BANGLAORE: History is made of stories. And sometimes also of mud, brick and mortar. And when we lose a piece of our past, we lose a bit of ourselves. Bangalore has lost many of its beloved memories to bulldozers, apathy and greed. Victoria Hotel on Residency Road is now Bangalore Central. The building that housed the Taluk office on Kempe Gowda Road was demolished, as was the residence of M Visvesvaraya along with many other landmarks. However the collective outcry against the demolition of Balabrooie Guest House may bring the city’s focus back to the importance of preserving the past. Can history be made relevant? Can a structure like the Bangalore Fort survive change? We find out.
An architect’s perspective
Ramu Katakam was part of the team that created the proposal to keep Golkonda Fort (overlooking the city of Hyderabad) relevant with sensitive restoration and a sound and light show. He says, “Historic buildings are not commercially viable and that is why they are demolished or fall in disrepair. The Golkonda Fort is still relevant because it has great architectural features, a certain aura and elements like the sound and light show. The Bangalore Fort on the other hand has been taken over by the city. It is not in a good shape and I wonder what can bring it back to life.
A historian’s perspective
Mansoor Ali, a city explorer, architect and the co-administrator of the Facebook group Bygone Bangalore, says, “When we go abroad, we pose against beautiful buildings, against Eiffel Tower but know nothing about our own history. A few years ago, I decided to get to know my city and found many interesting stories about the fort which should be called Delhi Gate, because that along with a few bastions is all we are left with now. The stone fort you see now is very different from the mud fort envisaged by Kempe Gowda. My research says it was Hazrath Ibrahim Khan, Haider Ali’s uncle, who not only helped him regain control of Srirangapatna, but also was instrumental in converting the fort into a stone structure. What makes this fort a goldmine of history is also the fact that at one point, the nemesis of Tipu Sultan, General David Baird was chained here. The same man who would be instrumental in consolidating the British rule in India with the death of Tipu.”
He is also worried that the fort is too frail to withstand the aftershocks of Metro related construction work. There is a crack right at the entrance which could enlarge and should be attended to, he says.
A photographer’s perspective
Architectural and commercial photograoher Shalini Sehgal says, “Monuments, old architecture, abandoned buildings and ruins within the city intrigue me; especially when they are languishing within a buzzing, modern city unlike Hampi where you know what to expect. The entrance of Bangalore Fort is almost nondescript in the middle of a market full of hawkers. But look closer and you will see lovely motifs running right next to a big crack. Inside you see dungeons and a relatively well-maintained public space.” She adds,“The issue is that we do not treat a building as living heritage unless it is graded by The Archaeological Survey of India or UNESCO. Graded or not, history is precious and should be valued, and can be woven into our urban life with just a little care.”
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Trivia About the fort
Bangalore Fort was built in 1537 as a sprawling mud structure by Kempe Gowda. Tipu Sultan’s father Haider Ali recreated the mud fort as a stone structure in 1761. The historic relevance of what remains of the fort dates back to the siege of Bangalore on March 21, 1791, when Lord Cornwallis captured it during the Third Mysore War. Author Monideepa Sahu’s book Riddle of the Seventh Stone sets a treasure hunt in the fort.