Bengaluru (previously called Bangalore) was the cynosure of all eyes across the world in 1996 when it hosted the Miss World Pageant. Every Indian watching the proceedings on the television fervently hoped that the Indian representative would wear the crown as Aishwarya Rai had done before. While that was not to be, the people of Karnataka had yet another reason for being proud of their Capital. More recently, Bengaluru has pioneered a new phase in the digital revolution by becoming the first city in the country to use the TV cable network for the convergence of computers, television and telecommunications.
Although in recent years it has grown into one of India’s premier industrial centres, Bengaluru still lives up to its well-known epithet as the Garden City. Lying 1000m above sea level, it has a pleasant and cool climate – almost perpetual and perfect picnic weather! Little wonder then that the hustle and bustle of industrial growth has not been able to replace the relaxed and easygoing atmosphere which remains its hallmark. The many pubs that have come up in recent years on the posh MG Road and Brigade Road, each with its own special ambience, are the favourite haunts of both the young and the not so young!
Lying near the southern boundary of the State, Bengaluru was founded by Kempe Gowda, a local chieftain, in 1537, and further developed by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in the 18th century. The centre of the city is dotted with beautifully laid out, well-maintained parks and gardens, tree-lined avenues and dazzling shopping plazas & malls. One of India’s best botanical gardens, the 96-hectare Lalbagh, was laid out in 1760 by Hyder Ali. It is home to numerous centuries-old trees, lotus ponds, lakes and some very rare species of tropical plants. The Glass House in the centre of Lalbagh, is inspired by the Crystal Palace, London and is the venue of the annual flower shows.
The even bigger (121 hectares) Cubbon Park, full of beautiful flowering and shady trees, lies right in the heart of the city. It is a favourite haunt for many residents providing them solitude from the hectic pace of life. And close to the park, on Kasturba Road, are the Government Museum & Venkatappa Art Gallery as well as the Visveswaraya Industrial and Technological Museum both well worth visiting.
The city’s most spectacular modern building, the four storeyed Vidhan Soudha, lies on the northern side of Cubbon Park. It houses the State Legislature and Secretariat. Built of granite in the neo-Dravidian style in 1956, its largest central dome is crowned by India’s national symbol of four lions. Its Cabinet room is famous for the massive door made of pure sandalwood. The building presents a truly enchanting sight when floodlit in the evenings.
The Bangalore Palace, an unusual granite structure inspired by the Windsor Castle, was built by the Wodeyar rulers in the 19th century and is a popular monument among tourists and filmmakers. Another popular spot is the 16th century Bull Temple, dedicated to Nandi, the celestial Bull. An excellent example of Dravidian architecture, the temple has a gigantic 15-foot high sacred bull carved in grey granite.
Bengaluru Foods and Shopping
Bengaluru is a good place for buying silk sarees (including exquisite hand-embroidered ones), sandalwood and rosewood carvings, hand-crafted tables, brass & ivory ware, wooden artefacts with inlay work, lacquer ware, lambani tribal jewellery and ‘agarbattis’ (incense sticks). Commercial Street (full of shops, restricted traffic), Residency Road, Brigade Road (full of shops from departmental stores to quaint ‘mom and pop’ ones) and MG Road are the areas to try out for shopping. Some of the reputed and authorised showrooms for assured quality and prices are Central Cottage Industries Emporium, Shringar Mysore Silk Showroom, Cauvery Arts Emporium, Nalli Sarees and Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation.
Coconut Grove is a semi open-air eatery with a wide range of delicious South Indian Food; MTR (Malavelli Tiffin Room) serves fixed dishes in double quick time – a must see and eat place! Rice Bowl serves Chinese food; Karavalli, the west coast restaurant in the Gateway Hotel, is very different; Amarawati and R&R serve reasonably priced hot Andhra food.
Bengaluru is the ideal base for touring other interesting places in the State, availing the conducted tours run by the State Tourism Development Corporation.