Bangalore, now officially known as Bengaluru, has something for everyone. Except, perhaps, the beach-lover. Revel in Garden City’s numerous parks and lung spaces (the city boasts streets named Primrose Road, Margosa Road, Rose Garden etc for a reason!). Be a part of its contagious pub culture. And if fascinated by history, lose yourself in its palaces, forts, temples, old buildings and streets. Though Bangaloreans themselves bemoan the loss of green cover and tranquility and complain about the traffic snarls, saying IT City has killed Pensioner’s Paradise, the city is still a pleasant surprise for visitors from other metros. The weather’s lovely for most of the year and the city still jealously guards its green spaces.
The earliest historical evidence of the name “Bengalooru” can be found in a 9th century inscription at a temple in the village of Begur.
Legend has it that King Veera Ballala of the Hoysala dynasty lost his way in the jungle during a hunting expedition. As he roamed around helplessly, he came across an old woman who took pity on him and offered him boiled beans – that was all she had. To the tired and hungry king, the beans tasted better than his palace fare and so pleased was he with her hospitality that he named the entire city benda-kalu-ooru, meaning the land of boiled beans. Bangalore is the anglicized version.
Another historical figure instrumental in shaping Bangalore was a feudal lord who called himself Kempe Gowda, and who served under the Vijayanagara Kings. One day, while hunting, Kempe Gowda was shocked out of his wits to see a hare chase his dog. Was the dog lily-livered? Or the hare lion-hearted? Whatever it was, the feudal lord was so impressed that he was sure that that was a place for heroes and heroics and referred to Bangalore as "gandu bhoomi" (heroic place).
Kempe Gowda I, who was in charge of Yelahanka, built a mud fort in 1537. With the help of King Achutaraya, he built the little towns of Balepet, Cottonpet and Chickpet, all inside the fort. Today, these areas are the busiest in the city, serving as the major wholesale and commercial marketplaces.
Kempe Gowda II took his father’s work further. He built four watch-towers to mark Bangalore’s boundaries. Today, the four pillars can be found in the heart of the city, showing the extent to which it has grown.
A hundred years later, the Vijaynagara Empire fell and in 1638, it was conquered by Mohammed Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur. Adil Shah gifted Bangalore to his trusted lieutenant Shahaji Bhonsale father of the great Maratha king Shivaji, for his services (though some accounts say Bhonsle captured the city).
After 49 years of Maratha rule, the Mughals under Aurangzeb captured the city in 1687and sold it to the Wodeyars of Mysore for 3 lakh pagodas.
In 1759, Hyder Ali received Bangalore as a jagir from Krishnaraja Wodeyar II and ruled as the de facto head with the Wodeyars as mere figureheads. He fortified the southern fort and made Bangalore an army town.
Hyder Ali was succeeded by his son, Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore, who deposed the weak Wodeyar and declared himself the Sultan. It was during the rule of these two heroes that Bangalore flourished with the addition and development of parks, gardens and palaces.
Though Tipu successfully stalled the British in the first, second and third Anglo-Mysore Wars, he was defeated and ultimately killed in 1799 in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
The British then gave the kingdom, including Bangalore, to Krishnaraja Wodeyar III but the city remained part of British East India until Indian independence in August 1947. It was perhaps Bangalore’s very “English” climate that attracted the ruling class and led to the establishment of the famous Military Cantonment, a city-state close to the old town of Bengaluru, in 1809. Even now, the Cantonment area in Bangalore still has streets and roads with military names — Artillery Road, Brigade Road, Infantry Road, Cavalry Road etc.
Bangalore is located in the southern part of Karnataka in the Indian Peninsula (12°58?13?N 77°33?37?E). If you enter the city by road from, say a city like Chennai, it’s a bit like walking into an air-conditioned mall. That’s why they call it the air-conditioned city. Perched 3,113 feet (949 meter) above sea level on a ridge on the Karnataka plateau, it is blessed with pleasant weather for most of the year.
The city has dry, tropical climate with frequent rains. Summers are mild (April-June) though global warming has taken its toll and temperatures have inched to 36 degree centigrade. Winters are cool (October-February). The city experiences southwestern monsoon rains from June to August and the northeast monsoon in November and December. In between, September and October are windy and rainy because of the retreating monsoon.
If you plan to visit, it’s best to avoid the rainy season. But that’s easier said than done given Bangalore’s unpredictable showers. The joke among locals is that Bangalore has four seasons – all in the same day! So when in the city, make sure you have an umbrella always handy.
Tourist Traps in the City
Autorickshaws are notorious for taking locals for a ride (pun intended)! So, insist on going by the meter. And it’s always better to ask the hotel where you’re staying or someone you know approximately how much the fare between the two points is likely to be before you set out. Don’t also be taken in by the famous South Indian head wag which could mean yes or no, nobody really knows which! Get the answer out in words. And don’t get tempted when they “happen” to stop by at a handicraft store.
Most Bangaloreans are extremely hospitable and have been known to take on autorickshaw drivers cheating tourists. So, ask for help if you think you are in a spot.
As in most tourist spots across the country, stay away from touts and middlemen.
Bangalore is known to have blocks and crosses in its addresses which could be confusing for a newcomer. It’s a good idea to get directions complete with landmarks, if you happen to be traveling alone.
Bangalore may be the Pub City that rocks but drop plans of partying the night away. The city’s Cinderalla hour is 2300 hours when all pubs and eateries have to wind up.
By and large, Bangalore is a peaceful city and people are not particularly concerned about the kind of clothes you wear. Recent incidents involving moral policing are few and far between but it’s a good idea to keep in mind sensitivities when visiting religious places.
The easiest way to win a Kannadiga’s heart is to speak his language – or at least attempt to do so. Learning up a few basic phrases will help you break the ice with the local people.
Bangalore is famous for its sandalwood (remember, that’s how even the Kannada film industry is known). But beware, it’s easy to get cheated when dealing with sandalwood products. It’s best to shop at the state-run Cauvery Emporium on M G Road. Here you’ll find sandalwood and sandalwood products, ivory, jewelry, silk and even furniture. It’s a tad expensive compared to shops outside but at least you know it’s genuine stuff. And you do get stuff for as cheap as Rs 10. Just outside Cauvery, you'll find vendors selling lacquerware toys from Channapatna. The toys belong to a lost era and will have at least the adults back home enthused, if not today's tech-savvy kids!
While on M G Road, also drop into the saree shops there since Karnataka is also famous for its silk. Sarees and scarves are popular giveaways.
But if you’re looking for wholesale rates for silk, head to the City Market area. But be prepared to brave traffic snarls and jostle through crowded streets to get there. And of course, you’ll end up spending a lot of time making a choice since there’s plenty to choose from. Remember to bargain.
The other popular shopping areas are Brigade Road and Commercial Street which are lined with shops selling branded products as well as locally-made ones.