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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 × three =