by the Wodeyar ruler, is nowadays a favourite spot for the picnickers and filmmakers of the south. A short time spent here provides you enough refreshment to spend the rest of the day without feeling tired.
Bangalore’s climate is flower friendly and floriculture is a thriving business nowadays. It has some exotic varieties of fruits and vegetables which are not easily available even in other big cities and metros of the country. The interesting British era legacies of Asparagus, Avocado, Broccoli, Lettuce, Manosteen, and Seedless Pomegranate are available in plenty in Russell market.
MG, Bridge, Residency and St. Marks roads are the retail entertainment and social hub of the affluent youngsters and students. The area is abound with budget and luxury hotels, fast food joints, cybercafes, bookshops, craft shops and bars. Numerous imitations of European style modern shopping plazas have come up, offering a wide range of products suiting every pocket.
The best buy in Bangalore is the silk. Claimed as one of the finest varieties of silk in the world, the traditional saris are made out of Mysore soft silk. Motifs are usually traditional which date back to centuries. Their appeal goes beyond silk is available at government emporia and private stores. Attractive handicrafts in sandalwood, rosewood and Lambani tribal jewellery in endless variety are available at the government run chain of Cauvery Arts & Crafts Emporia spread in various parts of the city. However one at the MG road, I have found it well stocked and the prices are fixed thus eliminating the chances of overpricing.
With the liberalisation and opening up of the economy, as in other metros and prominent cities, the unique pub culture has picked up very fast here. Flashy bars well-lit discos and draught beers are all the rage with well-healed young people and office workers. The pubs here cater to variety of social creatures- loners, couples, families, yuppies and the ‘just for the fun of it’ types. The ‘Underground’ pub on the MG road is modeled on a London tube station while the ‘Pubworld’ is symptomatic of bubbling city’s restless mimicry of the West. It tries to squeeze a British pub, German beer hall, Wild West saloon and Manhattan Cocktail bar into one room. ‘NASA’ at the church street is modeled on a space ship and has laser shows, a fairly young crowd, bar staff in flight uniform and above all maga decibel music.
For eating out ‘Darshini’ fast food joints are present at every nook and corner. Within a limited space they cook and serve a variety of South Indian vegetarian snacks and mini meals. For this fresh but cheap and wholesome food one has to do self-service and eat while standing.
In recent times the city has emerged as major information technology centre and is therefore referred to as Silicon Valley of India. Inspite of unfavourable power and infrastructure, in the last twenty years or so it has become host to a number of businesses, particularly the software industry. With over 60% growth rate the city has set up electronic city and various IT parks outside its boundary. The IT giants like Infosys, Wipro, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Motorola and others are all here. Easy availability of software professional s and favourable climate has given Bangalore edge over other cities. All the recent strides in to IT by the city augur well indicating a bright future. When Delhi is the political capital, Mumbai is commercial capital, then given the rapid pace of development of IT sector here, it will not be out of place to dub Bangalore as IT capital of India.