#4 Gustav Herman Krumbiegel – the man who made Bangalore bloom

The man who designed Lalbagh is fourth on our list of Bangalore’s Global Icons. The last assignment of 90 year old Gustav Herman Krumbiegel for the Indian Government was to landscape the Raj Ghat memorial gardens for Mahatma Gandhi

Every city needs its lung spaces, pockets where the air is pure and there’s greenery and flowers. Bangalore used to be called the Garden City, a title that is now claimed by two other cities in India – Chandigarh and Mysore. However, Bangalore will always remain the city where the flowers bloomed first, thanks to Gustav Herman Krumbiegal.

The great granddaughter of Gustav Herman Krumbiegel – the man who designed Lalbagh, Bangalore’s beautiful garden in South Bangalore – Alyia Phelps-Gardin was in Bangalore and Mysore recently to immerse her mother’s ashes at Srirangapatna, a place the family originally from Germany calls home.

Gustav Herman Krumbiegel

Aliya says that when her feet touch Indian soil, “I know I’m home. I can feel Great grandfather’s breath in the wind.” Whenever she is in India, she wears the Gandaberunda bracelet given to her grandmother Hilda Krumbiegel by Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadeyar on the occasion of her 18th birthday in 1915. 

Twenty-six year old Gustav Krumbiegel arrived in India at the bequest of Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the ruler of Vadodara, to build a garden for Vadodara in Gujarat. Sayaji Baug also known as Kamati Baug was commissioned in 1879 as a gift to the people of Vadodara. The park is situated on the banks of the River Vishwamitri, near a village called Kamatipura. The park is spread over 113 acres and is the largest park in Western India, home to 98 species of trees.

Aliya says Krumbiegel designed his way across northern India with over 50 gardens tea and coffee plantations “Apart from Kamati Baug, he has to credit the estates of Ooty, the palaces and towns in Kerala and also for the transforming the rocky terrain of Bangalore into a Garden City, for which he became known as a the Architect of Bangalore.”  

A Freemason, Krumbiegel was born on December 18, 1865 in Lohmen near Dresden in Germany. After studying in Willsdorf and Dresden and a horticulture apprenticeship at King’s Garden in Pillnitz specializing in landscape horticulture and architecture, Krumbiegel worked at the Agricultural and Fruit Department of Schwerin Royal Gardens, Mecklenburg and a private garden in Hamburg where he gained vital experience in cultivating vegetables, fruits and plant species. 

Moving to London he worked at Hyde Park while learning about town planning, horticulture, architecture and horticulture at South Kensington University. His skills were recognized at the Plant Propagation Department of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew between 1888 and 1883. “Due to his distinct abilities, my great grandfather was referred to Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad who needed a keen and capable horticulturist. Moving to Baroda in Gujarat, he created orchids and gardens for the kingdom and enhanced the beauty of the rulers, personal estates at Woodstock in Ooty and Bombay,” says Aliya.

His fiancé joined him a year and they were married in Bombay and all his children were born in India.

Krumbiegel’s spectacular ability with gardens and his horticultural output impressed Krishnaraja Wadeyar, the Maharaja of Mysore. A close associate of Gaekwad persuaded him to send Krumbiegel to Mysore, a place he feel deeply in love with.  

He began work in Mysore State in 1908 as the Superintendent of Government Gardens, a prestigious position. His responsibilities included maintaining various public gardens including Bangalore’s Lalbagh and Cubbon Park, Mysore Curzon Park and the Mysore Maharaja’s personal estates, viz. Madhuvana orchard in Mysore and Fern Hill Palace Garden in Ooty.

Aliya says that the following two decades, Krumbiegel also became Superintendent of the Government Museum, Chairman of Mysore Horticulture Society, Director of Agriculture, a economic tourist and a consulting architect. In 1912, he established the Horticulture School in Mysore State, a first of its kind in India. 

Most of Krumbiegel’s writing were given by his wife to the Karnataka State. These include two booklets – ‘A Note on the Development of Horticulture in Mysore and The Organization of the Department of Horticulture and Botany, 1920’ and ‘The Administrative Report of the Government Gardens Department for the year 1927-28’.

 “These are the most detailed accounts of horticulture in colonial India and envisioned a beneficial industry. Krumbiegel built a fumigator in Lalbagh to treat all incoming and outgoing plants with hydrocyanic acid gas. His era saw periodicals, journals and dried plants added to the Lalbagh library and he improved landscapes for many hospitals, educational institutions, guest houses, and military and railway offices,” says Aliya.

As a botanist, Krumbiegel was a true economic botanist and urban designer. “He worked with the physical form of the city and the people. From designing carpet planting so there were flowers for every season and the beautiful boulevard of the old Bangalore streets, the parks, open spaces all are credited to him.” Aliya says she always thinks of him when she sees pictures on social media of tabebuira bloom in bursts of yellow and pink, the jacaranda tree, the gulmohars and the cassias.

The Krishnaraja Sagar (Brindavan Garden) Dam site in Mysore was converted into terraced gardens similar to the Shalimar Gardens, Srinagar. According to S. V. Hittalmani, Krumbiegel is credited with the laying of around 30 gardens and parks in Mysore and Bangalore including the Brindavan gardens.

“He established parks and gardens in Mysore and Bangalore and other important towns and cities of the state. He had a number of gardens beautified, such as those in Bangalore Central College, Kumara Krupa Park, Victoria Hospital and Mysore Government house, Jumma Masjid and Lalitha Mahal.”

Krumbiegel also put lampposts, parapet walls, opened a restaurant, widened paths, designed fountains, flower beds, nurseries, lawns etc. in Lalbagh and Cubbon Park. The elevation of Bruhath Bangalore Cooperation building and offices was designed by him in 1927. 

Aliya says her great grandfather encouraged commercial floriculture and horticulture by conducting Flower Shows in Lalbagh as Director of Horticulture (1928–1932). “He supported large scale growth of hibiscus, rose, marigold, champak, petunia, chrysanthemum, dalia and other varieties. He also fashioned the Mysore Horticultural Society after the Agra Horticultural Society in 1912 and started the biennial Lalbagh Flower Shows by developing the glass house as a permanent venue and awarded rolling shields.” 

Farmers and others across the Karnataka State relying on commercial crops like rubber, timber, fibers etc. referred to publications and reference materials on economics and horticultural topics, began trials on new types of fruits and vegetables. The Bureau of Economic Botany opened in 1911, promoting cultivation.  “Great grandfather introduced flowering plants from abroad into Lalbagh. He also brought cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, beetroot, lettuce and celery into the kingdom of Mysore and Ooty after 1925. And he succeeded in growing the Rome Beauty Apple in and around Bangalore, profitably,” says Aliya. 

Krumbiegel believed in the economics of biology. “The works of the horticultural department does not begin and end with sweeping lawns, roads and planting a few flower beds but the development of its economic scientific and educational work. Botanical Gardens should be maintained not only for the purpose of advancing the study of native and other plants but also for turning the varied resources of the vegetable kingdom to useful and commercial ends,” he said on Horticulture in Mysore.

Krumbiegel shared a beautiful friendship with the Maharaja of Mysore. He was known as the Maharaja’s gardener and the Royal would protect him when the “British saw an enemy in every German,” says Aliya.  He was the only man given the privilege of a handshake with the Maharaja,was a trusted associate of all the royals. Wadeyar commissioned a painting and a bust of Krumbeigel which is housed in the royal Mysore Palace. His relationship with erstwhile state lasted until his passing away on Feb 8, 1956.

Aliya says India was place which he made his home, and “Great grandfather was fiercely vocal for independence for India from the British which always went against him when dealing with the British Raj.” Aliya is particular that people understand that Krumbiegel did not work for the British Raj and was passionately in love with India.

From his letters she says one can see that he cared deeply for his adopted country. “He was never an employee, maybe belonged more to the inner circle. I have many pressed palm Christmas and festival cards from many Maharajahs. I have a solid silver cigar box from Col Plowden thanking him for his care of the residency gardens in Bangalore.”  

 Krumbiegel would cycle with his daughter around Bangalore. Aliya herself has cycled from Bangalore to Mysore a few years ago. “When my feet touch Bangalore I know I’m home. I always head to Lalbagh West gate and stand at the entrance just for a minute and breathe. Cubbon Park is my next stop. I cannot wait for my grandchildren to see Lalbagh and Cubbon Park,” says Aliya. 

Her philosophy is much the same as Krumbiegel’s – “We need to love all our spaces and care for them. Any ugly space can be transformed with care love and attention. We just have to care for every space not just our own.” 

Aliya has helped prevent the building of ugly big commercial complexes in Mysore. An architect herself, she says we need to think about, “Will every ‘improvement’ to India’s infrastructure require us to give up more and more Heritage buildings and Heritage trees’. 

“There will be no chance to renovate or to save historic sites and trees once they are gone. And we can never be certain what will be valued in the future. This reality brings to light the importance of locating and saving buildings of historic significance – because once a piece of history is destroyed, it is lost forever. The local governments in India seem to be on a bulldozing spree, targeting all historic buildings and trees. This has happened because there’s little protection given to heritage buildings or trees in India,” says Aliya.

“Even existing laws often aren’t enforced. The Central government has moved to amend the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act that previously prohibited building activity within 100 metres from the limits of a monument. The reason given was that it was impacting various public works and developmental projects of the Central Government. The cabinet has allowed for government-funded infrastructure projects to be constructed near historic monuments and even permitted historical buildings to disappear overnight. All this will do is ring the death knell for many of India’s treasured monuments. Do you think tourists will come to shop in another faceless mall which most of them have already on their doorsteps? All these developments are just ruining India’s history and heritage, which has been shaped by many religions and cultures. We have to and must preserve the monuments and showcase them to the next generation. The contributions and achievements of our ancestors worldwide are important,” says Aliya

Aliya says she is only an interloper in Bengaluru but the apple doesn’t seem to have fallen far from the tree. “I do however have his passion for trees and my profession is also architecture. It’s very important for me to try and protect his legacy for future generations of Bengaluru and indeed my grandchildren. I would not be a true Krumbiegel descendent if I did not try and get involved with any campaign to protect Bangalore’s trees and Heritage.” She hopes to launch the GHK Public Park awards and maybe even ward awards soon. 


The works of the horticultural department does not began and end with sweeping lawns ,roads and planting a few flower beds but the development of its economic scientific and educational work
Botanical Gardens should be maintained not only for the purpose of advancing the study of native and other plants but also for turning the varied resources of the vegetable kingdom to useful and commercial ends

Gustav Herman Krumbiegel

In her words, “we need to care to make the past the pesent.”

The Christian Cemetery in Langford Town houses Krumbiegel’s simple gravestone under an African tulip tree, one of his favourite species. The words on his tombstone read –

Whatever he touched he adorned.

Gustav Herman Krumbiegel

German by birth 

But his heart belonged to India 

18-12-1865   08-02-1956

The text of Gustav Herman Krumbiegel’s letter at the meeting of the Mysore economic conference in August 1927 :

I have nothing but admiration for the able way in which Sir M Visvesvaraya has expanded his case for industries in dealing with the question of industry in relation to agriculture. However I feel that not only the statement that ‘too many people are dependent on Agriculture’ is questionable but also that by implication the paramount importance of out agriculture has been negated.

I believe I am right in saying that 90% of the people who read the article would go away with the impression that our immediate need is the development of industries as against the development of agriculture.

I most emphatically say that the opposite is the case and that a highly developed and prosperous agriculture is essential as the only sound basis upon which a successful industrial development can be built.
In the very countries quoted i.e. the USA and Sweden to which Germany might be added the higher income from industries is unquestionably due to the high development of the agriculture and it should be borne in mind that those countries spend annually enormous sums on further improvements so as to maintain a high efficiency in order to meet the ever increasing demand which is made on it for the support of industries.

I am not at all sure that the higher income from industries is a criteria of the prosperity and happiness of the people in any country or is the goal to strive for.

To my mind it is by no means a mixed blessing for do we not hear laments on all sides of industrial enslavement of the people of crowding together in unsanitary tenements of insufficient earnings to meet the higher cost of living and buying the bare necessities of life, of the tragedies of child labour in factories, etc etc. May providence protect our beautiful state from such conditions.

The most highly industrialised country is perhaps the United Kingdom and we all know how very nearly the difficulty of getting food stuffs lead to a national catastrophe.

In the case of Sweden we must remember that the excess income from industry is largely due to its exceptional water power and extensive forests agriculture is still the mainstay. In Canada the figures quoted shows that the income from agriculture is still above those derived from industries. This proves that a country with facilities for agriculture logically develops agriculture to form a solid base for industries subsequently. In the ready supply to the population of foodstuffs at normal costs and in the supply of raw materials which otherwise would have to be imported at high costs.

If we had statistics of the road born traffic as have of the railborne it would probably show that import of agricultural produce is fairly covered by export but even so we have barely touched the fringe of the possibilities of improving food stuff while the immense potential of growing crops such as fibre wrappers oil and fat producing plants, tanning bark, drugs etc all of which are of much importance for the development of suitable successful industry remain practically unexplored.

Therefore seeing the deplorable conditions of our raiyats and recognising the imperative and national need of improving agriculture I ask is it right or wise to spend further large sums which after all is money collected from the raiyats on uncertain industries and therefore continue to deny agriculture its logical development.

I have no desire to belittle in anyway the industrial measures proposed and if large sums of reserve cash were available no objection need perhaps be urged but situated as we are I fear that if we ignore the need of agriculture development as a prior fundamental condition our vision of industrial prosperity may turn out to be castles in the air.

#3 Nandan Nilekani – Making big data work


On September 28, 2019 late night Nandan Nilekani co-founder of Infosys and currently its Non-Executive Chairman tweeted a congratulatory message: Proud of the Infosys family for being ranked the 3rd most respected company in the world.

For sure Nilekani and Infosys would be on anyone’s list of Global icons. Co-founder of Infosys, he worked on Aadhaar which is now a universal ID across India and co-author of Rebooting India and Imagining India, Nilenkani even dabbled in politics for a while, a role in which he would have done much good for Bangalore had he persisted.

From Left: Sudha and Narayan Murthy, Nandan and Rohini Nilekani

This week Infosys, a global leader in next-generation digital service and consulting has been awarded the Number 3 ranking on the Forbes list of The World’s Best Regarded Companies for 2019. Ranked 31st in 2018, Infosys, under Nilekani has risen in the rankings exemplifying its strong performance.

Forbes’ list of The World’s Best Regarded Companies includes the top 250 companies from Forbes’ Global 2000 list, which tracks the world’s largest public companies. The list of the best regarded companies is based on each company’s trustworthiness, honesty, social conduct, fairness to its employees and the performance of its products and services.

The editors at Forbes said, “Forbes’ rankings include companies spanning across geographies. This year’s list has a global scope, reflecting the emerging prevalence of Asian companies in the United States. Infosys has made great strides in the U.S. this year, after surpassing its’ goal of hiring over 10,000 American employees.”

Nilekani was born in Bangalore, at Vani Vilas Hospital and studied at Bishop Cottons Boys School before moving to Dharward. He went to IIT Bombay at the age of 18. He credits his stint at IIT Mumbai for his skills at managing the corporate world. “When I look back at my IIT friends, the guys who are the most successful are not necessarily the guys with the highest grades. They were the guys who had built all round skills and they knew how to navigate. So, I think navigation skills is what I learnt,” Nilekani told Accel India Insights.

His interview by Narayan Murthy for his first job led to a friendship where they along with five others formed Infosys in 1981. But it was in the 1990s that they began to scale up. To beat the competition who were taking away talent from India, Infosys started thinking big, to becoming a company where people would be willing to stay.

“We had to think big, we had to think brand, we had to think infrastructure, we had to think scale and that required us to change the way we operated. So, we had to professionalize ourselves. So, we went from a company being run by a bunch of founders to a company that hired great talent. So, that shift from an entrepreneurial organization to a company designed for scale and realizing that our roles had to change, that was actually a huge thing. Part of that was future planning, say what do we want to be 3 years from now? What do we want to be 5 years from now? Setting audacious goals and using audacious goals to unlock the way we did things. When we were 3 to 5 million dollar company, we talked about being a 100 M dollar company. When we were approaching 100 M dollar in revenue, we said what does it mean to be a billion dollars in revenue. It took us 3 to 5 years to go from 5 M to 100M.”

BIG DATA

Closing the global identification gap

At his talk at FICCI in April this year, Nilekani said that once data becomes the basis for decision making, there will be a great change. “The aggregation of data and applying AI to it will lead to opening of possibilities. Big data can be used in the financial system to catch fraud. Tax evasion can be captured by applying AI to big data. You can apply data to language translation, weather forecasting. Many macro things become possible.” It is in the use of big data to improve people’s lives that Nilekani has made a great contribution.

“In the West people were rich before they became data rich, so the business models that emerged were around advertising and other things. In India because of the data empowerment architecture which is unique to India, we have a way now of individuals and businesses using their own data to get some benefit. This is what we call as data empowerment, where instead of data being used by corporations and countries it will be used by individuals and small businesses,” Nilenkani said in a Carnegie India podcast.

The World Bank in a recent report talks about how the poor in India depend on wages received from MNREGA (India’s rural employment guarantee program). The tediousness of collecting this money, securing it in a bank account was an uphill task for many.  Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Infrastructure says, “IDs are taken for granted by those who have them. But lack of identification creates barriers for each individual affected and for the countries they live in.”

A lack of identity has significant implications for a range of development outcomes, says the World Bank report, on delivering services to people or on them being able to access services. “Without a secure and trusted way to prove their identity, people will often find themselves unable to access critical healthcare and social services, enroll in school, open a bank account, obtain a mobile phone, get a job, vote in an election, or register a business in the formal sector—along with other basic services, rights, and opportunities that would empower them to improve their lives.”

Nilekani was the Chairman of the Government’s Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). He says “With concerted effort we can close the global identification gap and ensure that digital ID systems empower people, unlock new opportunities for all, and become transformative platforms for inclusive and sustainable development.”


In India because of the data empowerment architecture which is unique to India, we have a way now of individuals and businesses using their own data to get some benefit. This is what we call as data empowerment, where instead of data being used by corporations and countries it will be used by individuals and small businesses

Nandan Nilekani, Infosys

Talking about the interface of technology and society, Nilekani says that we are already moving away from the concept of one internet for the world. “The Chinese have created their own firewall and made their own internet. The Russians are doing that. Europeans are also doing that. Now it is the age of the Splinternet, where because of the impact of technology, countries will want to bring these technologies within their domain – on security, on privacy, on anti-trust, on fake news.”

He says just as globalisation is affecting the physical world, it is also playing out in a similar way digitally. Nilekani talks about the New Age Platform identifiers like Uber, Ola, Amazon and Flipkart changing the world both in terms of service as well as in job creation. Whether it is Amazon and Flipkart going retail, or the mobile providers facilitating movement like Ola and Uber, or food providers Swiggy, Zomata etc, all of them are creating jobs and combined with manufacturing, Nilekani says India should have many more job opportunities.

Bhakti, Gnyana and Aesthetics in Indian temples evoke the Divine

Temple lover Jay Shankar likes to speak through his pictures. His picture of 10th Century Kashmira, made of copper alloy with inlays of silver taken at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York, helps to convey her beauty to those who cannot make the trip to the museum themselves. Kashmira is the personification of Kashmir, also known as the daughter of the Himalayas and revered by many. The picture of the small murthy, is an excellent example of early metalwork from Kashmir. The characteristics include silver inlaid eyes; an inset chin, a small waist and fleshy abdomen; a linear pointed flaming halo; and a plain geometric base. An aesthetic that has been the highlight of brilliance in Kashmiri art.

To Shankar photography is something which is captured by a camera, but the intention is to evoke a sense of beauty of reality. “It is a question of what the person who is looking at the photographs is evoked by. And the evocation is of two or more levels – with one being of the sheer beauty of something and second by the content of the photographs. Somebody may look at a murthy of Parvathi or Vishnu, and that evokes something in the viewer. So it is the content that is evoking an emotion not just the photograph. Temple photography may be more evocative, if it is beautifully done, for a Hindu, than say for someone in Aborginal Australia. But if the photograph itself is beautiful, I have found that it evokes emotions in everybody. That is why Ansel Adams photographs of nature evoke feelings in millions of people independent of the culture.”

Shankar has been a traveller for much of his life, having lived in eight cities including two overseas. And they Himalayas and temples of the North and South have fascinated him in equal measure. His family has always believed in pilgrimages. Five generations on his mother’s side has made the long trip to Badrinath form Chennai, with his great grandmother taking three months for the trip, and her mother perhaps longer. It took Shankar a week when he was in 8th grade. Kedarnath, Mukthinath and Kailashnath round off his yatra experience nicely.

“Like many Indians, I have bathed in the holy waters of Manasarovar, Kali-Gandaki and Bhageerathi at Gomukh. I have bathed in the waters of Rameswaram, Kanyakumari, Varkala and Somnath. I enjoy going to temples, broken, reconstructed and those under worship. And in most of those places I chant Vedic chants, the memorable one being the one at the North face of Kailash,” says Shankar.

His early initiation into Yoga at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai and Vedic Chanting at 26 from Mani Vadyar in Andheri, Bombay, gave him a good grounding in Sanskrit knowledge Systems and kept memories of India alive while he was away in the US and Australia for over 19 years.

“The intensity of these things have grown over the last 10 to 15 years in terms of temples photography and yatras. Mainly this is because I have stayed overseas for long and from there when you look at India there are a few things that stand out and temples are definitely one of them, and once you are interested in temples, a yatra is a part of that. Second there are the Himalayas and there are enough kshetras in the Himalayas. Photography happened because I had seen my dad doing that and so it is in my DNA.”

Bhakti, Gnyana and aesthetics, when the three come together in a temple experience, there is a touching of the Divine. “What is evoked could be a surrender to the Lord or Goddess in a bhakta, or it could be the beauty of it. It could also simply be a sense of the space which evokes something deep within oneself. Any one of those could be a reason for somebody to go to a temple. Where does beauty come in? Every deity is considered beautiful. Vedic passages describe in detail the beauty of the deities, using words like Charu which is beauty or Charumath, which means one who has beauty. Beauty is one of the aspects of the Divine. And any evocation that one feels attracted to and wants to reach is Bhakti. And any way in which one searches for the answer within oneself or that is sacred within oneself is Gnyana. Any of these can attract one to a temple. When or how that comes together depends upon the person and who is to say which is the better way to go. Someone may go through the Bhakti route, someone may go by the Gnyana route, and someone may go by the beauty, aesthetic route. If any of this is central to why a person goes to a temple, then it becomes an experience which helps a person evolve,” says Shankar.

Thiruvanaikaval. Picture by Jay Shankar

Shankar has read and researched temples and now is a valuable guide to those undertaking a tour of temples. While most temples in India were sponsored politically and financially by the kings, the styles have depended on the stapathi who built it. “Just like when Lutyens was commissioned to build the Parliament building, his work did not reflect the British style of architecture but the Lutyens style. Similarly the temples of India reflect the skill and imagination of the stapathi who built it. The best example of this are the Hoysala temples which span around 200 years,” says Shankar who was played a critical role in the recently concluded trip to Hoysala temples organised by Heritage Trust, which was supported by Indic.

The role of the stapathi is usually not emphasised enough, as temples are recognised by the rulers so it is Chola temples, Pallava temples and Hoysala temples and temples of the Vijayanagara period. “If you look at Vishnuvardhan who started the Hoyasala Kingdom’s power structure, he built Belur and Halebid. They have a very different style compared to the temples done at the same time by one of his generals which is in Kambadahalli which is a Jain temple and which resembles Pallava architecture. Or you can look at Vishnuvardhan’s benefactor or mentor Sriramanuja and the temples built by him in Thondanur are very Spartan like the Chola temples. So in many ways while a certain Dynasty may have had a predominant style it is not correct to attribute particular styles to a particular kingship and I would rather put it to a certain time,” says Shankar.

Indian temple architecture has inspired awe both for its ornateness as well as its stark simplicity. The Hoysala temples are extremely ornate and there is nothing before or after the Hoysalas that is comparable. The Chalukyas came before the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagaras followed them. And the three are very different but if you see the time period there are overlaps at times. So where did those structures come from? “I think, most likely there must have been an extremely influential sthapathi or who was the founding father of many of these styles. And his descendants and his students took that style and ran with it, provided that their benefactor – the King – was in support of it and liked it. The kings approval was mandatory, and many of the temples used the actual proportions of the King’s size to make the murthy,” says Shankar.

The passing of a king did not influence a change in the structure of any particular temple. The stapathi tradition played a bigger role in changes in style. “It is very unlikely that the architecture would have changed because the successor wanted to change the sthapathi, because he would rather have built a new temple. Secondly, if the king was killed and the dynasty came to an end, unless the person who took over had a different inclination he would have let things be.”

The artist played a very critical role in Indian art and culture. Despite feuds, political adversaries would use the same stapathi who had been doing the work because “culturally the change in political power did not change the building structure, the people who were building it or the rest of the community. Much like in a democracy, even if the king changed, a lot of the things remain the same.”

Chidambaram. Picture by Jay Shankar

There are instances however, where the time periods were so long, that change was inevitable. “In places like Ellora where things were constructed over a very long time one can see changes. In Karnataka, the Bhoganandeshwara temple was built by the Nolambas, got extended by the Gangas was added on to by the Cholas and then was further added on to by the Vijayanagara Nayaka kings. The ceiling panels and many of the pillars are like the Nolambas, outside influence is by Cholas where the Nandi is present and there are inscriptions which point to the Chola influence. The Ganga influence is there in the very ornate mantapa, the Nayaka influence can be seen in the pillars and other structures,” says Shankar.

Melukote, Picture by Jay Shankar

Many of the temple structures today, especially larger ones like Thiruvanamallai or Srirangam, have been around for a long time and have been refurbished or extended or expanded by a succession of kings. “I would say that it is not the king or the dynasty that made the impact, although that is what is recognisable, but certain stapathis who found favour or who were there at that time, and it is their continuation, their descendants or students who took it up. This is borne out by logic because if the Nayaka king was in Hampi their stapathi would likely have been in that area, and not deep down in Madurai or Thanjavur where the Chola stapathis would have held sway. Many of the kings had diminishing power and so there were times when they were flourishing and when they went down this perhaps lead to a migration of sthapthis and each would have adapted to a different style.”

Hosaholalu. Picture by Jay Shankar

However over long periods of time, even in the Hoyasala temples, even though they look seemingly very similar, many changes happened, sometimes in how the technology changed in how they were constructed, or that many great stapathis changed and many new ones would have emerged, says Shankar.

The Madurai Meenakshi temple is the oldest temple that Shankar has been to. It dates back to the Mahabharata period. Antiquity and aesthetics, bhakti and divinity all find their way subtly into his photographs – mirroring the experience.

#2 Madhav Gadgil – Friend of the Forest

On a boat ride on the beautiful Kabini River in the 1990s, a forest officer accompanying us was explaining the ecology of the place. His voice droned on over the quality of the light falling on clear waters, until the sound of the gentle paddling of the oars by the boatman suddenly gave way to the sight of hordes of wild elephants on the hills across.  

The previous year, on our first visit to the Nagarhole National Reserve, as the group made its way across a village to the main gate, we spotted the greatest of all beasts – India’s national animal – the tiger. People have lamented not seeing one specimen of this remarkable species in their several trips to the park.

In my year at the Asian College of Journalism, I was beyond thrilled to have as my classmate Gauri Gadgil, daughter of Indian Institute of Science scientist Madhav Gadgil who in 1974 had initiated field studies at the Bandipur Tiger Reserve on the dry deciduous forest ecosystem dotted with man-made ponds and extensive open areas covered with grass.

All of us who love this tiger reserve with its chitals, sambars, gaurs, elephants, wild pigs, wild dogs, panthers and tigers and ofcourse the beautiful Kabini River, need to know about Professor Gadgil. Gadgil conducted an ecological reconnaissance of this whole tract and formulated a proposal for the establishment of a large nature reserve in this region. This eventually led to the establishment of India’s first Biosphere Reserve, the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in 1986. Elephants were a striking component of the wildlife of this tract and Professor Gadgil organized the first census of wild elephants in the country in these areas.

Madhav Gadgil, an expert on Western Ghats ecology, shared the 2015 prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement with Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University, USA. Gadgil’s landmark report on the biodiversity of Western Ghats known as the ‘Gadgil Committee’ report offered guidelines on the protection and development of India’s Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the eight most biological diverse areas on earth. His body of work has helped India draft the National Biological Diversity Act.

Professor Madhav Gadgil

Last year, as Kerala was devastated by floods, experts rued the neglect and rejection of the report by the Kerala Government when it was first proposed. Gadgil himself said that it was not about the extent of the rain, Kerala had received equal volumes of rain six times before, instead it was the changing nature of land use which was to be blamed.

In 1978, the Director of the Indian Institute of Science Professor Satish Dhawan encouraged Gadgil to approach the University Grants Commission to support the establishment of a separate department of ecology at IISc. Subsequently, in 1981, the Department of Environment called for special efforts in three regions, the Himalayas, the Ganga basin and the hill tracts of Western Ghats. The proposal to form a department of Ecology was formally submitted under the Directorship of Prof S. Ramaseshan in 1982 and was sanctioned by the Department of Environment, leading to the establishment of the Centre for Ecological Sciences in 1983.

In his latest article Sacred Groves: An Ancient Tradition of Nature Conservation in the Scientific American, Gadgil writes about how Indian pagan traditions were totally in sync with environmental imperatives.

“A legacy of prehistoric traditions of nature conservation, sacred groves are patches of forest that rural communities in the developing world protect and revere as sacrosanct. Deeply held spiritual beliefs ensure that not a tree is felled nor a creature harmed within its boundaries. (In times of dire need, such as if a village burns down, permission may, however, be sought of the grove’s deities to extract a limited quantity of wood for reconstruction.) Treasure troves for naturalists, the groves often serve as the last refuge for magnificent and ancient trees, as well as for species of lianas, medicinal plants, macaques, deer, birds, lizards, frogs and other creatures that have become rare elsewhere in the landscape.”


Deeply held spiritual beliefs ensure that not a tree is felled nor a creature harmed within its boundaries. (In times of dire need, such as if a village burns down, permission may, however, be sought of the grove’s deities to extract a limited quantity of wood for reconstruction.)

– Professor Madhav Gadgil in Scientific American

Over half a century Gadgil has explored many sacred hills, river origins, river stretches, ponds and groves in India, Bhutan and Japan. He has witnessed sacred groves being destroyed but also being preserved, revived or even newly established in the face of the active hostility of the developmental state. “An ecological crisis in the Indian subcontinent, brought about by relentless commercial exploitation of natural resources, is prompting a vibrant revival of these sacred spaces. This assertion of ancient values of reverence for nature, too often derided as primitive superstition, represents the most hopeful news about Indian ecology to emerge in decades.”


Professor Madhav Gadgil was responsible for setting up India’s first biosphere reserve. The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve covers a tract of over 5000 square kilometers of the hill ranges of Nilgiris and its surrounding environments in the states of Karnataka (1527.4 km²), Tamil Nadu (2537.6 km²),  and Kerala (1455.4 km²). It forms an almost complete ring around the Nilgiri Plateau

After his return to India from Harvard University, Gadgil trekked to the northern Western Ghats with his former botany teacher. “Suddenly we were confronted with a five-hectare patch of luxuriant evergreen forest, within which towered four trees of dhup (Canarium strictum)—the northernmost representatives of a species characteristic of the southern Western Ghats, 500 kilometers away. Vartak explained that this grove, named Dhuprahat, had survived because it was sacred to a local mother goddess—and that several other such remnants of primeval vegetation were scattered all over the Western Ghats.”

Amberly Polidor in her report for Sacred Land says the existence of sacred groves in India most likely dates back to an ancient pre-agrarian hunter-gathering era, and their presence has been documented since the early 1800s. “Believing trees to be the abode of gods and ancestral spirits, many communities set aside sanctified areas of forest and established rules and customs to ensure their protection. These rules varied from grove to grove but often prohibited the felling of trees, the collection of any material from the forest floor, and the killing of animals. Presiding deities administered punishment, often death, to individuals who violated the rules, and sometimes to the entire community in the form of disease or crop failure. As a result of these protective restrictions, preserved over countless years, sacred groves are now important reservoirs of biodiversity.”

Gadgil agrees saying that while sacred groves may have received protection through religious beliefs, the system is grounded in secular beliefs, such as securing freshwater sources. He trekked through the Western Ghats, finding villages with significant patches of sacred groves, made notes on their size, botanical composition, animal life and location in relation to topography, settlements and cultivation and spoke to the locals.

Quoting Raymond Dasmann, one of the founders of modern environmentalism, Gadgil differentiates between ‘ecosystem people’, and ‘biosphere people.’ “Ecosystem people largely depend on their own muscle power and that of their livestock to gather and process most of the resources they consume, which comes from within an area of roughly 50 square kilometers around their homesteads. Living in such close proximity with their resource base, ecosystem people fully understand and appreciate the bounty that nature confers. Biosphere people, on the other hand, have extensive access to additional sources of energy such as fossil fuels, which enables them to transport and transform large quantities of materials from all over for their use. Their ecological footprints are tens or hundreds of times higher than those of the ecosystem people. The biosphere people see distant rural locales merely as sources of timber, mineral ores or hydroelectric power or—at best—as tourist resorts. To them, ecosystem people are either a source of cheap labour or a hindrance to accessing the resources they need or want. They disregard the ecosystem services valued by the locals.” To mankind’s peril.

#1 Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Biocon

In just about 1000 days, Insulin will turn 100 years old.

Banting and Best gave us this pivotal breakthrough hormone that saves millions of diabetics each year. Despite its universal availability for the last 97 years, it is yet to be universally accessible.

This is untenable – Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director Bicon Limited

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw founder of Biocon, India’s biggest biopharmaceutical company, has evolved from a passionate scientist and entrepreneur to a mentor and guiding force in India’s biotech revolution.

With a net worth of Rs 18,500 crore, Shaw is one of the richest self-made woman in India, according to the latest figures released by IIFL Wealth Hurun India Women’s Rich list. She founded Biocon in 1978 and has led its successful IPO in 2004.  

This month, in a landmark contribution to healthcare, Biocon has announced plans to bring down the cost of insulin to 10 cents (roughly Rs 7) from the $ 5 (Rs 350).

“Biocon will make its recombinant human insulin available at less than 10 cents per day in low and middle income countries. These countries contribute to 80% of the global diabetes burden. In comparison, the current US list price in retail is more than $5 / day or more,” says Shaw.

Shaw said accessibility of insulin has been a major concern over the years due to its escalating price. The Bengaluru-headquartered biotech firm says it is “committed” to reducing the price of insulin “even further” through partnerships with agencies such as World Health Organisation (WHO) in order to break the barrier to access in certain geographies which are “too poor to deal with the challenge of diabetes on their own”.

Shaw has been an advocate of government and civic responsibility in health care. “Governments have a collective moral responsibility to provide standard of care to every citizen and patient in the world.  India has embarked on a path to provide Universal Healthcare to its citizens through an ambitious program called Ayushman Bharat which aims to serve the poorest families in Phase 1 and then expand it over time to cover every citizen.  At Biocon, we take that word UNIVERSAL very seriously in addressing the needs of diabetics and cancer patients through our products and services.”

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director Biocon Limited

Over the last 15 years, Biocon has delivered 2 billion doses of Insulin to patients in the developing world on an embedded affordability platform. They are committed to expanding this access to patients in all regions of the world.

“To us at Biocon, both diabetes and cancer represent one reality – the need to innovate and provide access to lifesaving medicines so that everyone, anywhere on the planet, can think of more healthful days than has been possible with those diagnosed.”

India needs the leader in all of us

Shaw says that the time has come to usher in the kind of political governance that is accountable, transparent, and performance-oriented. “We need a democracy where every citizen has access to modern infrastructure, good education and effective affordable healthcare. We need effective, metrics-driven governance, which offers self-empowerment opportunities to the disadvantaged so that they can participate in growth and partake in its dividends, lifting them out of poverty.”

“We need to ask ourselves what can we do to improve the reality we live in? How can we, as citizens of a great country, ensure a better life for all?”

This is where today’s youth need to play an important role.

“It is important that every young man and woman in this country gets involved, to get their hands dirty and take on the challenges in order to build strong democratic institutions. Leadership comes from within. Any individual with knowledge, vision and courage of conviction can aspire to become a leader. Today, as India faces enormous challenges, we require the leader in all of us to wake up and act. We need to stand firm to protect liberalism, pluralism and social harmony — the values the Indian republic has been built on.”

Shaw is a great inspiration for the youth of Bangalore and the rest of India. She urges youngsters:

“India needs ordinary but daring young people, driven by the passion to make a difference, to take extraordinary steps in changing things for the better. We need a more enlightened and development-oriented political discourse in India that rises above partisan politics and instead focuses on putting the nation on the path to robust, inclusive and equitable growth. Today’s youth should strive to raise the quality of debate, continue to uphold decency, civility and decorum and aim for the highest standards in public life.”

Shaw quotes Mahatma Gandhi, ‘The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.’  May you be and may you make the difference that this country needs.”

Bangalore – IT and Beyond

On the occasion of World Tourism Day on September 27, the Center for Soft Power will begin a project to showcase Bangalore and the people who have been shaped and in turn shaped it to become the City that it has – vibrant, resilient and culturally rooted. As one IT leader put it – Bangalore may be behind in infrastructure, but it is ahead in innovation, knowledge and the IT economy.  Bangalore has the advantages of being safe for women, being multicultural, has a vibrant press, a booming entrepreneur culture and good health and sport facilities.

The back to back space achievements of Bangalore based ISRO has put this south India city on every foreign dignitary’s itinerary. Earlier everyone would vie for the coveted picture in front of the Taj Mahal, but as India has made rapid strides in space research, Bangalore has become the first stop.

It’s a city where public bus stops are named JP Morgan, Cisco and Intel. It’s a city where four of the biggest global retail brands – JCPenney, Lowe’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Ann Taylor – operate out of one building unlike anywhere else in the world. And there’s Target and L Brands (makers of the Victoria’s Secret brand) in an adjoining one, as one report put it.

Foreigners were impressed by this city with its salubrious climate very early on. Not many of us know that there is a Bangalore street in London City. In the Putney area of Wandsworth Borough, South West London there is a kilometer long street with a row of beautiful, traditional, British style residential houses. At the beginning and middle of the road, two plates display the name Bangalore Street.

The earliest reference to the name, in the form ‘Bengalooru’, is seen in a ninth century Ganga inscription (hero-stone) from Begur, referring to a battle that was fought in that place. The present name of the city, Bangalore is an anglicised form of Bengalooru which according to popular belief is derived from Bengaalu– synonymous of Benda kaalu or boiled beans and ooru meaning a town. Tradition associates Hoysala King Vira Ballala (12th century) with the origin of this name. Vira Ballala, during one of his hunting expeditions in this region, lost his way and after hours of wandering reached the hut of an old woman. This woman is believed to have offered cooked beans to the king. Pleased with her hospitality, the king named the place as ‘benda kaala ooru’ (town of boiled beans).

Mahatma Gandhi Road

However, there already was evidence for the name much before the Hoysalas. Bangalore is said to have got its name from benga, a species of dry and moist deciduous tree, and ooru, meaning town. However, the founding of modern Bangalore is attributed to Kempe Gowda, a scion of the Yelahanka line of chiefs, in 1537. Kempe Gowda is also credited with construction of four towers along four directions from Petta, the central part of the city, to demarcate the extent of city growth. By the 1960s the city had sprawled beyond these boundaries (Asian Development Bank, 2001).

Bangalore has managed to hold on to some of its cultural spaces despite the rapid technological growth. In traditional spaces, people still do not close the day without a temple visit, and culture continues to thrive. The Someshwara temple in Halasuru built during 12–13th century by Cholas, Basavanagudi (Bull Temple) built by Kempe Gowda during 16th century, Kaadu Malleshwara temple built during 17th century in Dravidian architecture, and Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple are a must see.

Apart from the numerous temples, Bangalore also has one of the six basilicas in the country, built during the 17th century, St Marks Cathedral built during 1808, the oldest mosque, Sangeen Jamia Masjid built by the Moghuls during the 17th century, and the popular Jamia Masjid near the City Market built during the 1940s.

The ‘Bengalooru Karaga’ a major annual fair associated with the Dharamaraya temple is an ancient tradition. Karaga, a five-day festival of Tigalas, a community who migrated from Tamil Nadu, is also observed regularly. Everyone in South Bangalore looks forward to the annual groundnut fair, ‘Kadalekai Parishe’ which takes place in Basavanagudi in November–December. More recently, the annual cultural fest called ‘Bengalooru Habba’ (‘habba’ in Kannada means festival) has been happening during the first week of December hosting various cultural programmes like music, dance and drama.  

Bangalore Club set up in 1868

Cuisine:

The visitor to Bangalore can expect a good fare. An NRAI study released in October 2016, reports that families in Bengaluru dine out at least 7–8 times a month, spending an average equivalent of $ 85.24 to $ 89.11 every month (Times of India, 2016). The India Food Service Report 2016 reports that Bengaluru is the fourth largest food services market after Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

The new culture of eating out in Bengaluru, as in India in general, is gradually spreading to many other traditional restaurants. Today, Bengaluru has a whole range of restaurants that deliver food to the customer’s doorstep. The proprietor of South Bangalore’s Brahmin’s Tiffin Room in Chamarajpet is also considering home delivery.  

Gastronomic choices includes masala dosa from the famed MTR or Vidyarthi Bhavan at Basavanagudi, steaming idlis and vada from the Brahmin’s Tiffin Room in Chamarajpet, a rava vada and special khali dosa from the Dwaraka in Narasimharaja Colony or CTR in Malleswaram, kharabhath or chow chow bath from the crowded Veena Stores also in Malleswaram, and a one by two coffee or tea evokes memories of time passed.

Travelling across the City has improved manifold with Namma Metro – the mass transit of 21st century Bangalore, which literally means – Our  Metro. Despite this social media continues to troll Bangalore for its roads, traffic and poor infrastructure. Most parts of Bangalore are laid back with stray dogs, broken roads, rikshaw drivers who refuse a customer. But in the newer parts, it is as good as it gets. Even, Chinese investment is pouring in, and is expected to total $5 to 10 billion in the coming years.

Bangalore may be behind in infrastructure, but it is ahead in innovation, knowledge and the IT economy.  Bangalore has the advantageous of being safe largely for women, being multicultural, a vibrant press, a booming entrepreneur culture, and good health and sport facilities. At Bangalore’s Bioinnovation Center scientists are working on how to more quickly heal wounds, neutralize allergens, diagnose pathogens quickly and cheaply in village clinics, even how to predict epilepsy attacks.

Sixteen years ago, when there was drought in Karnataka, farmers lost the capacity to buy healthcare. Bangalore Cardiologist Dr Devi Shetty was able to convince the state government to launch a micro health insurance scheme through cooperative societies with a premium of Rs 5 per month per person. Dr Shetty says that through this scheme called Ayushman Bharat – within the next seven to 10 years India will become the first country in the world to dissociate healthcare from affluence.

Bangalore is also home to the Indian Institute of Science – India’s premier research institute as well to Hindustan Aeronautic Limited, whose office in Cubbon Road has held sway over Indian defence – past and present.
In a major boost for the indigenous defence manufacturing capability, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is expected to place orders worth around Rs 45,000 crore with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to acquire 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighters. The presence of other Defence organisations including DRDO, NAL and ADA ensures international companies looking at defence deals and offsets visit the city.

Many Genres, Many Voices

 Bangalore is home to many styles, from classical to sugama sangeeta to rock

 By S R Ramakrishna

Karnataka is home to Karnatak (also referred to as Carnatic) music, whose origins are traced back to Vedic times, and to Hindustani music, which began taking a distinctive shape in the 12th century. Many say Karnataka and Karnatak music are not as they appear, but that is another matter. No one can deny the preeminent position of Purandaradasa in the history of south Indian music. His genius in music paved the way for the later greats, but his accomplishments in poetry have remained unsurpassed.

Bengaluru and Mysuru, bastions of Karnatak music, are also home to practitioners of complex Western forms. The cities listen to a wide range of music. New piano stores have sprung up in Bengaluru over the last decade, indicating a revival of interest in Western classicism as well. Karnataka shows a taste for diversity in the musical arts. In other states, the preferences are marked. Karnatak music reigns in Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, while Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are bastions of Hindustani music.

Although Karnataka’s southern and central districts listened mostly to Karnatak music till the late 20th century, they have opened up to the northern style in the last three decades. One reason is the star appeal of the great Hindustani musicians from Dharwad, a city that is as famous for its poets as its musicians. Another could be the lure of film music in Hindi, which often echoes, even if distantly, its Hindustani raga origins.

The two Indian classical streams thrive as equals in Bengaluru. The petes (bazars) and the southern neighbourhoods identified with the city Kempe Gowda founded show a pronounced taste for Indian genres, while the eastern neighbourhoods that sprang up around a British cantonment are more Westernised in their listening.

The Ramanavami music festival at Fort High School, near City Market, is one of Bengaluru’s oldest cultural events. It is now in its 75th year and, after a slack period, is attracting newer and younger audiences. Many such festivals dot the city’s musical calendar.

Elsewhere in Karnataka, the all-night music soirees in Kundagol and Dharwad are spoken of in awe, but as the Hindustani stalwarts slide into history, those events are not what they used to be. Who were the stalwarts? Mallikarjun Mansur, Bhimsen Joshi, Gangubai Hangal, Basavaraj Rajguru and Kumar Gandharva were all Kannadigas whose fame had spread way beyond the state’s boundaries. Although Joshi settled in Maharashtra, his connection with the Haridasa bhakti poetry in Kannada endured. The passing of the Dharwad greats has left a void, but some names, such as M Venkatesh Kumar, Kaivalya Kumar Gurav and Sangeetha Katti are carrying the tradition forward.

Mysuru, with its princely patronage of the arts, has produced a long line of Karnatak musicians of repute. Mysore Vasudevacharya, one of the most revered composers in the post-Trinity years, had created a legacy of lovely krithis before his passing in 1961. Doreswamy Iyengar’s veena, compared by some to the gentle narrative style of R K Narayan, now sings in the hands of his son D Balakrishna. The Sanketi Brahmins have dominated Karnatak music in Karnataka, with masters like R K Srikantan leading the way.

Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, the last prince of Mysuru, was passionate about classical music, but his titular successor, Srikantadatta Wadiyar, indulged in more socialite pastimes, designing couture and hosting fashion shows. Religious festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Gokulashtami provide an opportunity for temples and bhakta mandalis to invite some of India’s best musicians to perform in Bengaluru and Mysuru.

Dharwad has produced one Hindustani maestro after another. The most famous of them, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, won the country’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. Since the 1980s, many musicians have migrated from Dharwad to Bengaluru, teaching and performing in this city. Bengaluru is the only city in India with a dedicated radio channel for classical music. Called Amritavarshini and run by the government-supported All India Radio, it airs both forms of Indian classical music.

Sugama sangeeta (also referred to as bhavageete) is a form popular in Bengaluru, as it is in other parts of Karnataka. It has emerged as a stylistically vibrant form in the last 50 years. Contemporary poets of the stature of Kuvempu, Bendre and Narasimha Swamy set the literary tone for this genre, and hundreds of musicians perform sugama sangeeta on the stage and on radio.

The most influential name is theatre music has undoubtedly been B V Karanth, who brilliantly brought a folk ease to drama songs. A commercial genre of devotional music, or songs in praise of various gods, goddesses and pilgrim centres, is heard across Karnataka. With some exceptions, this is formulaic and assembly-line, but enjoys a steady market, often outselling other genres.

Folk music, or grassroots music from the districts, comes to the big cities whenever a folk jamboree is held. The folk-inspired poetry of the 19th century mystic Shishunala Sharief has become part of the repertoire of sugama sangeeta artistes. Folk artistes such Daroji Eeramma of Ballari district and the Neelagaras of the Mysuru region have mined Kannada mythology and created long narratives, some sung over many days. In Yakshagana, the folk and the classical merge to create an enchanting operatic form. In fact, its intense, high-pitched singing may be compared to the Western operatic style.

In the last decade, a host of FM stations have come to Karnataka cities, playing commercial music round the clock. One channel plays pop in English, while the others play songs from the movies in Kannada and Hindi. Sadly, these channels offer no airplay for independent musicians, or musicians of genres other than film. The FM channels are also creating a generation of listeners with no exposure to anything but current film songs.

Bands playing film music perform at weddings and street side pandals, and present songs in many languages. Karnataka boasts a 200-year-old Western music tradition, but its rock and fusion bands are a recent phenomenon. The Mysore king Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar had hired, in the early part of the 20th century, an Austrian conductor for the palace symphony orchestra. He also put together an orchestra with Indian and Western instruments. The composite band has faded away, but such experiments often provide the inspiration for today’s ‘fusion’ concerts.

Bangalore’s rock bands have small pockets of support, and some earn good money by performing at college festivals, product launches and corporate gigs. Raghupati Dixit’s success has encouraged other bands to dress up in folk costumes and package their songs for young, urban audiences. Some bands, like M D Pallavi’s, are attempting to contemporise more sophisticated poetry from the Kannada literary tradition. The bands may gain wider acceptance once they address their identity questions: what language, words, audience, philosophy should they—must they—represent? Seen from a broad perspective, Karnataka’s musicscape has a lot to offer, and one connoisseur comes visiting from Canada every year to travel across Bengaluru venues to sample the variety. 

Sporting success

Bangalore’s IPL team – Royal Challenger’s Bangalore has not yet won an IPL final, but the presence of A B de Villiers and Captain Virat Kohli has always entertained cricket lovers.

The Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence (CSE) is a world-class integrated sports complex built on 15 lush acres, near Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport. Badminton veteran Prakash Padukone and cricketer Rahul Dravid have joined hands to create a sports facility to churn out champions of the future.

The Center for Soft Power will start posting interviews of all these heroes, who have contributed to Bangalore being a world-class city.

Vastu forms the basis of modern eco-design

Vastu Shastra is the oldest traditional design practice in the world and has also influenced the other traditional design practice – Feng Shui. Scholars (Schmieke, 2012) have asserted that nearly 3000 years ago monks crossed over the Himalayan Mountains from India, through Tibet and into China, carrying with them this ancient Vedic knowledge. Adapting to the local climate, Vastu Shastra evolved into Feng Shui (Maestro and Maestro, 2006).

Vastu Shastra is the force that influenced other principles or science of design and construction throughout the globe. Monuments like the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, Taj Mahal, Greek Parthenon and Roman Coliseum have largely been influenced by the science of Vastu Shastra; with regards to shape, proportion, measurements and alignment to the cardinal points, says a team of researchers including C Koranteng, S.O. Afram and E. Ayeke.  Contemporary theories that arrived later in the subsequent centuries have largely been influenced directly or indirectly by the principles of Vastu.

Active and passive design considerations of the environmental factors such as wind, sunlight direction, building orientation on a plot resulted from the long existence and influence of Vastu Shastra.

Vastu scholar and practitioner Sashikala Ananth speaks about Vastu’s journey outside India and its contemporary relevance. She and her husband Raghu Ananthanarayanan are founders of Ritambhara – a quiet yoga and meditation centre, tucked away in the hills of the Nilgiris.

How did the knowledge of Vastu travel outside Indian shores?

There is some data about this but it has not been recorded. It is well known that Hinduism as Sanatana dharma has travelled to various parts of the world over the centuries. From my discussions with Feng Shui practitioners I have understood that many of the principles are actually taken from Vastu shastra. There is also new evidence that the Central American and South American cultures were influenced by the sea faring travellers from India over time. It is well known that the Mahabharata war date was recorded in the Aztec calendar. In my opinion, the way we understand Vastu today has definitely been taken abroad by Shri Ganapati Sthapati.

A quick survey of the thousands of houses, monuments, temples and viharas, tanks, stepped wells, caves, and schools in the different parts of the Indian sub-continent, the Himalayas, Sri Lanka Far East countries where the Dharma traditions spread, will reveal the extraordinary skill and diversity of the builder community. The buildings have withstood the onslaught of nature, the violence of the conquerors and the wilful misuse of the vandals, and are a testimony to the brilliant skill, aesthetic sensibility and great artistry of our ancestors. Many civilisations boast of great monuments but none can trace a continuity of this knowledge and skill to the present date.

What are the highlights of this extraordinary skill? An innate understanding of the behaviour of materials, a brilliant ability to translate the design in the mind to the field without having to develop 3D models or even prepare detailed drawings, to create perfect elements of stone brick and timber and to join them so precisely that they need no mortar in stone, or plastering in brick, and nails in timber. There are temples where a paper can be inserted below the pillar because it stands on the attraction of magnetic rocks, sculptures can be made so perfectly that a ball can roll within the mouth of a lion and so on. The cave temple, the frescoes with vegetable dyes that are still perfect after hundreds of years, the monolith temples such as Mahabalipuram’s 5 Rathas and the Ellora Kailasanatha temple, the Brihadeswara temple in Tanjavur, are some of the examples of the pinnacles of this achievement.

Construction techniques were varied and evolved over time, absorbing methods from each other and also from other cultures. The craft guild contained the entire process of the building including the sourcing of material, transportation, building and maintenance. The craft groups travelled widely and trained many new groups, which is why we see similar techniques in Sri Lanka Indonesia Cambodia and other neighboring countries. The engineering skill is also staggering, as can be seen in some of the monuments in Rajasthan, Orissa and others. Such precision and skill in design and construction is possible only if the entire chain of the team is excellent and offering their best. In the language of current Management theory, the link task and role responsibilities are all in place!

Is Vastu as popular as other similar systems abroad?

In the recent past, there has been a great deal of interest in Vastu from various parts of the world. I have personally taught the subject for over 20 years to students from Europe, America, Australia and Russia.

Can Vastu be easily transposed in non-Indian built spaces?

There are 2 aspects of Vastu shastra, one is the principle base and this can be translated to any kind of building anywhere in the world, the other is the specific locality application and this needs to be reexamined for other applications because of climatic and geographic necessities. Vastu is a design principle and therefore applied to residences, temples, public buildings, village and town plans as well as interior design and vehicular design.

 What does Vastu offer to modern building design?

Contemporary buildings are losing their connection to culture and to energetic connection with the environment. Vastu can definitely influence this in a very powerful manner. 

To understand how the tradition of Vastu has looked at the whole process of transformation from energy and idea on to the three-dimensional plane is to look at sculpture and architecture of religious centres such as temples. It is only through the study of this devalaya tradition that we can comprehend the application in Manushyalaya and in the construction of public buildings. What must be remembered is that the separation between spiritual and secular did not exist in the Indian tradition. What is applicable for the gods is also applicable for human beings. It is only in the scale and the use of materials that the difference was shown.

Sashikala Ananth, Vastu scholar and practitioner

What is the connection between Vastu and aesthetic?

One of the anchors of Vastu shastra is aesthetics the others are utility and spiritual delight. The built environment was designed in very creative ways based on the local terrain, climate, natural surroundings, temperature, water availability, bearing capacity of the soil, material availability, life style, and cultural traits. The designer had to sensitise himself in specific ways so that he could comprehend both the visible world and invisible energies. He had to study the natural habitat of birds and animals to understand the nature of the abode and its appropriateness.

There are 3 basic principle for design, Bhogadyam or utility, Sukha Darsham or aesthetics, Ramya or spiritual satisfaction/ inner delight. Bhogadyam includes the practical aspect of the design, be it a building or craft item; Sukha Darsham includes the aesthetic of the visual and the textural in the manifested form and the aural in melody and music and this includes acoustics in built spaces and the vibrations in a musical pillar; Ramya refers to spiritual wellbeing or inner delight and is a product of ratios, proportions,  vibrations, frequency, sacred geometry and mandalas, and the connection to the astrological patterns of the users identity. The chief Sthapati and the Musician or Dancer had to experience these principles before he/she could translate them onto the field of manifestation. The other aspects of the 3 principles are- the unseen energies that inhabit the space of the built form, the possible healing energies that can be tapped to change the state of duhka in an occupant of a building or the movement into health of a person in Roga or illness. The presence of nature and the subtle ways in which it affects and heals the individual was well known to the Kalaignya/ builder and the Vaidya/healer. Plants, trees, herbs, birds, animals were recommended for wellness.

What are the sources of Prana in Vastu?

 Energy is an element that is not being taken seriously by vAstu consultants. The entrance represents prAna vAyu and the rear exits denotes apAnavAyu. Therefore, all the energies that enter a built form which includes breeze, light, visitors and other people, the desires and needs of the occupants as well as the visitors and finally the success and failures experienced by the people who occupy the space.

Westerners are attracted to India because of yoga. What is the connection between yoga and Vastu?

Almost all traditional systems such as Vastu, shilpa, sangeeta and natya have insisted on the practitioner being a yogi. The connection between the body, the breath, the mind and creative activity in the world has been looked at in a very powerful manner by all the traditions. Today, I am trying to bring back the concept of inner space that is connected to the practice of yoga and outer form that is connected to the practice of Vastu. There is tremendous response to this amongst students and practitioners.

To comprehend the sheer brilliance of Sanatana Dharma one has to examine the links between the micro individual and the macro Intelligence “AnoraNeeyam Mahatormaheeyam”;  the envelop and the space within; the journey of personal perfection and collective harmony; the alignment of the individual to the Cosmic purpose; and finally the relationship between theoretical rigour and personal practice or Sadhana. Each of the Parampara systems had their own personal and collective disciplines so that they achieved a certain balance and wellbeing in their life on earth as well as created a collective process or manifested art work for the rest of society to experience and feel deep inner evocation.

If they were priests and scholars they followed a Dvaita or an Advaita path of personal practice, followed the precepts of Vedic or Agamic knowledge and belief, sacred texts were learnt and followed in everyday life, they trained their body breath and voice to chant and to sing, they learnt to perform pujas and ceremonies, they trained their minds to learn huge amounts of textual knowledge known as Mananam. These are disciplines set out as part of Ashtanga Yoga.

For the grand dream of Yoga, Vedanta and Gandharva Kalaa to be realised we have to create new institutions where such exchanges can become possible again. The individual body, breath, mind and voice must once again be tuned to the larger yearnings and intelligence of a culture and a heritage that is capable of shaping the individual and transforming a society.

Dancers studied the texts as well as trained their bodies, their Indriyas or senses to express emotions known as navarasa, they understood music, they learnt poetry, and trained their body and breath to work in balance. This too is Yoga.

In Sangeeta they trained the body breath and voice, they learnt to stay with the central thread of awareness or Shruti, this too is a part of Yoga Sadhana. The sculptor and the temple architect learnt proportions, hand and eye skills, understood materials and felt the balance between the body and the manifested form. This too is a yoga sadhana.

In all the fields of Kalaa the alignment of body, senses, breath and the mind is the basic Sadhana. Hence practice of Yoga appropriate for each system was a must in the training process. Each practitioner had an awareness and basic understanding of the interconnected systems, and many meeting grounds were available where these ideas and understanding could be shared and honed.


Indians and French celebrate life with food

Both Indians and the French celebrate the great occasions of life with food, says Director Café Noir Thierry Jasserand. In India as in France, he says, when you want to celebrate something in life, you share food with friends and relatives. “Not just the special events, but also day to day food.”

The Café Noir Restaurants represent the “French Art de Vivre’. Today the group has six restaurants in Bangalore and has recently set up a new fashion store called Project Inn, which also houses a café where women can sit down for a cup of coffee after hectic shopping.  

Thierry moved to India nine years ago, “not to sell French food to foreigners, but to convince Indians that here’s another variety of cuisine. Today 70 to 80 percent of my customers are Indian,” says Thierry.

The engineer turned manager, says that in India it is difficult to find authentic French cuisine. “You find Italian and Chinese food, but finding French food is very hard. There’s a well-known pastry bakery called Opera in Delhi. We do similar things but we have enlarged to the kitchen also.”

The predominant difference between Indian and French cuisine is that the latter is predominantly non-vegetarian. But, “by respect for what we are and what we do here we have in our menu several vegetarian options. We always adapt but we don’t want to change our roots. The cuisine that we propose is never spicy, and it is based on the typical traditional recipe of the food that we eat in France. If you go to Paris you can find the same things. The idea of proposing authentic French food is that if people can’t travel, then you can come here and experience the same feeling of being in a bistro in France and eating the same cuisine.”

Many families coming to the restaurant and often they end up sharing a pastry as some of the pastries are expensive. “Your grandmother may not go to France or Europe, but if you bring her here she may open her mind to new tastes. Food can open your mind to a new culture,” says Thierry.

Thierry says all the Indian staff have been trained by executive French chefs. This is unusual, he says because, usually executive Italian and French chefs train staff only in Five Star hotels, and not in smaller restaurants.

He says Café Noir has a training school attached to it.  It has 185 staff with more than 25-30 of them being bakers who make pastries. “When we recruit someone we have to train and transmit our knowledge to them. The training is not easy, it goes on for around six years. The idea is not just to sell but to share and transmit our knowledge. This is one way of sharing our identity through food. We don’t ask people to speak French – that is difficult. But we expect people to learn the way we serve the dish and work on other skills.”

He says that cuisine is one way of understanding a culture. “If you want to know the identity of India when you come to visit then you eat their food and thereby understand what goes on behind it. For example a foreigner doesn’t understand why you put so much spice in your food, but if you understand the way the spices are used in villages and in the countryside to promote health and keep away the heat, then you understand a way of life. Then you will not be so critical about Indians putting spices in their food.”

Yoga, meditation draws South Americans to AOL

Interview with Raúl Alvarez from Paraguay and Pamela Vicentin from Argentina at Art of Living ashram in Kanakapura Road

Raúl Alvarez is an entrepreneur from Paraguay, a small and beautiful country in South America.

“While in India, I came to learn that we are not only matter, we are made up of energy (prana). It is through Ayurveda that I have learnt to take good care of my body. I’ve learnt that through meditation and yoga, one can master the mind and body. I have come to know that life is not about having more but about sharing.”

How did your journey to India begin?

My journey started when my mother signed up my brothers and me for Taekwondo classes. After many years of this martial art practice, I started meditating. Our Taekwando Master used to guide us into mediation for deep and quick rest after long, intense practice sessions.

I used to be a very active teenager, working in big local companies as an intern, only for the sake of learning, was a part of the national Taekwando team, volunteered for Catholic service groups and studied electronics in High School. I had a lot of energy but felt that depth was lacking in these activities.

In January of 2010, I attended a Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES Plus) in Asuncion, where I experienced Sudharshan Kriya for the first time, the breathing technique that touched the deepest depths of my soul and woke me up to the purpose of my life, to share with the world all that I have learnt and experienced.

I have experienced many places with my family but I never expected to come to India with my younger brother for year back in 2013, in a quest to know more about spirituality, to know more about the Art of Living and to spend time in the company of wise people, especially my spiritual guide Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, when I met him for the first time in the US in 2010.

What are your impressions of India?

India is an ocean of mysteries, ancient traditions, a forest of colours and a peaceful jungle of contrasts. This beautiful country, its vibrant culture opened doors to a completely different view of the world and life for me.

While in India, I came to learn that we are not only matter, we are made up of energy (prana). It is through Ayurveda that I have learnt to take good care of my body. I’ve learnt that through meditation and yoga, one can master the mind and body. I have come to know that life is not about having more but about sharing.

After meeting kids who predict events, astrolgers who can read your past and foresee your future, after witnessing that my life was written in a palm leaf more than 2000 years ago, after knowing that there are sages and masters alive who are willing to share ancient secrets to sincere seekers the world wasn’t the same for me. Life became a celebration once I found the Master, who has been constantly guiding me in this ocean of information and experiences. I could have learnt fighting skills as a kid and could have become a national champion with proper training and knowledge under the guidance of my Taekwando Master. I feel guided by my spiritual Master in the same way, in this universe filled with infinite possibilities.

This is my fifth visit to India. After my first year of volunteering work here, I have realised I had to go back to my roots, work on my dreams of having my own consulting company, manage a franchise of an international company, more to an apartment, buy a second hand car, travel to new countries, maintain a good relationship with inspiring people, learn from priests and test all that I have learnt.

I can’t look back in life without realising the huge transformation that I have experienced. The Art of Living has been the best platform for me for everything that I have dreamed of. Be it having a family in any country that I have visited, to having the honour of attending event like the World Leadership Forum, the World Cultural Festival along with 3.75 million people, being part of the organisation of the World Youth Leadershp Form and the International Women’s Conference. Having assisted in organising courses and workshops on meditation, yoga, and leadership in some countries, I truly feel that I am fulfilling my purpose of serving society.

I never thought that my life would take such a big turn after visiting this country that I now call ‘home’ India.

India is now spiritual home and the Art of Living International Centre is my favourite place to find peace and knowledge. It’s the place from where I get my inspiration, where I recharge myself to more ahead towards my life goals, sharing with and inspiring people to live a happy life, to live in peace, and to take action to create a better world.

I urge the youth to meditate, travel and come back to India, look forward to new experiences, make yourself inspiring to others, find peace, and make this world a better place, taking the best from other cultures and traditions.

Pamela Vincentin, Argentina

“While youngsters in India look up to people abroad, people out there are taking to yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, all of which comes from India” – Pamela Vincentin

What brought you to India?

I always had the curiosity to travel to the other side of the world and see how India really is. I used to imagine India as an exotic land with notions like ‘India is so rich and full of colours.’

The curiosity became a dream come true when I did the Art of Living course in my small hometown called Venado Tuerto, Argentina. The course brought me a deep sense of relief as I started to meditate and do yoga regularly and started to gravitate towards Gurudev’s teachings and Vedic knowledge. All this intensified my longing to come to India to meet Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar and experience the culture first hand.

Pamela Vincentin with Sri Sri Ravishankar at AOL, Bangalore

It was February 2014 when I first came to India. I enrolled for advanced meditation programs here but stayed back for service at the ashram for a few months after the course completion. These few months became four amazing years in no time.

From the beginning, I felt a deep connection with India. Once Gurudev sent a few of us for social service in villages. We were supposed to teach pranayama, conduct satsangs and celebrate with the people. While at service, I came to understand that in India most of the youth wish to go abroad, as they idolise Western culture, this was a little surprising.

Indian culture has everything to be proud of. India is so vibrant; I felt this the very first time I landed here. Indians are very calm, composed and spiritual compared to western people. I have come to notice Indians are happy in general, very devotional, a lot less inclined toward alchohol, drugs, a lot less depression cases,marriages are more stable, families are cohesive and caring. Human values are quite established in people.

The deepest wisdom can help people overcome stress and misery; it all comes from this land of the Vedas and rishis that have given the gift of ancient wisdom to humanity. I often share my views with youngsters tell them their culture is so amazing, we must appreciate it and work towards reviving it. While these youngsters look up to people abroad, people out there are taking to yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, all of which comes from India.

How is life at the ashram?

Life is literally heaven on earth in the ashram, even though we all keep busy with our seva activities, everyone is really happy. There’s an air of positivity here with so many people meditating regularly and with the presence of the Master, each day becomes a celebration. There are times when there are people from countries across the globe and India, packing the ashram to capacity. While there are times when a lot less faces are around making it an atmosphere of silence and peace. Having experienced the purity of the ashram, one doesn’t wish to leave.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar travels across India and around the world, reviving Indian culture, sharing it in very simple ways to make use of this knowledge to help people eradicate violence, depression, stress and has brought the smile back on people’s faces. A lot of transformation has happened in the lives of people world over and I happen to be one of them.

Gurudev has helped millions like me through Sudarshana Kriya and meditations to open other dimensions of life, where we experience happiness and bliss from within, with a feeling to share this knowledge with the world through service and celebration. My eternal gratitude. 9

Coming Home to the Ganga

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati lives and teaches at the Parmarth Niketan Ashram on the banks of the River Ganga. She moved to India approximately twenty-five years ago. She is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a PhD in psychology. She is also vice-chair of the United Nations Faith Advisory Council on Religion. She also spearheads many social development projects as secretary-general of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and president of the Divine Shakti Foundation.

Her book Come Home to Yourself – Teachings from the Parmarth Niketan Ashram, published by Penguin Random House emerged from the satsangs held each evening after the sacred Ganga aarti at Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, on the banks of the Ganga, and will resonate deeply with everyone.

In an interview with CSP Sadhvi Bhagawati speaks about her work and inspiration.

What made you stay back in India all those years ago? Have you had any more experiences or voices speaking to you?

How would you explain situation where one’s life takes a course not of one’s own accord. Why do such things happen to some people and not others?

What have you learnt in India about the concept of graciousness towards the athithi or guest. We say Athithi Devo Bhava….the guest is equal to God. Did you experience that?

Why and how did you turn to Sanyas. How does being a Sadhvi make who you are and what you do different? Is acesticism necessary for self realisation?

Thirthas or kshetras have great spiritual power. What role do you think Rishikesh and the Ganga played in your life?


What was the role of your Guru. What have you learnt from him?