Intense City: the tourist didn't stop in Bangalore

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Published in Deccan Herald Sunday march 23, 2014

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Intense City: the tourist didn't stop in Bangalore

  1. 1. 2 DECCANHERALD B Sunday, March 23, 2014 intenseCITY The tourist didn’t stop in B’lore Itsheritagestructuresindecay,itstraditions,festivalsandmulti-culturesundocumented,theCityhasfallenoffthetouristmap B eyonditstechcitytagandonce- cherished Garden City defini- tion, does Bangalore pack enough punch to arrest the tourist’sfleetingattention?Can theCity,withitsobviousbutforgottenher- itage, get beyond the transit point that it has been reduced to in the tourist map? Is there a way to beckon the visitor to the City’s soul, its history, its celebrated festi- vals,itslatentbutthrivingsub-cultures? Trapped in a narrative based on a net- work of malls and the Metro, a visitor to this City rarely has a clue to its heritage. Thetechparks,VidhanaSoudha,Cubbon Park, Lalbagh, and a few historical struc- tures more or less make up their idea of Bangalore! Shouldn’t this change? If century-old buildings once defined the City’s claim to fame, the government clearly has shown no concern to preserve them.Here’swhy:Fifteenyearsago,there were over 1,800 buildings more than 100 yearsold.Fiveyearsago,thatnumberhad slumpedto800,andtodayitstandsatless than400.Threehundredofthesearegov- ernment-owned, mostly out of access for the public. Intangible heritage Butthebuildingsandmonumentsinclud- ing forts, palaces and temples only form thetangibleheritageoftheCity.Asurban expert V Ravichandar and historian VikramSampathpointout,music,dance, handicrafts(textiles),festivalsandproces- sions,visualandperformingartsformthe intangibles,andshouldbepartofthenar- rative.Ifmuseumshostthemoveablearte- facts, the City’s lakes and parks should be seen as a green heritage, preserved and showcased to all. Itneedsanewtourismparadigmbeyond itsmonumentsandheritagestructures,ex- ploiting the underestimated soft power of our culture, assert Ravichandar and Sam- path,whoformtherecentlyformedVision Group.“Bangaloreneedsacentrallylocat- ed,publicarts,cultureandmuseumdistrict -- much like what global cities like London andNewYorkhaveandseveralothersmall- erspacesdispersedacrosstheCityforthis purpose,”theGroupexplains. This could be woven into a showcase of theCity’shistoryfromKempegowda’stime, itshistory,literature,folkartsandruralar- tisans.Ifthesearesmartlyinterlinked,let- tingavisitortoorganicallymovefromone arena to another, the City’s tourist appeal could be hugely enhanced. “There should besomethingtodoeverydayandforevery- one,”saysRavichandar,indicatingtheneed for an informal arrangement where the government just acts as a facilitator and publicorganisationshandleevents. Oneideaworthcarryingforwardcould be the proposal for a heritage corridor from the Fort in City Market area to the Bangalore Palace. “There are a number ofheritagebuildingsalongthisstretch,on The city’s other face enrichedtouristsvisitingdifferentsitesand monuments here. Private organisations suchasBangaloreWalkshaveshownthat guided heritage walks work well. These small-scale initiatives could be replicated onalargerplanebythegovernment.“With governmenttyingupwiththeseandother bodies, there will be an enhancement of capacitybuildingfortheseprivateorgani- sationsbesidescreatingjobopportunities. Many theatre groups which are active in theCitycanberopedintomakethisacon- tinuousfeature.” On a visit to Bangalore, Vancouver- baseddocumentaryfilmmaker,LisaMaz- zotta says she has heard about the City’s history in bits and pieces. “I know a little about the City’s origin, the boiled beans story, but I miss a free tour of the place such as the one in Singapore. There, the tourtakesyouwithaguidetodifferentre- gions,marketsandculturalcentres.Itwas a fantastic learning experience for me. I wish there is something like that here,” she says. Engaging walks DeepaKrishnanfromBangaloreMagicis well aware of this yearning to know a city deeper, in a guided, informal way. The walks arranged by her firm is part of a unique approach to understanding the City in its various avatars. She explains, “Inourtours,wehopetohelptouristssee Bangalore through local eyes – for exam- ple, our Food Walk in Malleswaram and ourPhotowalkthroughJayanagararede- lightfulexplorationsofcuisineandculture, giving overseas visitors a peek into daily life of Bangaloreans. The people who do the tours are knowledgeable, engaging and willing to answer questions.” Intheabsenceofacultureofpreserving monuments,theCityhasseenoverathird ofitsestimated1,500heritagesitescrum- bleaway.Therearenoexactrecords,since proposalstosetupaheritageregisterhave proved non-starters. Theregisterwastalkedaboutunderthe Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Gover- nance Bill, and before that, in a proposed amendment to the Town and Country Planning Act. The Agenda for Bengaluru InfrastructureandDevelopment(ABIDe) had also included this in its Bengaluru Master Plan 2020. Theheritageregisterwastobedesigned as an inventory of all heritage sites in the City. The sites had to be identified based on age and their importance to the City’s identity.Besidesmonuments,theregister was to include precincts, natural and cul- turalsiteswithspecialarchitecturalorhis- toric interest. Urban experts and historians are con- vincedthatcultureheritagemanagement has to be integrated into the master plan andalldevelopmentplansoftheCity.Only then can places such as Russell Market, KR Market and Chickpet be included in tourist itineraries. Until this happens, no tourist or young Bangalorean,willknowthattheChickpet areawaswheretheCityhaditsbeginnings. LegendhasitthattheDoddapeteSquare, which today looks chaotic and unkempt, wasfromwhereKempegowdahadorgan- ised a ground-breaking ritual in 1537. Four pairs of bullocks were let loose to plough the land in four directions from here, and the routes traversed by the ploughs had become the nucleus of the newtown’sfourmainstreets.Fourtowers wereerectedtocommemoratethisevent. Threeofthemstillstand,butnooneknows or cares. Rasheed Kappan auspiciousoccasions.Peoplefromall overtheStatecometothetemple.On regulardaystoo,peoplefromoutsidevis- itthetemple.But,Ihavenotseentoo manyforeignnationalsnorpeoplefrom northernIndia.Iamunsurewhether theyhavebeeninformedaboutthetem- ple.” The Dodda Ganapathi temple and Dodda Basavanna temple on Bull Tem- ple Road need more attention to figure in the must-see tourist circuit of the City. M Venkatesh, Secretary of the Basa- vanagudi Traders’Association, says the two temples are of historical value. “The tourist operators bring tourists to the Dodda Ganapathi temple, but do not always take them up the steps to see Dodda Basavanna temple nearby. The operators have to be told to ensure visits to both shrines. We must do something to enhance their popularity among peo- ple from North and tourists from abroad. It is very popular among locals. But to give it a lift, we should have better brand- ing and aesthetic presentation of the two temples. Gavi Gangadhareshwara tem- ple, Gavipuram, is fairly well known in the tourist circles. Whenever foreigners come, the temple is included in the itin- erary. All these three temples and many others in the area can form a very good temple tourism circuit in Basavanagudi.” Devotees come in the middle of Janu- ary every year on Sankranti Day to this cave temple. This is a special day when sunrays fall on the Shivalinga for one hour as it passes between the horns of the Nandi. The Sun illuminates Shivalin- ga two times a year - from January 13 to 16 late afternoons and from November 26 to December 2. Someshwara temple in Ulsoor sees a similar phenomenon. Shiva S, a long- time trader near the temple, says there is heavy rush during Sankranti and Shiv- aratri. “I have occasionally seen a few for- eigners coming to the temple, but there is no heavy rush. Some persons who take extra interest and are curious about not so well known structures, make it to the temple. But the general stream of tourists needs to go up.” There are stories of how a king who was sleeping near the temple got a dream of Lord Shiva and went on to build the temple. Then there are a few other temples that can be brought into the tourist fold - Karanji Anjaneya in Basavanagudi, Pralayakalada Veerabhadra, Kalabhaira- va in Gavipura Guttahalli, Dharmaraya temple, Ranganathaswamy temple, Balepete, Kote Venkataramana temple (1690) adjoining Tipu Sultan’s Palace, Kashi Vishveshwara temple (1840) in Balepete and Gali Anjaneya temple on Mysore Road, said to have been estab- lished in 1425 by Vyasaraja. Apart from Hindu shrines, other inter- esting shrines to visit in Bangalore are the Parsi temple, Tawakkal Mastan Dar- gah, St Mary’s Basilica and the Mahavira Digambara Jain Temple. Bangalore’s multi-religious and cos- mopolitan character is best reflected in its many temples, mosques, churches, Gurdwaras like the one at Ulsoor which was built in 1946, Buddhist Viharas, or the Queen’s Road Parsi fire temple. Clearly, there’s lot to show people from all over India and the world that Banga- lore has serious archaeological and spiri- tual spaces to explore. Bangalore has been branded and mar- keted as a technology destination for over 25 years. There is a need to rebrand the City also as a cultural-heritage space. Many cities in the world flash a technology-cul- ture facade. Why can’t Bangalore? Prashanth G N T here’s more to Bangalore than just Vidhana Soudha, High Court, Cubbon Park and Lalbagh. Other equally historical heritage structures, particularly in the spiritual domain dot Bangalore, but are unfortunately not on the Bangalore tourism circuit, for for- eign nationals and Northern India. No information on these structures goes out widely to visitors in any form. There is no branding and marketing, no attempt to build informative stories around them, nothing to show that officials are inter- ested in excavating the deeper history and cultural spread of Bangalore. Let’s take the Jumma Masjid on Commercial Street. According to Yasir Mohammed, businessman in the area, the Street’s Jumma Masjid is perhaps the oldest in the City. “The mosque is situated between two temples. It is a fine example of secular- ism. Immediate locals may know of it, but I am unsure if people from distant areas of Bangalore do, let alone foreign citizens. The mosque needs to be listed in the tourist brochures of the depart- ment of tourism, and information needs to be circulated among private travel and tourist companies and be made a major heritage stop in the City. It would do good if Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) were to take up its revival.”The Masjid, built between 1740 and 1840, has an Arabic touch to it. The17thcenturyKaaduMalleshwara templededicatedtoLordShivaisyetan- otherlandmarkintheCity.Again,while localsthrongthetemple,visitorsfrom abroadhaven’tbeenadequatelyin- formedaboutitshistoricalvalueandthe circumstancesunderwhichitwasbuilt. AccordingtoPoornimaS,homemaker fromMalleswaram,thetempleseesvery hugecrowdsontwooccasions.“Thema- hashivarathriandKarthikamonthare E xperienceBangalorebywalking withwellinformedstory-tellers whoknowtheCityinsideout throughyearsofresearch.Thisiswhat drivesthepeoplebehindBangalore WalksandBangaloreMagic,twoofthe City’sknownheritagewalkorganisations. BangaloreMagicoffersthreedifferent walksbesidessixcartoursandtwo-day excursionsintheCity.“Wewillbeadding moretoursnextyear.Themorediverse theofferings,themorepeoplearetempt- edtostayintheCity,”explainsDeepaKr- ishnanfromtheorganisation. Exploring heritage through walks country.Thereareonlyahandfulofquali- tyguidedtourcompanieswhicharedoing thingsdifferently.” Butaren’tthesewalksoutofthemain- stream?“Iagreethattoday,heritage walksareelitist.MostwalksruninEng- lish,whichisthebiggestbarrier,”says Krishnan.“Tobringthiskindofthing toamassaudience,youneedstatespon- sorshipandhigh-qualityregionallan- guagetours.Andyouneedchangesinthe schoolingsystem,toinculcateearlyinter- estinandrespectforourbuiltheritage.” BangaloreWalksisanothersetupvery activeintheheritagewalkssector.Desig- nedforaglobalaudience,thesewalksare inspiredbysimilaronesinLondonand Boston.Thetoursareinfourcategories calledtheVictorianBangaloreWalk, GreenHeritageWalk,TraditionalBenga- luruWalkandMedievalBengaluruWalk. Havingcompletedthewalksfor100 monthsand425weekends,theorganisers havetakenabreak.Currently,onlythe GreenHeritageWalkison.Formore details,visitwww.bangalorewalks.com RK Bangalore needs a centrally located, public arts, culture and museum district - much like what global cities like London and New York have - and sev- eral smaller spaces dispersed across the City for the purpose Showcasing the City, its history, music, dance, literature, folk arts, rural artisans, etc, in spaces like these will be one way of enhancing the tourism appeal of the City as the one buzzing and teeming with activity Shedesignsthetoursherself.This,she does,“byreadingextensivelyabouteach city,talkingtoknowledgeablepeople, spendingtimewalkingandexploring neighbourhoods.Ineffect,Icuratethe Citythroughmyownlens.Ihaveworked formanyyearswithoverseasvisitorsand interactedwithhundredsoftourists.” Here’stherationalebehindKrishnan’s forayintoguidedwalks:“Ifindthatmost touroperatorsinIndiacateringtoover- seasvisitorstendtoperpetuatecultural clichésaboutIndiainsteadofproviding insightfulexplanationsofachanging n Fascinating “boiled beans” story n Silicon Valley, IT parks n A city of startups, entrepreneurs n Old pensioner’s city n Pubs and gardens LIZA MAZZOTTA, Docu filmmaker, Vancouver JESSICA TANGELDER Dutch knowledge activator LENA BERGHAUS A German in Bangalore APPASAHEB NAIKAL, Indian in Singapore FIRE TEMPLE The temple on Queen’s Road, is said to have been built in 1926 for Parsis, who are esti- mated to number over 500 in the City. It is said that an eter- nal fire burns in the inner sanctum, fed by sandalwood. KARAGA AND HAZRAT TAWAKKAL MASTAN SHAH DARGAH Hazrat Tawakkal Mastan Shah Dargah in Cottonpet is very popular among locals and across the State. The Dargah is supposed to have been built in 1783 by Tipu Sultan. Karaga procession stops in front of this 18th-century shrine. ST MARY’S BASILICA The St Mary's Basilica is the oldest church in Bangalore and has been elevated to the sta- tus of a minor basilica. It is fa- mous for the festivities held during the St Mary’s Feast in September every year. JAIN TEMPLE Sri Mahavira Digambara Jain temple, located on Dewan's lane of Chickpet area (of the Bengaluru Pete) is one of the oldest Jain temples, construct- ed in 1878. What Bangalore means for... n The food culture here n IT parks and tech people n I want to ride a rickshaw n I want to see a cricket match n Bangalore Palace n Lalbagh Glass House n Tipu Palace n The iconic Opera Theatre n Bangalore Palace n Vidhana Soudha n Lalbagh Botanical Gardens n Bannerghatta National Park n Visvesvaraya Museum n National Gallery of Modern Art n Vidhana Soudha, Bangalore Palace There should be something to do every day and for everyone and in all this, the State government should just act as a facilitator, letting public organisations handle the events either side of Palace Road and surround- ingareas.Therearebuildingsattachedto the Bangalore University, Law College, Carlton House and the well known gov- ernmentmonuments,”notesurbanarchi- tect, Naresh Narasimhan. Guided wine tours The Karnataka Tourism Vision Group, headed by T V Mohandas Pai, has made another proposal to boost Bangalore’s touristpotential:Bypromotingadventure tourism in Nandi Hills, heritage trails around the Devanahalli fort, and guided winetoursforlocalandoutstationvisitors. Clubbing tours through this corridor with stories about Bangalore’s origin and itshistory,cultureandtraditionscouldbe transformational.FestivalssuchasKaraga andrelatedeventscouldbeintegratedinto the tourist calendar with rich, interactive information sharing. “A variety of inter- pretive material is necessary (digital and print)tohelpresidentsandvisitorsunder- stand all the rich heritage values of Ban- galore. Such materials help build local awareness,whichisverynecessary,aswell asinformationforvisitors.Suchinterpre- tive material need to go far beyond bland descriptions of when a building was built and by whom to tell the story of the city,” notes the Vision Group, which includes Jyoti Hosagrahar, Director, Sustainable Urbanism, Columbia University. But the City’s tourist structure is so un- derdevelopedthatitishardtofindatrained touristguide.Despiteitstechcitytag,Ban- galorehasnoaudioguidesthatcouldhave

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