BANGALORE: With hundreds of heritage structures making way for malls and shopping complexes, the city has been losing a significant part of its history.
But the imminent fall of yet another historic structure, the Balabrooie guest house, has triggered a storm of protest. Angry protesters say a number of such structures have been pulled down, and the government must drop its plan to demolish the Balabrooie and build a club house for legislators in its place.
Speaking to Express, Arun Prasad, project and research head of Discover Bengaluru, an organisation documenting the city’s heritage and history, said Bangalore has been steadily losing structures built during and after the Kempegowda era.
He said Bangalore has lost all the eight fort gates constructed by Kempegowda. The Yelahanka gate of the fort has now become Mysore Bank Circle; the Anekal, Sondykoppa and Kengeri gates, as also the Yeshwantpur gate (opposite Upparpet police station), and Kanahanahalli gate, are all gone. The last gate to go was the Halasuru gate, which has now become Halasuru gate police station, he said.
A cenotaph built in memory of soldiers who had died during the battle for the city in 1791 during the Mysore wars was razed in 1964, and later, a Kempegowda statue and tower erected in its place. Not a single stone slab from the cenotaph remains, he regretted.
Prasad said that after independence, some structures were intentionally pulled down to erase the links of colonial rule.
The residence of former British prime minister Winston Churchill at South Parade Ground has given space to a private bank (near the second Metro station of MG road), and the Victoria hotel with a library attached to it has now become Central mall. The century-old Cash Pharmacy on St Mark’s Road, one of the oldest pharmacies in Bangalore, was demolished in 2006 to build a swanky building.
On a positive note, Prasad said there was a proposal to demolish Attara Kacheri (High Court building) in 1982. But strong opposition from various quarters including historians forced the government to withdraw its decision. The Bangalore Urban Arts Commission had the task of overseeing the preservation of heritage and historical structures. But it did not function after 2001 as its mandate was not renewed.
“We need an integrated heritage policy similar to Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi. We need to keep heritage buildings alive for the next generation,” he said.
Preservation of landmark sites
Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) convenor Sathya Prakash Varanasi said his organisation works for protecting and conserving heritage buildings. He said they take up repair of roof leakages, wall plasters, wood work and parapet walls. They have restored many historic buildings, including Gangubai Hangal’s residence in Hubli, Mayo Hall in Bangalore, Oriental Research Institute in Mysore and many more. “Restoring heritage monuments is very different from renovation,” he said.