A demographically diverse city, Bangalore is a major economic hub and is one of the fastest-growing metropolises in India.
BendhakaaLooru: Place of Boiled Beans
Legend has it that Bangalore got its name from the words “Bendha kaalu” (which means ‘boiled grams’ or boiled chickpeas in the local language, Kannada). King Veera Ballala of the Vijayanagara kingdom was lost in a forest and stumbled upon a lone cottage. The old woman who lived there could offer the starving king only boiled beans, “Bendha kaalu”. The King found this humble meal tasted better than the richest fare he was used to. In the memory of that incident, the place came to be known as “Bendha kaaLu ooru” (ooru in Kannada means ‘city’).
The earliest references to Bangalore are around the tenth century-then the district was part of the Ganga kingdom which ruled from Gangavadi and was known as ‘Benga-val-oru’, the ‘City of Guards’ in old Kannada. In 1024, the Chola Empire captured the city. Today, little evidence can be seen of this period, except a small village in South Bengalooru and one in Anantapur district. In 1117, King Veera Ballala II defeated the Cholas in the battle of Talakad which lead to the downfall of the Chola empire.
It was only in the year 1537 that Magadi Kempe Gowda of the Vijayanagara Empire, founded Bangalore by building a mud fort around the village. Within the fort, the town was divided into markets. Chickapete Street ran from east to west and Doddapete Street ran north to south-and their intersection point formed Doddapete Square-the heart of Bangalore. Kempe Gowda’s successor Kempe Gowda II build many magnificent temples, tanks and four watchtowers that marked Bangalore’s boundary-in Lal Bagh, near Kempambudhi tank, near Ulsoor Lake and near Mekhri Circle. Remnants of these watchtowers are traceable even today and stand almost in the heart of the present city.
In the early half of the seventeenth century, Bangalore fell into the hands of the Muslim Sultanate of Bijapur, and changed hands several time before it returned to Hindu rule under the Wodeyar rajas of Mysore. In 1759, the Wodeyars built Lal Bagh-one of Bangalore’s most beautifully laid out gardens. In the same year, Hyder Ali received Bangalore as a jagir (a gift for being loyal to the king) from Krishnaraja Wodeyar II. Both Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan greatly extended and fortified Bangalore and made it into an army town.
When Tipu Sultan was overthrown by the British in 1799, the British gave Bangalore back to Hindu Wodeyar kings but the British Resident stayed in Bangalore.
Bangalore: Development into a Modern City
Citing misrule by Krishna Raja Wodeyar III as the reason, the British again took over the kingdom in 1831. The British set up a cantonment in Bangalore which made the city an important military station. The city was again given back to the Wodeyars in 1881. In the 19th century, Bangalore was essentially a twin city-the ‘pete’ ruled by the Maharaja of Mysore (with a predominantly Kannadiga population) and the ‘cantonment’ created by the British (predominantly Tamil population).
However, since the British Commissioners were based in Bangalore, the city started developing into a modern city with all the contemporary facilities like railways, telegraphs, and post. Telephone lines were laid and a health officer was appointed in 1898. In 1906, Bangalore became the first city in India to have electricity, powered by the hydroelectric plant.
Bangalore’s reputation as the Garden City of India began in 1927 with the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV’s rule. Several projects such as the construction of parks, public buildings and hospitals were instituted to beautify the city.
After Indian independence in August 1947, the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore became the Governor of Mysore State, Bangalore was named the capital of Mysore state in 1956 and retained that status even when Karnataka state was created in 1973.
Bengaluru: Famous on the World IT Map
Bangalore experienced rapid growth in the forties and the fifties and by 1961 Bangalore was the sixth-largest city in India. It also earned the name ‘pensioner’s paradise’ since many retired army and air force personnel choose to settle here due to its pleasant climate.
In the decades that followed, Bangalore’s manufacturing base continued to expand with the establishment of private companies such as Motor Industries Company (a subsidiary of Robert Bosch GmbH), which set up its manufacturing plant in the city. Using incentives, the government lured industrialists to set-up operations in Bangalore. Bangalore also became the manufacturing base for central government-owned giant corporations such as the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Many corporations also shifted their bases to Bangalore. More business opportunities sprung up as the country’s economy opened. Technology giant Texas Instruments discovered its potential as a high-tech city in the early 1980s and today Bangalore is home to more than 250 high-tech companies, including home-grown ones like Wipro and Infosys,
Bangalore today is one of Asia’s fastest-growing cosmopolitan cities and is also called the ‘Silicon Valley’ of India because of its position as the country’s leading IT employer and exporter.
Bangalore is also a hub for biotechnology related industry and in the year 2005, around 47% of the 265 biotechnology companies in India were located here; including Biocon, India’s largest biotechnology company.
In December 2005, the state government changed the name of the city from Bangalore to Bengaluru in an effort to restore its original Kannada name (Bangalore is an Anglicised version of the original name and harks back to the British times. In fact, many cities in India have gone back to their older pre-British era names, for example, Bombay has become Mumbai and Calcutta has become Kolkotta).
In a lighter vein, some people feel that this new name will balance the negative connotation that Bangalore has in America due to its role in off-shoring which has lead to thousands of high-tech employees losing their jobs in the States, jobs that moved half-way around the world (Getting Bangalored).